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Building an integrated service: DMPonline at the University of Manchester

Clare Liggins explains how the University of Manchester uses DMPonline. "Data Management Plans (DMPs) have been mandatory at the University of Manchester for every research project for nearly 5 years, as has also been the case for most major UK research funders. In April 2018, the Universit...

Magdalena Drafiova | 16 May 2019

Knowledge exchange

Building an integrated service: DMPonline at the University of Manchester

by Clare Liggins, 16th May 2019

Data Management Plans (DMPs) have been mandatory at the University of Manchester for every research project for nearly 5 years, as has also been the case for most major UK research funders. In April 2018, we completed a major revision of data management planning processes at the University of Manchester and moved to using DMPonline. Since then Manchester researchers have created more than 3000 DMPs using this service.

Since the move to DMPonline, our new process has given researchers maximum value from creating a DMP, while at the same time has assisted in the University’s compliance with GDPR.

The Challenge

Prior to the switch to DMPonline, we had an internal data management planning tool, which was heavily used but hard to maintain. A need was identified for something more user-friendly and with more opportunities for development.

Simultaneously the University needed to create processes to comply with GDPR, and so needed to collect additional information. We wanted to start the process of creating plan templates by mapping out and identifying the overlaps in the existing forms researchers have to complete, in order to minimise their work before beginning research.


By customising DMPonline to meet our needs, we designed a process that shared information between services, bringing together representatives from the Library, Information Governance Office, Research IT, ethics and research support teams. This aimed to reduce duplication between forms and input from researchers. The result of this was the creation of the ‘Manchester Data Management Outline’ section, comprising of 16 questions which cover all the information identified as necessary from those initial conversations.

Once a researcher has created their plan, the journey of a DMP begins with an initial check of the ‘Manchester Data Management Outline’ section by the Library’s Research Data Management (RDM) team. This is useful for highlighting any significant issues and providing researchers with advice on best practices. We ensure that all researchers who create plans are contacted, so that all researchers benefit from the process, even if just to confirm they are doing the right thing.


We used the API of DMPOnline to generate an email that comes into our inbox each day with the details of DMPs created within the last 24 hours. If a plan has answered the majority of the Manchester Data Management Outline questions, a quick review takes place and the information is recorded using Typeform. A feedback email is then sent to the researcher with basic advice based on the answers they have given, and referral to the Information Governance Office and Research IT if further support around GDPR or IT is identified. The advice in the email will usually cover information on service provision, managing risk, storage options and retention and advice on the handling of sensitive data if relevant. If the questions haven’t been answered after 2 weeks then a ‘nudge’ email is sent to the researcher, using the information that was previously recorded in Typeform.

Once the outline check has been completed, all researchers are also offered the option of having their full DMP reviewed, using DMPonline’s ‘request feedback’ button. If researchers take up this service we review their plans within DMPonline, using the commenting functionality. Plans are reviewed within ten working days of the request being made.

If a research project requires ethics approval, researchers are prompted whilst filling in their ethics form to attach their DMP and any feedback they have received from the Library or other support services. This second step was introduced shortly after the move to DMPonline so that we could ensure advice was consistent. These processes ensure that all the relevant services have the information they need to support effective RDM with minimal input from researchers.

Benefit and Result

In creating DMPonline, DCC have provided a platform which enabled us to give Manchester researchers the ability to collaborate with researchers at other institutions, as well as bringing together some of the other procedures it is necessary to complete before starting a project, therefore improving the process and experience. Whilst there were several different forms required for certain categories of research, the DMP was established as the one form used by all research projects across the University. For this reason, the DMP was also the most appropriate place to be the ‘information asset register’ for research required under GDPR.

Working with researchers on their DMPs has also given us a contact point for starting important conversations about research data management.

Looking Forward

Whilst we have seen significant activity in DMPonline and a lot of positive feedback about our review service, there are still improvements we would like to make. There are also still manual steps in our process, especially for researchers applying for ethics approval, and we would like to explore how we could eliminate these. Ideally, we would like to introduce conditional questions to the data management plan, creating a more intuitive experience and allowing researchers to skip questions that are not applicable to their work.

In the near future we hope to launch a customised homepage for DMPonline, monitor compliance with our RDM policy and improve the integration with Pure. Researchers applying for NIHR grants have let us know that the current process does not work well for them, as they initially only submit short expressions of interest, and we would like to work on making the process more flexible to help combat this issue. We would like to see a full text API available for DMPonline (something we know DCC are working on!), which would be useful to explore developments.

With the improved data management planning process, all services involved in RDM-related support at Manchester now have a richer picture of the research we support. The University of Manchester has a distributed RDM service and this process has been a great opportunity to strengthen these links and work more closely together. We hope the service offers an improved experience for the researcher, and is a first step towards semi-automated plans, at least from a researcher perspective. We hope to continue to work with DMPonline to improve these services in the future, through working together on new functionality and developments, hopefully benefitting all who use it.


We would like to say thank you to Clare Liggins for sharing this blog post with us. If you would like to get invovled in our knowledge exchange and share a story from your institution - please do get in touch with us