DMP Online Developments

Recent developments in the DCC’s DMPOnline in response to feedback from pilot users and next steps.

The Data Management Planning workpackage in the RoaDMaP project is piloting the use of DMPOnline, developed and maintained by the Digital Curation Centre.

We have been asking PIs from a range of disciplines to create data management plans using the DMPOnline tool and provide feedback to us on their experience. A summary of some of the reported issues are as follows:

1. Layout of DMPs

Many funders specify a maximum length for a data management plan (at a given font size / margin width). For example, the ESRC require DMPs to be no longer that 3 sides of A4 at a minimum font size of 12.

PIs creating data management plans for the ESRC commented that they were only able to fit very limited amounts of information into the required 3 sides of A4 due to the way in which the report was formatted.

This cause of this problem was quickly identified as the question text being formatted as columns rather than rows, which resulted in a lot of wasted blank space and the answer text being squashed over on the right hand side of the page.

DMP-before_1_ We contacted the DCC for advice and they suggested using the DOCX export and adjusting the column sizes. We tried this method with some limited success, but as the column width for the answer text was increased, the questions because harder to read.

A screenshot of a ESRC data management plan formatted is shown on the left,which clearly demonstrates the amount of wasted space on the page.

We undertook some experiments by exporting the data to CSV format, importing it into Excel, then creating a new report layout. We formatted the question text in lines, rather than columns in order to enable the full screen width to be used for the answers.

The resulting DMP was only half the length (3 sides of A4). We passed these findings onto the DCC and their developers started work on a new report layout based on our template which was deployed to the production environment 2 weeks later.

The new layout is a significant improvement and makes much more efficient use of the available space on the page as can be seen below:


2. Sharing of DMPs

One of the great new features of DMPOnline is the ability to share plans. Not only does this allow more than one person to work on a plan (e.g. to allow an IT Manager completing information about data storage and backup) but it also enables the research office to see whether plans have been completed and in what areas additional help and advice needs to be offered.

However, our piloting of the tool has revealed some improvements that could be made to the sharing functionality.

a) Plans are currently shared with others using e-mail address (which is now also the DMPOnline username). However, when you share a plan with others using their e-mail address, you have no way of knowing whether they have registered a DMPOnline account using that address. It could be that they have:

– not registered to use DMPOnline or

– registered an account using a different e-mail address (I have more than one SMTP alias for my address for example)

Our suggestions to DCC are as follows:

When you invite a user to share a plan, perform a lookup in the user database and show whether there is an active account associated with that e-mail address. If there is no active account, then provide an ‘Invite’ button which will trigger an e-mail to that user with instructions on how to sign up for DMPOnline.

The DCC have responded positively to these suggestions and included them in their list of future developments.

3. Funder Templates

We have received very positive feedback from users who are submitting grant applications to the ESRC. However, the pilot users who created data management plans for the AHRC all complained that the questions were identical to those contained within the ‘AHRC Technical Appendix‘ which is a mandatory part of the Je-S submission for many projects. PIs were irritated that they were being asked to duplicate this information into a different online tool. Most preferred the DMPOnline interface, but discovered it was not practical to complete this first, because the Je-S system imposes character limits in some sections, which are not observed in DMP Online, so there was a risk that text would become truncated.

This feedback has also been passed to the DCC.

Next steps

We will shortly start work with researchers in the Engineering and Biological Sciences Faculties to pilot DMPs for the BBSRC, EPSRC and STFC funders (NB: There is currently no DMPOnline plan for EPSRC grant applications).

This will then be extended to work with researchers submitting grant applications to MRC, NERC and Wellcome. We are also considering the question of ownership and are intending to pilot a process whereby the Faculty Research Offices create the outline DMP (containing project title, start / end dates and funder only) when they are notified of the intention to apply and then share this with the PI, Co-I, IT Manager and others as required.

We’re keen to hear from other projects or individuals that are currently using DMPOnline.