Supporting publication of US Forest Service Experimental Forest and Other Research Data

U.S. Forest Service logo, green and yellow badge with tree in the center and U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture text

Through our project, “Supporting publication of US Forest Service Experimental Forest and Other Research Data,” we work with the US Forest Service Research Data Archive (Archive) to identify a subset of 4 to 6 of the Forest Service’s over 80 experimental areas (primarily experimental forests and ranges) to process historical and modern data.

The objective of this project is to implement protocols and standards for publishing and preserving research data collected using US Forest Service Research & Development funding.


There is an expanded interest in and expectation for researchers preserving and sharing the digital scientific data they create. Therefore, US Forest Service-funded scientists submit their data sets and documentation to the Archive for publication and preservation purposes. The Archive’s documentation review process helps to ensure that these published data are not only available but also usable by other scientists and the public for decades to come.

The US Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges (EFRs) have been collecting research data for over 100 years. A substantial amount of this data collection resides on paper, and represents studies completed over 30 years ago. The USFS science community believes there is substantial value in these historical data, and that it would therefore be of value-creating activity to publish these data through the Archive.

In addition to the data, each EFR has a collection of paper-based records that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) would like to take possession of for long-term stewardship. However, the content of the records is often still in use. Creating a digital version of the record material will enable USFS R&D to meet both sets of needs.

Our Project

Our project’s subset of 4 to 6 EFRs may include disestablished experimental areas, but will not include any site participating in the LTER system. For this subset, we document historical and modern research data collected on the experimental area, convert research data and associated supplemental materials targeted at enhancing a data user’s understanding of the data from day-to-day working formats to archival formats suitable for distribution to both primary and secondary data users. Where necessary, we work with the Archive to convert paper records into digital records and add them to a system for managing digital EFR records.

For training purposes, we have students or interns also assist USFS staff in publishing non-EFR data sets submitted by scientists for public release. This includes creating and reviewing metadata, processing GIS layers, creating database query interfaces, and other related tasks as determined by USFS staff. 

We work with the US Forest Service to determine the best approach to archiving the data sets. Given the age of some of the data sets, new procedures will likely be developed. Formal metadata is created to document each data set, along with other descriptive material as appropriate for the particular data set. As appropriate, we also engage in the administrative deposit activities associated with an OAIS-compliant data repository. Data publications is created following formats developed by the US Forest Service and published via the Archive.

U.S. Forest Service Staff