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Research Data Toolkit: Assess Data Needs

Library Data Services

Library Data Services caters to researchers interested in working with data, mapping, texts, visualization, and technology. Many of these services are available online. Davis Library Data Services, located on the second floor of Davis Library, offers:

  • A computing lab with specialized software for GIS and data visualization & analysis.
  • Walk-in assistance provided by knowledgeable student consultants during set hours
  • Consultations with specialists for more in-depth inquiries (by appointment).
  • Spaces for collaboration and presentation, complete with white boards and external displays.
  • Technology short courses and programs that promote digital scholarship.

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 and the Carolina Digital Repository (CDR) are good options for long-term data preservation and access to your final research data.  Both are free for UNC faculty, students, and staff. If files do not need to be manipulated on a very regular basis, an institutional repository like these 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, 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.  ICPSR is a good example of one that can offer varying levels of security, and deposit there is free for any researcher.  This repository does focus on data that can be "connected with or used to expand upon the scientific investigation of the social and behavioral dimensions of human lives (both antecedents and consequences). ...[m]uch data in the physical sciences are out of scope for ICPSR."  See its FAQs for more information and its collection development policy for what is in and out of scope.

  • 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 deposits 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 them?

  • 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? Is there a repository where others in your discipline typically deposit and go to look for data?  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.  The Libraries' Scholarly Communications Officer, Anne Gilliland, is also available to discuss intellectual property questions.

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 MIT and the University of Oxford.

Have other questions about your needs? Email

Contact Us

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 We provide guidance and resource referrals to help UNC faculty, staff and students with data management and developing their data management plans.

UNC federally funded researchers, for in-depth review and assistance creating your data management plans in compliance with federal requirements, contact UNC's Research Data Management Core for assistance.