DMPTool and Common DMP Issues

Last updated on 2024-03-22 | Edit this page



  • How does DMPTool help librarians and researchers?
  • What are the capabilities of the DMPTool at different access levels?
  • What are some common DMP issues?
  • What should a librarian look for in providing feedback on a DMP draft?


  • Navigate the DMPTool website
  • Provide constructive feedback on a DMP draft


DMPTool is a free, open-source, online application that helps researchers create data management plans. The tool provides a click-through wizard for creating a DMP that complies with funder requirements. DMPTool is a service run by the California Digital Library.

The DMPTool is meant to be a one-stop shop that benefits both the researcher and librarian or other support staff. The website includes links to funder requirements and sample plans. Researchers can create plans in a wizard that includes side-by-side instruction. Participating institutions have the option of preparing templates with customized guidance for their institution and utilizing the feedback system to review plans by request.

Capabilities of DMPTool by access level

Some features of DMPTool are accessible without logging in. Watch this short video to see how to:

  • Look up funder requirements
  • Search for sample DMPs
  • See a list of participating institutions

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Go to the DMPTool and click on “participating institutions” to find out if your institution is on the list. If so, you may log in to the platform using your institutional account or Single Sign On (SSO). If you are an administrator (librarian or otherwise) and want to learn more about becoming a participating institution, please contact the DMPTool administrators.

One can log into the DMPTool using their SSO or by setting up an individual account. Watch this video for a demonstration by a user from a participating institution on how to:

  • Find DMP plans shared by other researchers at your institution

  • Create a plan

  • Request feedback

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The highest level of access available is granted to the site administrator at your institution who may be someone in the library or in a different research support unit. The capabilities available at the admin level include:

  • Prepare DMP templates or custom guidelines for established templates
  • Respond to feedback request from researchers
  • View plans created at your institution and a list of registered users


For more resources on using the DMPTool as an administrator, please see the references page.

Knowledge Check

Q1. Example data management plans are available without logging in to the DMPTool. Which option should I click on to find example data management plans? Image of options

    1. “Funder Requirements”
    1. “Public DMPs”
    1. “Participating institutions”
    1. “100,105 plans”

Choice B is correct. There are over 100 public plans available. Choice D is not a link - it’s a tally number of DMP made using this tool.

Knowledge Check (continued)

Q2. For participating institutions, it is possible to find plans developed by researchers at your institution. After logging in to DMPTool, where would you click to find these plans: Image of options

    1. “My Dashboard”
    1. “Create Plan”
    1. “University name”
    1. “Admin”

Choice A is correct. At the bottom of your dashboard you can see plans for your instition. This section shows plans from all authors who gave permission to share their plan.

Common DMP Issues

Below are some common issues, how they can be identified, and constructive feedback that can be provided to improve the DMP. As you begin to assist researchers with data management planning and revising their DMPs, you too will notice these and other trends that will make issues easier to spot in the future.


Please note that constructive feedback may differ if the research agrees to a consultation, or if you are providing feedback through email or the DMPTool.

Language was copied from another project or template without modifications

How can you tell?

  • The DMP reads like several different projects
  • The verbally stated goals of the project are not aligned with what is written in the DMP
  • The action items in the DMP are not appropriate for the project

Why this is an issue:

  • By copying and pasting existing language, researchers may not understand what they are promising the granting agency
  • Researchers also miss out on examining their own processes and creating a plan that fits with their workflow

Constructive feedback:

  • In a consultation, ask the researcher if they used language from another template or plan, and if they understood everything they were proposing. Go through each section and use the data interview questions in Episode 3 to help the researcher customize the plan to their needs.
  • In the DMPTool or email, call out the sections that do not make sense for the project. Suggest that they consider how to modify the template language to better fit with their project workflow and make it easier to follow-through to meet funder requirements. Offer to schedule a consultation to discuss this more in person.

Including additional information that does not qualify as research data

How can you tell?

  • Listed information includes “laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as laboratory specimens”, which do not fall under the research data definition (OMB circular A-110)
  • Includes other information that does not fall under this definition include evaluating student performance or courses as part of the project (data reported to the institution)
  • Lists other scholarship generated as part of this research project, such as which journals will be targeted for articles publications and which conferences will be attended to present findings

Why this is an issue:

  • Non-research data has no place in a DMP. It does not need to be publicly accessible or preserved as part of funding requirements

Constructive feedback:

  • Provide researchers with the research data definition, identify which information does not fall within the definition, and suggest that they remove it from their plan

The Data Description and Format section does not contain sufficient data information

How can you tell?

