January 19, 2012 — A new online tool – born from an idea of the University of Virginia Library staff – that helps research grant applicants generate data-management plans – is one of the top digital preservation achievements of 2011, according to a Library of Congress blog.
The DMPTool is free online software that helps researchers create the data management plans increasingly required by federal agencies and other grant funders, said Andrews Sallans, the library's head of strategic data initiatives.
Earlier this month, the Signal, a digital preservation blog at the Library of Congress, named DMPTool one of the top 10 digital preservation developments of 2011.
“We congratulate all the institutions who worked hard to make this tool a reality," University Librarian Karin Wittenborg said. "The preservation of and access to research data is a key initiative of research libraries, and we're delighted that so many people are interested in the tool."
U.Va. Library staff partnered with the University of California Curation Center, a unit of the California Digital Library,and other institutions to create the software. As more and more research is generated and stored digitally, funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation began requiring grant applicants to submit plans to manage and preserve that data.
However, the requirements aren't uniform, and some researchers are unsure what the data- management plans should contain, Sallans said. That's where DMPTool comes in. The software is a sort of online tutorial that asks questions and helps a researcher produce a plan.
"We take requirements on data-management plans from many different funders and we boil those down into something that is easily understood and consumed by researchers," Sallans said. "We try to make high-level specifications very easily understood, so that even a researcher trying to complete a proposal within hours of when it's due can satisfy the requirements.
"In addition, beyond the tool itself, our team adds value locally by advising researchers on how their proposed data management plan will work within the institutional framework of policies, technologies and practices. This approach makes a proposed data management plan much more realistic and, ideally, a research project more successful."
In its year-end list of 2011's top digital preservation developments, the Signal blogger Bill LeFurgy wrote that DMPTool "helps researcher generate data management plans and also provides details about resources and services to fulfill grant data management requirements."
The software supports the new data-management requirements of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities, which apply for the first time to proposals due Jan. 24. It also supports researchers applying for upcoming NSF proposals, including the many solicitations due Feb. 15, Sallans said.
The software allows institutions to connect with the tool through existing systems. U.Va. researchers who want to use it can sign in through NetBadge. The resulting plan would then be tailored to U.Va. as well as to the researcher's specific proposal.
As a collaborative software development project, the system's data management advice and guideline structure were largely developed by the team within the University of Virginia Library, while the software code was provided by the UC Curation Center team, Other project partners contributed in essential ways to the gathering of requirements and steering of vision, Sallans said.
The tool first went public in November, and has since seen about 750 unique users from more than 200 different universities and institutions. The developers were pleased to see it cited on the Library of Congress blog alongside several other programs and initiatives that are much larger in scope and manpower, Sallans said.
"The whole team at all of the participating schools was really excited to see this," he said. "DMPTool is something that emerged out of a discussion at a conference, and something that we believe is important and necessary to support our researchers in response to growing regulations. We saw it as an opportunity to collaborate and save some expense at each individual institution, and provide a better service to researchers across the country."