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Data Policy (download this document)


The Mission of the National Soil Carbon Network (NSCN) is to improve the understanding of C dynamics in soils across the United States, including the spatial and temporal distribution and stability of C forms. The soil C database component of this network depends on community-based data sharing efforts. Those who contribute to or use the database agree to the following data sharing policies.

For Data Contributors - Policy on Data Contribution

In order to maximize the utility of the database, contributors are encouraged to enter and allow open access to all data gathered (response data and metadata), including the exact coordinates of site locations. This assumes that users of the data will abide by the Fair Use Guidelines outlined below. Nonetheless, in cases where the locations of sites are sensitive to long-term monitoring or landowner agreements, contributors may choose to protect access to site locations by displaying the coordinates to a tenth of a decimal degree (0.1 degree). For these special cases, if the user desires the exact locations, s/he will have to contact the data contributor directly.

Data contributions generally progress through three phases

  1. Phase I, data entry. The entry of data into the online database using the template provided. The data are subsequently approved by the NSCN Coordinator, provided they meet the following summarized criteria (detailed criteria in separate document): 
    1. Dataset Quality - no data duplication, reporting of publication history, provision of adequate metadata, and contact information.
    2. Measurement Quality – a unique name, relevant measurement, units, and coordinates of the sampled location.
  2. Phase II, validation. Upon approval by the NSCN Coordinator, data enter Phase II. This stage allows the data contributor, her/his students or postdocs, and the NSCN Coordinator to validate and explore that contributor’s data, and alert database managers to quality control concerns. General database users are unable to see Phase II data. While Phase II will allow data contributors sufficient time to analyze their data and submit results for independent publication, it is understood that Phase II data will transition in a reasonable timeframe into Phase III. A maximum timeframe for Phase II is yet to be established by the NSCN Scientific Steering Group. Conversely, contributors may wish to submit their data, validate it, and transition it to Phase III as soon as possible, without any additional holding time for publication. In all cases, no Phase II data will be transitioned to Phase III before the NSCN Coordinator has communicated with the data contributor about such a transition.
  3. Phase III, data release. Phase III data will be used to populate a database accessible to NSCN members via a link from the NSCN website. A subset of the Phase III data may also be considered by the NSCN Scientific Steering Group for broader release to the public. These ‘sampler data’ will also be accessible from the NSCN website, and are meant to encourage the recruitment and participation of new members. Contributors will be contacted for permission if their data is selected for this purpose.
Responsibilities pertaining to data contribution and management:
  • It is the responsibility of the data contributor to identify sites that are location sensitive.
  • It is the responsibility of database managers to earmark such sites, generalize their coordinates to 0.1 degree, and identify the data contributor in possession of the detailed coordinates.
  • It is the responsibility of data contributors to identify the data phase at the time of submission, and in the event of any data status changes (e.g., after the contributor has analyzed her/his data and the results have been accepted for publication)
  • It is the responsibility of database managers to release data according to data phase assignments.
For Data Users - Fair Use Guidelines

Use of Phase II and Phase III data assume that the user has joined the NSCN and will act according to the mission and guidelines stated in the Charter. When using site coordinates, it is not appropriate to reoccupy those locations without first contacting the data contributor in order to abide by land impact issues and by landowner and leasor rights and permissions. When interpreting data, it is intended that Phase II data are made available with the condition that contributors will be included in interpretations, presentations, and publications, if these tasks are being completed by a user other than the original contributor of the data (such as the contributor’s graduate student or the NSCN coordinator). Phase III data are made available on the condition that proper citation and acknowledgement of the data contributors and the NSCN are included in presentations and publications. References of all accepted papers must be sent to the NSCN Coordinator.

Although there are protocols to ensure data quality within the database, ultimately the assessment of accuracy and interpretation of the data are always the responsibility of the data user. Downloaded data cannot be redistributed to other publicly available databases in order to preserve a central and updated version of the database. All users must cite and acknowledge those contributors identified within the database in any scholarly product.

Citation guidelines
  1. Cite each NSCN Database report that you use to prepare your work. Example citation for your References section:National Soil Carbon Network, 2011. NSCN Database report: Profile Carbon to 1m Depth. < Browsing/SitePages/Carbonto1M.aspx>. Accessed 21 April 2011.
  2. If you use any of the USDA-NRCS Soil Survey data contained in the NSCN database, include this citation in your References, including the provided access date: Soil Survey Staff, 2011. National Cooperative Soil Characterization Data. Soil Survey Laboratory, National Soil Survey Center, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Lincoln, NE. <>. Accessed 11 January 2011.
  3. We recommend citing each contributor whose data you access via the NSCN database, using the citations provided by data contributors here. To determine which contributors provided the data you used, check the Site Names associated with the data that you used against the Site Names in the Site and Profile information report. That report is available here for National data and here for Alaska Deep Soil Carbon Project data. 
Acknowledgment guidelines

We request that you include the following text in your Acknowledgments:
  1. "This work was facilitated by the National Soil Carbon Network.”
  2. If you use USDA-NRCS Soil Survey and/or U.S. Geological Survey data, explicitly acknowledge these important data contributors with this text: "This work benefited from extensive data contributions to the National Soil Carbon Network from the (i) USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Cooperative Soil Survey, and (ii) the U.S. Geological Survey."
  3. If you use the NSCN database to access unpublished data from individual contributors (which will accordingly have no citation per #3 above), acknowledge those data contributors by name here. 
Your adherence to the above citation and acknowledgment recommendations is vital to the success of this effort.

Please notify NSCN Support of any current or pending products/publications you develop using the NSCN Database.
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