Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Ag Data Commons?
The Ag Data Commons provides access to a wide variety of open data relevant to agricultural research. We are a centralized registry for data already on the web, as well as a repository for new data being published for the first time. While compliance with the U.S. Federal public access and open data directives is important, we aim to surpass them. Our goal is that the Ag Data Commons will foster innovative data re-use, integration, and visualization to support bigger, better science and policy. In terms of the impetus behind the Ag Data Commons, Associate USDA ARS Administrator Dr. Simon Liu recognized the need for this type of data catalog and started this project to fulfill mandates to make data available, and also to provide metadata to data.gov among others. Ideally we take the rawest data available.
What does it contain?
The Ag Data Commons hosts datasets, databases, and multimedia, as well as the documentation explaining these data products. These data are open, meaning they can be re-used free of charge and with few or no restrictions. If there are any restrictions on a dataset’s re-use (such as a requirement for attribution), these will be made explicit in the “License” and “Public Access Level” fields of the Ag Data Commons record. If data are being re-used, we strongly encourage appropriate citation of the original research as well as the Ag Data Commons record.
Data files on the Ag Data Commons are made available via direct download, or as a pointer to an external link. Data is hosted in the form in which it is submitted to the Ag Data Common. Most of the data on the Ag Data Commons was generated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and university researchers with USDA funding support. Datasets and tools are often associated with scholarly publications, but association with scholarly publications is also not a requirement for submitting to the Ag Data Common.
What subjects are covered?
The Ag Data Commons includes resources from a wide range of research domains related to agriculture. Some examples are agronomy, genomics, hydrology, soils, agroecosystems, sustainability, science, and economic statistics.
What about software?
We request people deposit software code in a trusted version control repository such as GitHub, and provide a link to that or a hosted version elsewhere.
Do I need to be registered/logged in to view or download data?
No, in line with new federal guidelines to take away barriers to data access, you do not have to be registered to download data. You can access all published data without having an Ag Data Commons account. If you wish to submit data to the repository, you will need to create an account. See below for more information.
Should I register for an Ag Data Commons account?
You should request an Ag Data Commons account if you wish to submit data to the repository. To be eligible, you must be a credentialed researcher and receive USDA funding. As the Ag Data Commons grows, we will consider expanding to include submissions from externally-funded researchers.
To register for an account, select the Register link in the upper right corner of the homepage. The Ag Data Commons curators will then review your account request. Once we have approved your request you will receive an email with a link to your account.
How can I add my own data to the Ag Data Commons?
Currently, credentialed researchers with USDA funding are invited to register for an account on the Ag Data Commons. When you log in you will use the "Submit Data" button to get the submission form.
Do you have a policy on what type of data documentation you prefer (data dictionaries, README, etc.)?
We currently publish datasets without a data dictionary or README but strongly encourage it. We provide guidance on preparing data dictionaries according to some more typical requirements in the submission manual, and we can also provide assistance with data dictionaries. We try to accommodate all standards that make sense for particular disciplines.
What features does the Ag Data Commons have?
The Ag Data Commons includes robust metadata, most of which is compatible with Project Open Data. We use keywords from the National Agricultural Library Thesaurus, and from a customized Ag Data Commons vocabulary. Our metadata provide rich descriptions to support searching and browsing, making it easier for users to find the resources they are looking for.
Users can preview some data types from within the Ag Data Commons. Most datasets have a Digital Object Identifier, which is a persistent ID that is stable even if the location of the data changes over time. You can request new features by contacting email@example.com.
What software does it use?
The Ag Data Commons is built with DKAN, which combines Drupal functionality with open source CKAN-like features.
How can I download data?
If the data are stored in the Ag Data Commons as a downloadable file, you will see a download icon . Click that icon to download the data. If the data are stored outside the Ag Data Common, follow the link provided to download data from an external site.
How can I obtain metadata or data in other ways?
Computer applications can access most Ag Data Commons metadata as JSON and RDF. Most fields are compatible with DCAT, an RDF vocabulary designed to facilitate interoperability between data catalogs published on the web. A full, machine readable set of catalog contents conforming to Project Open Data Schema 1.1 (designed for https://data.gov) is available at https://data.nal.usda.gov/data.json.
Has USDA / ARS thought of how they might monitor usage for metrics? It would be an incentive for stakeholders and submitters to have this information available.
We are actively developing metrics (to be released shortly) to record traffic, number of users, downloads, etc. Longer term we hope to make that available per dataset. We report to OST on our statistics. We also track inbound citations - when datasets are cited by journal articles - and this is publicly available on Zotero.
How is the Ag Data Commons related to Pub Ag?
The Ag Data Commons records link to scholarly publications in Pub Ag when it is useful and relevant to do so. These publications may describe the data, the methods for collecting or processing the data, and/or use the data for other research.
How can I cite data in the Ag Data Commons?
There is a suggested citation provided for you in all Ag Data Commons records. It is formatted in APA, and is ready for cut and paste. When a journal article describing the dataset is available (i.e. a data paper), we encourage you to cite that article, as well as the Ag Data Commons record.
How can my dataset be highlighted on the Ag Data Commons home page?
If you want to feature your dataset on the home page of the Ag Data Commons, you must:
Upload an image with your dataset. You must have legal permission to use the image for this purpose. Creative Commons or Public Domain images are recommended.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the DOI of your dataset to let us know you would like this dataset to be considered for a highlight.
The image can be uploaded using the "Highlighted Image" field in the Data Submission Form (see our Submission Manual for a description of this field). We do not currently have a regular rotation schedule, but will take requests into consideration. The Ag Data Commons reserves the right to curate the home page, so cannot guarantee that a particular dataset will appear on the home page.
How can my group create a Program on the Ag Data Commons?
See our Program Policy for detailed information about setting up a program for your group.
How can our program be highlighted on the Feature Banner at the top of the Ag Data Commons home page?
When preparing your request for a highlighted program, see the Ag Data Commons home page for examples of the current highlighted program.
If you already have an active program set up with the Ag Data Commons that you wish to feature on the home page, we need the following:
A one-line teaser that introduces your program. We can help develop the text for you if you are not sure where to begin.
A horizontal image with a resolution of at least 950px wide and 475px high, in proportion width = 2 x height, and less than 2 MB in size.
- Uncomplicated images with a simple background work best. Because text has to sit on top of the image, an image that has a lot of dark OR light space works best.
- You must have legal permission to use the image for this purpose. Creative Commons or Public Domain images are recommended.
Uploading large data files, such as genomics data or bovine sequence data, tends to be very slow. Do you have a way to upload large data files?
We are investigating different data transfer options for large data, although this may depend upon how large, or if there is a more suitable hosting destination. We are also developing a pricing schedule to house large data locally.
How can I get more information?
Contact us at email@example.com