Research Data Management Institutional Strategy

Document cover with main frame image in background and text, 'University of Waterloo Research Data Management Strategy and Implementation Plan

At the University of Waterloo, our Research Data Management (RDM) Institutional Strategy responds to the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, which mandates that all institutions must have an institutional RDM strategy by March 2023. The “agencies believe that research data collected through the use of public funds should be responsibly and securely managed and be, where ethical, legal and commercial obligations allow, available for reuse by others.” Here at Waterloo, we see this as an opportunity to help foster research excellence by developing an RDM strategy that meets the diverse needs of Waterloo researchers. 

After two years of research, feedback, and extensive consultations, the Research RDM working group co-chairs Alison Hitchens (associate university librarian, collections, technology and scholarly communication) and Ian Milligan (associate vice-president, research oversight and analysis) are thrilled to share the RDM Institutional Strategy Plan.

Frequently asked questions

Below are more frequently asked and/or more general questions about the RDM Institutional Strategy. Questions about RDM more broadly will be addressed in future FAQ documents.


Q: What is RDM?
A: Research Data refers to any information created or collected as evidence in the research process or commonly accepted in the research community as necessary to validate results and conclusions. Data Managementrefers to the storage, access and preservation of data produced from a given investigation. Data management practices cover the entire lifecycle of the data, from planning the investigation to conducting it, and from backing up data as it is created and used, to long-term preservation of data deliverables after the research investigation has concluded, to storage and access, to sharing and reuse (where appropriate).

Q: What is the impetus for the strategy?
A: The Tri-Agencies “believe that research data collected through the use of public funds should be responsibly and securely managed and be—where ethical, legal, and commercial obligations allow—available for reuse by others.” They have set a policy that all institutions receiving Tri-Agencies research funding must have an Institutional RDM Strategy in place by March 2023.

Q: What is the purpose of the strategy?
A: The purposes of this Research Data Management (RDM) Institutional Strategy are to:

  • Support research excellence among Waterloo researchers
  • Create a foundation for building great RDM services and tools for Waterloo researchers
  • Meet the requirements of diverse funders and publishers of research, including the Tri-Agencies
  • Reflect our institutional commitment to RDM
  • Recognize the value of research data both to the University and to broader society – research data are a critical research output which will catalyze future knowledge and innovation

Q. How was the strategy created?
A: The University of Waterloo Research Data Management Institutional Strategy was created in 2022-23, in response to the Tri-Agencies requirement, by the Research Data Management Institutional Strategy Working Group. The Strategy is based on an extensive service gap analysis, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and a Town Hall meeting with the University of Waterloo research community. Drafts of the strategy were reviewed by every faculty leadership team and other relevant groups such as SGRC, PVP, ethics boards, and others.

Q. Who is responsible for overseeing the strategy?
A: The Strategy is overseen by the Vice-President, Research & International (VPRI), the University Librarian, and the Chief Information Officer.

Q. Will the strategy change?
A: The RDM Strategy is a living document, intended to shape our activities over the next 3-5 years, but the implementation roadmap will change as priorities emerge. This Strategy will be reviewed regularly and updated for continued relevance as we assess our RDM services for maturity.


Q: Why should I care about RDM?
A: “RDM enables researchers to organize, store, access, reuse and build upon digital research data. RDM is essential to Canadian researchers’ capacity to securely preserve and use their research data throughout their research projects, reuse their data over the course of their careers and, when appropriate, share their data. Furthermore, as an acknowledged component of research excellence, strong RDM practices support researchers in achieving scientific rigor and enable collaboration in their fields.”


Q: My research has unique aspects to it that aren’t strictly data collection or creation. Are RDM and the strategy really relevant to my research and scholarship?
A: This Strategy is relevant to all research using and producing research data in all forms (including, but not limited to, digital, analogue, paper, and physical materials)—whether funded or unfunded, published or unpublished, open or restricted. Just some examples of “data” include: Physical objects / specimens;  Video / Sound / Images in physical or digital media; Spreadsheets; Text files; and Computer code. Additionally, there are relevant elements that also support data and RDM, including metadata describing data, and the computer code and software required to engage with / analyze data.


Q: Who owns and can use my research data?
A: Research data is researchers’ intellectual property under Policy 73 - Intellectual Property Rights. Section 9 addresses data management.

