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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research & Publication in Medicine & Health

New NIH Mandate for Data Management & Sharing

Managing your Research Data

Elements of a Data Management Plan

A data management plan (DMP) is a living document that requires updates to reflect changes or adjustments to data collection, storage and processing.

Types of data that will be collected

  • What types of data will be derived or generated?
  • How much? - numbers & file sizes
  • Rationale for sharing and preservation
  • Metadata and other documentation (protocols, instrumentation)
  • Privacy and Security (human studies data)

Tools, Software, Code

  • Specialized tools or software needed for data manipulation


Data Preservation & Access

  • What data will be preserved, where and for how long?
  • How will data be findable?
  • Restricted or Open Access

Data Sharing Agreements and Licenses

  • Restrictions
  • Liability


  • Roles & Responsbilities

Best Practices for Data Management

Data Collection

  • Establish File Naming Conventions
  • Build Directory Structure for folder/file organization
  • Establish Version Control tracking
  • Create README file(s) for each dataset

Data Analysis

  • Document methods/steps
  • Consider tools for collaboration

Data Storage

  • Consider storage options
  • Identify needed data security and safety measues

Data Archiving and Sharing

  • Establish retention plan
  • Determine options for data deposit
  • Identify publisher requirements
  • Decide on data sharing licensing and citation format

File Management

File Structure

Map out ahead of time how you will organize file and folders for your research. List primary folders and summarize contents, structure and naming conventions.

File Naming

Use a combination of letters, numbers, underscores, and hyphens.
Consider the following elements to include for naming files:

  • PI or project lead initials or last name
  • File creator's initials or last name
  • Project name or acronym
  • Date file was created/generated/updated - Use YYYY-MM-DD format
  • Version number (use leading zeroes)
  • Keep names short

Research Date Service File Structure and Naming Prompt Sheet


Project Documentation

  • Purpose/Rationale for data collection
  • Methods of data collection
  • File structure and organization
  • Data sources
  • Data validation or quality assurances
  • Data processing and analyses
  • Data confidentiality, security and access

Dataset Documentation

  • Variable names and descriptions
  • Codes and/or classification systems used
  • Coding and algorithms used to transform data
  • Software file formats and versions

Data Lifecycle