Data Management Center

Since 1971, research personnel at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) have collected valuable environmental and ecosystem level data as part of research and monitoring endeavors. This work spans a broad range of topics within oceanography and ecology, including fisheries, invertebrate zoology, phytoplankton and zooplankton ecology, biogeochemical cycling, trophic dynamics, physical processes, and marine resource management and conservation. The resulting data are of potentially high value to other researchers, the educational community, managers, policy makers, and the general public for understanding changes in ecosystems and in climate.

However, the true value of these data to facilitate scientific studies, education, and outreach depends on data quality, retention, and accessibility to end-users. DISL personnel and administrators recognize the need for and benefits of a comprehensive data management system to enhance the quality, retention, and accessibility of our datasets and to encourage participation by researchers in well-developed data management programs.

DISL has a Data Management Mission Statement, a Data Management Center, and Data Management Policy that are supported by a Data Management Advisory Committee to facilitate the documentation, archiving, and accessibility of high quality data. Together, they provide a consistent set of protocols and services for quality assurance, archiving (storage and retention), documentation, and distribution of data collected by DISL personnel.

Visit the new Dauphin Island Sea Lab Data Center

Data Management Center

The Data Management Center oversees and facilitates data management efforts at DISL, including creation and publication of federally compliant metadata to make local data sets broadly accessible and enduring through time. The Data Management Center collaborates closely with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) to train personnel, publish metadata on national clearinghouses, and archive datasets at federal data centers.

Visit the new Dauphin Island Sea Lab Data Center

Advisory Committee

The Data Management Advisory Committee was created in 2007 by then Executive Director George Crozier to help implement and establish a comprehensive and enduring data management system at DISL. Committee members include the Executive Director and representatives from Information Technology (IT), the Data Management Center (DMC), University Programs (UP), Marine Technical Support, Discovery Hall Programs (DHP), and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP). The Advisory Committee supports the Data Management Center by enhancing participation in data management activities by researchers, technical staff, and educators.


The mission of the DISL Data Management Advisory Committee is to facilitate documentation, archiving, and appropriate accessibility of data of known quality in accordance with the DISL Data Management Policy codified by the Executive Director.

To support its mission and community-wide data management efforts, the DISL Data Management Advisory Committee will:

  • Provide a venue for open discussion and prioritization of data management needs for the DISL community.
  • Assist with data management related communication between DMC/IT and UP and DHP faculty, marine technical support staff and others in the DISL community (including support for training and activities to enhance participation in data management efforts).
  • Gather input from and provide guidance to the DISL community regarding methods and opportunities to enhance data quality for multiple end-users, documentation (preparation of metadata), archiving (storage and retention), and accessibility.
  • Provide guidance to the Executive Director regarding establishment and implementation of a data management policy.
  • Work with members of the DISL community to incorporate data management into research proposals and projects, including obtaining extramural funding for data management efforts (as stand-alone grants and as part of ongoing research proposals).


DISL maintains and archives high quality marine scientific data. Quality assurance and quality control are practiced at every level to ensure the integrity and consistency of the data. Datasets generated and archived at DISL may be searched in DISL's metadata catalog.

Real-time environmental monitoring data are transferred to the National Data Buoy Center and Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System, where they serve local governmental and commercial entities in the observation of water quality and seafood safety. The National Weather Service also uses DISL monitoring data to validate the accuracy and improve the predictive capabilities of their modeling efforts.

Data Management Center personnel design, develop, and maintain secured web applications that facilitate data processing for various research laboratories and administration functions. Data collected and processed from online forms can be downloaded from the server to desktops for further analysis by users. Data Management Center personnel also provide problem solving support for researchers and administrators with their desktop database programs such as Microsoft Access and Excel Spreadsheet, and maintain constant contact with data centers at federal and regional levels to keep up with the newest developments in data standards. This effort ensures that research data generated at DISL is available to the public can be easily shared.

The Data Management Center is supported by the DISL Information Technology department. This department maintains and supports multiple servers that house and serve web applications as well as data that are collected and archived by the Data Management Center. These servers are backed up nightly, weekly and monthly; stored in two separate locations to ensure the data are always available. The DISL Information Technology Department maintains a 50 MB Ethernet connection to the internet which allows the data servers to maintain a stable and secure connection to the internet via the Alabama Super Computer Authority Network.


