The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires all proposals to include a data management plan.  The plan details how the researcher will share data and other relevant materials at no more than incremental cost.  The plan is to be no more than two pages and must address two topics:

  • What data are generated by the research?
  • How will the data be managed and eventually shared?

The plan, along with a proposal, will be evaluated on the basis of the practices of the discipline.  Evaluation will take place during the annual review process and following project completion. Proposals without plans will not be reviewed.

Management Plan Details

Your plan should articulate how the Principal Investigator (PI) plans to disseminate the primary data.  Data sharing encompasses many issues, including:

  • rights and obligations of all parties — including other researchers and the home institution — regarding data access, management and retention 
  • changes to management responsibilities in the event of any change in PIs or home institutions
  • costs associated with data management and retention, as explained in the Budget Justification
  • conditions to data sharing — including embargoes, access restrictions and data aggregation for protection of confidentiality
  • copyright and intellectual property issues arising from the use of proprietary data or information
  • duration of data retention as required by the home institution, granting agency or other party
  • method of data retention — including specific repositories or sites, if available
  • formats of shared data, including changes introduced to protect confidentiality or intellectual property
  • other management or retention requirements more stringent and specific to a project, data source or institution

What do I need to deliver during the grant?

Annual reports 

These reports must provide information regarding management plan implementation, such as:

  • relevant citations
  • conference proceedings
  • other types of results dissemination 

Final project reports 

These reports should describe:

  • the data produced
  • the raw data to be retained
  • associated supporting documentation
  • how data will be verifiably disseminated
  • the format in which the data will be available
  • the metadata, if applicable

In addition, discussion of community standards for the data format is expected as context for the dissemination efforts of the project. 

Subsequent proposals 

In subsequent proposals, you must report data management of prior NSF support under "Results."

More information from NSF directorates

Specific requirements vary substantially across disciplines. Each NSF Directorate provides more specific guidance and resources for writing management plans.


Geological Sciences

Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Advice to PIs on Data Management Plans

Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

Data Management for NSF SBE Directorate: Proposals & Awards