Category Archives: Data Management Plans

Research Support WIN: RDM

Hello, I hope you’ve been enjoying (and surviving) this hot weather. I’ve been taking regular breaks from my computer to take full advantage of my children’s paddling pool in an effort to keep cool! A definite advantage of working from home!

In this blog post I’m going to talk about another Research Support Win, this time in the Research Data Management area of the service. This is a story about the continued support we have been offering one of our academics on a research project.

Autumn 2019: One of our researchers in WELS (Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies), Dr Kristina Hultgren, contacts the Research Support Team via our inbox requesting help with a Data Management Plan for a UKRI Future Leaders project. Kristina’s project explores why the use of English as a teaching language in non-English-speaking European countries is increasing, despite students struggling to understand it. The project, if approved, will require a huge amount of data collection, including up to 3,000 interviews as well as a large amount of documentary evidence, including reports, field notes, email communications and photographs. This was the first time we had been asked for help with a UKRI Future Leaders bid so I needed to take some time to familiarise myself with the requirements.

Kristina and I have several phone calls over the space of a week to, discussing the various practicalities of how to keep the data secure and whether and how she can share it at project end. Particular issues we need to consider are: data storage and transfer when the data is being collected in various countries; gaining consent to share data collected at institutions when anonymisation of the institution may be unfeasible; how to ensure data quality when data is being translated into English from other languages.

Spring 2020: Kristina’s funding bid for over £1.1 million is approved! I contact Kristina to offer my congratulations and help with setting up the project.

Winter 2020:  Amidst time constraints imposed by the Covid related school closures, Kristina and I manage to meet and talk through next steps for her project as she prepares to start data collection in 2021. We agree it would be useful if the Research Support Team could put together a template for a handbook which Kristina and other researchers working on large-scale research projects could use to ‘ensure that data would be stored, documented and managed throughout the project in a manner that would facilitate data sharing.

We also agree that once all of the research staff had been recruited across the different centres we will arrange a training session on data management, run by the Library online, with time to work collaboratively to ensure consistency in data management across the project.

Spring 2021: I contact Kristina with the good news that the brand new Research Data Management Handbook is now ready. She agrees to pilot it with her project and give us feedback that we can work on as she goes along.

Next steps: Kristina is currently recruiting to her project team. Once all investigators are in position we will set up an online workshop to cover all aspects of Research Data Management and sharing.

Reflections: Working with Kristina and seeing how her project progresses has been really enjoyable and this type of consultative work is definitely a highlight of my role in supporting Research Data Management. This experience has given me the opportunity to be innovative, trying out different approaches to the support we provide and I hope that the RDM Handbook designed during this process will continue to be useful for other researchers.

If you’d like some help with writing a Data Management Plan or with setting up data management processes for your new research project, please get in touch with the Research Support Team via our team inbox.



Thinking about social media data management…

Are you planning to use social media data for your research? If so, a recent talk by Ben Wills-Eve at Lancaster Data Conversations may interest you. Entitled ‘Social Media Data Management for Digital Humanities,’ Ben takes you through some of things you should have on your radar when using data from social media platforms like Twitter. Ethical use of data, adhering to data usage policies, copyright, data processing, access to data via APIs (application programming interfaces), data storage, coding/programming, are some of the areas Ben talked about. Before using data from Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media sites it is essential that you read and understand their policies first.

Attendees were signposted to some useful guidance, such as the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) documents on ethical internet research, and reference was made to an interesting paper on the challenges of using historical Twitter data, and deleted Tweets, ethically. The Programming Historian site may also be useful to explore. Not only are the tutorials free and Open Access, they could be just what you need to enhance digital skills you already have, or to learn new ones! The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Data is an example of what they offer.

If you have any queries about your Data Management Plans, or want to find out more about the ethics of obtaining research data, please visit our Library Research Support website or get in touch with the team.


Practical Strategies for Research Data Management: workshop slides

Yesterday I ran a session on Practical Strategies for Research Data Management, where we talked about the basics of research data management, including options for data storage and organising data. We also looked at how to write a data management plan using a DMP template, and ended with a game of DMP Bingo.

Thanks to everyone who took part and contributed to the discussions.

The slides are available here:


A reminder too that will be running two online sessions covering the same material in January. Sign-up and see full details on My Learning Centre.

