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Data Access Policy and Online Data Use Summary
14 March 2014
The Andrews LTER data access policy is modeled after the LTER network data policy and includes three sections: the release policy for data products, user registration requirements for accessing data, and the licensing agreement specifying conditions for data use. Excerpts from this policy follow.
Data and information derived from publicly funded research in the Andrews Experimental Forest, totally or partially from National Science Foundation LTER funds, or Partner Agency or Institution funds where a formal memorandum of understanding with LTER has been established, are made available online with as few restrictions as possible on a nondiscriminatory basis. Andrews LTER scientists make every effort to release data in a timely fashion and with attention to accurate and complete metadata.
Types of data:
Type 1 - data are to be released to the general public including access through the LTER Network Information System within two years from collection and,
Type 2 - data are to be released to restricted audiences according to terms specified by the owners of the data. Type 2 data are considered to be exceptional and should be rare in occurrence. The justification for restricting or delaying release of Type 2 exceptions must be well documented and approved by the Andrews Executive Committee. Some examples of Type 2 data restrictions include legal or privacy issues such as locations of rare or endangered species, data that are covered under prior licensing or copyright, or data covered by the Human Subjects Act. Researchers that make use of Type 2 data may be subject to additional restrictions to protect any applicable commercial or confidentiality interests. Legacy data with known quality issues may also be considered Type 2 with justification. These data sets may be elevated to Type 1 dependent on available funding to solve pending issues. Additionally, graduate student data may be restricted until the time of publication to protect their professional development.
Data Prioritization: While the intention of the Andrews LTER policy is to promote maximum availability for ecological data, resource constraints have led to establishing criteria for prioritizing data for release. Primary observations collected for core research activities directly supported by LTER funding receive the highest priority for data release. Data collected with partial LTER support or where the LTER program has added value to resulting data products will also receive high priority for release. Other types of data including student thesis data, schoolyard LTER data, or non-LTER data that was acquired for LTER research may be ranked at a lower priority. Legacy data will be released as resources become available. Interim data such as data created during stages within an analytic workflow, raw or replicate data values that were subsequently aggregated or processed for release, or individual outputs from stochastic models will only be released if additional scientific value is present beyond which the final data products already provide.
Online data: Here is a summary of LTER online databases:
- Currently 160 LTER databases are online representing nearly 800 data tables or spatial entities
- Nearly half (78 databases) are long-term data collections (>10 years)
- 13,350 LTER data tables have been provided or downloaded over 25 years (1986-2010)
Table 1. This table tracks Andrews LTER data use over 25 years (1986-2010) in 5-year increments. The IM Team believes that increasing numbers of data downloads are primarily due to easier data access and greater demand for this data, however increased downloads also reflect greater numbers of online data tables and improved data use tracking. IM Team downloads for checking or testing are excluded.
Data use: Tracking of data set use has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. The following summarizes the nature and scope of data use tracking.
- 1987-1994: Data requests are received via email and data is handled manually and sent through email or paper mail. A desktop software program and tracking database were developed in 1991 to easily track requested data sets, requestor and date, and intended use.
- 1994-1996: The first data was placed online in fall 1994 and approximately 20 data sets are placed online by 1996. Requests are still primarily handled through email and tracked through the desktop program.
- 1996-2001: A voluntary registration form is established on the web page, and form data is hand entered into the tracking database. Data downloads are likely under estimated during this period due to the "voluntary" forms, and some tracking documentation is incomplete.
- 2002-2005: A user registration system is employed to track downloads of data sets. Users must agree to the terms of the Data Use Policy and a one-time user registration is required. Some data sets were still tracked through voluntary registration forms until all data set migration into the new information system was completed in 2005.
- 2006-2013: A web page tracking and registration system automatically documents all data downloads in the production database server.
Table 2. This table tracks Andrews LTER data use over the past 10 years (2003-2012). IM Team downloads for routine checking and testing are excluded, and the number of online databases is approximated for each two-year period.
In early 2014, the mandatory requirement for one-time user registration is being refined to greatly simplify access to data sets. Users must provide an email address, select both an affiliation and a proposed use from a restricted set of options, and still agree to the terms of the Data Use Policy. The web page tracking and registration system still automatically documents all data downloads in the production database server.