Use of the KBS LTER site for research activity normally entails a commitment to submit data. Base data and associated metadata are submitted in a timely manner to the LTER office of information management, and are subsequently made available to the public, in accordance with the expectations of the National Science Foundation and the LTER community.

The purpose of a formal data submission is to protect research investment. Peer-reviewed journals typically have space only for brief summaries of methods and data; other significant details, including the underlying data itself, are often lost within a short period following publication. However, data that is thoroughly documented elsewhere may be useful in unanticipated ways, even many years after publication. Data submission is an important part of resource stewardship — especially in fields like Ecology, where many experiments are inherently unrepeatable.

The KBS LTER is committed to providing participating researchers with a venue for archiving and exposing data in a professional manner. Guidelines are provided below to help researchers take fullest advantage of the KBS LTER Information Management System. Researchers completing a data submission plan on a SURF have the convenience of citing these guidelines (including version number). Sample text: “Data will be submitted in accordance with the Data Submission Guidelines (version n).” The researcher should detail any exceptions as necessary.


  1. Format. All data should be submitted in a digital form. Memory Sticks or CD’s readable on a PC or Macintosh are currently supported. Smaller data sets can be submitted as email attachments to the LTER information manager.
  2. Data types. Data and metadata should be formatted to a supported type.
    • Tables. Each table should be a simple row-by-column matrix. Normally all cells should be filled. The first row can be used for column labels. The meaning of column labels should be represented in a companion table, together with measurement units (if any) and more formal column definitions or notes (if any).
    • Text. Descriptive text with simple formatting is supported. Generally, the formatting categories are those recognized by most journals: section headings, paragraphs, italics, subscripts and superscripts, ordered and unordered lists. Underlining is discouraged in favor of italics. Bold is discouraged, unless used to distinguish section headings.
    • Images. Web-viewable images are supported, e.g. *.jpg and *.gif.
  3. Scope. The expectation for data submission is generally limited to base data and associated metadata (documentation). Base data is a record of underlying observations, as free as possible from interpretive assumptions. The results of exploratory or formal data analysis should not be submitted; any analysis reported in a publication ought to be verifiable from the submitted base data. Transformed data may be substituted for original observations only if the transformation is straight-forward, conventional, and facilitates efficient reporting.
  4. Categories of Metadata.
    • Personnel. Please identify people involved in the research, and state their role. Please provide surname, given name, middle name (or initial), friendly name (optional), organizational affiliation (e.g. MSU), sub-organization (e.g. department), street address, city, locale (e.g. state), country, postal code, phone, fax, email, and personal hyperlink (if available).
    • Dataset. Please provide a title for this dataset, an abstract, begin/end dates for research, and keywords.
    • Tables. For each table, please provide a title, a description, and any comments about the table that are not part of its description (caveats, etc.).
    • Variates. For each column of each table, please provide a label (no spaces, as used on the table), a description (unformatted text), a missing value indicator, units of measurement, and the precision (i.e., resolution of the measuring device or procedure; expressed in the same units as the data column itself).
    • Images. For each image, please provide a description (caption) and photo credit information.
    • Methods¬†is a report of research activity, which may cite standardized procedures for conducting research activity (a protocol).¬†Methods may consist in part of a digital log of field activity, optionally presented as a table (with columns: date, author, entry). Normally, a dataset includes one or more text-based methods documents, similar in content to the methods section of a peer-reviewed publication. For each such document, provide a title, an author, a date, and a short abstract. Include in your methods a section describing how data was processed, if applicable.
    • Protocols. A protocol (standard method) is a set of instructions for conducting research activity. Occasionally researchers develop custom protocols for a particular project. Protocols simplify the reporting of methods in part by eliminating redundancy. Please document each protocol cited in ‘Methods’. Provide a title, a description or citation, an abstract, and author, and an authorship date. For long term projects, involving the revision of protocols, please provide a version number, a period-in-use, and a summary of changes since the previous version (if not the first).
    • Citations. Please provide complete citations for any publications arising from this research.
    • Themes. Please classify your dataset under one or more of the following: agronomics, animals, ecosystem processes, microbes, plants, research context, soil properties, and/or weather.


If your data involves special considerations not addressed above, please work closely with the LTER information manager to draft a more specialized data submission plan.