Guidelines for different data types

We encourage the great variety of data submitters to adopt the common formats for metadata and data with the existing marine community practices and make use of these common standards for their data packages submissions. This will enable the easiest integration of their data sets into the current data systems and make them re-usable. We summarize below these basic data management guidelines used by the marine community.

International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange:
The main objective of the programme "International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange" (IODE) of the "Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission" (IOC) is to facilitate the exchange of oceanographic data and information between participating Member States. For that purpose, IODE maintains the IODE Ocean Data Practices repository that is a data and information management of best practices repository of community practices that enables those who are going to embark on a new project and need to prepare a data management plan, to look for methodology already used by other projects or data/information centres (“best practices”).

ICES Marine Data:
The ICES Data Centre accepts a wide variety of marine data and meta-data types into its databases that are used in various assessments for expert groups and regional sea conventions. In order to ensure comparable data with high quality, guidelines have been developed and adopted specific to the type of data and whether it is associated with a marine convention monitoring programme. Each guideline addresses the data and metadata requirements of a specific data type, targeted toward physical-chemical-biological data types collected on oceanographic research vessel cruises. They cover three main areas:

  • What the data collector should provide to the data centre (e.g. collection information, processing, etc)
  • How the data centre handles data supplied (e.g. value added, quality control, etc)
  • What the data centre can provide in terms of data, referral services and expertise back to the data collector

The ICES guidelines can be accessed here.

SeaDataNet marine and oceanographic data standards:
SeaDataNet maintains and operates a Pan-European data management infrastructure for marine and oceanographic data and provides metadata discovery and data access services to the data holdings of a distributed network of more than 100 connected marine data centres from 35 countries. Specific data file formats have been developed and used for data exchange:

  • SeaDataNet ODV4 ASCII for profiles, time series and trajectories,
  • SeaDataNet NetCDF with CF compliance for profiles, time series and trajectories,
  • SeaDataNet MedAtlas as optional extra format,
  • NetCDF with CF compliance for 3D observation data such as ADCP.

Manuals and guidelines on the data transport formats can be found here. In addition, available options and methods to connect to the infrastructure and contribute to the its metadata discovery system can be found here.

EMODnet Chemistry - European Marine Litter database and formats:
EMODnet Chemistry has built and is maintaining the first pan European Marine Litter Database (MLDB). The MLDB stores and validates observation data sets for Beach Litter and Sea Floor Litter. The associated data formats, vocabularies and classifications have been formulated, following the advice of the MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter. The data entries are retrieved from a variety of sources, including Regional Sea Conventions, EU Member States, EMODnet partners and a number of research or monitoring projects. A majority of data sets originates from monitoring projects (e.g. by OSPAR and ICES DATRAS).

The MLDB is a great step forwards in the gathering and harmonizing of Marine Litter data at European level. The MLDB has been actively used by EU JRC to compute EU Marine Beach Litter Baselines and EU Marine Beach Litter Thresholds. The MLDB is also used to generate derived data products, such as EMODnet Chemistry Marine Litter maps, which are published at the EMODnet Chemistry portal, and to monitor Marine Litter in and along European seas.

In addition to the MLDB, EMODnet Chemistry gathers, manages, and publishes data of Floating Micro Litter, which are retrieved from EMODnet partners and research projects.

The Marine Litter guidelines for gathering and formatting Marine Litter data (beach litter, sea floor litter, micro litter) are listed here.

All gathered Marine Litter data sets are made accessible through the CDI Data Discovery and Access service at EMODnet Chemistry. The data are available for downloading in the EMODnet Chemistry formats, depending on the specific sharing policy (public / restricted) applied by the originator.

Reporting on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) information by Member States:
EU DG-MARE aims at building an EU-wide dataset on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), that will be published and made available at the EMODnet Human Activities portal. The data set will represent the marine spatial plans adopted by the Member States following the Directive 2014/89/EU. This requires gathering of information on national MSP plans. Therefore, Member States are encouraged to make use of the Submission service of EMODnet Ingestion for submitting their information. The following Guidance Document gives further information on the procedure and advised data model for submission.  

European Ocean Biogeographic Information System (EurOBIS):
The European Ocean Biogeographic Information System – EurOBIS – is an online marine biogeographic database compiling data on all living marine creatures. The principle aims of EurOBIS are to centralize the largely scattered biogeographic data on marine species collected by European institutions and to make these data freely available and easily accessible. Integration and quality control of biogeographical data from many different sources requires a minimum of standardization and quality control before sound and useful integration becomes possible. EurOBIS follows a number of international standards and runs a number of quality control procedures on each received dataset, in order to be able to estimate the quality of the provided data and to define the fitness for purpose of the data for our various users. A basic overview of the standards and basic quality control (QC) procedures and standards can be found here.
Data can be submitted using different data formats. The accepted data formats are:

  • Excel spreadsheet (.xls, .xlsx)
  • Access database (.mdb, .accdb)
  • Comma/tab separated values (.csv)
  • Text file (.txt)

More on the EurOBIS data formats can be found here.

Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN):
MEDIN is a partnership of UK organisations committed to improving access to marine data and easier data sharing. MEDIN Data Guidelines provide a list of information that should be collected with the data to ensure they can be re-used in the future. The guidelines are tailored to different methods and are arranged by theme aiming to improve interoperability between organizations by providing a format which can be used to import and export data.

The MEDIN data guidelines including details of formats can be found here. Please note that the guidelines are currently being updated.

MEDIN Submission guidelines for geology, geophysics and backscatter can be found here. For geosciences and elated disciplines data information on how to deposit data at the NERC National Geoscience Data Centre (NGDC) can be found here.

International Hydrographic Organization (IHO):
Standardisation of hydrographic methods and the provision of information is a fundamental part of achieving the IHO objectives. The Organization began developing standards and guidelines intended for use by the wide community of professionals with responsibilities in the fields of hydrography, nautical cartography, safety of navigation and related matters.

IHO standards are compiled and maintained by various Working Groups made up of volunteer representatives from IHO Member States (usually from HOs), together with expert contributors representing industry and the various other stakeholder groups. Standards must be authorised by a majority of IHO Member States before they can enter into force.

A list of the IHO standards can be found here.