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Data Management Plans for the Social Sciences

Suggested resources for designing data management plans (DMP) for your research project.

NSF Guidance

A data management plan should outline where data will be kept and for how long. Requirements of specific funding organizations may vary, however, the guidance from NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate states:

"SBE is committed to timely and rapid data distribution. However, it recognizes that types of data can vary widely and that acceptable norms also vary by scientific discipline. It is strongly committed, however, to the underlying principle of timely access, and applicants should address how this will be met in their DMP statement." 



This section asks how long your data will be archived after the conclusion of the award. The NSF recognizes that this will vary by discipline, but you must also take into account any more stringent requirements imposed by the specific solicitation and the PIs' home institutions. Consider who is likely to be interested in using the data and estimate a useful lifespan based on the current pace of research in their field(s). For instance, if methods and instrumentation are evolving rapidly, then your data may not be useful to your own research community after five years, but if the state of the art is relatively stable, you may need to preserve data for much longer.

Questions to Consider

  • Which of the data you plan to generate will have long-term value to others? For how long? (If you plan to generate more than one dataset or type of dataset, the different datasets may need to be archived for different periods of time.)
  • How long will data be kept beyond the life of the project?
  • Which data sets will be archived (preserved for the long term) and made available, and which will not? On what basis will data be selected for preservation and sharing?

Example 1

The example below is taken from Tina Nabatchi, PARCC, Syracuse University and  Rebecca McLain, Portland State University, "The Atlas of Collaboration: Building the World's First Large N Database on Collaborative Governance." Funding agency is NSF SBE. Note that "QDR" refers to the Qualitative Data Repository.

Period of Data Retention

All data will be deposited with QDR within 12 months of project completion or with the publication of relevant articles and papers, whichever comes earlier. QDR guarantees a minimum retention of 25 years for all deposited data, while aiming to ensure their accessibility in perpetuity.


Example 2

Example language from Laura Garbes, Brown University, NSF SBE, with Andrew Creamer, Science Data Specialist, Brown University,  “Analyzing Diversity Efforts in Public Radio Organizations – A comparative approach to performance standards in the workplace” 

The Co-PI will retain all project data for the duration of the NSF's minimum 3-year retention period and beyond this period by depositing the files of aggregate and de-identified project data into a data preservation and sharing repository, the Brown Digital Repository (BDR), in order to preserve public access and make data available online to other researchers and the public, with no cost or restrictions for re-use, re-distribution, and/or the production of derivatives, no later than one year after the completion of the funded project period. After transcription of interviews by the Co-PI, the interview participants' audio data files will be destroyed. After the 3-year minimum retention period, the Co-PI will destroy consent and enrollment materials containing PII to protect the privacy of participants who did not consent to the long-term retention of these files beyond the mandated retention period.