Roles & Responsibilities

Typically, many persons contribute to a research project. The documentation of your research project should include a list of all persons who contributed to parts of the project. Additionally, we recommend to document which persons were assigned to which subparts of the project (e.g. data collections, studies).

Each contributor plays a more or less important role for successful data management. Defining the different roles and responsibilities of all contributors at the beginning of the project may help to assign tasks and define workflows, which is especially helpful if the project involves more than one institution.

Important roles are for example (based on UK Data Archive, 2011):

  • The principal investigator (overall responsibility for the project and assignment and coordination of the responsibilities regarding data management and sharing)
  • If applicable, the data manager
  • Student assistants and Research Fellows (data collection, entry, and analysis)
  • Staff of the institutional IT infrastructure facility (data storage and backup, possibly set-up and care of databases)
  • Other external service providers (e.g. staff of research data repositories, data trustees for person related data, external interview and survey service providers, companies who provide data on their business, hard- and software providers)

Assigning these roles can be helpful to clearly define data access rights and workflows, as well as assessing demands on specific training courses. Furthermore, it should be clarified who, under which conditions, is allowed to publish research data or findings which are based on the data. Typically data management plans address these questions.

Other important issues that should be clarified are:

  • Who has access to personal data?
  • Who is allowed to share the data (or to assign a license to the data)?
  • How is the implementation of the project’s data management planning documented?
  • How will you proceed if the principal investigator leaves the institution (Cooper, 2016)?
  • When and how should the data be transferred by external service providers?



Cooper, H. M. (2016). Ethical choices in research: Managing data, writing reports, and publishing results in the social sciences. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:


UK Data Archive (2011). Managing and sharing data: Best practices for researchers. Retrieved from:


Further Resources

Guide on Research Data Management published by the WissGrid Project