Applying for AHRC funding? Get to know your DMP

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has changed how it wants funding applicants to tell them how they will manage and share their research data. Previously, a Technical Plan was required, which would then be reviewed by members of the Technical College, but AHRC now requires a Data Management Plan (DMP) to be submitted instead, which will be assessed by members of the Academic College as part of the whole proposal.

A DMP will be mandatory for all Research Grants, Follow on Funding and Leadership Fellows proposals, and harmonises AHRC with other Research Councils, most of which require a DMP.

Plans should give information about:

  • Types of data
  • Proposed methodologies
  • Short and long term storage
  • Data sharing
  • Ethical and legal considerations

AHRC has updated its Research Funding Guide to include guidance about what information to include for these sections, the format to use (no more than 2 pages of A4 at font size 11!), and how to name your plan.

The funding guide also describes that when submitting, applicants confirm that their institution has considered and will meet a number of points which support and facilitate good data management. These services and information about them are all available at the OU, so if you have any questions please get in touch.

DMP Online has also been updated and now has an AHRC DMP template with relevant guidance, making it easy to structure and format your plan.

As usual, we are very happy to review DMPs before they are submitted (you can email them to, and, as we do for other funders, we will add examples of completed plans to our website as soon as we have them. If you’re happy to share yours, please let us know!

Ps. You might want to check out the recording and slides from our recent online training session on Writing Successful Data Management Plans

Planning for Research Data Management: workshop slides

Yesterday I ran a session on Planning for Research Data Management as part of the Core Skills series.

We talked about the current RDM landscape and looked in detail at Data Management Plans using a DMP template, and ended with a game of DMP Bingo.

The slides are available here:

Thanks to everyone who took part!

A reminder too that we’ll be delivering an online session on the legal and ethical issues around data sharing next week.

This will be run using Adobe Connect; joining instructions can be found on the event pages on My Learning Centre, but if in doubt please email us at

Research Data Resolutions

At the end of January we held our Research Data Resolutions event, where we invited researchers and anyone who supports research at the OU to join us for an open discussion of the issues around research data management (RDM).

What was the aim of the session?

We offer RDM support to the whole University through our website, training, repository and enquiries, but contact with researchers and those supporting them is largely limited to those who get in touch or attend our sessions, and often that it is to meet a particular need (which is great and we’re very happy to do), but we found ourselves wondering how could widen our knowledge of RDM at the OU?

It seems natural for us to focus on the mandated and defined goals of data management planning and meeting funder requirements – they are of course important – but are they the things that are most important to researchers? Are there other issues that we, as a support team, could know more about?

So, we decided to have an informal and open forum for an hour to hear what the important issues are at the University, and to encourage a sharing of experiences and ideas. If we learned anything that would help us understand better how OU research colleagues work, and how we can best support them, then all the better.

What did we talk about?

Without an agenda or structure, we set about seeing where the conversation took us, which touched on, and often returned to, several themes:

Data sharing

  • Why share? – publisher and funder requirements – what are the motivators?
  • What to share – selecting and preparing data to be shared – What’s relevant to support a particular publication? What will be useful to others? How much work is it to get it ready?
  • Sharing responsibly – How to effectively anonymise – The risks of data sharing when the potential of future technologies to aggregate data is unknown.

Informing participants and gaining consent

  • How to be clear and granular when communicating with participants how data will be gathered, stored and shared – The difficulty in balancing giving enough detail and being too complicated to understand and abide by.
  • Managing participants’ rights without compromising the research process.

Data management planning

  • Even if you know what you are doing you need to explain it well for others to understand.
  • The need for clear guidance and to know what’s expected.
  • How long should we retain data?

Storage and tools

  • Balancing convenience with security – Where is the data stored and backed-up? Is it compliant with data protection, and what about GDPR?
  • Can one system fit all? Can the university support everyone’s needs?
  • Using open source software to build our own tools – can we adapt existing software to give the functionality and security we want?

These are the main topics but even during the short time we had, we touched on many more too.

What did we learn?

As expected, there were certainly more questions than definitive answers, but the conversations illustrated a couple of things I think we already knew:

  • That research at the OU is varied and different disciplines, methods, and groups have different needs and require different solutions and approaches.
  • That everything is connected. The topics we talked about overlapped and connected in many ways.

