Best Data Management Planning for Business

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A info management plan is an integral part of the research plan. The info plan can be reviewed and expanded during research but main principles and procedures should be determined before the research starts, at the latest before info collection begins.

The aim with info management planning is to ensure that good scientific practice is followed in the research, info are kept safe and secure at all stages of research, and info sharing is possible after the original research has been completed.

At the planning stage of the research, researchers should find out whether the research requires ethical review. If info are collected outside Finland, it is best to find out beforehand what practices are followed regarding ethical review in the country of collection. University websites often have instructions on the matter (you can search with phrases such as 'ethics review board', 'ethics review committee', 'human participants').

The guidelines provided on this web page refer to the situation in Finland, and may not be applicable in other countries due to differences in legislation and research infrastructure.

Data management plan

A info management plan describes how research info are collected or created, how info are used and stored during research and how made accessible for others after the research has been completed. You can attach the following kind of concise info management plan to your research plan:

If a concise info management plan has been used for funding application, you will need to expand and specify the plan once the research has started. If circumstances change, the plan needs to be updated. A good info management plan contains a solution to all the questions specified below.


1. The data

What kind of info are collected/generated?
In what way are info collected/generated?

What kind of info are collected is mainly determined by the research questions. Research info are typically questionnaire surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, written material, visit or meeting recordings, official documents, archival material, websites, or register or media data.

Data collection methods are determined by the type of info sought for. Quantitative info can be collected through interviews, postal or online questionnaires, by using existing source material, or by measuring. Qualitative info are often collected by recording perseorangan interviews, group interviews, sessions or meetings as audio or video files. Written material collection is usually initiated by publishing writing requests or invitations, and then collecting the writings via email, post or a specifically created website. Official documents can nowadays often be obtained from the Internet but some are available only by request or by obtaining permission to use them for research purposes. Access to register info generally requires applying for permission. More information on how to apply for access to register info on the Finnish Information Centre for Register Research web site.

Researchers and research teams can collect the info themselves or can contract a info collection company to do it. If info collection is contracted out, it is best to send the call for tender to several companies. Data management plans are useful for drawing up tender calls.


2. Rights

Who owns the copyright, Intellectual Property Rights and management rights to data?
Who has the right to grant access to data?
What procedures are used to inform research participants?

Copyright issues may be relevant for research info even though most empirical research info are outside the scope of the Finnish Copyright Act. If there are copyright issues involved, the owner of the copyright determines how the info can be used. Data use requires permission from the copyright owner. Regardless of whether info are protected by copyright or not, it is important to clarify the roles of persons involved in the research, since reusers of the info will cite the creators of the info when using it.

Research teams should always make an agreement on info ownership and usage rights. Usage rights should be determined both for the research project and for usage after the project has been completed. Before making any agreements, the requirements of the research funder(s) should be investigated in order to make the agreement follow their guidelines.

If an external contractor is used for info collection, the research team should determine, at the latest when the contract is being made, who is the owner of the data, who has info management responsibility and in what ways research participants are informed of future uses of the data. If the info will be archived for info sharing at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD), the agreement may state that the external contractor delivers copies of the info and associated metadata straight to the Archive.

Data archives specify access rights to archived data. Official documents are generally freely accessible to researchers. If info created from research have access restrictions, the depositor of the info will determine access conditions to it. Openly available web material is openly available for research as well but archiving such material for reuse may not always be possible due to restrictions set by the Finnish Copyright or Personal Data Acts.

When information is collected directly from research participants, reuse possibilities of the info are determined by the information given to participants on the future uses of the data.

3. Confidentiality and info security

How is confidentiality of info ensured?
What kind of rights different user groups have to access and process info files?
How is info security ensured?
How are back-ups of info files handled?

Confidentiality in the research environment basically means planned and careful processing of individual data. Personal info should only be collected and processed to the degree necessary for the research, and unauthorised access to the info must be prevented. In cases where it is necessary to include individual identification numbers in the data, there must be clear rules about who can process such confidential material.

When info contain individual data, the Finnish Personal Data Act requires that researchers completes a description of the file. There is a separate form for the description of scientific research info files. The info file description adds to the transparency of individual info processing. The description must be shown to research participants if they ask to see it. If info are collected through the Internet, it is also possible to use Privacy Notice form. Privacy Notice is an extended description of a individual info file and provides more detailed information. More information on the forms on the website of the Data Protection Ombudsman.

To avoid any ambiguity, the info file description should contain all information supplied to research participants on info collection, processing and use. If the dataset is to be archived at the FSD with individual info included, it is recommended to state this in the info file description as well as give this information to research participants before info collection.

Data security means keeping individual information collected, as well as computer systems, info files and transfers of info safe. It is easy to copy and disseminate digital research info files, or unintentionally destroy or change them. Making back-ups of info files and preventing unauthorised access to them are thus integral parts of info security.

It is recommended that info files requiring a large storage capacity are stored in the IDA Storage Service provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture. IDA Storage Service is a useful and safe solution also for collaborative research projects where the same info are analysed in more than one university. The service is aimed at Finnish universities and at the projects or research infrastructures funded by the Academy of Finland.

4. File formats and programs

What software programs are used to store and process data?
What file formats and storage media are used?

A variety of statistical software are available for processing quantitative data. There are other software for processing and analysing qualitative info although many researchers still continue to use word processors for analysing textual data. The software chosen determines the file formats used. Because software systems keep developing and changing, it is best to store at least one copy of info in a software-independent format or in a standard format that many software are capable of interpreting.

Data files can be stored and transferred with optical media (e.g. CD, DVD, Blue-ray) and with non-volatile memory (e.g. memory cards or USB-sticks). The safest way to preserve info files is to store them on duplicate copies of magnetic media (e.g. hard drives or tapes).


5. Documentation on info processing and content

How is the (technical) quality of info ensured?
How are info processing methods documented?

Where are metadata describing info collection methods and info content stored?
Technical and content decisions made at info entry stage influence the quality of data. Decisions to be made include, for example, whether to enter information into a matrix or the technical solution chosen for audio or video recording. Solutions chosen for post-collection processing also have an impact on info quality. For instance, in the case of quantitative data, the naming and organisation of info files, naming of variables, and documenting the codes and reasons for missing values. In the case of qualitative data, the transcription level chosen.

Sufficient info documentation in different stages of info collection and processing is a crucial factor for quality. Data documentation is also important for long-term preservation and usability. Good documentation, that is, carefully created metadata enable informed re-use of info and long info life cycle.

6. Life cycle

What happens to info after research has been finalised?

Subsequent use value of research info is largely dependent on info management measures carried out during the research. Effective info management before and during info collection and processing is an essential requirement for generating info that can be used afterwards for new research, learning, or teaching of methodology.

If info are to be stored by an perseorangan researcher, university department, research unit or organisation, info owners must provide a solution to all aspects of subsequent info management: storage, archival and dissemination packages, terms of use, info delivery, and dissemination of metadata. If info are deposited with the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, the archive will take care of all these aspects and in addition ensure confidentiality and info security.

It is not worthwhile to preserve all research info permanently. When considering whether to archive a dataset or not, uniqueness of the data, its usability, access conditions, re-use value in research and education, and archiving costs all need to be taken into consideration. Insufficient or poor info management during the research stage considerably increases the costs of archiving, as it often is time-consuming to process the info for reuse afterwards and find out information needed for metadata. Still, destroying a dataset must always be a conscious decision and not the result of an inadequate or careless info management.

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