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Data Use Policies

What are Data Use Policies

data-chart A dataset is considered to consist of data resulting from a single research project. A dataset is considered to be incomplete without accompanying documentation (metadata) that provides all information necessary to evaluate the quality of the data and to make use of it in future research activities.

Publication of a dataset is to make it available to the broader research community.

Classes of Data

Public Data

Most CAP LTER datasets generated by LTER-sponsored projects will fall into this category including:

  • All long-term monitoring data associated with core research areas
  • All metadata documentation for all LTER data (including restricted datasets)

Restricted Data

Restricted data are exceptional datasets that are available only with permission from the PI/investigator(s). These are rare in occurrence and justification for restrictions will be well documented by the lead PI and site data manager.

  • Datasets generated by thesis research of graduate students who may not be held responsible for the above policy for publication of data
  • Datasets in which some or all of the data are subject to copyright restrictions imposed by non-LTER institutions

Timetable for Release of Data

Public Data

These data will be documented and made freely available within a reasonable time after collection. The target time frame for public datasets will be generally two years. Some datasets will require more effort than others to be prepared and thus may be expected to take longer. A target release data will be specified in the project research design.

Restricted Data

The terms and time table for publication of restricted data will be stated in the research design for the individual project. Exceptions to the time table for public data will be noted and justified. Metadata descriptions for these data are treated as public data subject to flexible timetables.

Media and Format for Release of LTER Data


Access to documented datasets are provided on the CAP website and NSF-approved data repositories (e.g., , ).

Certain datasets, such as those that exceed the file-size capacity of the data repository, may be compiled and released on physical media or through a file-transfer service (e.g., Dropbox).

Guidelines for Acceptable Use of LTER Data

  • While CAP LTER will make every effort possible to control and document the quality of the data it publishes, the data are made available “as is.” CAP LTER cannot assume responsibility for damages resulting from misuse or misinterpretation of datasets or from errors or omissions that may exist in the data.
  • It is considered a matter of professional ethics to acknowledge the work of other scientists that has resulted in data used in subsequent research. CAP LTER expects that any use of project data will be accompanied with the appropriate citations and acknowledgments.
  • CAP LTER encourages users to contact the original investigator responsible for the data that they are accessing. Where appropriate, researchers whose projects are integrally dependent on CAP LTER data are encouraged to consider collaboration and/or co-authorship with original investigators.
  • CAP LTER requests that users apprise the project of any syntheses or publications resulting from the use of CAP LTER data.
  • CAP LTER requests that users not redistribute data obtained from this site. However, links or references to this site may be freely posted.