Data Services Newsletter

Volume 22 : No 3 : Winter 2020

Data Citation

Users regularly acknowledge IRIS Data Services, PASSCAL, GSN, and other IRIS programs in their publications as the source where data were obtained. We at IRIS are grateful for these acknowledgements and encourage the practice. However, citing IRIS is not the same as citing the ultimate data source used to obtain the scientific results and data citation is unfortunately infrequent. Data providers work hard to provide high-quality data and donate their data to Data Centers like the IRIS DMC for free and unrestricted access by researchers. Giving credit where it belongs is not only good scientific, academic practice, but also is increasingly required by data licenses that condition data use upon attribution. When data are cited, the data providers are acknowledged for their contributions to the scientific discoveries that are published, just as authors are acknowledged through references to their work.

But these are difficult times for academics, and who has the time to fuss with extending an already long reference list? IRIS would like to win you friends in the data collection community and also save you time by assisting you with your data citations.

The International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks (FDSN) mints Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for member network operators so that their data can be cited in ways acceptable to the academic community. IRIS has just added a section to their citations web pages that describes how to cite data obtained from IRIS Data Services and how to easily obtain a list of the data citations to insert in a manuscript Authors are advised to reference data as they would a normal scientific manuscript, either in the main body of the manuscript, or in the acknowledgements section as in the following example:

  • Acknowledgements:
    All seismic data were downloaded through the IRIS Wilber 3 system ( or IRIS Web Services, including the following seismic networks ( (1) the AZ (ANZA; UC San Diego, 1982); (2) the TA (Transportable Array; IRIS, 2003); (3) the US (USNSN, Albuquerque, 1990); (4) the IU (GSN; Albuquerque, 1988).

The actual references are then placed either in the standard list of references or, if the list is long, in a special section for data sources as follows:

  • Data Sources:
    Frank Vernon, U. C. S. D. (1982). ANZA Regional Network. International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks.
    IRIS Transportable Array. (2003). USArray Transportable Array. International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks.
    Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory (ASL)/USGS. (1990). United States National Seismic Network. International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks.
    Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory (ASL)/USGS. (1988). Global Seismograph Network (GSNIRIS/USGS). International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks.

This seems easy enough but finding data citations can be a long and difficult process. To help with that process, IRIS has developed a tool for listing FDSN network references based on 2-character network identifiers, or even on a fdsnws-dataselect POST request that is commonly used to retrieve data. The tool returns all of the data citations associated with the query. We encourage you to try it out at

By adopting this practice widely, our community will catch up with other major scientific disciplines who have grappled with the same problem and found a fair solution for the efforts of those who work to collect and distribute high quality data to those who can use that information to advance the field.

by Jerry Carter (IRIS)

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