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Guide to data management

An overview for researchers on how to collect, manage, organize, and preserve data at all stages of the research process.


In order to promote public access to research data, many funding agencies require that data, as well as articles, be published. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) were the first to require data sharing policies and data management plans, respectively. In 2013, the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy released a memo, "Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research," which mandated all grant-funding federal agencies (spending >$100 million per year on research) have policy requirements for public access to articles and data. This affects more than 25 agencies and departments.

In addition to creating new public access policies, most of these agencies have established repositories where researchers can place their research products in order to comply. More information on individual agency policies and resources is available in this section.

What you need to do to comply with public access mandates

  1. Review the agency's policies while applying for grant funds, and take note: If you publish in a scholarly journal that embargoes articles, how long an embargo will the funder allow? 
  2. Confirm your publishing agreement with the journal will let you comply with the public access policy. (If the stock agreement is too restrictive, addend the agreement.)
  3. Do NOT sign any agreement that prohibits you from complying with your funder's public access policy. 
  4. Retain a copy of your final, peer-reviewed manuscript, after changes but before formatting (called a post-print). 

What about data? 

  1. Data that supports tables and figures in your publications must be publicly accessible. Check with the funder for data deposit requirements. You may need to place your data in a specific repository, or just provide a citation.

Portions of this overview were adopted from the VCU Research Data Management Guide by Margaret Henderson.

Further Reading

Examination of Federal Data Management Plan Guidelines by Jennifer L. Thoegersen. Journal of eScience Librarianship 4(1): e1072. 

De-Mystifying the Data Management Requirements of Research Funders by Dianne Dietrich, Trisha Adamus, Alison Miner, and Gail Steinhart. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. Summer 2012.