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Long Version of the Data Submission Guidelines

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

1. Introduction

The National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) is the United States facility established to acquire, process, store, and disseminate oceanographic data from the United States and other countries. NODC 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. NODC'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. NODC 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 NODC is of foreign origin. We acquire foreign data through direct bilateral exchanges with other countries and organizations, and through the facilities of World Data Center for Oceanography, Silver Spring. WDC (Oceanography) is operated by NODC 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 NODC responds to thousands of requests from users in the United States and around the world. NODC data support research and development in ocean resource development, marine environmental assessment, national defense, theoretical oceanography, ocean engineering, etc. As a service organization, NODC welcomes inquiries from all potential users of marine data and data products.

NODC provides data management services (acquisition, processing, quality control, archival, distribution) for physical, chemical and biological data from the world ocean and adjacent waters. Certain types of digital data products, such as oceanographic atlases, are archived and distributed by NODC also. NODC accepts such data extending landward to the coastal limits of tidal influence in estuaries and rivers. NODC's primary interest is data from the sea surface to the sea floor. Air-sea and bottom interface data are accepted when directly related to water column or biological measurements. Other such data related to marine meteorology or to marine geology and geophysics are archived respectively by NODC's sister centers, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), Asheville, N.C., and the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC), Boulder, Colo. Sea ice data are archived by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which is operated for the NGDC by the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo. When received, NODC routinely forwards meteorological, geological, geophysical and ice data to the appropriate data center.

2. Physical, Chemical and Biological Data

Physical Oceanographic Data

NODC concentrates on acquiring physical data of value to a broad spectrum of secondary users. These include measured values of temperature, salinity, ocean currents, winds and wave spectra, pressure, light transmission, fluorescence, sea level, etc. These measurements are taken from a variety of samplers, sensors, and platforms, e.g. XBT, AXBT, CTD, thermistor, moored current meters, drifting buoys, subsurface floats, acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP), other current profilers, inverted echo sounder, tide stations, transmissometer, remote sensors on earth orbiting satellites.

Chemical Oceanographic Data

NODC acquires data on naturally-occurring and anthropogenic chemical substances. These data include observations from the water column, biota and interstitial waters of marine sediments.

Principal data of interest include: dissolved gases, pH, alkalinity, nutrients, dissolved organic and inorganic matter, particulate organic and inorganic matter, trace metals, and marine pollutants.

Biological Oceanographic Data

NODC is especially interested in data on the geographic and temporal distribution of all groups of marine biota, their standing crop measurements, and other fields contained in NODC's standard biological data formats.

NODC receives and holds data on: primary organic production; plant pigment concentrations and distributions; metabolic products in sea water, e.g. ATP, urea; geographic, temporal, and vertical distribution, abundance; biomass, etc. of marine organisms (all taxonomic groups from virus particles to marine mammals); population, community and ecosystem surveys and monitoring programs.

Except when required by special NOAA program interest, NODC does not acquire biological data that are not directly related to ecosystem dynamics, e.g. cell and molecular biology, physiology, fisheries statistics, embryology and development, morphometry, etc. Data on substratum characteristics are acquired and archived by NODC only when they are included as habitat descriptors of benthic communities or as part of water column related studies.

3. Data Submission Policies and Guidelines

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.

NODC Data Acquisition Specialist will be very happy to assist investigators with submitting their data. NODC will work with them to assure that the data and related information will be submitted in a mutually agreed upon format, medium, and computer representation of characters.

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, NODC collects and provides access to information (documentation) pertinent to the digital data in the archives. Data documentation 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; collecting institution/agency and platform; collecting/measuring instrumentation; data processing and analyses methodologies; description of units, precisions and accuracies of measured parameters; descriptions of the data format and the computer compatible media submitted. NODC also solicits references to literature which have pertinence to the data (both published and grey literature).

NODC solicits the cooperation of data submitters to provide descriptive materials, preferably in digitized form, as an electronic appendage 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 NODC this documentation in "electronic" form (in ASCII) via the Internet.

