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NIH Data Management & Sharing (DMS) Policy

What is Data?

The word 'data' can mean many things to many people, so defining context is important to conversations. 

The NIH defines scientific data as:

the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as of sufficient quality to validate and replicate research findings, regardless of whether the data are used to support scholarly publications.

This definition explicitly excludes laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, completed case report forms, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as laboratory specimens.

Key Takeaways:

  • The DMS policy emphasizes the role of data in scientific reproducibility 
  • Null findings can still produce data that is subject to the DMS policy
  • The DMS policy applies to data of all types and origins, including quantitative, qualitative, imagery, and models

What is Data Management?

Research Data Management (RDM) describes the best practices that make data easier to find and work with, both during a project as well as after the data is archived or shared with the wider research community. It encompasses activities like file organization, quality assurance, documentation, and storage.

The activities that support good RDM are often described with a lifecycle model to represent the important data management activities that occur before, during, and after the research ends:

Image source: Jisc Research Data Management Toolkit

Why does the NIH require data management?

Data management increases the return on investment for research funding through both short-term and long-term benefits.

Short-term benefits of RDM include:

  • better data security
  • more seamless collaboration
  • reduced duplication of efforts 

In the long-term, RDM improves the re-use value of data, making it an essential pre-requisite for meaningful data sharing. This also leads to other benefits, such as:

  • increased research impact and citations
  • minimized risk of retractions
  • increased public trust in science

Learn More

How do I comply with the data management requirements in the policy?

The data management information required by the NIH is described in more detail in the "Writing Your Data Management Plan" section of this site. Additional resources are provided below about the best practices underlying these requirements.