The STFC scientific data policy notes that STFC, as a publicly funded organisation, has a responsibility to ensure that the data produced as a result of its funding is carefully managed and optimally exploited, in both the short and long term. The policy requires all proposals for grant funding, for those projects that result in the production or collection of scientific data, to include a data management plan, which should be considered and approved within the normal grants assessment procedure.
The plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future reuse.
STFC expects that data should be made openly available after any proprietary period so that it can be exploited to its maximum potential. The data management plan is an opportunity to outline how this will be achieved. It should describe the types of data that are to be produced from the project, how that data will be preserved, and for how long it will be kept. It should also describe which data will be of value to others, how that data will be shared, and whether there will be any proprietary period.
Proposals must include an acceptable data management plan addressing these issues before any subsequent grant will be awarded. If there is no plan, or if crucial parts of the plan are missing, or if it contains insufficient plans to preserve and share data, the principal investigator will be asked to address these deficiencies before the grant is awarded.
Peer review panels are asked to advise on whether the data management plan is acceptable. In particular, they are asked to consider whether the plan will enable the best use to be made of the data. This is a yes or no judgement. If yes, the grant (assuming the proposal is successful) will be awarded; if no, a revised plan will be requested before any grant is awarded. The evaluation of the data management plan will not affect the assessment or ranking of the research proposal itself. However, consideration of all potential uses of the data should be part of the assessment of the scientific value of the research.
Determining whether the plan is acceptable involves an element of judgement. This is particularly so in the assessment of whether it contains sufficient plans to preserve and share data. The guidance includes some basic expectations, such as which data will be preserved and for how long; and which will be made publicly available and how soon. But this is guidance rather than requirement and it is for applicants to justify their plans, taking into account the value of the data, the likely level of future reuse, the complexity of data and the cost-effectiveness of preservation compared to re-creation.
The important thing, therefore, is that the plans for data management are in line with the guidance and have been properly considered and justified in the context of the project, the types of data that will be produced, the standard norms within the scientific field, and the need to ensure that data is optimally exploited.