Research and Data Services

NIH Data Management and Sharing Plan Guidance


What are standards?

Standards are commonly agreed upon references like controlled vocabularies, scales, Common Data Elements (CDEs), data formats, and definitions. An example of a terminology standard is ICD-10, the International Classification of Diseases. There are also data exchange standards, like DICOM.

NIH is requiring the use of standards to increase interoperability, enabling data sets to "'use and speak the same language' via [the] use of standardized vocabularies" (NIH, 2018, p. 6). Sharing data with appropriate standards reduces the time needed to clean and prepare the data for reuse, furthering scientific discovery.

Finding Appropriate Standards

As part of your DMS plan, you need to indicate what standards you will apply to the scientific data and metadata you share OR indicate that no consensus standards exist.

Your NIH ICO may also require or recommend the use of certain standards, which should be stated in this section of your DMS plan.

Repositories may also require particular standards. That information can usually be found on the repository website or by searching for the repository on FAIRsharing and looking at the "related standards" section (e.g. NAHDP).


NIH issued the Data Management and Sharing (DMS) policy (effective January 25, 2023) to promote the sharing of scientific data. Read more at, but in short, under the DMS policy, NIH expects that investigators and institutions:

  • Plan and budget for the managing and sharing of data
  • Submit a DMS plan for review when applying for funding
  • Comply with the approved DMS plan

To have a librarian review your DMS plan, please complete this request form.

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