Data management plans aren’t working and here’s how to fix them

Mr Nick Smale1, Ms Kathryn Unsworth2, Dr Daniel Barr3

1The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia,

2Australian National Data Service, Caulfield East, Australia,

3RMIT, Melbourne, Australia,


Data management plans (DMPs) have increasingly been seen as a key component of data infrastructure, placing increasing demands on researchers and institutions in Australia and abroad.

The driving force behind the popularisation of DMPs in the UK and USA is funding agency induced compliance demands, where 86% of 7 UK Research Councils and 63% of 15 US funding bodies broadly require DMP submission with funding applications. Investigation of these requirements reveals that the predominate reason for this is as a means to promote the sharing and reuse of research data by researchers, in order to maximise return on investment.

No major Australian funding body requires submission of DMPs, yet DMP mandates have permeated the Australian research landscape, where 37% of 38 Australian institutions mandate DMPs, and many further still strongly promote their use. This raises the question of why Australian institutions have embraced DMPs in the absence of funding body compliance requirements mirroring those overseas. Given that there is minimal evidence of DMP efficacy, why have DMPs become the go-to tool for advocates of good data practice in Australia? Further, if DMPs are to be used in this manner, the differing driving forces behind DMP use must be delineated. We have identified multiple institutional use-cases, highlighting the need for DMPs to be fit for intended purpose and questioning the view that a good DMP is that which encompasses the entire data lifecycle of a project.

This presentation will explore the international history of DMPs, describe institutional and international DMP mandates, discuss the evidence base for DMP efficacy, and consider potential alternative or complementary means of achieving the aims of DMPs.


Unsworth, K., Smale, N. (2017). Overview of Australian institution and UK/USA funding body data management plan mandates. University of Melbourne.


Nick Smale is a Project Officer in Research Ethics and Integrity at the University of Melbourne. Nick has facilitated the University’s roll-out of a flipped-blended research integrity training program. Nick trains researchers in data management, and from this has developed an interest in data management plan theory and practice. In 2016 Nick was awarded a Master of Biomedical Science with first class honours for his research into developing an objective method of cochlear implant programming.

Kathryn Unsworth is a Data Librarian with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) based in Melbourne at Monash University’s Caulfield campus. Kathryn engages with a number of Australian universities, providing research data management related advice, support and training. Additionally, Kathryn works in partnership with institutions to deliver ANDS-funded projects. She has many RDM-related interests including, DMP implementations and their value in changing researcher behaviours and practices, IP and licensing issues for data, ethics and informed consent, and upskilling data librarians to transition into data science roles.

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