DMPonline case study – Cranfield University by Georgina Parsons

Knowledge exchange 

DMPonline case study - Cranfield University by Georgina Parsons 


My Research Data Manager role was created at Cranfield University in summer 2015 and I started building up our RDM support right away. When it came to DMPs, we initially brought together guidance from the main funders and offered Word templates and accompanying rubrics to assess their quality. Whilst these were helpful, it was onerous to update them, and we struggled to find the ideal solution for storing DMPs to keep them accessible to the right people. I’d added themed guidance to DMPonline but we offered it as an option alongside Word files so we weren’t throwing too many new tools at researchers in one go (we were also launching our data repository).

Developing a mandate

We then mandated DMPs for all doctoral researchers from October 2016, and this changed our perspective. There’s no use having a policy in place if we don’t fully commit to supporting and monitoring it. This included being able to see or report on all DMPs in order to check progress and identify any pockets where extra DMP support for students or supervisors was required. It seemed logical to use the central DMPonline system as it would be more efficient than storing Word documents in a still-to-be-found-solution, and would in time enable quick reporting. At the moment I manually crosscheck names for my school reporting, but already benefit from broad system stats on the number of plans updated over a time period. With upcoming improvements adding a school field to user profiles, and including plan completion and test/review status in reports, we’ll be able to provide data to schools really quickly and efficiently.


As well as reporting, the ‘request feedback’ option has been a key benefit. It saves time for users as they press a button rather than write an email, so encourages students to submit their plans for checks. The auto-response helps set expectations on turnaround time, too. It’s very satisfying to see a flurry of ‘DMPonline feedback request’ emails in my inbox after a training session!

Staff use

As yet, we’ve not mandated DMPonline use for staff researchers, who sometimes prefer Word templates to easily view the final output when funders have length and formatting requirements. However, looking at our reports, I’ve noticed staff try it out even without encouragement, and it has been very useful for the more complex Horizon 2020 projects where I can co-own a plan and help with the more technical repository questions. Collaborating on plans across partner institutions is also a plus.

The future

My immediate aim is to develop our themed guidance into a full Cranfield-specific template for doctoral research projects. We still find some researchers miss the guidance to the right of question boxes, so the template option might address this – it’s great to have another route to try. I also look forward to continued collaboration with the DCC to feed into its development plans and ensure it continues to grow ever more helpful!

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