Data management and sharing activities need to be costed into research, in terms of time and resources needed. Early planning of data management can significantly reduce the costs.

To cost research data management in advance of research starting, for example for inclusion in a data management plan or in preparation for a funding application, two approaches can be taken:

  • either all data-related activities and resources for the entire data cycle - from data creation, through processing, analyses and storage, to sharing and preservation - are included to calculate the total cost of data generation, data sharing and preservation
  • or additional expenses - above standard research procedures and practices - that are needed to make data shareable beyond the primary research team are measured by:
    • identifying all data management activities and steps required to make data shareable, e.g. based on a data management checklist
    • costing each activity in terms of people's time or the physical resources needed such as hardware or software

The UK Data Archive has developed a simple activity-based costing tool that can be used for the latter option of costing data management in the social sciences.


The data management costing tool was developed with researchers as part of the Data Management Planning for ESRC Research Data-rich Investments project (DMP-ESRC).

Information on the cost and time required for various data management and sharing activities was gathered during data management interviews with researchers of 30 projects in ESRC centres and programmes.

The researchers were asked to estimate the time or cost needed for activities related to: data collection, data entry and transcription, data validation and documentation and the cost of preparing data for archiving and re-use.

Overall researchers found it hard to cost data management activities, as many activities are an integral part of standard research activities and data analysis. Identified high cost activities are transcribing and anonymising qualitative data and cleaning and verifying quantitative data.

The information from the researchers was combined with the Archive's expertise in the measures needed to make research data shareable and re-usable.

Key is that when researchers leave preparing data for sharing until the end of a project, the cost is far too high due to competition with publishing and seeking future project funding. Data management should therefore be carried out earlier on in a project.

After various project discussions it was decided to focus on costing the activities needed to make research data shareable in order to:

  • help researchers understand what to consider in research to make data shareable, so that they request adequate funding for creating shareable data
  • provide funding councils with better estimates for the data management costs of enabling wider access to and re-use of data
  • help data service providers reduce the costs of data processing for archiving and re-use, through properly costed data management plans

Since all research data resulting from ESRC-funded research are offered to the UK Data Archive for archiving, the data management costs only need to take into account data management activities until the point of depositing data with the Archive.