Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Data Management and Sharing

In a policy that took effect in 2013, the federal government began requiring that data from federally supported research be made accessible to the public. NOAA is requiring Sea Grant programs to have mechanisms in place to meet these data access requirements. As a condition of all research grants, projects financed by Maryland Sea Grant in 2013 and later are required to have a data management plan that will allow for the information collected to be distributed for public use.

NOAA requirements state that:

"Environmental data and information collected or created under NOAA grants or cooperative agreements must be made discoverable by and accessible to the general public, in a timely fashion (typically within two years), free of charge or at no more than the cost of reproduction, unless an exemption is granted by the NOAA Program. Data should be available in at least one machine-readable format, preferably a widely-used or open-standard format, and should also be accompanied by machine-readable documentation (metadata), preferably based on widely used or international standards."


"(F)inal pre-publication manuscripts of scholarly articles produced entirely or primarily with NOAA funding will be required to be submitted to NOAA Institutional Repository after acceptance, and no later than upon publication. Such manuscripts shall be made publicly available by NOAA one year after publication by the journal."

To comply with these requirements, Maryland Sea Grant requires a Data Management Plan as a component of all full research proposals submitted to the program in 2013 and later. This plan should be no more than two pages long. Pre-proposals may have more limited requirements. Additional guidance will be provided in the particular Request for Proposals.

Requests for access to data associated with a particular Maryland Sea Grant funded research project should be directed to Dr. Michael Allen, Associate Director for Research and Administration, at

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by “environmental data”?

Environmental data are recorded and derived observations and measurements of the physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical properties and conditions of the oceans, atmosphere, space environment, sun, and solid earth, as well as correlative data, such as socio-economic data, related documentation, and metadata. Media, including voice recordings and photographs, may be included. Numerical model outputs are included in this definition, particularly if they are used to support the conclusion of a peer-reviewed publication. Data collected in a laboratory or other controlled environment, such as measurements of animals and chemical processes, are included in this definition.

What is meant by “sharing”?

Data sharing means making data publicly visible and accessible in a timely manner at no cost (or no more than the cost of reproduction), in a format which is machine-readable and based on open standards, along with metadata necessary to find and properly use the data. NOAA facilities that archive data and make the data openly available should be considered for the disposition of the data.

What is considered “timely” data sharing?

Timely means no later than publication of a peer-reviewed article based on the data, or two years after the data are collected and verified, or two years after the original end date of the grant (not including any extensions or follow-on funding), whichever is soonest.

How must data be shared?

This depends on the nature of the project and the data, and will be proposed by the investigator. There are several options, including submitting data for archiving and access to NOAA NCEI (which may charge a fee depending on size or complexity of the data), using a web hosting service operated by the recipient's institution, using a project-specific web server, or using one of the Data Repositories now being established in various domains, such as:

Is it acceptable to post only summarized data and products?

In general, no, it is not acceptable to post only summarized data. Data are to be made available in a form that would permit further analysis or reuse. In particular, all data that are used to support the conclusions of a peer-reviewed publication must be made available in a form that permits verification and reproducibility of the results. However, in some circumstances (e.g., to remove personally-identifiable information) some level of summarization may be necessary.

Can I get additional funding to share my data?

Unless otherwise noted in the federal funding announcement or Sea Grant RFP, funding to address data sharing must be requested as part of the proposal to collect/create data. The data sharing plans and related funds requested should consider the anticipated benefit of the data, the likely number of interested users of the data and the priorities of the program as outlined in the solicitation.

What is meant by “independently understandable”?

The data must be accompanied with documentation, metadata and, if needed, tools to read the data that allow a user to interpret the data properly. If there are concerns with understandability, they can be reported to NOAA, who will do an independent check.

Who will determine if my data are visible, accessible, and independently understandable?

The person generating the data will have first responsibility for determining this. Common data quality standards in your scientific discipline may help you decide if the data are understandable. Ultimately, others who use your data will know whether they are visible, accessible and understandable to them. If there are concerns with data access or understandability, they can be reported to NOAA, who will do an independent check.

What web resources are available to help me do this and obtain more information?

There is information available at the NOAA Environmental Data Management Committee website reachable from In general considering data sharing requirements prior to finalizing the methods for collecting/creating/storing the data will save time and effort later on. Unless otherwise noted in the federal funding announcement there is no specific data sharing plan template required.

I am not collecting any data/information. What should I do?

A statement indicating you are not collecting any data/information will be appropriate for your data sharing plan.

FAQs courtesy of NOAA’s Environmental Data Management Wiki

For more information, see the Data Sharing Directive for NOAA Grants, Cooperative Agreements, and Contracts.