What is the best way to publish our ecological datasets  (tree stem maps, computer vision 3D point clouds, canopy height maps, photo sets, etc.) to the web so that the data is accessible and citable?

This question comes up almost weekly in our lab meetings. This summer, it is one of my goals as an Ecosynth RA to identify the best way (or at least a very good way!) for us to publish our various datasets online that achieve two main goals: 1) make the data easily accessible to those groups that would be interested in using it and 2) make it so that our data is easily citable, and including a universal index like a digital object identifier (DOI).  

I was driven to write this post and explore the question further after seeing a publication notice for an article in PLOS ONE: The EcoData Retriever: Improving Access to Existing Ecological Data.  The EcoData Retriever needs to be installed and requires the user to download a set of indexed data libraries that are organized based on various high-level traits like 'biome', 'taxon', 'data type', and 'spatial scale'.  The current set of datasets is somewhat limited at this time, but the paper was just published and I am sure that more data will be indexed and organized into the system.

The article also pointed me to other data distribution systems, including the Dryad Digital Repository.  Dryad is a non-profit organization that provides DOI indexed and searchable ecological datasets for free to anyone, and supports itself through up-front per data package submission fees ($80 per data package up to 10GB), and other revenue sources.

I will be exploring the question further and welcome any suggestions from the community!


Morris BD, White EP (2013) The EcoData Retriever: Improving Access to Existing Ecological Data. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65848.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065848

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