NSF Panel Review of Data Management Plans

With the clarity of the New Year, I realized I broke a promise to you DCXL readers… in my post on data policies, I stated that my next post would be about the current state of data management plan evaluation on NSF panels.  Although it is a bit late, here’s that post.

My information is from a couple of different sources: a program officer or two at NSF, a few scientists who have served on panels for several different directorates, and some miscellaneous experts in data management plans.  In general, they all said about the same thing: we are in early days for data management plans as an NSF requirement, and the process is still evolving.  With that in mind, here are a few more specific pieces of information I gathered (note, these should be taken with a grain of salt since this is not the official position of NSF):

zach morris cell phone

Just like Zach Morris' cell phone, data management plans are sure to evolve into something much fancier in a few years. From zackmorriscellphone.wordpress.com

  1. The NSF program officer that leads the panel set the tone for DMP evaluation.  Scientists that serve on the proposal review panels generally are not experts in data management or archiving, and therefore are unsure what to look for in DMPs.
  2. The contents of a data management plan will not tank a proposal unless it is completely absent. Since no one is quite sure what should be in these DMPs, it’s tough to eliminate a good proposal on the basis of its DMP. Overall, DMPs are not currently a part of the merit review process.  One person said it very succinctly:

    PIs received a slap on the wrist if they had a good proposal with a bad DMP. If it was a bad proposal, the bad DMP was just another nail in the coffin.

  3. The panelists are merely trying to determine whether at DMP is “adequate”.  What does this mean? It generally boils down to two criteria: (1) Is the DMP present? and (2) Does the PI discuss how they will archive the data?  Even (2) is up for debate since proposals have made it to the top despite no clear plans for archival, e.g. no mention of where they will archive the data.
  4. Finally, there is buzz about some knowledgeable PIs using DMPs as a strategic tool.  Rather than considering this two-page requirement a burden, they use the DMP as part of their proposal’s narrative.  Food for thought.
Tagged , , ,

2 thoughts on “NSF Panel Review of Data Management Plans

  1. Gail Steinhart says:

    This intrigued me and perhaps a clarification would help: “they use the DMP as part of their proposal’s narrative”. The reason that caught my eye is that the policy explicitly states that “Proposers are advised that the Data Management Plan may not be used to circumvent the 15-page Project Description limitation” – but that’s probably not what you meant by knowledgable PIs using the DMPas a tool? Did you mean simply that a thoughtful DMP enhances the narrative? Thanks for clearing that up, if you can. And thanks for sharing this!

  2. cstrasser says:

    Gail, that’s a great point. It’s true that NSF doesn’t want PIs to load down the DMP with info they wish they could include in the proposal. Definitely your statement that the DMP should enhance the narrative is true. Things this might include are (1) how the data generated fit into the bigger picture of science/the field; (2) potential future uses of the data by the PIs or other groups; (3) details on how the data that are archived will be used in the future as a tool by the PI for advancing science. Those all hover around the same idea, which is using the data as a tool, and using the DMP as a way to describe how that tool will be employed for maximum benefit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: