The Importance of Data Publishing:
Q&A with Ellen Rathje, Director of DesignSafe

Published on July 31, 2017



Ellen Rathje, Principal Investigator and Director of DesignSafe, Professor of Civil Engineering at University of Texas, Austin

Q: What is data publishing?

A: Publishing data involves the formal publishing of data, in the same way that journal papers are formally published. The key to data publishing is providing electronic, open-access to the data, as well as a permanent Digital Object Identifier (DOI) that can be used to locate and cite the data in the future.

Q: How can NHERI and DesignSafe help me publish high-quality and discoverable data?

A: DesignSafe is the cyberinfrastructure for NHERI and provides formal data publishing through its data repository, called the Data Depot. The Data Depot includes a private My Data space, a collaborative My Projects space, along with the publicly available Published space. To publish your data, you first create a Project, upload your data, and provide information about the project (e.g., authors) and data (e.g., sensor locations). After meeting the minimum metadata requirements as described in the DesignSafe Curation Guidelines, you can publish your dataset to the publicly accessible Published space. The DOI and appropriate citation language to use when referencing the data is automatically provided with the publicly available dataset.

Q: How can I make sure people know about my published data?

A: As with all information, marketing is key, and there are multiple strategies for promoting data papers.

  • • Researchers should include published datasets within the publication section of their CV.
  • • Researchers should formally cite data within the references section of their journal papers, using the formal citation language and DOI.
  • • Announce your data paper on the experimental facility website, in the NHERI community news page, on your Slack channels, or any other public forum your colleagues may visit.

You can also publish a data paper within a journal. The goal of a data papers is to promote useful data sets by describing both the collection of the datasets and their potential use to the research community. Interpretation and analysis of the data generally is not within the scope of a data paper. Some journals have a specific manuscript type for a data paper, such as EERI’s Earthquake Spectra. For other journals, you may need to contact the editor to discuss how to submit a data paper

Q: How can I find data for re-use in my research?

A: The DesignSafe Data Depot includes a simple search interface that allows you to search for data using keywords, authors, etc. The Published section of the Data Depot includes data from NSF-funded ENH projects, data from the NSF-funded NEES program, as well as data published from non-NSF projects. The search interface can help you find relevant data for your research. These data can be downloaded for analysis on your desktop or copied to your My Data space or My Projects space for use with the cloud-based DesignSafe tools. Visit to learn more about the DesignSafe functionalities and its vision for natural hazards research.