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Data management and sharing: New NIH policy, now what?

Benfeard Williams
Benfeard WILLIAMS,
Division of Neuroscience (DN).
Grayson Donley
Grayson DONLEY,
Division of Neuroscience (DN).

As recently stated by Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, who is performing the duties of the NIH director, our agency expects the research community to “integrate effective data management and sharing practices into the process of scientific discovery.” To bolster that effort, the Final NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing (DMS Policy) is now officially in effect. Under this new policy, applicants are required to develop a data management and sharing plan (DMS Plan) for all NIH-supported research that results in the generation of scientific data.

We previously highlighted tips and tricks on preparing a DMS Plan and what to expect with the new DMS Policy. As a next step, we underscore the six elements of a successful DMS Plan, where to store your scientific data, and what to look for in a data repository.

Six elements to a successful DMS Plan

Understanding the six recommended elements is the first step to writing a successful DMS Plan. These are:

  1. Data Types: Provide a high-level summary of the types of data used and their descriptions, such as degree of data processing, data sources, scale, metadata, and documentation.
  2. Related Tools, Software, and/or Code: Describe software programs, source codes, and analytical tools that are required to access, replicate, and use your shared scientific data.
  3. Standards: Specify the standards used for each type of data included in your proposal, noting instances where no formal data standards have been established.
  4. Data Preservation, Access, and Associated Timelines: Establish a timeline to track progress toward submitting your data. Learn more about choosing appropriate data repositories below.
  5. Access, Distribution, or Reuse Considerations: Ensure the data is accessible to the broader research community while protecting research participant privacy and abiding by relevant laws, regulations, and policies.
  6. Oversight of Data Management and Sharing: Remember to list key individuals responsible for implementing and overseeing your DMS Plan.

NIH has provided sample DMS Plans for educational purposes to demonstrate how investigators might address the recommended elements for a variety of research projects. For NIA-specific DMS Plan advice, be sure to check out and bookmark NIA’s Data Management and Sharing Guidance page for the latest information, including sample plans and additional resources.

What are the FAIRest repositories of all?

To improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability (FAIR) of data, researchers should deposit their data in a quality data repository. Quality data repositories assign unique persistent identifiers, share plans for long-term data management, ensure datasets have accompanying metadata, and document capabilities to ensure compliance with applicable confidentiality.

While some NIH notices of funding opportunities specify the required repository, many do not, and you may wonder how to select an appropriate data repository for your study. Be sure to review available resources, such as NIA-supported data-sharing repositories and the NIH National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) maintained list of generalist repositories. NLM also maintains a list of domain-specific repositories, breaking down data deposit timeframes, data access policy, data submission policy, and funding support.

When you are in doubt, we encourage you to consult with local institutional experts — such as librarians, data scientists, or data managers — and use an established repository. Costs associated with preserving and sharing data through established repositories, such as data deposit fees, are considered allowable costs under NIH funding policies.

Where to find more information

If you still have questions about the new DMS Policy (PDF, 257K), please refer to the DMS Policy FAQ. For specific questions related to crafting the best DMS Plan for your research, contact your NIA program officer.

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