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NSF Data Management Plan Help: NSF DMP FAQ

NSF Data Management Plan FAQ

(Modified with permission from the FAQ created by the University of Minnesota Libraries)


What is the requirement?

On January 18, 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) began requiring a data management plan (DMP) with all new research proposals.

NSF has long had a data sharing requirement stipulating that investigators must share their research results “at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of the work.” The requirement now also says that “[g]rantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing.”


Am I affected?

The policy on Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results applies to new research proposals submitted on or after January 18, 2011. It does not pertain to supplemental support for existing awards.


What do I need to submit to the NSF?

The NSF requires a supplementary document of no more than two pages describing how the proposal will conform to its data sharing policy. Key pieces of information to include are:

  • Types of data (including samples, physical collections, software)
  • Metadata standards to be used
  • Policies for access and sharing (including provisions for privacy/intellectual property)
  • Policies and provisions for re-use
  • Plans for archiving and preservation of access

A valid DMP may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed, as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification.


Are the requirements the same for all new research proposals?

Some directorates and programs have specific DMP requirements. You will need to check with the directorate or program to which you are submitting your application to see whether this is the case. If there are no more specific guidelines, then the requirements above apply.


Directorate and Program Guidance

Several NSF programs provides guidance on the preparation of data management plans within that community. Plans specific to the NSF directorate or program should be followed and take priority. Here are some highlights of the major NSF directorates, please see the guidance pages for full details.

  • Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR)

    After an award is made, data management will be monitored primarily through the normal Annual and Final Report process and through evaluation of subsequent proposals. This process will determine whether data was retained and available for sharing. See example data plans in the Directorate-wide Guidance.

  • Engineering Directorate (ENG)

    Minimum retention is 3 years, data accessible immediately after publication (expect with patented information), see Directorate-wide Guidance

  • Geological Sciences Directorate (GEO)

    • Division of Earth Sciences: Preservation for data supporting long-term research is required; data accessible no more than 2 years after collection
    • Integrated Ocean Drilling Program: Ensures availability of drill samples are publicly available for access 36 months after research completion.
    • Division of Ocean Sciences: Data must be submitted to the appropriate national data center as soon as possible, (no later than two (2) years after collection; metadata inventory within sixty (60) days after the observational period/cruise.)
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS)

    Directorate-wide Guidance

    • Division of Astronomical Sciences
      Data taken at national or private observatories may be accessible through public archives (perhaps after a standard proprietary period).
    • Division of Chemistry: Suggests that principal investigators will publish data (and relevant supplementary information) in peer-reviewed journal articles within a reasonable time, and that the chemistry research community maintains a significant number of databases that provide for access to data.
    • Division of Materials Research: Not in a position to recommend a Division-specific approach. Recommends that DMP's include plans for data retention and sharing that would allow them to respond to a question about a published result.
    • Division of Mathematical Sciences: "For many proposals to DMS, a statement that no data management plan is necessary will suffice, provided that a clear justification for this claim is given." Suggests consulting other program policies for interdisciplinary proposals.
    • Division of Physics: "The Physics Division is not in a position to recommend a Division-specific single data sharing and archiving approach applicable to the disparate communities supported through the Division."
  • Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE)

    Data Archiving Policy for the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES): Data, in fully cleaned and documented form, must be placed in a data archive or library within one year after the expiration of an award. Before an award is made, investigators will be asked to specify in writing where they plan to deposit their data set(s). This may be the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR).


How is the policy being implemented?

NSF will implement these policies for dissemination and sharing of research results through:

  • The proposal review process
  • Award negotiations and conditions
  • Appropriate support and incentives for data cleanup, documentation, storage, etc.


How and where do I deposit my data?

One option for depositing data available to the Princeton Community is DataSpace at Princeton. In many cases, the data type and disciplinary culture will determine the most appropriate place for sharing (e.g., ICPSR for social science survey response data or NODC for oceanographic data). Not all research disciplines have established repositories for data, but a number of them do.


What happens if I don't comply?

FastLane will not permit submission of a proposal that is missing a DMP. The DMP will be reviewed as an integral part of the proposal, coming under Intellectual Merit or Broader Impacts or both, as appropriate for the scientific community of relevance.