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Research Data Toolkit: Assess Data Needs

Questions to Assess Your Data Management Needs

The following are a variety of questions to consider that will impact your data management plan.

Remember: You may need different data management solutions for different phases of your project.


Do you...



Things to Consider


  • Need storage solutions for the active research phase of your research?
  • Need to archive multiple file types?
  • Need to preserve successive versions of the data?
  • Have requirements for reproducibility?
  • Need to give different users different levels of access?
  • Want to distribute storage over servers in different locations (i.e., how disaster-proof do you want your data to be)?
ITS Research Computing has services to handle active analysis of research data. Make sure to indicate how long you need active storage for analysis purposes. UNC Dataverse is also a good option, and free for Carolina researchers.  If files do not need to be manipulated on a very regular basis, an institutional repository like the CDR might be a good option for long term storage.
  • Want users to be able to do their own subsetting or analysis online?
  • Need to provide access to researchers in remote locations access to your data while your research is in progress?

These kinds of requirements will generally demand complex data management solutions.

Think ITS, the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, or RENCI.

You will need substantial funding for these solutions and more extensive metadata.

  • Need large capacity or high speed computing?
Contact ITS Research Computing
  • Need to secure sensitive data or de-identify data?

Be sure to discuss this with the repository you want to use. Many repositories will not be able to offer sufficient security.


  • Know how long do you need to store your data?

Consider how stable the repository is in which you want to deposit your data. What is its funding stream and sustainability model?

Ask about policies for moving your data out of that repository, especially institutional repositories. What happens if you leave the institution? Will they weed your data? Will they give it back to you if you ask? Will you retain the right to deposit copies of the data with other repositories once you've signed a deposit agreement with one?

  • Know if other researchers need to be able to use your data when your research is completed?
  • Know who would be interested in your data?
You will need to employ more metadata to make your data more usable and find-able. What tools does a repository have to make your data findable and usable? Are there online analysis tools available, or only the option to download flat files?
  • Have questions or concerns about copyrighting data or data that you have licensed or purchased?

You should consult University Counsel about legal matters.

Note that there is no specific copyright protection in the U.S. at this time for data. The court case which most closely resembles advocacy for such protection is the one over whether the telephone directory was copyrighted, and it was held that alphabetic order did not constitute a sufficiently creative organization to merit copyright protection for that "data set."

More questions for needs assessment, along with example plan language, are available on our Templates/Examples page.

Other excellent checklists are available from the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, MIT and the University of Oxford.

Have other questions about your needs? Email

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For further assistance:

If you would like assistance creating your data management plan or did not find the agency information you needed here, please contact us at