Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions


If you are having a problem with this site that is not answered by these questions then please use the feedback form to let us know.

NEON Data Portal Accounts #

Do I need an account or login to download NEON data? #

No. While we highly recommend that you download data while logged in, you can use the Data Portal and download NEON data without an account.

Why create an account? #

 Creating an account gives you the ability to:

  • Save, edit, and retrieve searches in your My Datasets page
  • Download larger data packages

What will you do with my information? #

We will never give or sell your email address or other personal information to anyone. We have an obligation to record and report user demographic information and general data portal activity to NEON's sole funder, the National Science Foundation. We may use your anonymized account information to help us develop data portal usage metrics and to improve the quality of data portal services for all users. See Privacy Policy.

How do I get an account? #

It's free and easy! Just click on the Sign In link in the header area then click on the Create Account link at the bottom of that page. Fill out the form and click the Create Account button.

How do I change my personal information? #

When you have signed in, a My Account link will appear next to the Sign In link in the header area. Click on the link and you will be taken to the My Account screen where you can update your personal profile.

Exploring and Downloading NEON Data on the Portal #

What is a data product? #

NEON measures a diverse suite of biological, physical, chemical and ecological characteristics at field sites across the continent. NEON data are sent to headquarters after site construction is complete and data collection begins. The Observatory processes these measurements to derive standard, quality-assured data products that support greater understanding of complex ecological processes at local, regional and continental scales. Available NEON data, supporting metadata, science designs, data collection documentation and data processing documentation are accessible through the NEON Data Portal.

For more information, please visit the Data Processing webpage on the NEON web portal.

What is a data package? #

A data package is a collection of files all related to the same data product that you requested in your query. A data package typically includes one or more data files, one or more variable files that define the column names in the data files, the data policy, and a readme file that contains a list or manifest of all the files in the package, as well as some information about the data package. The data package may also include relevant documentation (e.g., protocols, science designs, algorithm documents) or metadata files (EML or README) files if you choose them in the configure dataset panel. The files are bundled into a single .zip file for download.

Data file formats within the zip package are Comma Separated Values (CSV) for most observational and instrumental datasets. The first line always contains the column names, which are further defined (name, definition, unit, and data type) in files that contain 'variables' in the file name. NEON's eddy covariance system and airborne observation platform organize and distribute data in Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) files. HDF is a self-describing compressed format that contains numerous data tables, data stream definitions, and metadata. We currently use version 5 (HDF5, or H5). More information about HDF and tools to work with HDF files can be obtained from The HDF Group.

How do I find data from the Data Portal Home Page? #

From the data portal's home page you can explore data by entering keywords into the top search bar, by theme by clicking on any of the theme icons, or by location using the map at the bottom of the page. There are other options under the Browse Data tab.

How do I find data from the Data Portal Select Data Page? #

  • Select a time range by choosing from the drop-down list, or customize the time range by selecting a start year and month and an end year and month. At this time, we do not support data browsing by a time span of less than one month.
  • Select one or more locations - choose state or domain, then click on the state or domain of interest. To find particular sites, click on the arrow next to a state or domain and a drop down list of sites will appear. You may choose multiple sites.
  • Select one or more data products by theme, or click the arrow next to a theme and a drop down list of data products will appear. You may choose multiple data products.

When selections have been made for all three sections, a graphic will appear to the right that indicates data availability for the chosen set of time range, sites, and data products. Changes to the selections can be made at any time, or be cleared entirely by clicking on the “clear all filters” link at the top of the sidebar.

What does the Available Datasets graphic represent? #

A horizontal bar will appear for each data product selected, followed by 12 square boxes. Each box represents one month as indicated by the time axis along the top. If data are available for all of the selected sites for a given month, the box will be solid green. If data exist for the data product but not for all sites that were selected, the box will be filled with green diagonal lines. If the box is clear, then no data are available for the data product at any of the selected sites for the month that the box represents. A green triangle to the right or left of the 12 boxes indicates available data in another part of the total available time range. Click on this arrow to move the time frame.

How do I download data? #

Click on the Configure Dataset button. A set of informational links, including basic information about the data product and the number of sites that have the data you requested, will be displayed. A menu of data package configuration options will also be displayed. Hover your mouse over each underlined phrase to get a tooltip with more information. Select your options and click the Download Dataset button. A bar will appear at the top of the Browse Data page. This will give you some information about the data you requested, as well as a ‘Processing’ message and a spinning icon. When the data package has been generated and is ready for download, a Download button will appear. Large datasets can take several minutes or more to be generated; if you are logged in, you can do something else and return to your ‘My Data’ page to download it later.

Can I download more than one data product within a single data package? #

At this time, only one data product may be downloaded within a single data package. However, data from the entire possible date range and several sites for a specific data product can be downloaded in a single data package provided that the package is within the download limit.

Why are some data being reprocessed? #

In addition to improving the functionality of the data portal, NEON is also reprocessing provisional data into science-grade data products. Reprocessing will occur on all data collected between 2012 and March 31, 2015 from terrestrial instrumented systems. Once these data are reprocessed they will be added to the data portal.

When will all of NEON's planned data products be available? #

NEON is currently in construction; new sites and new data products will become available incrementally through the end of 2017. Please check back frequently! See the Information for Researchers page for more general information, or Field Sites for more specific construction status updates.

Exploring and Downloading NEON Data with the API #

What is an API? #

If you are unfamiliar with an API, think of it as a 'middleperson' that provides a communication path for a software application to obtain information from a digital data source. APIs are becoming a very common means of sharing digital information. Many of the apps that you use on your computer or mobile device to produce maps, charts, reports, and other useful forms of information pull data from multiple sources using APIs. In the ecological and environmental sciences, many researchers use APIs to programmatically query and obtain data for their analyses.

What information can I get if I use the API? #

Currently, the NEON API will return information about NEON data products and research locations, as well as data. Data are returned in a common machine-readable format, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). Many software packages, like R, have add-ons that help translate JSON into other formats.

How do I use the API? #

Instructions on how to construct a URL, as well as a tool to build URLs to your specifications, are on the data API page. There are some examples on our GitHub repository, neon-data-api, and rOpenSci is developing an R package, nneo. NEON is also planning to build tutorials and examples and host these from the NEON Work With Data webpage, as well as host future workshops.

Can I participate in API development?  #

Absolutely! We provide information, code examples, and an issue-tracking tool via NEON’s GitHub account, in the neon-data-api repository. We appreciate feedback and examples of how you are using the API.

Can I share code and apps that I build using the NEON API? #

We would be thrilled to learn about what you build using the API. Let us know how to link to your online example and we may choose to link to it from our GitHub repository.

Data Documentation #

When I view some of the documents in the Document Library there are strange characters. Are the documents bad? #

No. When you download them to your computer and view them with a good PDF viewer you will see those characters properly. The problem is just that some of the scientific characters do not display properly in the browser.

What is EML? #

EML stands for Ecological Metadata Language. It is widely used, community supported XML schema that supports rich documentation of data related to ecological research, particularly including environmental, ecological, and earth science data. It is supported by The Knowledge Network for Biodiversity (KNB); more information may be found here. The EML available at this time is NEON’s first implementation of the schema and will continue to be improved during NEON’s construction period. EML is valuable for batch-processing or integrating many data packages. KNB provides a stand-alone software package, Morpho, for generating EML-documented data packages. The eml package for reading and writing EML is available from rOpenSci, a community-driven organization that develops and provides free and open-source tools. NEON’s Work With Data set of tutorials includes Time Series 01: Why Metadata Are Important: How to Work with Metadata in Text & EML Format as well as numerous tutorials about R, python, and data.