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Focus Group Meetings on Data Management Plan Template


In April 2021, the Library’s Research Support Services conducted focus groups to invite early-career researchers and research postgraduate students to share their feedback on the Library’s Data Management Plan (DMP) Sandbox Template.

A total of 19 students and staff joined the focus group. Participants shared their comments on the DMP Template as well as data management practices in their experience and/or within their subject disciplines.

The insights gained helped us understand our users’ data management practices (e.g., commonly shared perceptions, disciplinary-specific data management needs) and helped us identify areas for improvement on the DMP template as well as the overall research data services to the University community.

Data Management Plan Focus group picture

Photo taken in one of the focus group sessions.

Results Highlights


  • Lack of Awareness of DMP

DMP is a new concept to most participants unless they have attended relevant library courses on research data management (RDM). Furthermore, there appears to be some confusion and misunderstanding on the purpose of a DMP with other procedures involved in different stages of a research project, such as data documentation, data deposit and data sharing.

  • Lack of Proficiency on Research Data Management

The focus group revealed that participants tend to have received insufficient training or instructions from their research labs on working with data. The participants’ self-identified data management needs mainly concern storage of their data for secure preservation, proper documentation of research data for accurate interpretation and re-use, and awareness of data repositories for discovering data from other researchers.

  • DMP is Useful for Research

Most of the participants believed that DMP is useful for their research projects. It will help them better plan their research, organize their research data, and allocate necessary resources. The DMP serves as a good reference both for the researcher themselves at a future date and for other researchers.

  • Lack of Motivation to Write a DMP

Although most of the participants considered DMP to be useful, throughout the focus group discussion we found participants were in fact less motivated to create DMP for their projects.

  • Feedback on the DMP Template

Most of the participants responded that the questions in the DMP template are relevant to their research but some are not clear and difficult to answer. A lot of constructive comments and feedback towards the questions and guidance were received.

  • Need for a More Functional DMP Platform

Participants provided feedback on the DMP Sandbox’s overall technical features and functionalities. The participants expressed their preference on having a DMP platform which can enable collaboration and version control, as well as functions that allow setting of different levels of view and access rights.

Actions to Take

  • Revise the Current DMP Template

We identified a number of DMP questions and guidance that we can revise immediately for better clarity and simplicity. More disciplinary examples to certain questions will also be included in the template.

  • Migrate DMP to a New Platform

Participants’ feedback prompted us to explore DMP platforms that can overcome existing limitations of the current DMP platform and fulfil user needs from the ground up. We will explore available DMP platforms and/or customize existing open-source DMP platforms considering desirable features such as custom templates, privacy, and collaboration setting, etc.

  • Enhance/Promote Library Research Data Support

Feedback gathered from the focus group indicates that many researchers did not receive formal data management trainings or instructions from their labs, and they would instead learn from trial and error, or seek support from peers or the Library. These findings suggested that we should place an emphasis on enhancing trainings on data management practices and promote our research support services to the University community via different channels and occasions.

For questions, contact Jennifer Gu or Research Support Services Section.

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last modified 28 May 2021