4 years on: Evaluating the quality and effectiveness of Data Management Plans

Janice Chan1, Amy Cairns2, John Brown3

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia, Janice.chan@curtin.edu.au

2Curtin University, Perth, Australia, Amy.Cairns@curtin.edu.au

3Curtin University, Perth, Australia, John.Brown@curtin.edu.au



The Data Management Planning (DMP) Tool[1] at Curtin University was developed in 2014. Since its launch, Curtin staff and students have created over 4,800 Data Management Plans (DMPs). While the high number of DMPs created is encouraging, it may or may not have a direct correlation to improved data management practice. This presentation outlines the actions being taken at Curtin University to evaluate the effectiveness of DMPs, and how the analysis of DMP data is being used to improve provision of services to support research data management.

DMPs at Curtin

The DMP Tool is embedded in the research life cycle at Curtin University. DMPs are mandatory for researchers requiring human and animal ethics approval. Higher Degree by Research students must submit a DMP on candidacy application. Researchers who require access to the Curtin research data storage facility (R drive) must also complete a DMP[2].

DMP analysis

In 2018, 4 years since the launch of the DMP Tool, the Library analysed DMP data and gained some useful insights. The data answered questions such as which faculty produced the most DMPs? How many DMPs have been updated since creation? How much storage was actually used as opposed to storage requested? When are the peak times for DMP creation?  This information has been useful for providing support services.

As of 23 May, 4,843 DMPs have been created, of which 44% were created by staff, and 56% by students. Figure 1 shows the breakdown by faculty and DMP owner type.

Figure 1: Data management plans by faculty and owner type

Figure 2 shows the number of DMPs created by month in the full years between 2015 and 2017. This maps out the peaks and troughs of DMPs creation which helped the Library to plan for RDM service and schedule new DMP support workshops based on point of need.

Figure 2: DMPs created by month Jan 2015 – Dec 2017

Questions in the DMP Tool are mostly optional, and DMPs created are not reviewed except for DMPs submitted for ethics or candidacy applications. While the DMP data indicated that the majority of optional questions were not left blank, this in iteslf is not an indicator of quality metadata in DMPs, nor does it demonstrate that DMPs have improved research data management practice at Curtin. This requires further investigation.

Evaluating the effectiveness of DMPs

Based on the research question “Do DMPs improve research data management practice?” the Library collaborated with the School of Media, Creative Arts, and Social Inquiry at Curtin University to address this question through the work of a Masters student. Library staff are now working with the research student and her supervisor to develop the scope of the research project, methodology, and expected outputs.

Survey questions have been developed with input from the Library and the Research Office. Invitations to complete the survey will be sent out to researchers who have completed at least one DMP, and will be sent from the Research Office in order to maximize response rate. Respondents can opt in to participate in focus groups to discuss the survey questions further with the researcher.

The research project will be completed by the end of 2018, with an expected output of a Masters by Coursework thesis and a report outlining the findings and recommendations.         


  1. Research Data Management Planning. Available from: https://dmp.curtin.edu.au/, accessed 28 May 2018.
  2. Research data management: Data management plan. Available from: http://libguides.library.curtin.edu.au/c.php?g=202401&p=1333108, accessed 28 May 2018.


Janice Chan is Coordinator, Research Services at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. Janice’s experience is in repository management and scholarly communications. She is interested in open research, metrics and impact assessment, research data management, library-led publishing, data analysis and visualisation, and innovative practice in library service delivery. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7300-3489

Amy Cairns is a Master of Information Management student in the Libraries, Archives, Records and Information Science Program at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7656-5361

John Brown is a librarian in the Research Services team at Curtin University. John is currently involved in providing Research Data Management services and training to the researchers of Curtin. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6118-577X

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