Personnel from the DISL Data Management Center provide training, assistance, and oversight for the creation of metadata for all datasets generated at DISL. The Center supports the Alabama Real-Time Coastal Observing System, an extensive network of real-time environmental monitoring stations across coastal Alabama that collects hydrographic and meteorologic data and displays them at These data benefit state and federal decision-makers, researchers, educators, modelers and forecasters such as the National Weather Service, and commercial and recreational fishermen and boaters.

The Data Management Center also collaborates with different research groups to create online databases that facilitate their data management needs, including data entry, data analysis, geographic mapping, and reporting. Recent projects include the Fisheries Oceanography of Coastal Alabama (FOCAL) online database (2006-2012), the Alabama Manatee Sighting Network (2007-2015), and the Fisheries online database (2012-present).



Accurate, accessible, and searchable datasets are essential outputs from quality research. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) has a responsibility to expeditiously document, retain, publish, and share scientific data collected under projects supported by public funds. To fulfill this responsibility, the DISL Data Management Advisory Committee (DMAC), in coordination with the Data Management Center (DMC) and the Executive Director, has established this Data Management Policy as part of a comprehensive data management program at DISL. The purpose of the policy is to facilitate and ensure a consistent set of protocols and services for quality assurance, archiving (storage and retention), documentation (such as metadata creation), accessibility, and distribution of data collected by DISL personnel.


Except where precluded or superseded by specific terms of sponsorship or other agreements, all research and monitoring data and other products of research conducted under the auspices of DISL, belong to DISL. Data and products may include, but are not limited to, unprocessed data, processed data, and metadata.

The following data management policy refers to any processed data collected as part of publicly funded projects, with special focus on spatially explicit datasets. When DISL datasets are collected as part of projects with additional data management and sharing requirements specified by funding agencies, those requirements must be met in addition to compliance with this DISL policy.

Rights and Responsibilities of DISL personnel

  • Personnel must comply with terms of sponsored projects with regard to data management, including any additional requirements of funding agreements such as detailed written plans and submission of metadata or data to national repositories when appropriate.
  • Personnel are responsible for describing, validating, and maintaining datasets, and publishing corresponding metadata in a timely manner, including assurance of the completeness, accuracy, authenticity, and integrity (quality control) of their metadata and processed data.
  • It is highly recommended that initial project-level metadata be compiled and submitted to the DMC at the beginning of new projects and updated regularly during the project (e.g. during interim reports), rather than at project completion.
  • Personnel must provide the DMC with metadata and associated processed datasets for projects in conjunction with final reports and publications, within 2 years of project completion (termination of funding), or before leaving the DISL community (if prior to the 2 yr deadline).
  • PIs have the right to limit access to archived datasets by requesting endusers contact the PI or their identified representative for permission to access the data. In this case, PIs commit to provide accurate and current contact information in the associated metadata. In the event that a PI does not identify a representative or provide suitable contact information and is deceased or otherwise unavailable, the Executive Director will appoint a data representative.
  • PIs may specify additional conditions of data access when appropriate, such as requiring registration for use or agreement to a data sharing plan. (An example data sharing plan is available for download and modification.)
  • Personnel leaving DISL have the right to retain copies of their data and data products.
  • PIs have the right to be notified immediately of any hardware or software failures or other malfunctions that may affect data accessibility, archiving, or quality assurance.

Rights and Responsibilities of the Data Management Center (DMC)

  • The DMC will provide guidance, training, and assistance to DISL personnel in the creation and maintenance of metadata records and archiving datasets, and offer services to streamline the processing of data on desktop and online platforms.
  • The DMC will work with DISL personnel in the full cycle of data management, from determining needs of end-users to developing system inputs, analyses and outputs.
  • The DMC will provide the DISL community and the public with searchable published metadata and data archives through the worldwide web, as soon as the metadata or datasets are available and according to data use specifications set by project PIs.
  • The DMC will inform the Data Management Advisory Committee about new technologies or methodologies in data management.
  • The DMC will coordinate with Information Technology regarding in-house data archives and security measures by providing a written list of directories for nightly backup as well as notification when new databases are added.

Rights and Responsibilities of Information Technology (IT)

  • IT will maintain all hardware and software needed to store and retrieve data including server hardware, network connectivity, domain/subdomain registration and directories, and conducting software updates (as needed).
  • IT will perform activities and manage hardware related to data retention including changing nightly backup tapes, promptly correcting hardware and operating system failures.
  • IT will coordinate with DMC regarding necessary software, hardware, and operating system changes or reboots that may affect data management.

Policy Updated December 2016

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