Data Distribution Checklist

Before you start… Do you have a data management plan (DMP)?

Whether you are going to submit a proposal to a funding agency or you happen to be in possession of a handful of data (or a computer model, scientific software, etc) that you want to preserve and distribute, you need a plan that lays out how you are going to accomplish this. What kind of data are they? How are you going to organize them? Will you be serving them to the community? Where will they be stored? How are you planning on backing them up? For helpful guidance on how create a data management plan, check out this resource by the Digital Assets Services Hub (DASH).

Ideally, this step takes place at the proposal level, before you generate your digital asset. However, we know there are many (already existing) digital assets out there that need an appropriate home and an efficient way for serving them to the community. So please keep reading for advice on how to proceed.

What should the main considerations be?

Here are some very basic guidelines for how to organize your data in a way that allows you to better manage, use, share and advertise them.

  • Data format: choose a data format that is adequate for your data asset and that meets your community’s standards. Self-descriptive file types are preferred (such as NetCDF or HDF).

  • Organize your data: choose descriptive filenames with filename extensions that reflect the data format. Organize the data in a logical directory structure that is consistent and machine searchable.
  • Metadata: create metadata that describe the what, when, why, who, where and how of your data. Metadata should be consistent, digital, written for people such that computers are happy. Metadata should be linked or embedded into your data. 

How do I make my digital asset publicly available?

The first thing you need to do is to store your data in a repository that is reliable and accessible from a web server. This means that your portable hard drive or your laptop are not adequate storage locations. You should also make sure you have a plan to back up your data. Both HAO and NCAR offer ways to guarantee the mid- or long-term storage of your digital asset and make it publicly available:

If you would like to save your digital asset into an NCAR-managed repository, you will need to submit a request through the DASH system (follow the instructions in: this link). Ideally, this would be done at proposal stage, before the digital asset is generated, so that the DASH team can help you put together an appropriate budget for the task.

Whether your dataset does not meet the requirements for storage on and NCAR-managed repository, or if simply it makes more sense to keep it on an HAO server, please contact Mike Galloy ( or Rebecca Centeno (

Whatever the path, once you have your dataset, you will need a few things to go along with it:

  1. You will need a DOI (Digital Object Identifier, this is a unique locator and identifier that will always point to the landing page of your data). Please get in touch with Mike Galloy ( for this.

  2. You will need a landing page, this is, a url from which users can access information about your data and the data themselves. For this purpose, you will work with Don Kolinski ( or Wendy Hawkins ( Bear in mind that a landing page should contain the appropriate documentation that describes your data asset and the processing pipeline, as well as pointers to any available software to manipulate, visualize or further process your data. You should be ready to provide this information to Don or Wendy.
  3. You will need an appropriate metadata entry for your dataset, so that it can become discoverable through Mike Galloy ( or Rebecca Centeno ( will help you with this step.

Before you initiate this process please make sure you have the most important information about your dataset at hand:

  • Creator
  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Publisher (NCAR standard compliant)
  • Publication Year
  • Resource Type (drop down menu)
  • Dataset Description
  • HAO contact person
  • Data Rights (copyright, creative commons, proprietary phase, ITAR compliant...)
  • What is the expected lifetime of your data?
  • Do you need storage space for your data?