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In the past decade, research data have become widely recognized as a critical national and global resource, and the risks of losing or mismanaging research data can have severe economic and social consequences. The proliferation of artificial intelligence approaches in all fields has created a huge demand for trustworthy research data in both the natural (e.g., chemistry) and social (e.g., economics) sciences. To address these issues, NIST initiated a new, multi-stakeholder project in fall 2019 entitled the Research Data Framework (RDaF). The RDaF will provide the stakeholder community with a structured approach to develop a customizable strategy for various roles in the research data management ecosystem.

Download the Preliminary RDaF Publication (PDF). 


This research data lifecycle has six stages: Envision; Plan; Generate/Acquire; Process/Analyze; Share/Use/Reuse; and Preserve/Discard

What is a Research Data Framework?

  • A map of the research data space:  who, what, where, why, when?
  • A dynamic guide for the various stakeholders in research data to understand best practices for research data management and dissemination
  • A resource for understanding costs, benefits, and risks associated with research data management
  • A consensus document based on inputs and conversations amongst the stakeholders in research data
  • A tool that may be used to change the research data management culture in an organization

The Preliminary RDaF

The structure of the RDaF follows that of the NIST Cybersecurity and Privacy Frameworks, which consist of three parts: the Framework Core, the Framework Profiles, and Implementation Tiers.

The Framework Core has four elements:

  • Functions organize foundational research data management activities at their highest level. As depicted in the figure below, lifecycle approach was selected as the organizing concept of the Framework Core.
  • Categories are the subdivisions of a Function into groups of research data management topics closely tied to programmatic needs and activities.
  • Subcategories further divide a Category into specific topics related to technical and/or management activities.
  • Informative References are standards, guidelines, and practices associated with a Subcategory that provide the means to address a research data management topic.

Download the Preliminary Framework Core (PDF).

Framework Profiles enable the RDaF to be tailored to different levels of stakeholders/users from a CEO to an individual researcher. To develop a Framework Profile, an organization will review all the Categories and Subcategories and, considering research/business drivers, determine which are relevant for an organizational unit and/or job function. Categories and Subcategories can be added as needed to fully adapt the RDaF to the specific need or use. Framework Profiles can be used to conduct self-assessments of research data management and communicate the results within an organization or between organizations.

Implementation Tiers are under development and are not available in the current version of the RDaF.

Next Steps

The objective of the next phase in the development of the RDaF is to test the applicability and usefulness of the Framework Core in Appendix A. To accomplish this objective, two concurrent pilot studies—one in Materials Science and the other in Research Universities, including librarian and publisher roles—will be conducted.  

How can you or your organization become involved in the RDaF development?

  • Contact Robert Hanisch, robert.hanisch@nist or Debbie Kaiser, debra.kaiser [at]
  • Organize and host an informational webinar on the RDaF
  • Assist with the pilot studies through, e.g., identification of participants and organization of e-meetings on relevant topics
  • Identify informative references, both existing and under development, that are associated with the Subcategories in the RDaF Framework Core
  • Promulgate the RDaF through engagement and outreach activities at relevant technical events and venues
  • Publish notices concerning the RDaF in topical newsletters, journals, and social media


RDaF Overview

Robert Hanisch's invited presentations on the RDaF (acronyms defined below*)

MaRDA Working Group (6/3/21); RDA (4/21/21); ACS meeting: (4/14/21); AAU/APLU Research Data Summit (3/16/21); ORCID, DataCite (1/25/21); Future of Federally Supported Data Repositories workshop, panel and presentation (1/13-15/21); NIH Bio-Medical Information Council (1/13/21); Argonne National Lab, general symposium (12/17/20); Argonne National Lab, pre-briefing (12/9/20); FAIR Convergence Workshop (12/1/20); CNI Annual Meeting (11/20/20); SSURF, DOE National Labs (11/9/20); STM CHORUS (11/6/20); NASEM/BRDI (10/14/20); NASEM Review Panel for MML/ODI (9/9/20); OSTP Subcommittee on Open Science (3/26/20); OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier (3/26/20) 

* ACS: American Chemical Society; BRDI: NASEM Board on Research Data and Information; CNI: Coalition for Networked Information; FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable; MaRDA: Materials Research Data Alliance; MML: Material Measurement Laboratory (NIST); NASEM: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; ODI: Office of Data and Informatics (MML, NIST); ORCID: Open Researcher and Contributor; OSTP: Office of Science and Technology Policy; RDA: Research Data Alliance; SSURF: Society of Scientific User Research Facilities; STM: International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers

Related Documents and Information

NIST Cybersecurity Framework             NIST Privacy Framework

RDaF Steering Committee




Bonnie Carroll, Chair CODATA International data organization

Laura Biven

National Institutes of Health 


Martin Halbert National Science Foundation Funder, government

Hilary Hanahoe

Research Data Alliance

International data organization

Heather Joseph

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

A non-gov't advocacy organization, libraries

Mark Leggott

Research Data Canada

Multi-stakeholder partnership

Barend Mons

Leiden University, CODATA, GO-FAIR

International data organization

Sarah Nusser Iowa State University and the University of Virginia Academia

Beth Plale

Indiana University


Carly Strasser Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Private philanthropic organization

Anita de Waard


Scholarly publisher, private sector

Created November 2, 2020, Updated July 26, 2021