  • There is no information about what data will be collected or what tools will be used to collect this information
  • There is no information about file formats and types
  • There are no files size estimates

Why this is an issue:

  • It is difficult to plan for data management if the data to be generated within a project is not specified
  • It is possible that researchers do not have a good understanding of what counts as research data, which will make follow through on the plan difficult
  • It is also possible that researchers do not want to provide estimates or assumptions, but lack of information prevents the funding agency from understanding their project fully

Constructive feedback:

  • Using the information in Episode 1, state what information you were hoping to see in this section. It may also be helpful to provide sample language to give researchers a sense of what level of detail is expected in this section
  • Offer to schedule a consultation to help the researcher brainstorm what data might be generated as part of their project. Remind them that their best estimates should be included for now, and that the DMP can be updated once they have solidified their workflow

The Metadata and Data Standards section does not contain sufficient data information

How can you tell?

  • The section has been completely omitted
  • There is no information included about disciplinary standards
  • There is no information included about metadata
  • Information in this section is incorrect

Why this is an issue:

  • Sharing a dataset without metadata to explain variables and provide context renders it useless to those trying to reuse it

Constructive feedback:

  • Using the information in Episode 2, suggest standards to the researcher. You might also provide sample language from Episode 1 to give researchers a better idea of how others have filled out this section
  • Ask researchers to consider what the minimum information they need to provide so that colleagues can understand their variables and replicate their analyses
  • Ask researchers if there are any controlled vocabularies within their discipline that they will be using as part of the project

The Access and Reuse section does not contain sufficient data information

How can you tell?

  • The researcher states that data will not be shared and provides no further information
  • The researcher does not provide any information about data sharing, only that it will be destroyed (or maintained privately)
  • The researcher states that data will be shared only after a specific event later than the time specified by the funder guidelines (e.g., researcher retirement, researcher death)
  • The researcher is overly restrictive in sharing nonsensitive data (eg., animal studies)

Why this is an issue:

  • Federally-funded research uses tax-payer money, and thus, should be made accessible to the public as widely and as soon as possible. Limiting the sharing of research results also limits research advancement through collaboration and limits the public’s access to information. Sometimes data sharing is not possible because of the sensitive nature of the dataset. However, reasons for not sharing the dataset in a limited capacity (in aggregate, by using extra precautions such as data use agreements or controlled access repositories) needs to be clearly stated. Omitting this information prevents the funding agency from understanding their project accurately
  • Not sharing because of the additional labor involved or the lack of data sharing within the discipline are not adequate reasons

Constructive feedback:

  • Introduce the researcher to the concept of a data repository, explaining that it provides long-term sustainable access to datasets for free
  • Ask researchers if there are any specific reasons why they cannot share their data. Encourage them to state these reasons clearly if the data is sensitive. Otherwise, using the information in Episode 2, make repository recommendations (prioritizing a specialist repository over an institutional or generalist repository)

The location of dataset sharing provided in the Access and Reuse section is unsustainable

How can you tell?

  • The researcher states that they will make the data available in the supplementary files as part of the article publication
  • The researcher states that they will make the data available on their personal or university website
  • The researcher states that they will build their own repository for storing the data
  • The researcher states that they will make the data available by request

Why this is an issue:

  • As stated in Episode 2, making the dataset available as a supplementary file or on a personal website is not advisable because the long term sustainability of the website is unknown: it can be updated or taken down without warning
  • Making the data available only by request is also not sustainable because it requires the researcher to find, evaluate and curate the data every time it is requested. Moreover, email addresses change when researchers move institutions or retire. Studies have demonstrated a lack of author compliance when data is actually requested.
  • Building their own repository for storing data is unsustainable because it requires time, resources, and maintenance. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when there are data repositories maintained by well-funded entities that are free to use.

Constructive feedback:

  • Introduce the researcher to the concept of a data repository, explaining that it provides long-term sustainable access to datasets for free
  • Ask researchers if they are aware of any funder or publisher data repository recommendations that they can follow. Otherwise, make repository recommendations using the information in Episode 2.

Quiz Questions: Find The Issue

Choose the right issue with the following passages from example DMPs.

  1. “The amount of data generated by this research will be quite small (less than 2 GB), and we believe that it will not be of interest to other researchers. However, we will provide our raw data via email to any researchers who contact us.”
    1. Overly restrictive in data sharing
    1. No data standards mentioned
    1. No size estimation

Choice A

Quiz Questions: Find The Issue (continued)

  1. “As part of this project, we intend to present a poster yearly at our society conference meeting. We intend to publish a research protocol in [name of journal] and our final paper in [name of journal].”
    1. Noncompliance with funder data sharing requirements
    1. Information not required in a DMP
    1. Lack of stated data file formats

Choice B

Key Points

  • The DMPTool is a click through wizard that helps researchers create a compliant DMP.
  • If they are in a member institution, librarians can provide guidance and give feedback to researchers through the DMPTool.
  • Librarians will see similar issues in researcher DMPs over and over. Use the guidance in this section to prepare.