Three simple ways to refresh your data management practices

Since we’re all about saving time,  we already did the hard work for you by creating the list below of three (reasonable) data management goals to tackle. These goals are sure to help you keep your grant funding (you don’t want any PHI breaches on your hand) and maybe even help you get more funding (the NIH will be impressed that you prioritized data reuse and repurposing).

1.  Educate yourself and your staff about the HIPAA/HITECH Final Rule
If you handle protected health information (PHI), then you need to familiarize yourself with the HIPAA/HITECH Final Rule which has been in effect as of March 2013. The Final Rule describes new security standards for managing PHI and outlines important modifications to the Breach Notification Rule. Educating yourself can help you better prepare to meet the requirements.

2. Improve documentation
Good study documentation practices extend beyond a descriptive methods section in a journal article. Reproducibility is at the heart of the scientific method and ideally every investigator should document, share and archive their data in a manner that makes it easy for another researcher to replicate findings. Fortunately, there is new documentation, archival and workflow tools available like the Open Science Framework and RunMyCode that can help you take the first step in building good documentation habits.

3. Be thoughtful about data dissemination
Another benefit of improving study documentation with tools like the Open Science Framework and RunMyCode, is that they can simplify the data dissemination process. The next time you prepare another NIH grant submission, make sure to include a comprehensive data sharing plan. Since the NIH values data reuse and repurposing, applicants can request data sharing funds. So consider proposing a de-identified public-use final dataset for your research or outline plans for a data-sharing agreement.

These are just a few examples to help you get started. If you have any additional ideas for simple data management goals, please share them!