Category: TU Delft

DMPonline@TU Delft

Knowledge exchange 

DMPonline case study – DMPonline@TU Delft by Madeleine de Smaele and Marta Teperek

Madeleine de Smaele

Marta Teperek



Data management support is provided by the Research Data Services team of TU Delft Library, in close collaboration with the Faculty Data Stewards who are providing discipline-specific support and are the first point of contact for TU Delft researchers. As part of this service, support on writing data management plans has become increasingly important. Indeed, most funding agencies require research data produced as part of a funded project to be made publicly available and are requiring their grant-holders to produce a data management plan (DMP).

In addition, TU Delft Research Data Framework Policy is encouraging this for research projects in general as part of good data management.

The increasing importance of DMPs has also prompted us to critically evaluate the complete workflow and support provided. How can we make the process as efficient as possible and meet expectations and requirements of the university, research funders, and legislation (such as GDPR), and minimise the duplication of effort for researchers as well as support staff? In answering this question we decided that providing DMPonline could be of enormous help achieving that.

The process

When rethinking the data management planning process we got very much inspired by the work of the University of Manchester that designed an integrated workflow in which information is shared between support services across the university. See this blog post for the complete story.

Following the same method, together with representatives from the Library, Data Stewards, ICT Department, Ethics Committee and the Privacy Team, a new data management plan template was created with questions covering all the necessary information. Basically, TU Delft template consists of two sections: General TU Delft data management questions, and TU Delft questions about management of personal research data. The second section is compulsory only for projects working with personal research data.

In parallel, we customized DMPonline in order to make it a recognizable TU Delft tool with its own identity and added guidance and example answers to each template with information on local support, infrastructure and services.

Once a researcher starts writing a DMP, Data Stewards are alerted about this through an API. This allows them to pro-actively approach researchers and offer them support in creating their plans.  In addition, researchers are also offered the option of having their full DMPs reviewed, using DMPonline’s ‘request feedback’ button. If researchers take up this service, their plans will be reviewed by the Faculty Data Steward, using the commenting functionality within DMPonline.

When a research project involves personal data, the researcher will be directed from TU Delft DMP template to the Ethics Committee to get ethical approval and to the Privacy Team to get advice on Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), as appropriate. Vice versa, when a researcher submits the ethics application, the Ethics Committee will check whether the DMP has been approved by the Data Steward and if adequate measures will be taken to protect the interests of vulnerable persons (if applicable). 

Also other experts (for example, colleagues from the Privacy Team), who are assigned a ‘reviewer’ role in DMPonline, are able to comment on a plan.

Next steps

On an international level, Science Europe, representing the major funder organisations in Europe, has launched last year the Practical guide to the international alignment of research data management with core requirements for data management plans. Now we see that these requirements are increasingly being taken over by Dutch research funding agencies, such as NWO and ZonMw. We are therefore planning to align our TU Delft data management plan template with these requirements. Once the template is approved by the funding agency, researchers will be allowed to submit a DMP created using our TU Delft template directly to the funder, which makes the process much easier for our researchers.

Regarding the DMPonline tool, we will continue to collaborate with the DCC in the UK to improve functionality and to further streamline the process in a more automated way. For example, one of the features most frequently requested by our researchers are conditional questions. Researchers who do not work with personal research data should not be presented with the whole list of questions regarding personal data processing. In addition, we see clear benefits of using the API for automated notifications. At the moment, the API provides access to the administrative information of every DMP, which allowed us to set up email alerts whenever new plans are created. What we would really like to see is API access to the entire content of DMPs. We envisage that full content API access would allow us to automate more processes within our institutions, such as notifications about DMPs which are likely to require a separate ethics application, or might involve high risk data processing and could need a DPIA. Full content API could also bring us a step closer to making DMPs machine actionable. Therefore, we strongly believe that close collaboration with DCC, Research Data Alliance (RDA), as well as colleagues at other institutions who use DMPonline, will not only benefit the researcher, but also support staff as information will be more efficiently shared and workflows better connected. 

“DMPonline allows you to collaborate on a template, so that both the researcher and myself as the Data Steward are always working on the same version, at the same time.” – reflects Esther Plomp, Data Steward at the Faculty of Applied Sciences at TU Delft. “I also like that we can put practical guidelines in a simple interface so that the researcher’s job becomes easier, and then consequently my job is also easier. So it saves time.”

We would like to say thank you to Madeleine de Smaele &  Marta Teperek for sharing this blog post with us. We have also a recording from our August 2019 DMPonline drop in session where we were joined by Medeliene and Marta, which you can listen to here.

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.