DMS Plan Tip: Leave the Hypertext at Home


As you develop your Data Management and Sharing Plans, make sure you do not include hypertext (e.g., hyperlinks and URLs) in the DMS Plan attachment. Our hyperlink policy applies to DMS Plans as well, and NIH may withdraw your application from consideration if you include them. Don’t risk it!

For example, in the DMS Plan attachment you should include the name of the proposed data repository but do not provide the link or URL. For more format guidance and other details on what to include, see the Writing a Data Management & Sharing Plan page.


  1. As research scientists, we spend half of our time utilizing online resources to support our research. The NIH policy that does not allow the inclusion of hyperlinks in our proposals is inconsistent with how we function as scientists currently. What would be the procedure to follow to re-evaluate this policy and make a change? (It kind of ironic that there is a text box for a website URL included below.)

  2. I second the comments of Richard Scheuermann. It is borderline ridiculous that we can request funds from NIH to support development of novel bioinformatic resources, but cannot include links to those very same resources in our grant applications. How are reviewers supposed to evaluate requests for funds to improve or expand bioinformatic resources if they are not supposed to interact with links to those resources? It doesn’t make any sense.

  3. Might a suitable workaround be something like this: if some online resource is named in the narrative of the data management and sharing plan, treat that mention as one would treat any other citation. For example, assume that a proposal uses a “numbered reference” scheme, i.e. each cited reference is assigned a whole number (1, 2, . . .). Then if FooBase is the Nth entry in the bibliography, that bibliography entry would look like “N. FooBase.“, and every mention of FooBase in the DSP or elsewhere in the proposal would be “FooBase (N)”. If instead the in-text citation style is of the form [Name year] where Name is usually the first author, every in-text mention would be [FooBase] and the corresponding bibliography entry would be “[FooBase]

  4. It makes sense, to some extent, to prohibit hyperlinks and URLs in the Specific Aims and Research Plan. But it makes no sense to prohibit them in all of the other documents. The amount of time that we are now required to spend scouring documents for hyperlinks, hidden hyperlinks, and URLs is absurd. We had an R01 application rejected because of one errant URL in one biosketch, so now we spend hours looking for links and URLs in every document. What a waste of time and energy.

  5. Why are we spending millions to promote data sharing to shoot ourselves in the foot with nonsense like this that serve little purpose, but has an inordinate impact. Specifically, if the DMSP has to be considered a technical reference document, it’s crucial that repositories and resources are correctly referenced via url.

  6. According to NOT-OD-20-174, the stated purposes of banning hyperlinks and URLs in the proposal documents are to preserve anonymity for reviewers, to keep review consistency, to prevent page limitation circumvention (for reviewer-facing documents), and to avoid malware (for reviewers).

    I support all of that.

    However…the DMS plan is not given to reviewers. We are told specifically that it is not a part of the packet the reviewers will receive to review. They could not see it even if they wanted to. Given that fact, why exactly are hyperlinks and URLs forbidden in the DMS plan at all?

  7. @Steve, I would like to see the evidence that hyperlinks had ever been used to ID reviewers, circumvent page limitations, introduce malware onto reviewers’ computers. P.S. I have yet to hear from NIH regarding my question “What would be the procedure to follow to re-evaluate this policy and make a change? (It kind of ironic that there is a text box for a website URL included below.)”. It would be great to have an open debate with NIH on the topic.

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