Objective: The purpose of this study is to describe the volume, topics, and methodological nature of the existing research literature on research data management in academic institutions.
Materials and methods: We conducted a scoping review by searching forty literature databases encompassing a broad range of disciplines from inception to April 2016. We included all study types and data extracted on study design, discipline, data collection tools, and phase of the research data lifecycle.
Results: We included 301 articles plus 10 companion reports after screening 13,002 titles and abstracts and 654 full-text articles. Most articles (85%) were published from 2010 onwards and conducted within the sciences (86%). More than three-quarters of the articles (78%) reported methods that included interviews, cross-sectional, or case studies. Most articles (68%) included the Giving Access to Data phase of the UK Data Archive Research Data Lifecycle that examines activities such as sharing data. When studies were grouped into five dominant groupings (Stakeholder, Data, Library, Tool/Device, and Publication), data quality emerged as an integral element.
Conclusion: Most studies relied on self-reports (interviews, surveys) or accounts from an observer (case studies) and we found few studies that collected empirical evidence on activities amongst data producers, particularly those examining the impact of research data management interventions. As well, fewer studies examined research data management at the early phases of research projects. The quality of all research outputs needs attention, from the application of best practices in research data management studies, to data producers depositing data in repositories for long-term use.