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Archiving Data for Paleoceanography

Kenneth G. Miller
Editor, Paleoceanography
Department of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey

The rapid expansion of the science of paleoceanography was fostered by the free international exchange of samples and data. Much of paleoceanography is based on the analyses of deep-sea sediment cores. Core repositories such as at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Florida State’s Antarctic Research Facility, and the Deep Sea Drilling Project/Ocean Drilling Program (DSDP/ODP) provided material to investigators throughout the world. From the days of CLIMAP and early phases of DSDP, international exchange of samples and data became routine, and publications ensured a place for the large data sets. As paleoceanographers, we have progressed because this free exchange of samples and data has resulted in a geometrical expansion of ideas.

We now are at a critical juncture in publishing ever-larger data sets. Limited publication space cannot be used to publish large data tables, yet the data are often the most long- lasting contribution of a publication. In realizing this, AGU has drafted a policy on archiving data for their publications. The policy is intended to encourage authors to deposit data for accessibility in the future. Once this has been formally adopted, AGU will (1) encourage that all data cited in AGU publications be permanently archived in a data center that is open to scientists throughout the world, (2) discourage data sets to be published that will be made available only from the author or institutions that are not chartered specifically for archiving data, (3) encourage authors to include brief data sections in their papers that allow others to evaluate and access the data.

As AGU begins the requisite discussion and evaluation of this new policy (which in draft form encompasses 4 pages of text), I want to implement this policy for this journal. As Editor, I am committed to making every piece of data presented or discussed in Paleoceanography publicly available.

We will continue to publish smaller data sets as tables in Paleoceanography. When the data tables begin to exceed 2-4 pages of published text (~8-16 double spaced manuscript text), the authors should consider another venue for providing the data. In the case of intermediate-sized sets (5-10 published pages), AGU offers a supplemental data handling service. Until recently this service has been almost exclusively a microfiche service. Today AGU is providing an electronic service and is prepared to accept and make available small and intermediate data sets or supplementary information submitted with a paper. All supplementary data will be subject to review with the paper. In cases of large data sets, a representative sample may be submitted for review purposes.

With the anticipated opening of the information superhighway, and in particular the access to Internet, there is a better solution offered to all paleoceanographers. The World Data Center (WDC) for Paleoclimatology, at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) NOAA Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder, Colorado, USA, offers international access via diskettes or on-line anonymous FTP of data in a digital format. Archiving digital data at the WDC provides an opportunity for our field to continue the exchange of the fruits of our labors in an international forum. The following guest editorial by David Anderson, Jonathan Overpeck, and Robert Webb outlines the history and philosophy of WDC and provides detailed instructions for uploading and downloading data from the center. I encourage all authors of Paleoceanography papers to archive digital copies of their data at the WDC for Paleoclimatology and all readers to access these data from the center. If you have any questions on using the center, I encourage you to contact David Anderson or his co-authors: they are genuinely interested in opening this segment of the toll-free information superhighway to paleoceanographers and paleoclimatologists.

Miller, K.G. 1994. Editorial: Archiving data for Paleoceanography. Paleoceanography 9:389.