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USGS Data Management

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Plan > Data Management Plans
U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram Plan Acquire Preserve Publish/Share Manage Quality Describe (Metadata, Documentation) Backup & Secure The USGS Science Data Lifecycle

Data Management Plans

Planning for Data Management involves answering questions about the data: Do they already exist? How will they be obtained or collected? What is the schedule and budget for data collection? How will the data be checked and certified? What are the likely uses for the data? How will the data be stored, accessed, and protected? A good data management plan provides a strategy for how you will answer all of these questions.

Best Practices: Data Management Planning Considerations

Data Management Checklist Data Management Checklist [PDF]

This checklist is useful to ensure that you have addressed the issues that may affect your data.

Key Points

  • Consider if the data you want to collect already exist in other agencies, field offices, and repositories.
  • Designate a person who will be responsible for the data management plan and the data.
  • Establish how and when the data will be collected, the formats/standards of the data and metadata, as well as the budget for the collection.
  • Decide how the data will be checked for quality and how it will be stored and backed up.
  • Tools are available to help with data management planning.
  • Utilize the Data Management Checklist [PDF] to ensure that you have addressed the issues that may affect your data.

What data are you collecting? Do the data already exist?

  • Have you checked all possible sources for your data needs?
  • Other field offices?
  • Other Federal, State, or local agencies?
  • FGDC Metadata repository?

[see Acquire > Methods for more information on data acquisition issues]

Who is responsible for managing the data and the data management plan?

  • May be the same person on smaller projects
  • On larger projects you may have several individuals involved
  • Where will the data and data management plan be stored?
  • Who is responsible for updating the metadata?
  • Are there any access restrictions?

[see Describe > Metadata and Describe > Access Controls and Copyrights for more information]

How will data be collected?

  • Electronically or on paper
  • In-house or by contractor

[see Acquire > Methods for more information on data collection issues]

What format will the data and metadata be in?

  • What format will be used to collect the data?
  • Are there any data standards for this data type?
  • Will a different format be used to share or publish the data?
  • What metadata standard will be used?
  • Will you be using a standard naming format and version control?

[see Plan > Data & File Formats and Plan > Data Templates for more information]

What is the schedule and budget for the collection?

  • When do you expect the project to start?
  • When do you expect to complete the project?
  • Is funding available?

How will the data be checked and certified?

  • In-house or by contractor
  • In-house certification should be done by individual who is independent of the person collecting the data
  • Review all data, or random sample

[see Manage Quality for more information]

What are all the likely uses for the data, who will use it, what kinds of outputs will be needed?

  • Electronic or paper
  • Alphanumeric or spatial
  • Available to the public?

How do these impact the need to store, access, and protect the data?

How are the data being stored and backed up?

  • Are the data stored in multiple places and on different media types?
  • Who is handling the backups?
  • Is there someone checking to ensure that backups are being done properly?
  • Does more than one person know where the data are being stored and how to access it?
  • How long will backups be kept?
  • Is there a plan for archiving the data?

[see Backup & Secure and Preserve > Archiving for more information]

Example Data Management Plan Formats

Some example Data Management Plans from various institutions can be found at Public DMPs



Data Management Plan Tool

The DMPTool is a free web-based application, created through a collaboration with multiple institutions, including DataONE. The DMPTool will help you:

  • Create ready-to-use data management plans for specific funding agencies, including a USGS guidance template
  • Meet funder requirements for data management plans
  • Get step-by-step instructions and guidance for your data management plan as you build it

"Designed to help researchers learn about data management and write guided Data Management Plans (DMPs), the DMPTool walks researchers through the steps necessary to create a generic NSF DMP or a DMP targeted to one of six NSF Directorates. You can also save, preview, and export your plans and future functionality will allow you to share DMPs with collaborators and other researchers." See the DMPTool Guide for additional information and assistance.

Anyone can sign up for a free account. Click the "Get Started" button on the DMPTool homepage to begin.

USGS users can log in to the DMPTool and select “U.S. Geological Survey” as your institution to sign up. Once you log in, you can use a USGS guidance template by going to “Create New DMP” and choosing “U.S. Geological Survey DMP Guidance”. Please note, this template is not prescriptive but meant as guidance for individuals and Centers/Programs who want to create their own Data Management Plans.

What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Says:

The USGS Manual 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research establishes requirements for Project Work Plans:

Project Work Plan. Documents the timeline for the study, lists the discrete tasks that need to be completed to accomplish the objectives, and describes the relationship of discrete tasks to one another and the methods to be used (how they can be explained and defended, including exploring differences in performance, comparability of results, and so on). A project work plan also documents the budget for the study, staffing of the study, anticipated or planned information products (including the recommended review and approval process for these products), and the process for managing and archiving scientific records. A project work plan can be a component of a proposal that is handled through the Bureau planning process.

Note: Information Product: An information product is the compilation of scientific communication or knowledge such as facts, data, or interpretations in any medium (e.g., print, digital, Web) or form, including textual, numerical, graphical, cartographic, or audiovisual, to be disseminated to a defined audience or customer, scientific or nonscientific, internal or external.

The USGS Instructional Memoradum IM OSQI 2015-001 - Foundation Data Policy establishes requirements for data management plans:

"Plan. The overall project work plan of every research project must include planning for data management (SM 502.2). A data management plan describes standards and intended actions for acquiring, processing, analyzing, preserving, publishing/sharing, describing, managing quality, backing up, and securing the data holdings ( The data management plan, like the work plan, should be updated during the research phase to reflect the reality of the project activities."


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