Are the expectations for data management plans too high?

I’m in the process of setting up a data management plan (DMP) workshop at Canterbury.   I attended (yet another) fantastic ANDS webinar on setting up DMP resources, and I was struck by the very high expectations some have of what they are trying to achieve.  It made me think about we are trying to get out of it ourselves.

One of the best bits (and I’ll link once the webinar is available) was discussing what the benefits of DMPs are.  In  my mind they have always been like human and animal ethics proposals – it’s a tool to think with, to help you establish your research in a knowing way, and to encourage you to seek guidance on questions that arise in the process.

DMPs have some fantastic potential -if they describe a project well they can provide machine readable metadata for the entire research lifecycle.  They can act as an electronic order form for digital resources (compute power, storage, ‘publishing’ space).  They can even hold researchers to account in how they are going to share their data, so the fear of being gazumped at the end is overruled by their decision to open their data at the start.

I think this is reaching too far at the moment though.  Let’s gather some DMPs – especially from compliant postgraduates –  see if we can answer the immediate questions that arise, provide and guide them good-enough solutions (storage, publishing, licencing) and then work out what we need to do in a prioritized way next.  Putting the demands of perfection and completeness on the process creates too much overhead – just too much work – for those who have to complete them.

I got  a feeling that some DMP programmes were about _policing_ data, rather than as a part of a conversation and guidance about data.  As a librarian, I don’t want to be a cop – I’d much rather be colleague.

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