Skip to Main Content

Research Data Management: Data Management and the Data Plan

This library guide outlines the basics of data management and creating a data management plan.

Unisa and Research Data Management - note to users of this guide

Welcome to the Unisa Research Data Management LibGuide. This Guide will provide information on processes, procedures and policy with regards to research data management (RDM), as well as access to resources and tools that can support researchers in managing their data.

It will also serve as a space to pilot platforms for archiving the research data

Please send any suggestions and comments to the compiler of this guide. 

Data Management, Data Plans and Funding Requirements

"Data Management" is the process of controlling and managing data before, during and after a research project.

Researchers should take steps to manage their data effectively. This ensures that research and associated data is safe, promotes the potential for data reuse and assists in the compliance of government and funding guidelines. 

The Unisa Library provides several services and resources to assist researchers.

These include:

  • advice on how to compile a data management plan
  • data storage and preservations
  • data sharing and discovery. 

Kindly refer to the Penn Librariies Libguide for extensive information on Tools for Data Management

Most agencies and institutions funding research expect a short statement to be submitted with your grant proposal outlining your plans for data management and data sharing.

This is in the form of a Data Plan.

Writing a data management and sharing plan involves making decisions at the outset of your research project to make decisions regarding:

  • which software to use
  • how to organise, store and manage your data
  • what to include in any consent agreements negotiated.

These decisions will affect what it's possible to do with your data in the future. 

The Data Plan includes details covering the following:

  • what data will be created
  • how will the data be documented and described
  • how will you manage ethics and intellectual property rights (IPR)
  • what are the plans for data sharing and access (biomedical funders tend to place emphasis on data sharing)
  • what is the strategy for long-term preservation and sustainability


Image Credit: Studio@Butler

The framework below, adapted from one developed by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), shows one approach to the elements of a data management plan.

Element Description
Data Description What are your data about? What do they look like? Who is the audience of users, or community types, for the data? Survey the existing data. What other existing data are relevant to what you have collected? These questions may help in deciding where to archive your data set.
Access and Sharing How will you archive and share your data and why have you chosen this method? What are the terms of use, if any? Indicate the timeliness of dissemination.
Metadata Describe the metadata that will go with the data. Discuss the metadata standards used.
Intellectual Property Rights Be clear in who owns the data and how intellectual property will be protected if needed. Who is responsible for personnel with access to data? Any copyright restrictions must be noted. Are there any legal requirements? If so, provide a list of all relevant federal and funder requirements.
Ethics and Privacy Describe how informed consent is handled and privacy protected. How are the data being protected during the project?
Format Describe how the data were generated, how they will be maintained and shared - including a rationale for process and archiving of suggested formats.
Archiving and Preservation What are the procedures in place, or envisioned, for long-term archiving and preservation including succession plans if transfer is needed? Include budget costs of preparing data and documentation. Requests for funding may be included as well.
Storage and Backup Consider storage methods and backup procedures - both cyber and physical resources for effective preservation and storage (several copies are recommended). What are the different levels of data retention from short-term to long-term preservation depending on the types of data? Another aspect is data organization, particularly for dynamic data. How will data be managed during the project? Provide information about version 


The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has a free online tool, DMP Online, which will  help you write your data management plans tailored for specific funders.


You will need to create a free account in order to use this tool. 

See more at DIRISA - Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa

In order to promote open access to research data, many funding agencies require research data produced as a funded project to be made publicly available. Many funding agencies have stipulated requirements for data sharing and a formal data management plan. 

National Research Foundation (NRF) Funding Requirement 

From 01 March 2015, authors of research papers generated from research either fully or partially funded by NRF, when submitting and publishing in academic journals, should deposit their final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted by the journals, to the administering Institution Repository with an embargo period of no more than 12 months. Earlier Open Access may be provided should this be allowed by the publisher. If the paper is published in an Open Access journal or the publisher allows the deposit of the published version in PDF format, such version should be deposited into the administering Institutional Repository and Open Access should be provided as soon as possible.

In addition, the data supporting the publication should be deposited in an accredited Open Access repository, with the provision of a Digital Object Identifier for future citation and referencing.

The NRF encourages its stakeholder community, including NRF’s Business Units and National Research Facilities, to:

  • Formulate detailed policies on Open Access of publications and data from its funded research;
  • Establish Open Access repositories; and
  • Support public access to the repositories through web search and retrieval according to international standards and best practice.

The NRF requires its relevant Business Units and National Research Facilities to actively collaborate with relevant governmental departments and public higher education and research institutions to facilitate Open Access to publications generated from publicly funded research. The NRF requires its stakeholder community to actively seek collaboration with the international scientific community to facilitate the Open Access of publications generated from publicly funded research across the world.

Full Statement on Open Access to Research Publications from the National Research Foundation (NRF)-Funded Research

The following is a selection of the funding agencies and funding opportunities for the potential researcher to consider:

South Africa


Who can assist with Writing a Data Plan at Unisa

Contact Makaba Macanda at

or Margarette van Zyl at





Useful Links to Data Management Planning - DMP

The following may be useful when compiling your Data Management Plan (DMP):