Guide for SERC Data Table of Contents

The SERC Data Table of Contents provides one means of recording and presenting "metadata", or the information about the data. The table is filled with the basic information researchers inside and outside of SERC need to know to utilize our data sets.

The table's fields are listed and explained below.

data set or series name:

Used for related data files or data files should not be separated; examples include data files which measure the same parameters over several years or GIS files which support each other.


The exact name of the file or an example of the file name with "wild cards". (substitute characters) Examples are "yourdata.xls" or "avgsolarYYMMDD.dat".


Pertinent words which a search engine might use to key in to the contents of your data. Separate them with a comma. Use specific terms most useful for your discipline.


The researcher(s) responsible for the project or lab that produced the data. List last name first and separate individuals with comma. For example: "Higman D., Smith A."

file format:

File formats convey the form in which data resides or can be best analyzed: examples would be "ascii text", "Quattro Pro *.wq1", or "ARC/Info polygon coverage".


The type of computer on which the data was formatted. If the data was formatted in Excel on a Mac but is now stored on the VAX, the platform would be "Mac"; if it is a SAS data set produced on the VAX but archived to CD-W, the platform is "VAX".

study site locale

The location where the samples were collected or where the sensors were located . Include, where appropriate, the station number, a named geographic feature, the name of the natural preserve, the nearest population center, the state, and country. Separate each group by a comma. For example: "stations 1a and 2a, Rhode River, Edgewater, MD"

yr./mo./date beg.

The beginning of the data sampling period recorded in the file or file series. This can reflect either when the sample was taken or the sensors were brought on line. Record this as a number in the format of YYYYMMDD so that the dates can be easily sorted or searched. For example, June 13, 1985 would be "19850613"; December 30, 2000 would be "20001230".


This notes whether data is still being added to the file or to the series of files (whichever was indicated in the first two fields). A simple "yes" or "no" will suffice here.

yr./mo./date end

The ending of the data sampling period recorded within the file or file series. Record this as a number in the format of YYYYMMDD so that the dates can be easily sorted or searched. For example, June 13, 1985 would be "19850613"; December 30, 2000 would be "20001230".  If data collection is still ongoing, leave this field blank.

meas. freq.

A rough indication of how frequently samples are taken or observations are made. This frequency reflects how the data is recorded in the file(s): some sensors record continuously but output hourly averages; the measurement frequency would be "hourly" or "hourly averages", not "continuous". Possible values are "yearly", "monthly", "weekly", "daily", "continuous", "12 hrs.", "30 min." , "occasional"; add "averages" if applicable.

site size

An approximate indication of the study site or plot size, if applicable. Include units such as "sq. meters" and "hectares".

# of stations

If the data records observations from several distinct sampling points, this is reflected in the number of stations. If a variable number of stations are visited, simply enter the highest number of stations visited. This is a flexible field that could apply to points on a grid, number of replicate plots, a number of aquarium tanks, or whatever the experimental design measured over a discrete period. Add the units of measurement if applicable; it would also be helpful to mention the details in the "abstract" section of the Data Table of Contents.

west long., east long., north lat., south lat.

The longitude and latitude of the study site. If a point site, enter the same values for east and west longitude and for north and south latitude. If the site is a polygon, fill in the approximate values for the appropriate sides. Be clear as to whether the longitude is east (negative value) or west (positive value) of the Greenwich line and likewise north (positive) or south (negative) of the equator. Latitude and longitude measurements should be recorded in decimal degrees.   For example, SERC is located at approximately  -76 d 33 m longitude and 38 d 52 m latitude; in decimal format this would be -76.55 latitude and 38.87 longitude.


< p> A listing of what the file contains. Depending on how many parameters your file contains, you may choose to omit such details "station", "date", "time", or "channel number". Include the parameters that will enable users to determine the contents of the data file and not necessarily its full structure. Put a comma between each of the parameters.   Be sure to include the units of measure for the data field.  For example "wind direction (Degrees), wind velocity (km/hr), temperature (degrees C)."  


current sharing status

The conditions under which the data is currently available to users outside of SERC. Possible choices may include:

not available: data not available because it is in active analysis for publication

available to collaborators: available through a formal collaboration arrangement

available w/ permission: no collaboration necessary but permission is needed

freely available: data available for anonymous retrieval via ftp or web download

current advertising status

The current venue where the presence of the data is or has been given. This advertising can be implied, as in analyzed information in a journal, lecture, or poster. The advertising can also be explicit, as in a metadata entry on the SERC web site or in a national data clearinghouse. Possible choices may include:

scientific publications

general publications: includes "popular" magazines, newspapers


poster: such as a poster session at a conference

SERC intra web: the site of the entire Data Table of Contents

SERC www site: the site of an abstracted Data Table of Contents, subject to the current sharing status

data clearinghouse: advertising via the USGS's National Biological Information Infrastructure or NASA's Global Change Master Directory

abstract, reference article, or location of additional documentation

This is a free text field in which the data and/or its project are briefly described. Include any information which will help the end user to better appreciate the contents of the data file.

additional documentation / reference article

If a published work that refers to this data will aid the user, list it here. Likewise, if there is unpublished documentation in paper or electronic form, include its location here as well.