Skip to Main Content

Data Management Plans for the Social Sciences

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

Resources - Data Citation

Resources - Intellectual Property

Resources - Ethics/Legal

NSF Guidance

"Policies for public access and sharing should be described, including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements. Research centers and major partnerships with industry or other user communities must also address how data are to be shared and managed with partners, center members, and other major stakeholders." ("Data formats and dissemination" section)


Explain, in as much detail as possible, how and when your data will be made available to people outside your research group. Keep in mind the potential users of the data as well as any norms for data sharing that exist within their communities. For instance, if you are generating data that is of potential interest to researchers who are heavy users of a disciplinary data repository then it is probably not sufficient to make your data available by email request to the PI. On the other hand, if that is the standard method of data sharing in the relevant user communities then it may be any acceptable solution.

In regard to data sharing, we strongly encourage you to consult with ORSP and the Office of Technology Transfer if you have any special licensing requirements or intellectual property concerns. The Library’s Copyright Office is also available for consultations regarding the licensing of software and research data.

If utilizing a repository, familiarize yourself with their access and sharing policies. Selected policies: 

Questions to Consider

  • Who is likely to be interested in your data (e.g. other researchers in your field, researchers in other fields, the general public)? For how long after the conclusion of the project are your data likely to be of interest to these people?
  • How and when will you make the data available? Describe resources needed to do this, such as equipment, software and staff. 
  • Think about potential uses for your data and what conditions, if any, you will attach to those uses:
    • Will you permit the re-use of your data?
    • Will you permit the re-distribution of your data?
    • Will you permit the creation and publication of derivatives based on your data?
    • Will you permit others to use the data for commercial purposes?
  • For how long will the PI(s) retain the right to use the data before opening it up for wider use? Are there other stakeholders (such as academic or corporate partners) who need to be consulted before the data are made available? Explain the reasons for any embargo period.
  • What steps would another researcher need to go through to obtain access to your data? Will any restrictions be placed on the data? For example, will users be required to sign an agreement before using the data? If so, explain the nature of the agreement (and link to the full agreement if possible).
  • Are there any potential proprietary, security, ethical or privacy issues that might require limitations on which of the data to be generated can be shared (for example, human subject data, geolocations of sensitive ecological or cultural resources)? If so, how will these issues be addressed?
  • If applicable, what procedures will be followed in order to comply with IRB obligations? Be as specific as possible.
  • Do you plan on publishing findings that rely on your data? If so, do you anticipate any restrictions on data sharing as a result of publisher policies?

Example 1

If the data will be placed with a repository, make sure you understand their access and dissemination policies. The example below is from the ICPSR Sample Data Management Plan for Depositing Data ICPSR

Access and Sharing – ICPSR will make the research data from this project available to the broader social science research community. Public-use data files: These files, in which direct and indirect identifiers have been removed to minimize disclosure risk, may be accessed directly through the ICPSR website. After agreeing to Terms of Use, users with an ICPSR MyData account and an authorized IP address from a member institution may download the data, and non-members may purchase the files. Restricted-use data files: These files are distributed in those cases when removing potentially identifying information would significantly impair the analytic potential of the data. Users (and their institutions) must apply for these files, create data security plans, and agree to other access controls. Timeliness: The research data from this project will be supplied to ICPSR before the end of the project so that any issues surrounding the usability of the data can be resolved. Delayed dissemination may be possible. The Delayed Dissemination Policy allows for data to be deposited but not disseminated for an agreed-upon period of time (typically one year).


Example 2

Taken from Joshua Rubin, Bates College, NSF SBE, with Pete Schlax, Science and Data Librarian, Bates College, “Possibility Spaces and Possible Things

Research data collected in this project will become publicly accessible in professional presentations, publications, and a jargon-free pamphlet about the politics of playtesting. It is anticipated that the work performed under this grant will result in 1-2 peer-reviewed publications, several conference presentations, and a completed book proposal.

De-identified data will also be made available via the Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University within three years after the grant has concluded. QDR staff have confirmed that these data are suitable for archiving with the QDR, and they will take responsibility for managing the data and documentation after they are deposited. They will make them available to the broader social science community. Publicly available data will include:

  • Interview transcripts. These notes will be made available with the permission of the interview subject, and they will be redacted by both the researcher and the interview subject to protect the subject’s identity.
  • Fieldnotes that are relevant for providing context for interviews.
  • Anonymous playtest survey responses.
  • Spreadsheet and ReadMe files that outline the metadata for this project.

Ultimately, the PI accepts final responsibility for the management of all research data.