Proposals

Research data chapters in funding proposals

Many funders require your funding proposal to contain statements about the handling of research data. There may be a separate chapter dedicated to this matter, or you are obliged to submit a data management plan (DMP). Specifications regarding form and content vary between funders, disciplines and even between funding programmes and tenders.

Applicants often feel uncertain about the funders´ expectations on contents and degree of detail of such RDM statements and how much these may affect evaluation. On this page, we compiled info, questions and answers to the best of our knowledge.

Please note

Some statements reflect our personal assessments based on our counselling experience or take into account informal communication with representatives of funders and project management agencies. We progressively strive to add  further details to the information and keep it up to date. For this purpose, continued exchange with funders and colleagues from other research organisations is key.  

What you should consider in general

  • General tips for proposal chapters on research data management (RDM) and for data management plans (DMP)
    • Take the RDM chapter or the DMP seriously and do not postpone the draft until submission deadline is approaching! The importance of the RDM topic is increasing constantly and hence, its impact on the reviewers` verdict is growing as well.

    • Stay on topic. It is ONLY about the handling of DATA. Information on your planned journal articles and attended conferences or your opinion on the significance of open science in general is rather out of place here.

    • Try to be as concrete as possible and avoid general phrases. Example: Instead of “We regularly backup our data” a statement like “The data is backed up daily on servers of the IT department of LUH via the service Backup & Restore” is preferable.

    • Use short sentences (or just key points) carrying a clear message.

    • Be realistic. Only promise what you can actually put into practice. If you mention concrete services, infrastructure and so on, check beforehand whether these in fact meet your requirements.

    • Carefully read the proposal guidelines, the DMP template or the funding tender to find out what kind of information the funder expects exactly. Check if your text actually covers every point mentioned there!

  • Data management requirements of major funders

    Practically all funders expecting RDM statements demand that you comply with the so-called FAIR principles. Thus, your data should be findable, accessible, interoperable (with other data and technical systems) and re-usable.

    "Do I have to publish all my data?"

    No, no funding body expects you to always publish everything, nor that you always keep everything. However, should always decide consciously and well-founded which data to keep or even publish and which to delete or restrict. Ethical and legal requirements may be good reasons to forego publication, for example. The guidelines 13 and 17 of the DFG codex on safeguarding good research practice take this into account. In EU projects, the principle "as open as possible, as closed as necessary" applies, which boils down to basically the same idea.

    In your proposal or in an accompanying data management plan you set out, how exactly you are going to ensure compliance with the FAIR principles. The background for this requirement is that data generated with public funding should be processed and analysed as thoroughly as possible, even beyond the original project context. Furthermore, research results based on FAIR data are easier to understand and verify.

    Important!

    Reviewers are usually encouraged to take into account discipline-specific standards when evaluating proposals. You should hence inform yourself about “best practice” in your field and find out whether discipline-specific RDM guidelines exists. You can find such information in online portals of disciplinary organisations and NFDI consortia, and on the RDM website of DFG.


    TIP: The new DFG portal “Wissenschaftliche Integrität“ includes a feature to show discipline-specific comments on each of the “Guidelines of Good Research Practice”.

Science Europe issued a guide for drafting and reviewing data managament plans. It serves as a reference for many funding bodies.

German Research Foundation (DFG)

  • What kind of information on RDM do they demand and in which form?

    For almost all of its funding programmes DFG requires a RDM chapter in every proposal. For details on the expected content, please refer to the respective proposal guidelines or templates. As an example, in case of an individual research grant (chapter 5.2) the current wording reads:

    “[…] If research data or information will be systematically produced in the project, explain the nature, scope and documentation of the data and how they will be stored. In addition, discuss the possibility of subsequent reuse by other researchers. Please regard existing standards and data repositories or archives in your discipline where appropriate. […]”

    You can also apply for funds for RDM-specific expenses exeeding the usual basics that every university is expected to provide. Do so in the designated chapter (individual research grants: chapter 7). Such expenses could, for example, consist in costs for additional personnel tasked with elaborating data for optimal re-use, or costs for data publishing. If you plan to commission external service providers, check whether they have a schedule of fees or get an individual quote in time.

    Please take into account the information and especially the FAQ at the DFG website on research data.

  • How extensive should the RDM chapter be?

    That depends on funding programme, project size and discipline or research topic. DFG does not specify on this point. In case of individual research grants and sketches (RTG, CRC), we recommend dedicating between half a page and a whole page to the chapter. As far as full proposals for larger projects are concerned, the chapter may be significantly longer, because you should be more specific on issues like exchange of data between partners (access rights/infrastructure), uniform standards (documentation/file formats etc.) and concepts for privacy protection, if applicable.

  • How should the RDM chapter be structured?

    Again, there are no fix specifications. We recommend the following structure:

    • Introductory sentence on relevant guidelines, e.g. like this: "Data generated in the scope of the project is handled according to the Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice and the Guidelines for Handling Research Data at Leibniz University Hannover " [amend discipline-specific guidelines if applicable].
       
