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Writing a Data Management Plan

When developing a project or applying for funding you are likely to need a Data Management Plan.

What are research data at UCL?

According to the UCL Research Data policy, data are: “facts, observations or experiences on which an argument or theory is constructed or tested. Data may be numerical, descriptive, aural or visual. Data may be raw, abstracted or analysed, experimental or observational. Data include but are not limited to: laboratory notebooks; field notebooks; questionnaires; texts; audio files; video files; models; photographs; test responses”.

Three kinds of research data

There are three kinds of research data: 

  1. open - data which are freely available online;
  2. controlled  - data access is restricted on the basis of there being ethical, legal and/or commercial reasons prohitbiting their open release. Potential secondary users must meet certain criteria before access is given; 
  3. closed - data which are permanently embargoed due to their nature.

What is a Data Management Plan?

A Data Management Plan (DMP) describes your data management and sharing activities. It is generally 1-3 pages in length and should cover the four phases of the research data lifecycle:

  1. Planning and preparing for your research project;
  2. Actively researching;
  3. Archiving, preserving and curating;
  4. Discovery, access and sharing. 

If you are, or plan to be, in receipt of external funding, check your funder's policies and requirements when writing your DMP. 

A range of how-to guides have been created categorised according to the phase of the resesearch data lifecycle they cover. For research domain-specific support, guides are also available.


Download the UCL Data Management Plan Template here: 

Why are Data Management Plans useful?

In addition to often being a prerequisite to receiving certain grants, DMPs are useful for:

Before you get started

Here are a few tips to help you start writing a DMP:

  • Verify which data management and data sharing policies apply - these could be institutional, funder or journal publisher-led.
  • Identify whether you will need to enter into a data sharing agreement before datasets and other study materials may be shared. There could also be legal frameworks and copyright issues to be mindful of. There is more information about material transfer agreements.
  • Where research involves living human participants, it is recommended you speak with the Data Protection team to confirm which data protection legislation apply. Where you are collaborating with partners based globally, confirm whether international data protection legislation apply to your research.
  • Verify submission deadlines.

DMP Training and Review Service

The RDM team offers both face-to-face and online training courses on how to write a data management plan. Using the UCL DMP template, attendees have the opportnity to write a data management plan which they can take away with them and use as a basis for a more detailed plan of their data management and sharing activities.  

For more help and advice, contact your Research Data Support Officers who can also review drafted UCL Data Management Plans if you send them in advance of submission (allow 1 to 2 weeks at least before your submission deadline).

UCL Research Data policy

The UCL Research Data policy describes UCL's expectations relating to data management and sharing within the wider Open Science context. 


DMPonline, a free tool created by the DCC, provides a framework for creating your Data Management Plan. UCL guidance is now incorporated into DMPonline; see our information to find further guidance on using the tool.