Data management protocol

Responsible data management is part of good research. NWO wants research data that emerges from publicly funded research to become findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) for the use by other researchers. Data management is thus part of Open Science. Due consideration is given to aspects such as privacy, public security, ethical limitations, property rights and commercial interests.

The basic principle is therefore open access to data and that access to data is only limited when necessary. To make data that emerges from NWO-funded research as accessible and reusable as possible, NWO has decided to implement the data management policy in all NWO funding instruments with effect from 1 October 2016.

In concrete terms this means that all calls for proposals published from 1 October 2106 onwards will include the data management protocol.

The data management protocol consists of two steps:

  1. A data management section in the research proposal in which the researcher should answer a number of short questions;
  2. A data management plan that must be submitted after the proposal has been awarded funding. The approval of this plan is a prerequisite for NWO disbursing the grant.

The most important aim of the data management section in the proposal is to raise awareness among researchers. The researcher will be asked before his or her research starts to think about how the data collected must be ordered and categorised such that it can be made available for reuse. This often means that measures will need to be taken when the data are produced and analysed to make its later storage and dissemination possible.

Access to raw data is important for follow-up research and for replication and integrity studies. Full open access is the operating principle. Limited access applies where issues of privacy, public safety, intellectual property rights or commercial interests require this. Researchers must indicate themselves which research data is relevant for storage and re-use. The costs of data management are eligible for funding and should be included in the project budget.

Data management section and data management plan

Data management: a basis for reusing data (Credits: @Corbis)

Researchers are expected to answer four questions about data management in the research proposal (data management section). After a proposal has been awarded funding, the researcher should elaborate the section into a data management plan. Within four months of the research project being awarded funding, the researcher must have submitted the first version of the data management plan to NWO. NWO will approve the plan as quickly as possible.

The project can start as soon as the data management plan has been approved by NWO. The data management plan can be adjusted during the research. For this data management plan, NWO has chosen a template that matches the guidelines for data management from Horizon 2020 as closely as possible.

Assessment and funding

The data management section will not be included in the decision about the awarding of funding. However, both the referees and the assessment committee can give advice concerning the data management section. After the proposal has been awarded funding the applicants have to elaborate this section into a data management plan making use of the advice from the referees and the committee.

The costs for data management are eligible for funding and can therefore be entered in the project budget.

What does NWO consider to be data?

Data management focuses on the storage of data during and after the research. NWO understands ‘data’ to be both collected, unprocessed data as well as analysed, generated data. This can be in all conceivable formats; digital and non-digital (for example samples, completed questionnaires, sound recordings, etc.). NWO only requests storage of data that are relevant for reuse. In principle NWO assumes that there is a widely held view within different disciplines about which data are relevant to store for reuse.

The importance and the value of reuse on the one hand and the costs and feasibility of data storage on the other should be in reasonable balance with each other and have a bearing on the volume of the data to be stored. Not every research project yields reusable data.

Types of storage

During the research NWO prefers digital data to be stored in a safe place where it is accessible to others with the permission of the researcher.

After the research the data should preferably be archived at a national or international data repository. If that is not possible, the data should be archived by the institutional repository. Confidential, privacy-sensitive or competition-sensitive data might require special forms of storage or limited access. Solely storing the data on computers or external media (e.g. USB flash drive, CD, DVD of hard disks) is in general too risky and can therefore, in principle, not be approved by NWO.