Why and Where to Publish Data

Manuscript submission checklist:

  • Figures uploaded ✔
  • Referenced formatted ✔
  • Data availability statement…hmm?

Most journals require a data availability statement, where authors explain how readers can find supporting observations and measurements. These statements range from “data available from authors upon reasonable request,” to confidential data due to ethical, legal or commercial restrictions, to a DOI and link to a public data repository. Appropriate data sharing will vary by project and paper, but there are lots of reasons to consider using a data repository.

First, making your data easily findable and reusable opens the door for other scientists to use the data you collected and generated in their own research. And since repositories assign DOIs to datasets, anyone who uses your data will cite your dataset in addition to your paper! 

Second, as the hydrology community progresses towards open science practices and findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) data, the publication and free distribution of datasets is gaining popularity too. Some journals, like PLOS One, require that authors make data publicly available (excepting legal or ethical restrictions). Several major funders including the National Science Foundation require data management plans and also expect that data will be publicly shared and archived. 

Third, using a data repository can save you time and resources! Rather than keeping track of old data and quickly filling Google Drive and Dropbox storage, a repository can do the work of securing and storing data for you. And, by clearly directing readers and scientists to your data, you can keep data access request emails from filling your inbox.

Sharing data can also boost the impact of your work! Several studies have found that manuscripts with publicly available data are cited more than papers without accessible data (Piwowar et al. 2007; Colavizza et al., 2020). 

Now comes the question, which repository to choose? The Registry of Research Data Repositories has nearly 2,500 entries! But, to streamline the process a bit, here’s a list of 5 free data repositories for storing and sharing hydrology data. 


HydroShare, hosted by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), is the first and only hydrology-specific data repository! Sharing data in a disciplinary repository can increase the exposure of your research and foster collaboration opportunities, as other users are more likely to understand your data and be in similar fields. HydroShare supports a range of file formats and also hosts apps, both CUAHSI-approved and user-generated, that let others easily visualize and analyze your public data. Each user is given 20 GB of storage, but if needed, users can request additional storage (with preference given to individuals from CUAHSI member institutions and NSF-funded projects). Data cannot be edited after publication but new versions can be created. Only the newest version will be publicly discoverable. 


PANGAEA is a data publisher specific to the Earth and environmental sciences. The front page shows how many datasets have been submitted to each subfield (like lakes and rivers, atmosphere, or cryosphere) and users can browse data by geographic location using the embedded map! PANGAEA hosts data across a range spatial and temporal scales, from point measurements to global analyses. Unlike other repositories, PANGAEA has editors and curators who check data for consistency and completeness and assist with formatting. Size limits for individual files are 100 MB (or 15 GB using an upload link) and measurement dates and positions must be provided when uploading data.


This multidisciplinary repository lets you share up to 500 files and supports figures, datasets, images, videos, preprints, code, posters, and more! Individual Figshare accounts provide 20 GB of private storage and unlimited public storage. Files up to 5 GB can be uploaded easily and, with a bit more effort and help from Figshare’s support team, you can share files up to 5 TB! Figshare tracks and displays download statistics and also supports version control, allowing users to update individual files or entire file collections. 


Zenodo is a central repository for data from any field of study and any file type! Each dataset you upload can be up to 50 GB but you also have the option to create a community, which is a data collection that can be specific to a project or lab group. There is no size limit on communities and the creator can accept or reject potential uploads to the community. Like Figshare, Zenodo also tracks access and download statistics and supports version control. 

Open Science Framework

This all-in-one platform is great if you want to keep everything related to your project in one place. It can be used as a data repository, a preprint server, and an online lab notebook and can be linked with citation managers (like Mendeley or Zotero) and external data storage (Dropbox and Google Drive) to create seamless workflows. Private projects can be up to 5 GB and public projects up to 50 GB, but you can make a new project for each paper or research question. The Open Science Framework will also track the number of unique visits to your project or dataset and has built-in version control. 

NOAA and NASA Repositories 

The NOAA-funded National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) primarily hosts data collected by NOAA scientists, contractors, data providers, and research initiatives, making it an excellent option for NOAA-funded research. NCEI also archives data collected independently of NOAA projects, but these independent datasets must go through a scientific appraisal process and not all datasets are accepted. NASA’s suite of Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) store and distribute data from Earth-observing satellites and complimentary NASA-funded field campaigns. Each DAAC has a specific disciplinary focus and most prioritize NASA-funded projects, although some such as the National Snow and Ice Data Center consider data from other funding sources. All in all, these repositories are best for data specifically funded by NOAA or NASA.

By Julianne Davis

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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