Q. I am working with an Indigenous community (or on Indigenous land) in my research, does this change who owns the data?
A. The University of Waterloo respects and recognizes the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples and communities over research data produced by, with, for, and about them. This includes sovereignty over the collection, use, control, access, possession, and sharing of these data. Waterloo acknowledges the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy statement regarding a distinctions-based approach to Indigenous Data Sovereignty: “In line with the concept of Indigenous self-determination and in an effort to support Indigenous communities to conduct research and partner with the broader research community, the agencies recognize that data related to research by and with the First Nations, Métis, or Inuit whose traditional and ancestral territories are in Canada must be managed in accordance with data management principles developed and approved by these communities, and on the basis of free, prior, and informed consent.” Understanding that each Indigenous community will have different requirements regarding research data generated through partnerships, we honour different models of data management, such as the First Nations Information Governance Centre’s OCAP® Principles, the USAI Research Framework developed by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, the Global Indigenous Data Alliance’s CARE Principles, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami National Inuit Strategy on Research.

Source:  research-data-management/tri-agency-research-data-management-policy 

Q. Who will have access to my research data? [or Does this strategy require that I make my data publicly available?]
A. This RDM Strategy is not an open access policy. While researchers are encouraged to make the research data that supports their published findings Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR), who has access to your data will depend on where you store it. Your research funder or publisher may have particular requirements about where you publish or deposit your data. The University of Waterloo Library also has guidance on selecting a data repository


Q. One of the goals in the Strategy is to make RDM easy. How do you plan to do that?
A. Anywhere we can make RDM “easy,” we want to do that. For example, not requiring researchers to supply redundant information. If you are making a data management plan using the DMP Assistant and we also know that you're submitting certain information to the Office of Research Ethics for your ethics review, we will work towards integrating these. We are looking through our workflows, our guidelines, or policies and procedures to see where we can streamline integrations. We also want to make it easy for you to find answers to your questions and find help and support. It can take a lot of time just figuring out who to ask, or what are the questions I need to be thinking about? We will be creating documentation and a portal to support researchers' RDM queries.

Q: How can the University help me manage and get the most out of my research data?

AThe University already provides RDM support, through the Library, the Office of Research, and the Office of Information Systems and Technology, and Faculty IT Support. Our aim is to coordinate these services to make it easier for researchers to find the help they need, and then to provide added support as required. We aim for all faculty and researchers to have access to RDM support and expertise.

Q: What resources are available for keeping my data secure?
AFirstly, seek support before you design or begin your research project from your faculty IT or IST. They will help you identify your needs and options. IST also offer a number of security-focused resources: 

Further resources


Building the RDM Institutional Strategy took a village, across campus. Our sincerest thanks to our sponsors: Charmaine B. Dean, the Vice-President, Research and International; Beth Namachchivaya, the University Librarian; and Bruce Campbell, the Chief Information Officer.

The members of the RDM Working Group and Advisory Board provided invaluable input, time and effort invested towards the RDM strategy. 

Please contact Shaz Rahaman if you are interested in joining the RDM Working Group.

Working Group

Alison Hitchens, Associate University Librarian, Collections, Technology, Scholarly Communication

Ian Milligan, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Analysis

Sara Anderson, Manager, Research Program Development and Partnerships, Indigenous Initiatives

Joel Dubin, Professor, FAUW Representative 

Julie Joza, Director, Research Ethics

Leslie Copp, Director, FANS (CIHR Project Grants)

Neil McKay, Director, Research Systems and Analytics, Office of Research

Anneliese Eber, Research Data Management Librarian, Library Office

John Wagner, Senior Manager, Project Management Office, Office of Research

Jon Walgate, Director, Strategic Research, Engineering

John Kemp, Manager, Data, Integration and Analytics, IST

Advisory Board

Nasser Mohieddin Abukhdeir (Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Physics and Astronomy)

Sara Anderson (Office of Research)

Janice Aurini (Sociology)

Dan Brown (Cheriton School of Computer Science)

Stephanie Lluis (Economics)

Bhaleka Persaud (Earth Sciences)

Sharon Roberts (Renison University College)

Rodney Smith (Chemistry)

Marek Stastna (Applied Mathematics)

Wesley Van Wychen (Geography)

Greg Vey (Staff; Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change)

Thomas Willett (Engineering; Systems Design Engineering)

A special thank you to our consultants from Athenaeum21, Christine Madsen, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, and Megan Hurst, Co-Founder, CXO + Principal Consultant, for their expert experience and diligent research to constructing the RDM strategy. 


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Please contact Shaz Rahaman (