Information management in the Arctic LTER has two principal aims. The first is to maximize data access both within the project and to other researchers. We try to maximize data access by rapidly adding new datasets to the database (usually before publication) and by making all the datasets available for downloading with the only restrictions as outlined under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The second aim is to optimize data usability and integration for within-site synthesis and modeling, regional and long-term scaling, and multisite or global comparisons and syntheses. Careful planning at the research design stage is required to ensure that any single set of measurements is easily linked to other measurements; typically, this includes working closely with collaborating projects so that their work on LTER sites and experiments is optimally integrated.
The structure of our information management system parallels the overall structure of the project, with four major components to the ARC LTER information system linked to the terrestrial, streams, lakes, and landscape interactions research components. A Senior RA, Jim Laundre, is the overall project information manager with responsibility for overseeing the integrity of the ARC information system. Information management is a primary responsibility of all four full-time RAs associated with each of the research components. While each of the four core RAs maintains the data in their area, all are in frequent communication on overall data compatibility and metadata standards (currently two work at the MBL in Woods Hole, one is at University of Michigan, and one at University of Vermont). Each RA is deeply involved in the actual research design, day-to-day management, and data collection within their area. The four RAs work closely in the field with investigators, technicians, and students to ensure quality control and appropriate documentation. Overall guidance is provided by the ARC Executive Committee while Laundre attends the LTER Network Information Manager's video teleconferences and meetings and makes sure we are kept up to date and compatible with Network data standards.
Each year at our annual winter meeting in Woods Hole we review the status of the information system and ways of improving its accessibility and ease of use. At this meeting we focus in particular on the upcoming summer season and on how to design our research for optimum integration of diverse datasets. All project personnel including postdocs, graduate students, and occasional REU students participate in these discussions.
Datasets of the Arctic LTER project are available from either the Arctic LTER web site (http://arc-lter.ecosystems.mbl.edu/data-catalog) or the Environmental Data Initiative (EDI) data portal (https://portal.edirepository.org). Since EDI is a member node of DataONE they are also available through DataONE’s search page (https://www.dataone.org/find-data). We ask only that datasets be properly cited and that NSF and the ARC LTER be acknowledged in any papers published.
Data from the large-scale experiments and from routine monitoring are available online as soon as the data are checked for quality and, where necessary, transformed for presentation in standard units and scales. Many datasets, such as weather observations, stream flow and data that do not require a great deal of post-collection chemical or other analysis, are available within 6 months of collection. Other data, particularly from samples requiring chemical analysis in our home laboratories, may take up to two years before they appear on-line. Collaborating projects can and often do contribute their datasets to our online database and if required these datasets can be replicated to the NFS’s Arctic Data Center. ARC LTER also participates in the LTER Network’s ClimDB, HydroDB and the new community survey data, “ecocomDP”. These centralized databases provide access to meteorological, hydrological, and community survey data from all the LTER sites
Data can be submitted by contacting the individual RAs of each research components or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. An Excel form is available for submitting both metadata and data. Comments are used extensively throughout the sheet to aid in filling out the data. Data validation lists are used to created drop down lists for units, sites and data types. Once a file is submitted a basic check is made to ensure that the metadata and data conform to the LTER standards. For researchers who do not use Excel a word document is also available for entering metadata with the data being submitted as comma delimited ASCII. This Metadata Template is from the Environmental Data Initiative (EDI) and has similar fields as the Excel template.