ITOP Data Set Documentation ("Readme") Guidelines

The documentation (i.e., the "Readme" file) that accompanies each project data set is as important as the data itself. This information permits collaborators and other analysts to understand any limitations or special characteristics of the data that may impact its use. Data set documentation should accompany all data set submissions, including both preliminary and final. The following outline and content is recommended and should be adhered to as closely as possible to make the documentation consistent across all data sets.

Data Set Documentation/Readme Outline:

Title: This should match the data set name


  • Name(s) of PI and all co-PIs
  • Complete mailing address, telephone/facsimile numbers,
  • E-mail address of PIs, and web address (if applicable)
  • Similar contact information for data questions (if different than above)

1.0 Data Set Overview:

  • Introduction or abstract
  • Time period covered by the data
  • Physical location (including lat/lon/elev) of the measurement or platform
  • Data source if applicable (e.g., for operational data include agency)
  • Any web address references (i.e., additional documentation such as Project web site)

2.0 Instrument Description:

  • Brief text (i.e., 1-2 paragraphs) describing the instrument with references
  • Figures (or links), if applicable
  • Table of specifications (i.e., accuracy, precision, frequency, resolution, etc.)

3.0 Data Collection and Processing:

  • Description of data collection
  • Description of derived parameters and processing techniques used
  • Description of quality assurance and control procedures
  • Data intercomparisons, if applicable

4.0 Data Format:

  • Data file structure and file naming conventions (e.g., column delimited ASCII, NetCDF, GIF, JPEG, etc.)
  • Data format and layout (i.e., description of header/data records, sample records)
  • List of parameters with units, sampling intervals, frequency, range
  • Data version number and date
  • Description of flags, codes used in the data, and definitions (i.e., good, questionable, missing, estimated, etc.)

5.0 Data Remarks:

  • PI's assessment of the data (i.e., disclaimers, instrument problems, quality issues, etc.)
  • Missing data periods
  • Software compatibility (i.e., list of existing software to view/manipulate the data)

6.0 References:

  • List of documents cited in this data set description. Please provide links for any publications, if available.