    • Announce that you will elaborate a data management plan at the start of the project (optional, but highly recommended).
       
    • Estimated overall volume of the data generated or processes, including temporal versions (ca. xxx GB)
       
    • Types of data generated or processes in the scope of the project and their respective file formats (key points suffice)
       
    • Documentation of data generation and processing:
      • What do you document (who, when, where, how)?
      • How / by what means do you document (e.g. wiki, (electronic) lab notebook, git, database, table, readme files, metadata files...)?
         
    • List of discipline-specific standards relevant for the project, e.g. concerning:
      • Methods of data generation and processing
      • Structure of data and metadata
      • Quality standards
      • Industry norms, if applicable
         
    • IT infrastructure utilized during the funding period (e.g. storage, mainframe computer, file server, backup service etc.)
       
    • Data archiving: Where do you store data that cannot be published but have to be kept according to Good Scientific Practice?
       
    • Data publication: Where do you intend to publish your data ensuring that that they will be accessible for at least ten years, get persistent identifiers (e.g a doi) and are equipped with a license indicating the terms for re-use?
       

    Depending on the research topic, you should address further issues, such as data privacy or intellectual property rights. Do not forget to apply for funds to cover cost for RDM-related measures beyond the university´s basic services and infrastructure.

  • Do they check the implementation of measures described in the proposal?

    There is no routine audit of every project. However, when you apply for an additional funding period, reviewers may have a closer look at your original announcements and check whether you actually put these into practice. An audit may also take place in special cases, e.g., when scientific misbehaviour is suspected.

European Union (EU)

Please note

The exact requirements may vary between programme lines ("actions"). The following statements refer, in first place, to the Research and Innovation Action (RAI) and the Innovation Action (IA) since by far the most funding applications are filed in the scope of these two programme lines.

  • What kind of information on RDM do they demand and in which form?

    When writing the application you have to address the planned data management  on no more than one page under point 1.2 (Methodology, p. 8) in section B (Project proposal -Technical description) of the Standard Application Form (HE RIA, IA). In particular, you are required to indicate the types of data you work with, how you intend to comply with the FAIR principles and which resources (personell and funds) you budget for data processing and  long-term archiving.

    If your application is accepted, you also need to submit a data management plan within then first six month of the funding period. You are expected to update and complement this document regularly in the course of the project, at least towards the middle and the end of the funding period. Data underlying research results must be published open access "as early as possible", which generally means before the end of the funding period.

    You can find additional information in the Annotated Grant Model Agreement in Annex 5 (HE Communication, Dissemination, Open Science and Visibility)on pages 152-153 and in the commentaries under point 2.2 „Open science: research data management“on pages 158-160. The Horizon Europe Programme Guide also addresses in some detail the requirements regarding research data management and data management plans in the Open Science chapter (pp. 38-54).

  • How extensive should the RDM statements in the application form and the DMP be?

    The information given in the application form may comprise up to one page. There is no such limit for the data management plan generated during the project, however. Its extend conforms to the requirements  of your project. In case of interdisciplinary and multi-institutional joint projects you should calculate with no less then three pages, since you need to consider diverging local circumstances  and disciplinary data management requirements. However, about ten pages are common.

    TIP: Keep the DMP for the project as a whole rather short and general, but give further details in partner- and discipline-specific sub-DMP. This approach helps maintaining clarity and enables a better description of local conditions (e.g. locally available IT infrastructure).

  • How should the RDM statements in the application form and the DMP be structured?

    The application form specifies rather clearly the expected contents under point 1.3 (Methodology, p. 8). We recommend that you stick to the proposed structure and start with a description of data types. Next, you should outline, how you intend to ensure that data are findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR principles). Finally, name the resources budgeted for data management and archiving. Although the order is not compulsory, make sure that you address every one of these aspects adequately.

    There is a MS-Word template for data management plans in Horizon Europe projects containing a chapter structure and guiding questions to help drafting the contents.

    If you do not want to use this template, we still recommend that you adopt its chapter structure. At some points, however, you may notice that certain information pertain to several chapters. In these cases, you do not have to repeat yourself but simply reference the respective passages in which you already addressed a certain issue ("see...").

    There also are, or soon will be, templates for most online tools for the generation of data management plans, such as RDMO, Argos and DMPonline.

  • Do they check the implementation of measures described in the proposal and the DMP?

    Your statements in the grant agreement form part of the funding contract and are therefore legally binding. A DMP is a deliverable, and a first version has to be submitted within the first six month of the funding period. Keep it up to date and include the current version in your periodical reports and in the final report.

    Completeness and quality of the RDM chapter and the DMP will be considered during the evaluation of midterm reports and final reports. To our knowledge, there are even special reviewers who check whether a DMP is adequately concrete and complete and then report their verdict back to the respective project officer. In case of critical assessments, it is up to this officer if and how he or she requests improvements.

    We currently do not believe that the practical implementation of the measures described in the plan is regularly verified on site. However, you should expect a closer examination on samples of everything that can be checked online (e.g. data publication in compliance with the FAIR principles). An extraordinary audit may also take place in case of complaints.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)