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Data Management Plan (DMP) Guide

Learn how to write a data management plan!

Step 2. Data organization

Various methods can be used to keep data organized. Some of these are simple things we do every day such as saving a new version of a draft using "Save As..." instead of "Save" while others require commitment and planning to implement. File management systems are a trade-off: while they take time to set up, they will save you time later by reducing errors.

While data organization and quality control methods are very important, they should not take up a significant portion of your federal DMP. As with all sections of the Federal DMP you will need to summarize.

Writing prompts

Will you be using version control?

Version control, also known as "file versioning", is when you save an updated file as a new file instead of overwriting the old file. This lets you "revert" back to an earlier version if needed. While this process can be done by hand it is much easier (and safer) to have a machine assist you.

Version control tools:

CyBox: Iowa State cloud storage

All Iowa State University employees and students have access to CyBox which automatically versions files. You do not need to rename new versions of files when using CyBox as you can restore a file to a previous version using the web interface. In addition CyBox:

  • Is free and has unlimited storage.
  • Is encrypted and meets all University standards for security and privacy, including HIPAA.
  • Integrates with Microsoft office products.

More version control options:

  • Crashplan
  • GitHub* - made for software development and coding.
  • Google Drive/Docs* - files made within Google's cloud services (sheets, docs, etc.) have a feature to view and restore a file to a previous state but uploaded files do not.

* these solutions are not secure and should not be used for sensitive, private, or confidential data.

Will you use standards to keep data organized?

Standards are similar to protocols - they establish a level of quality by proscribing a set of requirements. For data management, standards usually address how data should be collected, measured, recorded, or formatted. There are three general categories of standards that you should consider when working with data:

  • Local standards are standards established by an individual, project, lab, department, discipline, or university and are locally enforced.
    • Rules about how files are organized and named are a typical example of a local standard.
  • Disciplinary standards are standards established by researcher practitioners and professional societies in a field of research.
  • International standards are created by international organizations and are usually more formal than disciplinary standards.
    • Using the metric system instead of the imperial system in scientific results is an example of an international standard.

Using standards can save time and reduce common errors.  You should include information on standards that  you will use in a DMP as using data standards will strengthen the data's value.

Example of a file naming standard:
[initials of the person who created the file]_YYYY-MM-DD_[scientific name of organism observed]

Example file name: JHD_2015-05-23_e_elegans.csv

Example of an international standard:
June 26, 2015 is written as 2015-06-26 using ISO 8601, the international standard for date and time notation.

If you do not already have local standards for simple things (like file naming or lab notebooks) you may want to take the time to create some even if you do not mention them in your DMP. Taking the time to create and document standards should save time by reducing mistakes and misunderstandings. If you are working with a team in multiple locations you should try to use the same standards as much as possible.


  • Avoid using special characters, including periods, in file and folder names as many programs and operating systems will have trouble opening these files.
  • The ISU Library has a Standards collection, and some of them are accessible online. If you need help locating a standard please contact a librarian through Ask Us!

Step 2. Example: Generic

Example: Data organization blurb

A file versioning system will be used in order to protect the data's integrity during the research period. CyBox, Iowa State's implementation of, will be used as it automatically preforms file versioning every time a file is overwritten ("saved"). This feature will let the team easily perform error checks and data revisions if needed during the project.

International standards will be used as often as possible to maximize data reusability (example: ISO 639-4:2010 will be used to indicate the language of the texts). The PI's lab also has established standards which will be enforced to ensure data collection conformity and quality by all team members.

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