Data Management Plan Toolkit


National Science Foundation requirement

As of January 18, 2011, all grant applications to the National Science Foundation must include a data management plan not to exceed two pages in length.


The NSF requirement for a data management plan accompanies the larger NSF mandate for the Dissemination and Sharing of Research Data. Specifically, “investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing. Privileged or confidential information should be released only in a form that protects the privacy of individuals and subjects involved.”

The data management plan describes to the National Science Foundation what data is to be shared, how it is to be shared, and any necessary limitations on that sharing.

Response of the College

In order to facilitate compliance with the NSF requirement for a data management plan,  Muhlenberg College has a) publicized the requirement widely to its faculty and staff, and b) has developed the following data management toolkit.


This toolkit contains a concise definition of the requirement, answers to frequently asked questions, and a template that can be adapted to the project at hand. The toolkit also points to repositories, among them Muhlenberg College’s own digital repository, where researchers may choose to deposit their research data in partial fulfillment of the NSF requirement.

a) Description of a data management plan

The NSF requirement  for a data management plan as described at the NSF website includes the following components, in length not to exceed two pages:

    • a statement of the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
    • the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content;
    • policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
    • policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
    • plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Additional information can be found in an FAQ provided by the NSF.

b) Sample

This sample data management plan, drafted by Trexler Library staff, can be used as a template, adapted to the research project at hand. Remember that the plan should be no longer than two pages in length.

c) Repositories

The data management plan in most cases should specify the repository where the data will be stored and made accessible to the public at large.

Muhlenberg College's Research Data Repository (RDR) is one option for storing and making publicly available data generated by Muhlenberg-affiliated faculty and staff research projects. To submit data to this repository, contact the Outreach and Scholarly Communication Librarian at / 484-664-3602.

However, there many options for archiving. Here is a list compiled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of numerous other data repositories for your consideration.


Questions about the Data Management Plan Toolkit can be directed to the Outreach and Scholarly Communication Librarian, Kelly Cannon, at / 484-664-3602.