In summary, the minimum documentation requirements sought by NODC are:

  • Name, address, telephone and fax numbers of responsible data submitter organizations
  • Name of principal investigator(s) with telephone, e-mail addresses, and fax numbers
  • Program, project, expedition name
  • Funding agency, grant/contract numbers., date
  • Data collectors' identifying numbers, e.g., cruise and leg numbers, cast numbers
  • Ship or other platform type, name/call sign
  • Dates (GMT) of data collection (begin-end)
  • Geographic location-latitude(s)/longitude(s)
  • Objectives of data collection effort
  • Data parameter(s)
    • type
    • units
    • precision
    • observation methodology
    • instrument/gear identification or description
    • analysis methodology
    • data processing/reduction methodology
    • explanations of data quality flags
    • citations of relevant publications and grey literature

Methods descriptions may be in the form of a bibliographic citation for published literature.

5. Specifications for Submitting Data on Magnetic and Optical Media

NODC accepts data in fully processed form on magnetic or optical media whose physical characteristics are compatible with NODC computer systems (WIN, NT, UNIX, LINUX). NODC strongly prefers to receive data in ASCII character representation by FTP. If you mail in your data, CD-R (recordable compact disc) is an acceptable media. Magnetic media information is listed below. If you have other media not listed here, please contact the Data Officer for helpful information.

Diskette or ZipDisks™:
Type of operating system used to create the files
Types of files (e.g. ASCII, WordPerfect, MS Excel); ASCII preferred
Directory/subdirectory structure
Number of files and record lengths
Packed files should be self-extracting or diskette should contain the unpacking software.
DOS ASCII files should have carriage control/line-feed after each record.
Exabyte Data Cassettes:
Density (specify)
Brand and series number of computer on which the tape was written (including operating system)
Number of files and record size/blocksize
Directory/subdirectory structure and type of files. File type should be ASCII unless prior arrangements have been made.
DAT Data Cassettes:
Brand and series number of computer on which the tape was written (including operating system)
Number of files and record size/blocksize
Directory/subdirectory structure and type of files. Should be ASCII unless prior arrangement have been made.
Data Record Format:
Field name (use and meaning)
Beginning position from 1, measured in bytes
Length in bytes
Precision (implied or included decimals)

6. Data Submission Format

Well documented data are acceptable in non-NODC format, if in ASCII form. Prior discussions with an NODC data specialist are essential to ensure an acceptable format. NODC standard formats (written in ASCII) are available on NODC Web site if you choose to put the data in one of those formats.

NODC also provides an anonymous public area reserved for electronic transmission of data over Internet via FTP. See the FTP Guidelines

At the present time, NODC accepts expendable bathythermograph (XBT) strip charts. These temperature/depth couplets are digitized by commercial contractors. However, submission of strip charts and other analog records is not encouraged if digital data are available.

7. Unusual Data Submissions

If an investigator wishes to submit data of a type or medium not normally acquired by NODC, please make arrangements with NODC prior to submission. Within the limits imposed by available resources and NODC mission, NODC 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 NODC

The investigator should contact NODC Data Officer or the appropriate NODC Liaison Office in his/her region in order to initiate and facilitate the data submission process. (This can be done after following the online data submission instructions). If needed, NODC maintains a network of field liaison officers who will provide guidance and assistance to investigators with submitting data to NODC. The first contact, however, may be initiated by NODC, acting upon information provided by a scientific program management office, funding agency, or other sources of data collection activities.

NODC Liaison Officer may work with the investigator on data submission formats and associated information, documentational requirements, agency data management requirements, transmission media, etc. Investigators will be given assistance also on their data needs from NODC's data holdings and specialized products and services.

Upon receipt and acceptance by NODC, each data set is copied and preserved in original format. An investigator may request a copy of the data as it appears in NODC archive. Your data can also be obtained through an online system known as the Ocean Archive System once it has been offically archived at NODC.