Design Thinking: developing a researcher-centric DMP

Laura Armstrong1, Dr Jamie Diprose2, Professor Mark Gahegan3, Mr Prashant Gupta4, Dr Doris Jung5, Dr Cameron McLean6, Ms Dharani Sontam7, Ms Yvette Wharton8

1 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

2 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

3 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

4 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

5 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

6 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

7 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,

8 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,


Data Management Plans (DMPs) are generating much discussion within the researcher/research support community and opinions on their usefulness and implementation are divided. Primarily DMPs are a tool for researchers, allowing them to plan and discuss important data management considerations and conventions as they move through the research data lifecycle.  However, the motivations and stakeholders driving the use of DMPs are many and varied. Established and emerging DMP solutions have often been created to meet funder or organisational needs, with a ‘sticks rather than carrots’ approach. This additional administrative load on already time-poor researchers can lead to little more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise of completion.


The University of Auckland in New Zealand, runs across multiple campuses with more than 40,000 students and research across 11 Faculties/Institutes. Without institutional mandates or significant funder requirements in New Zealand, the University of Auckland’s DMP solution aims to deliver on multiple, sometimes conflicting, objectives:

  1. primarily to aid the researcher(s) as a dynamic planning, organising, requesting and communicating tool
  2. as an institutional reporting and infrastructure forecasting tool – knowing what is stored where and by whom, and enable efficient use of resources, and
  3. as a tool to allow appropriate strategic asset management to gain the most value from our research data assets.


To ensure that researchers utilise research data management (RDM) services, tools and support successfully, it is crucial that we respond to their needs and requirements while satisfying institutional requirements at the same time. This means the RDM services need to be user-friendly and intuitive; collect appropriate information for institutional requirements in a quick and easy manner; and assist our researchers to plan and manage their data more effectively. To achieve this, we are using design thinking and user experience design (UX Design) methodologies to produce and refine our Data Management Planning solution.

Design thinking is a structured human-centric methodology for innovation and solution development. Current variants of the design thinking process range between three and seven steps (Figure 1), all based on the first formal model proposed by Herbert Simon in 1969 [1]. All include steps which aim to integrate three main areas: the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success [2,3].

Figure 1. Five principle design thinking model.

UX Design also puts humans rather than technology at the centre of development. Systems are developed to help users fulfil their goals in a straightforward way. At the core of a good UX we find a product that is easy to learn, effective and efficient to use, while minimizing user mistakes as described by the father of Human-Computer Interaction, Jakob Nielsen [4, 5]. However, a good UX goes beyond that by offering something that is often described as delightful or pleasurable interactions [6]. Users experience satisfaction in operating the system.

Hence, in our approach to the development of a tool for researchers to create their DMP, we explored factors of relevance to researchers at our university to ideate solutions to serve these factors. We aim to further explore, fine tune and provide the researcher-centric solution/s through repeated user testing, to create tools that ‘inspire behavioural and emotional change’ [6]. The aim is for researchers to confidently and pro-actively plan the management of their data and for the university to be able to provide them with services that meet both institutional and researchers needs.


Our service model relies on and benefits from the collaboration of our ITS, Faculty IS and Libraries and Learning Services, led by the Centre for eResearch. In this presentation, we hope to share our experiences of the design thinking and UX methodologies we used, issues involved, what we’ve learned from taking a design thinking user-experience approach to DMP solutions (including interviews, and workshops with Doctoral candidates and established researchers), and where we plan to go from here.


  1. Simon H.A., (1969) The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  2. Brown, T., (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June 2008.
  3. Brown, T. & Wyatt, J. (2010) Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Development Outreach 12(1), 29-43
  4. Molich, R., & Nielsen, J. (1990). Improving a human-computer dialogue. Communications of the ACM, 33(3), 338-348.
  5. Nielsen, J. (2003). Usability 101: Introduction to usability.
  6. Hassenzahl, M., & Tractinsky, N. (2006). User experience-a research agenda. Behaviour & information technology, 25(2), 91-97.


Laura Armstrong is Research Support Services Librarian (with Research Data Management portfolio) whose role is to forge a path for Libraries and Learning Services to contribute to developing, delivering and promoting research data infrastructure and services for University of Auckland research community, a collaboration with our ITS, Faculty IS and led by the Centre for eResearch. Her primary interests are: researcher enablement, through services and education; engaging researchers and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of services; and, exploring roles for libraries and librarians/information professionals in contributing to researcher and institutional success by leveraging our relationships, skills, knowledge and experience. Laura feels fortunate to have had a career full of innovative and researcher facing librarian roles across STEM disciplines in the UK and NZ.

Yvette Wharton is a Research IT Specialist in the Centre for eResearch at the University of Auckland, working on the research data management service and researcher enablement projects. She has extensive experience in University teaching, research and IT environments and is passionate about using her broad knowledge to facilitate people to achieve their aspirations.

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