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Data Format Guidelines

Data Categories

Two categories of research data are currently supported by the GCE Information Management System:

Submission guidelines are presented separately below for each category:

Tabular Data Sets

Procedures for submitting tabular data are somewhat flexible and can be tailored to suit each investigator's needs and software preferences.  Whenever practical, data sets should be submitted using the GCE data submission template or as ASCII text files; however, data can also be submitted as spreadsheet or word processor files if preferred (check with the Data Manager prior to submission to confirm compatibility).

Tabular data submissions require two separate components in addition to the standard data documentation:

  1. Table of data values (format instructions)
  2. Metadata Information (format instructions)

After reviewing the submission, the Data Manager will add additional metadata and save the data set as an tab- or space-delimited ASCII text file with a formatted header containing Data Set Descriptor, Data Structural Descriptor, and certain Data Set Status and Accessibility metadata fields.  These files will then be processed and stored as standardized MATLAB data structures in order to support dynamic document generation and online data visualization and analysis.

After processing, the contributor will receive a copy of the augmented text file along with a formatted data report.  Contributors can also request copies of the MATLAB data structure and various statistical treatments of the data in report format for their own use.

Specialized Data Files

Specific formatting options will vary according to the software or process used to generate the data file.  Whenever possible, choose to save files in the most universal format supported which does not result in information loss.  Use the table of recommendations below, or contact the GCE Data Manager for assistance choosing a format.

Date Type Format Recommendations
Preferred Acceptable NOT Recommended
Continuous-tone images
(e.g. photographs)
TIFF (uncompressed) TIFF (LZW-compressed)
PNG
JPEG
GIF
Photoshop (.psd)
Paletted images
(e.g. raster maps, scans)
TIFF (uncompressed) TIFF (LZW-compressed)
GIF (if 8bit/pixel or less)
PNG
JPEG
GIF (if >8bit/pixel)
Vector images
(e.g. vector maps)
EPS Postscript AdobeŽ Acrobat
WMF
GIS coverages ArcInfoŽ Export (E00) ArcInfoŽ Shapefile TIFF
EPS
Non-tabular Text ANSI text file with tab delimiters and line breaks ANSI or ASCII text file with comma delimiters and line breaks Files with proprietary character sets (e.g. native Apple McIntoshT text)
   Data Submission Data Documentation 
LTER
NSF

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959 and OCE-1237140. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.