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Finding Data

With many data products and field sites to choose from, exploring NEON data may feel a bit overwhelming. There are two ways to get started:

Option 1: Type in what you are looking for in the search bar on the homepage of the data portal. You can search by any word or phrase of your choice, including by keyword, data product name, data product ID, year, site, or domain. Phrases that have more than one word should be surrounded by quotes, for example "biological temperature". Click Enter and the search will take you to a pre-filtered selection of data products (if the search term was found) in the Explore Data Products page.

Option 2: Navigate to the Explore Data Products page. Use the search bar and/or the filter options on the left side of the page to explore data products by search phrase or keyword, date range, availability, science team, location (site, state, domain), or theme. To reset your filters, click on the blue "Reset All Filters" button at the top left.

To learn more about any given data product, click on the Product Details button to the right of a data product name.

This chart shows whether data are available for any given spatial location for any given month. Gray represents that data are unavailable, and blue represents that at least some data are available. A blue box does not indicate that data are complete for that location/month combination. The default view, Summary, rolls up the availability of data across all sites. If data are available for at least one site for a given month, then the box at that month will appear blue. If the box is gray, there is no data available for that month at any site. If you click on the Site button, the graph will expand to show availablity for each site denoted by its four-letter abbreviation. Clicking on State or Domain will roll up availability similarly to the Summary view. For example, if State is chosen and there is a blue box available for a given month, then data are available at at least one site in that state for the month of interest.



Downloading Data

Once you have selected data of interest in the Explore Data Products page, click on the Download Data button. The interface will guide you through several steps to select sites and date range, which documentation files to include, and other data-product specific items. It will ask you to affirm that you agree to the Data Usage and Citation Policies, and show the estimated size of the data package you are requesting. When all steps are complete, you will be at the last step and will be able to click the Download Data button to start your download.

At this time, only one data product may be downloaded within a single data package, with the exception of the Bundled data products - eddy covariance. However, data from the entire possible date range and several sites for a specific data product can be downloaded in a single data package. Be careful to check the size of the data file you have requested - they can be rather large and take a long time to download.

There currently is no limit except for your patience. However, you may wish to check the size of your requested package before hitting the download button, as a package of many gigabytes could take a long time to download. If your request is much larger than you are comfortable with downloading, please contact us for help.



How Data Are Organized

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.

A data package is a zip file containing a collection of data and metadata files. This zipped data package is dynamically generated when you submit a query consisting of a data product, one or more sites, and a date range to the data portal.

Observational and instrumented data products (with the exception of eddy covariance data) are divided into many small files in the Comma Separated Values (CSV) format. Each file contains data for a single data product at one site over one month, and at an additional level of granularity.

For observational data products, the level of granularity is a type of data collection activity. For example, in the ground beetle trapping data, this includes individual tables for field data, sorting, initial identification, and later expert identification (if needed). A file containing metadata about data validation is also included.

For instrumented data products (except for eddy covariance), the level of granularity is the vertical and/or horizontal position of the sensor collecting the data. A single field site often has multiple sensors of the same type (for example, soil mosture sensors along an array), each at a different location.

Eddy covariance data are delivered in the Hierarchical Data Format (HDF5) as a 'bundle' of many data products that are not delivered individually. Similarly to other instrumented data products, each data file contains data for a single site and month. To learn more about this product, click on the links in this paragraph.

The Airborne Observation Platorm (AOP) only flies over each site once in a year. AOP data files are organized by data product and site (sometimes two sites if they are close to one another), and year of collection. The data portal and API allow for a more granular approach to downloading data files because files may be very large.

Each science subsystem (observational, instrumental, eddy covariance, and airborne) uses its own naming convention for data files. For more information about these conventions, visit the File Naming Conventions webpage.

For any of our observational or instrumented data products, we provide R and python tools to help you combine the files into tables you can easily use in your analyses. We provide a tutorial, Download and Explore NEON Data, which explains how to use our neonUtilities R package.



How Data Are Documented

First, check out the Document Library. This is a rich resource of many types of documents, including overarching science designs, site characterization reports, spatial data, protocols (both from NEON and external labs that NEON contracts work with), data processing documentation (also known as Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents, or ATBDs), and User Guides for observational data products. If you use any of these documents, please cite them as you would with any other publication.

Data packages may contain some of these documents, specific to the data product downloaded. Each data package also may contain a readme file, a machine-readable form of the readme file using the Ecological Metadata Language (EML) format, and a file that describes all of the variables available for the data product. Observational data products include a file that includes the validation rules used when ingesting the data.

Yes, we update our documentation as frequently as needed. In the Document Library, you will find a few subfolders called "Obsolete Protocols" and "Past Versions". Most of our documents use a lettering system for versioning, starting with "DRAFT", then vA, vB, etc. We also update readme files and EML files on an as-needed basis. Newer data packages may have updates to their readme and EML files that are not present in older data packages.

EML is a 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. 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. Our Data Tutorials section 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.

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.



How To Work With Downloaded Data

There are a number of resources available for training and self-learning about the different types of data that NEON provides. Check out the Resources link in the data portal's navigation menu!

You might also be interested in asking the NEON Science Community Forum.

You can also ask specific questions through the data portal Feedback page - your question will be routed to the science team relevant to the data product you select from a drop down list.

Most of the data that NEON has planned to collect are available within the expected latency period between data collection and publication. There are a few data products that aren't planned to be collected at a few sites until 2021 or 2022. Please check back or feel free to contact us for more information.



Policies For Using and Citing Data

Yes, please see our open NEON Data Usage and Citation Policy. This policy is subject to revision as needed.

We currently only provide unique identifiers for our Prototype Data. We are planning to provide unique identifiers, such as Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), for upcoming static releases of our standard data products. For more information, please see our Data Processing & Publication webpage.



About the 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.

Currently, the NEON API will return information about NEON data products and research locations through the /products and /sites or /locations endpoints, currently. Results 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. The /data endpoint will return individual data files.

Instructions on how to construct a URL, as well as a tool to build URLs to your specifications, are on NEON's API page. There are some examples on our GitHub repository, neon-data-api, and our R package neonUtilities (which also has a python wrapper) makes using the API a snap. neonUtilities can be downloaded from CRAN or from GitHub. Also check out our Download and Explore NEON Data and Using the NEON API in R tutorials.

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.

We would be thrilled to learn about what you build using the API. Check our Code Resources webpage for more details.



NEON Data Portal Accounts

No, you don't, but logging in can provide numerous benefits for you and for NEON. Please learn more about Data Portal User Accounts.

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.

It's free and easy! Just click on the Sign In button on the top right of the data portal home page and fill out the form. Learn more at the Data Portal User Accounts webpage.

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.