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Researcher Central: Tools and information to help PIs succeed


NSF Requirements

What does the NSF require?

12/2/11: Data Management Plans for NSF Proposals (Slideshare presentation)

6/15/11: Data Management Plan Required by the Directorate for Biological Sciences

All grant applications to the National Science Foundation must include a data management plan for data arising from the research process. This plan should explain how grantees will conform to the NSF’s existing policy on data retention and sharing. In general, this data plan is a supplementary document, no longer than two pages. However, some solicitations may specify slightly different page maximums and formats.

Proposals submitted to NSF must be submitted via NSF FastLane. You will not be able to submit your proposal without a data management plan.

What must a data management plan include?

In general, a data management plan should at least briefly address the following five areas:

  1. The types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project.
  2. The standards to be used for data and metadata format and content. (Where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies.)
  3. Policies for access and sharing, including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements.
  4. Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives.
  5. Plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Additionally, individual directorates or divisions may have specific requirements for their data management plans.

Division/Directorate Additional data management plan requirements
Engineering Directorate
  • Period of data retention. The recommended retention period is three years after conclusion of the award or public release of data. Longer retention times may be required for patent-supporting data, etc.
  • Rights and obligations of all parties involved in managing data. This includes changes to roles and responsibilities in the event that a principal investigator leaves the institution.
Division of Earth Sciences No additional requirements.
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program No additional requirements.
Division of Ocean Sciences Procedures for curating samples in a manner that preserves the quality of the samples.
Division of Astronomical Sciences No additional requirements.
Division of Chemistry No additional requirements.
Division of Materials Research “PIs should include in their Data Management Plan those aspects of data retention and sharing that would allow them to respond to a question about a published result.”
Division of Mathematical Sciences Information about data practices of partner disciplines in cases where collaboration is required.
Division of Physics “PIs should include in their Data Management Plan those aspects of data retention and sharing that would allow them to respond to a question about a published result.”
Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate
  • Factors that might impinge on their ability to manage data, e.g. legal and ethical restrictions on access to non-aggregated data.
  • The lowest level of aggregated data that PIs might share with others in the scientific community, given that community’s norms on data.
  • Period of Data Retention.

What if my project will not produce data that require sharing?

NSF will still require the submission of a data plan for projects that do not generate data that require sharing. In this case, the plan should clearly explain why sharing is not required in light of conflict-of-interest (COI) standards. Be aware, however, that not sharing data will require strong justification and will likely produce increased scrutiny from NSF peer reviewers. In most cases, sharing is the preferred option.


Page last updated on: 01/29/2014