Data management plans

During the planning stages of any archaeological project, careful consideration of the archive and how it will be managed will save a lot of headaches further down the line. The simplest way to undertake this planning, and to document it, is to produce a data management plan (DMP) from the outset. This document provides an iterative framework for all digital data management, from data acquisition to deposition.

To be fully compliant with CIfA Standards and guidance, archaeological projects should include a DMP as part of the archaeological project’s WSI or project design, and then maintained throughout project delivery.

The DMP should be completed at the start of each project and reviewed at key stages during project delivery. It should be included as an appendix to key project documentation, such as the WSI or project design, the assessment report and updated project design, and as part of the final technical report. By treating the plan as a living document, it remains relevant and flexible to any changes that may occur through the project delivery stages. Any developments or changes are then recorded and visible to all project stakeholders.

The minimum requirement for information to be included in the DMP are

  • key project details highlighting relevant information, including key identifiers, name, type and purpose
  • relevant people involved in data creation, responsibility, and management
  • what data will be created and collected within a project
  • which data standards or methods will be used
  • how data will be managed and documented through each project stage
  • consideration of ethical and legal issues
  • how the data will be stored, secured, accessed and backed up during the research
  • the process for data selection as part of the archive process
  • the intended archive repository, costs of deposition and deposition process
  • data sharing, including any restrictions that may need to be applied to data sharing
  • who is responsible for data management

You can download an editable template of a DMP designed for archaeological projects from the tools below, and a version with embedded guidance and examples.

Contact the repository

Getting in touch with the repository at the beginning of the project will make sure that decisions taken and processes implemented are consistent with deposition needs. As well as ensuring data is created and managed appropriately, the project team will also be aware of how information needs to be documented and permissions obtained. This can help save time and energy for those dealing with archive deposition once the project analysis and reporting has been completed.

Ultimately, good planning ensures the data archive meets CIfA Standards and is consistent with FAIR principles, comprising appropriate levels of quality and accessibility.

Some useful things to do during the project planning stages include

  • making sure you have access to the most recent and up-to-date deposition guidelines
  • reviewing the guidelines against your own operational procedures, making sure everything is aligned
  • taking the opportunity to discuss specific project requirements with the repository directly, especially where there are data management implications
  • reviewing your cost estimations, ensuring that you have budgeted for the cost of archive preparation as well as deposition
  • communicating with your team, making sure they are aware of any data management protocols and specific project needs, such as format and metadata

Review and update

The DMP is designed to be a living document. It maps out how the project team are managing data and provides a handy checklist to help keep on top of changes that might impact the integrity of your archive or resources required through project delivery.

Maintaining an up-to-date version of the DMP throughout the project is a good habit to get into. Include a current version with any updated project documents – such as the post-excavation assessment, the updated project design or final report – to ensure project stakeholders are aware of any changes.

Undertaking a meaningful review of the DMP takes a small amount of time but will reduce team frustrations and general panic later! You will also maximise the value of your project data, which will have the potential to be reused in research and education well into the future.

Take a look at the Quick Guide to DMPs for some tips on when and how to use your DMP to best effect.

FAIR Guiding Principles

These guiding principles provide a simple definition of the core principles of good data management: Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability (FAIR).