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The University of Alabama

New Online Tool Helps Researchers Produce Data Plans

Campus researchers can now develop and tailor the data management aspects of grant proposals with help from a new online aid.

With an increasing number of funding agencies requiring grant applicants to outline what they will do with their research data before and after their research is completed, the University has customized an online tool to increase its relevance to campus proposals, said Dr. Joe Benson, interim provost and vice president for research.

“We want to create an environment that removes barriers and supports, in meaningful ways, faculty’s efforts to further strengthen our research proposals,” said Benson.

UA’s Office for Research, the Office of Information Technology and University Libraries partnered, in conjunction with feedback from individual researchers and faculty groups, to customize the data management information available via an online aid called the DMPTool, said Tom Wilson, associate dean for library technology in University Libraries.

Customization of the online aid, which can be accessed at, is ongoing. Wilson encouraged all campus researchers to try the new tool and provide feedback by sending an email to committee members involved in its development. The email address is RDMPHELP@LISTSERV.UA.EDU.

“We certainly had some researchers who were able to cobble together data management plans that were actually reasonably good,” Wilson said. “We also had a lot of faculty who really didn’t know where to start and rightfully so. The University is not unique in that regard. This has been echoed across the country.”

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies recently began requiring researchers to outline their data management plans when applying for funding, Wilson said.

“It really is a way of ensuring the money that is invested in research not only produces information – of the kind one gets from a journal article – but also the data from which those conclusions were drawn,” Wilson said of newly implemented federal requirements.

The tool provides guidance that can be tailored based on which agency the applicant is submitting his or her proposal to and contains uniform language to describe various aspects of the University and its programs to increase grant-writing efficiency and improve consistency, Wilson said.

“Sound data management plans are not just for reproducing research results,” Wilson said, “but it’s also for building on the knowledge that’s generated from that research.”

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