IM Guide » Before Research Begins
Integrating Data into the Research Process: a front-loaded approach
As of January 2011 the National Science Foundation requires that all funded projects present a data management plan as part of the research proposal. In addition, a February 2010 editorial in The American Naturalist states, "To promote the preservation and fuller use of data, The American Naturalist, Evolution, the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Ecology, Heredity, and other key journals in evolution and ecology will soon introduce a new data‐archiving policy."  Taken together, these new policies indicate that sound data management practices are a consideration investigators must address early in the process of formulating their research.
In many ways, the LTER network is ahead of many of our colleagues in addressing this issue. Information Management has been part of the LTER tradition almost since the network was founded and the data archives at Coweeta and other sites are evidence of this commitment to long-term data curation. At Coweeta, our approach to facilitating compliance with NSF and LTER network data management practices is to provide the researchers with the tools and information they need to develop their data management plans and to organize and document their data -- all in keeping with NSF approved best practice guidelines.
Historically, many investigators have dealt with data management at the end of the research process. While the rationale for this approach may be sound, the newly developed requirements listed above suggest the need for a new model. At Coweeta, researchers will now be required to submit a new project proposal form and a data management plan prior to receiving a Coweeta LTER support for their proposal. This means that the short Coweeta Project Proposal Form and Data Management Plan must be completed and reviewed by the Coweeta LPI before the proposal is submitted. The IM Guide provides links to these tools, as does the text above.