On January 18, 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will change their requirements for proposals for the Archaeology awards. All proposals will have to include a “Data Management Plan” describing how your project will conform to the NSF’s data sharing policy.

Beginning January 18, 2011, proposals submitted to NSF must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan” (DMP) .  This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results.  Proposals that do not include a DMP will not be able to be submitted.

Some of this is not new. Proposals to NSF awards in Archaeology have had a one-page plan for data access since 2005. One of the projects I work for, SANAP (Southern Alabanian Neolithic Archaeological Project) run by Susan Allen of UC’s Anthropology department and Illir Gjipali of the Institute of Archaeology in Albania, submitted such a plan for their NSF grant in 2009. But this new requirement formalizes the procedure a bit.

There is one very important difference regarding how non-compliant proposals will be handled under the new plan. Currently when an archaeology proposal lacks a data management plan, the application is accepted by NSF and the Program Director contacts the Principal Investigator and requests that he/she submit via Fastlane an updated Supplementary Documents section which contains the plan. Under the new system, a proposal which does not conform to this requirement will not be able to be submitted to the Foundation.

Looking through their FAQ page on Data Management and Sharing it looks like there is quite a bit of room for project specific plans. Such terms as ‘reasonable procedures’ and ‘reasonable length of time’ are left to be decided by “the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management.”
The Data Management Plan is meant to address more than just observational data. It is meant to cover samples, and physical objects. And the data doesn’t have to be digital. You can record your entire project on paper and simply plan to make that paper available for scholarly review later on. But most archaeological projects that I know use a combination of paper and electronic, often of duplicate data. And if you have two sets of data, one analog and one digital, that doubles the complexity (and cost) of archiving  your information when the project is done.