The Boilerplate Problem in Data Management Plans
In 2015, our research team began examining successful grant proposals from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (NEH-ODH) to determine data preservation practices and the development and use of Linked Open Data (LOD) standards in humanities research. In 2019, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we obtained all of the Data Management Plans (DMPs) from funded projects through the 2018 grant cycle and began mining this text data for patterns of data preservation-related language. One surprising result of this analysis was the discovery of the prevalence of boilerplate language describing institutional repositories or digital libraries infrastructure and metadata schemas. Through both close and distant reading methods of qualitative analyses, we discovered some unintended consequences of the use of boilerplate language in DMPs. In what follows we will describe these consequences as we see them, and offer a few recommendations for how librarians and others supporting proposal development by researchers can develop boilerplate that is meaningful.