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Data Submission Guidelines

  1. Introduction
  2. Oceanographic Data, including Physical, Chemical and Biological
  3. Data Submission Guidelines
  4. Data Documentation
  5. Media Information
  6. Data Submission Format
  7. Unusual Data Submissions
  8. How to Submit Data to NCEI

1. Introduction

The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI, formerly the National Oceanographic Data Center, NODC) is the United States facility established to acquire, process, store, and disseminate environmental data from the United States and other countries. NCEI operates as a component of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NCEI's U.S. data holdings include unclassified data collected by Federal agencies including the Department of Defense (primarily the U.S. Navy); State and local government agencies; universities and research institutions; and private industry. NCEI does not conduct any data collection programs of its own; it serves solely as a repository, dissemination, and analysis facility for data collected by others.

A very large portion of the data held by NCEI is of foreign origin. We acquire foreign data through direct bilateral exchanges with other countries and organizations, and through the facilities of World Data System for Oceanography, Silver Spring. WDS (Oceanography) is operated by NCEI under the auspices of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. It is one of the discipline subcenters within the World Data Center System that fosters international exchange of scientific data under guidelines issued by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).

Each year NCEI responds to thousands of requests from users in the United States and around the world. NCEI data support research and development in ocean resource development, marine environmental assessment, national defense, theoretical oceanography, ocean engineering, etc. As a service organization, NCEI welcomes inquiries from all potential users of marine data and data products.

NCEI provides data management services (acquisition, ingest, data management, archival, dissemination) for the following types of environmental data:

  • Weather/climate
  • Oceanographic
  • Marine geophysics
  • Atmospheric/ocean chemistry
  • Atmospheric/ocean indicators
  • Bathymetry
  • Cryospheric
  • Geomagnetic
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Marine geology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Soil moisture/temperature
  • Space weather
  • Sun-earth interactions
  • Surface characterization
  • Surface water
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Tsunami events
  • Upper air
  • Vegetation indices
  • Volcanic events
  • Weather events
  • Related socio-economic data

Given the abundance of environmental data and information collected and produced, NCEI must carefully consider each acquisition. This is especially true given current automated data collection processes, the sheer volume of modeled datasets, and high-resolution remotely-sensed data. NCEI will, where appropriate and feasible, attempt to assist NOAA and partner scientists in meeting federal open data initiatives. Archival decisions are made after careful consideration of these factors, as well as a complete consideration of the human, technical, and financial inputs required and the availability and prioritization of NCEI data management resources.

The Federal Ocean Data Policy requires that appropriate ocean data and related information collected under federal sponsorship be submitted to and archived by designated national data centers. Funding agencies, with assistance from the centers, identify the data and require their principal investigators to submit these data within specified time periods.

National centers receiving these data will assure that: inventories of data received are available to funding agencies; archived data and related information are available to secondary users in a timely and efficient manner; and these data are preserved and properly managed to assure their quality.

NCEI science stewards are happy to assist investigators with submitting their data. NCEI will work with investigators to assure that the data and related information will be submitted in a mutually agreed upon format and transport mechanism.

It is the ultimate responsibility of the investigator to submit high quality data. Problems usually arise not with the quality of the scientific measurements or observations, but with the organization of the data. Examples include: omitted critical information (location, depth, date/time, etc.); inconsistencies within formats; untranslated codes; or "hidden" characters; incompatible record lengths; etc. Resource constraints may result in data sets being returned to the investigator for correction and resubmission if problems cannot be solved within a reasonable time.

4. Data Documentation - Metadata

In order for secondary users of marine data to interpret, assess and evaluate them, NCEI collects and provides access to information (documentation) pertinent to the digital data in the archives. Data documentation, also known as descriptive information, includes: complete descriptions of what parameters/observations were measured; how they were measured/collected; where and when they were collected (latitude, longitude, GMT, depth(s), altitude(s)), and other geographic descriptions; the data collector or principal investigator and other contributors; author of data for citation purposes; collecting institutions/agencies and platforms; collecting/measuring instrumentation; data processing and methodologies of analyses; description of units, precisions and accuracies of measured parameters; descriptions of the data format and the computer compatible media submitted; purpose of data collection; and more. NCEI also solicits references to literature which have pertinence to the data (both published and grey literature).

NCEI solicits the cooperation of data submitters to provide descriptive materials, preferably in digitized form, as a component of the submission package of the data. Most data submitters use word processing systems to prepare data reports, methods manuals, cruise narratives, data processing procedures, data evaluations, etc. It is easy and inexpensive to send NCEI this documentation in electronic form via the internet.

5. Specifications for Data Submission Media

NCEI prefers to receive data in fully processed form via the internet, either by pulling the data from the submitter (via FTP or HTTP), or by the submitter sending the data to NCEI (using Send2NCEI or using FTP (see the FTP guidelines).

NCEI will also accept data submitted via hard drive (USB-compatible), CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Blu-ray Disc.

6. Data Submission Format

NCEI recommends the use of self-documenting machine-interoperable data formats such as netCDF or HDF, especially if those data files conform to such standards such as the NCEI NetCDF Templates or the CF (Climate and Forecast) Conventions.

Well documented data are acceptable in non-NCEI formats, especially if in an easily understood ASCII form. Prior discussions with an NCEI science steward are essential to ensure an acceptable format.

Data documentation would ideally be submitted as part of your submission package using the ISO Geographic Information (ISO 19115) format, preferably in ISO 19139 XML format. Send2NCEI can help you provide documentation for your data as part of the submission package. However, data documentation are welcomed in any form.

7. Unusual Data Submissions

If an investigator wishes to submit data of a type or medium not normally acquired by NCEI, please make arrangements with NCEI prior to submission. Within the limits imposed by available resources and mission, NCEI will accommodate data of special interest. If the data warrant such action, capabilities to handle them will be developed.

8. How to Submit Data to NCEI

NCEI has two options for data archive depending on the data delivery frequency and data volume:

  1. Non-repeating or single delivery data less than 20 GB. Use Send2NCEI to document and submit your data.
  2. Repeating or multiple delivery data or data greater than 20 GB. Submit request to the Advanced Tracking and Resource Tool for Archive Collections (ATRAC).

Additional instructions are available to help you use those tools.

For more information on NCEI's archival process or if you have questions about which system to use, please email