Data Management Expert Guide (DMEG)

The DMEG is designed by European experts to help social science researchers make their research data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR).

You will be guided by different European experts who are - on a daily basis - busy ensuring long-term access to valuable social science datasets, available for discovery and reuse at one of the CESSDA social science data archives.

You can download the full DMEG for your personal study offline (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3820473). PDFs for every single chapter are also available for being printed as handouts for training.

See also the pilot interactive game version of the guide!

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Target audience and mission

This guide is written for social science researchers who are in an early stage of practising research data management. With this guide, CESSDA wants to contribute to professionalism in data management and increase the value of research data.

This video is also available on Zenodo. Please cite it as: CESSDA Training Team. (2020). What is the CESSDA Data Management Expert Guide & how can it help you?. Zenodo.


If you follow the guide, you will travel through the research data lifecycle from planning, organising, documenting, processing, storing and protecting your data to sharing and publishing them. Taking the whole roundtrip will take you approximately 15 hours, however you can also hop on and off at any time.

During your travels, you will come across the following recurring topics represented by images:


As the data management plan (DMP) is an important tool to structure the research data management of your project, it plays a central role in this guide. Each chapter ends with a section with questions that are generally to be answered in a DMP. In the chapter's paragraphs you will be presented with the information you need to answer the proposed questions.

We have designed a list of DMP-questions especially for this Data Management Expert Guide. You can view and download the checklist as pdf (CESSDA, 2018a) or editable form (CESSDA, 2018b), and keep them as a reference while you are studying the contents of this guide.


If you see this image, you have landed in a spot where you will learn about European diversity in data management. E.g., think of diversity in:

  • Funder requirements in making your Data Management Plan
  • Data protection law
  • Informed consent
  • Ethical review
  • The requirements of local data repositories

In each chapter, you will find our expert holding up a hand to give you some tips. These expert tips aim to provide you with food for thought and practical how-to information.


To give you in-depth tips on how to deal with your own specific type of data, chapters may contain examples of how to handle quantitative or qualitative data.

The tour operator on the left showcases expertise in quantitative data management, while the one on the right hand side illustrates qualitative data management.

Seven chapters

The following seven chapters are currently available.

1. Plan

In this introductory tour, you will become aware of what data management and a data management plan (DMP) are and why they are important. General concepts such as social science data and FAIR data will be explained. Based on our recommendations and good practice examples, you will be able to start writing your DMP.

2. Organise & Document

If you are looking for good practices in designing an appropriate data file structure, naming, documenting and organising your data files within suitable folder structures, this chapter is for you.

3. Process

You will get acquainted with the topics of data entry and coding as the first steps of proper data management. To maintain the integrity of your data we will guide you in choosing the appropriate file format. You will also find out about version and edition management.

4. Store

To be able to plan a storage and backup strategy, you will learn about different storage and backup solutions and their advantages and disadvantages. Also, measures to protect your data from unauthorised access with strong passwords and encryption will be explained.

5. Protect

This chapter highlights your legal and ethical obligations and shows how a combination of gaining consent, anonymising data, gaining clarity over who owns the copyright to your data and controlling access can enable the ethical and legal sharing of data.

6. Archive & Publish

When you arrive at this chapter you will have learnt to differentiate between currently available data publication services. You will also find a number of stepping stones on how to promote your data.

7. Discover

How can you discover and reuse existing or previously collected datasets?

Get started

To get started with the first tour, simply click on the button below.

Project details

The Data Management Expert Guide has been created for CESSDA ERIC by a number of its service providers' experts at: ADP, AUSSDA, CSDA, DANS, FORS, FSD, GESIS, NSD, SND, So.Da.Net and UKDS and is illustrated and edited by Verbeeldingskr8. The authors are mentioned by their names in the overview of the relevant chapter(s). DANS led the creation of this expert guide.

  • EllenLeenarts_Tekengebied 1
  • Having a background in learning and knowledge sharing, it was a great pleasure to co-ordinate the creation of this Data Management Expert Guide.

    Ellen Leenarts (DANS) | Project leader