It also indicated, from a relatively modestly sized group of ten, that there is an appetite to discuss RDM amongst OU colleagues.

It was certainly very helpful for us to hear how researchers work, and we hope those taking part enjoyed sharing their experiences too.

Next steps

As it was the first of this kind of event we’ll reflect on how it went and think whether we should do it again, and in what form? If you have any feedback, are interested in joining another session, or would like to suggest a particular research data issue for discussion, please get in touch – and watch this space!

And many thanks to everyone who took part and contributed to the discussion, either at the event or by sending their ideas in advance.

Written by Dan Crane, Research Support Librarian

Online training: Writing successful data management plans

Last Friday I ran the first in our series of online training sessions. This morning’s session focused on Data Management Plans.

If you were unable to attend, here are the slides and a recording of the session is available on YouTube.

Here are the other sessions we’ll be delivering over the next couple of months:

These sessions will be run using Adobe Connect; joining instructions can be found on the event pages on My Learning Centre, but if in doubt please email us at

If there’s any other training you’d like us to deliver online, feel free to let us know by emailing or commenting below.

New Wellcome Trust policy for research outputs

Last week, the Wellcome Trust announced an update to their policy on managing and sharing research data, which is now a Policy on data, software and materials management and sharing.

Researchers applying to Wellcome in future will be required to prepare to share other outputs of their work, such as original software and research materials like antibodies, cell lines or reagents.

As David Carr, from Wellcome’s Open Research team, writes in their announcement:

 “As a global research foundation, we’re dedicated to ensuring that the outputs of the research we fund – including publications, data, code and materials – can be accessed and used in ways that will maximise the resulting health benefits. 

Making outputs available can spark new lines of discovery and innovation, and helps to ensure that findings can be verified and reproduced.”

Once the new policy is put in to place, applicants for Wellcome funding will have to complete a broader outputs management plan (rather than a data management plan) to address how other research outputs will be managed and shared.

The requirement for the new outputs management plans will be added to application forms over the next year. Guidance already exists on which kinds of work will require one:

Examples of applications that require an outputs management plan

Wellcome have long been champions of ‘open’, being one of the first to require those they fund to make their publications and data openly available, and this update reflects a move towards an Open Research approach, something they have been developing with their Open Research Pilot Project and Open Research publishing platform.

Would it be a surprise if other funders followed suit in expanding their requirements to explicitly consider other research outputs?

Questions about the policy can be put to the Wellcome Policy Team or feel free to get in touch with the us in the Library Research Support team, now or when you are writing your outputs management plan.

Focus on RDM tools: DMPOnline

The OU offers a range of tools and services which are designed to help researchers plan, manage, work with and share their research data. Over the coming weeks I’m going to focus on a few of these tools and services in these blogposts, including how to access and use them and how they can make your life easier.

This week: DMPOnline

Data Management Plans (DMPs) are often requested by funding bodies when applying for grants, and the University expects all research staff and students working on a project which collects, creates or uses data to have written a DMP, regardless of funder requirements (check out the OU’s Research Data Management Policy). This can be a daunting task, particularly if you’ve never written one before, but using DMPOnline can help you to structure your plan and to easily find the information and guidance you need to answer the questions.

DMPOnline is developed by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC), but has been customised by the OU especially for OU research staff and students. For guidance on how to create an account on DMPOnline, watch this short video.

DMPOnline offers a range of templates for different funders and an institutional template (which is recommended when your research is not funded by an external body, or if your funder doesn’t require a DMP). Each template has guidance associated with the individual questions, written by the DCC, the OU and the funder (if applicable). You can choose to turn the DCC guidance on or off; we recommend that you keep it on because there are lots of useful hints and tips in there.

Once you’ve written your plan you can either share it (with collaborators or with the Library for review) or export it into a range of file types. One of the neat things about the tool is that it will never let you go over the page limit specified by any given funder, so you know that the format you export the plan in will always be compliant.

Why not go and check DMPOnline out for yourself? If you need any help using it, would like us to review your DMP or if you’ve used the tool and would like to give us some feedback about it, send us an email.


Planning for research data management

Yesterday, Wendy Mears and I ran a workshop on research data management for doctoral students.

We used a Data Management Plan template to discuss issues around data management and sharing, which gave attendees an opportunity to start drafting their own DMP.

As promised, the slides are uploaded here: