How to Get Started Contributing Data

The process for contributing metadata and data from appropriate NSF OCE-funded projects to the BCO-DMO data system is described below. If you would like to discuss management of data associated with an existing or proposed project, please contact us at For funded projects, please be prepared to provide your NSF award number.

» For a complete overview of the data contribution process, including metadata and data preparation tips, refer to our Quick Start Guide (PDF). Additional information and metadata forms can be found below.

I. Should you contribute data to BCO-DMO?

You should contribute data to BCO-DMO if your project is funded by NSF OCE's Biological or Chemical Oceanography Sections or the Division of Polar Programs' Antarctic Organisms & Ecosystems Program.

BCO-DMO provides data management services at no additional cost to projects funded by NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences' Biological and Chemical Oceanography Sections and the Division of Polar Programs' Antarctic Organisms & Ecosystems Program. BCO-DMO staff members work with researchers funded by these NSF programs to ensure that data and metadata contributed to BCO-DMO are in compliance with the current NSF OCE Sample and Data Policy (NSF 17-037). To contribute data to BCO-DMO, please see Section II of this page, "How to contribute data and metadata to BCO-DMO."

If your project is funded by another source: we have a list of some suggested data management centers below.

II. How to contribute data and metadata to BCO-DMO

All datasets contributed to BCO-DMO must be submitted with the appropriate metadata forms. Forms are Rich Text Format (.rtf) files that are compatible with any word processing application. A description of and link to each form can be found below. If submitting data from a GEOTRACES cruise, please see the additional Guidance for GEOTRACES Investigators.

How to Register a Project

How to Contribute Data

How to Contribute Deployments

How to Register a Program

Please email all data and metadata forms to You can expect to receive a reply within 48-hours. Please ensure that is not captured in your mail client spam filter, and feel free to reach out to our "info" address should you not receive a reply within the 48-hour resonse timeframe. 

 How to Register a Project

A. Complete a Project Metadata Form (.rtf) to provide information about projects that are not already registered at BCO-DMO.

  • A project oversees a collection of one or more datasets.
  • A project may or may not be part of a larger program.
  • There is most often one project per NSF award, with the exception of Collaborative Research awards where one project is funded by multiple award numbers.
  • If you do not yet know the NSF award number (e.g. if your proposal has been recommended for funding), please provide as much information as possible including the following: the project title, project start and end dates, project summary or abstract, investigator contact information, and proposal number.
  • Always include a copy of your project's Data Management Plan when registering a project.

B. Submit the Project Metadata Form and your NSF Data Management Plan to You can expect to receive a reply within 48-hours.

C. Project Updates. If you are submitting an update of an existing project registered at BCO-DMO please email with the information described on the page Updating a Dataset or Project at BCO-DMO.

 How to Contribute Data

A. Complete a Dataset Metadata Form (.rtf) to provide information about each unique dataset collected within a project.

  • A Dataset Metadata Form should be completed for each dataset contributed to BCO-DMO.
  • Please send us your processed data when pertaining to acoustics, CTDs, and ADCPs.
  • We accept data in any format, but comma- or tab-delimited (preferred) ASCII files or Excel spreadsheets are most common. If contributing data as an Excel file, please see our tips for submitting data in a spreadsheet.
  • Sequence accession numbers and the associated data can be contributed to BCO-DMO and we can provide links to the sequence repository (such as NCBI's GenBank). Please see "Contributing Genetic Accessions (omics)" for more information.
  • See Submitting Code, Software, and Models if you have code files associated with your dataset(s).
  • Most datasets can be contributed as email attachments along with their respective completed Dataset Metadata Form. If the dataset is too large to contribute as an email attachment, please email for instructions on the best way to contribute your data (e.g. DropBox, FTP, etc.).

B. Submit Dataset Metadata Form(s) and all data files to info@bco-dmo.orgYou can expect to receive a reply within 48-hours.

C. Dataset Updates. If you are submitting an update of an existing dataset served at BCO-DMO please email with the information described on the page Updating a Dataset or Project at BCO-DMO.

 How to Contribute Deployments

A. Complete a Deployment Metadata Form (.rtf) to provide information about a specific cruise, mooring, laboratory, or some other unique experience of data collection or analysis. This form should be submitted in conjuction with datasets resulting from the deployment.

  • Complete this form if it is applicable to the dataset(s) you are submitting.
  • Deployments help to describe the geographic and temporal scale of datasets.
  • Deployments provide context for mapping the associated data.

B. Submit the Deployment Metadata Form along with the Dataset Metadata Form(s) and data files to You can expect to receive a reply within 48-hours.

 How to Register an NSF Designated Program 

A. Complete a Program Metadata Form (.rtf) to describe a large coordinated research program that is not already registered at BCO-DMO.

  • Programs usually encompass one or more projects.
  • Examples of Programs include U.S. JGOFS, U.S. GLOBEC, U.S. OCB, and U.S. GEOTRACES.

B. Submit the Program Metadata Form and your NSF Data Management Plan to You can expect to receive a reply within 48-hours.


What happens next?

After we receive your data and metadata, a data manager will begin the process of making the data available online. Data managers may contact you with follow-up questions or to obtain feedback. You'll be asked to review the data and metadata for completeness and accuracy.

After the data are online and fully documented, our office will ensure that the data are archived properly at the appropriate National Data Center (e.g. National Centers for Environmental Information, NCEI). We have developed a partial list of National Data Centers where data managed by BCO-DMO are sent for long-term archive. As part of the archive process, we'll assign a DOI to every dataset, which should be included whenever you cite the dataset.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page for additional information about BCO-DMO.


Other suggested data management centers (if your project is not funded by an NSF section that BCO-DMO serves):

Not all NSF funded projects are supported free of charge by BCO-DMO. Some other recommended data centers include:

OCB research community: Guidance to OCB scientists who are uncertain where to submit or propose to submit their data is available from the OCB website.