The FBA’s Digital Data Archive

In 2010 the FBA and our partners at King’s College London were contracted by Defra to build a digital repository to store the data outputs from the Defra Demonstration Test Catchments Platform ( and the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Inventory Research Platform ( The DTC Archive project lasted for four years and culminated with the creation of the Agricultural and Environmental Data Archive (AEDA), which is available online at

Project AC0116 N2O chambers at SAC for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Platform

Nitrous oxide chambers on a winter wheat crop in Gilchristan, Scotland (SAC) for the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Inventory Research Platform

A model of good practice

AEDA is a sophisticated digital curation and data publication platform. The archive has a data model which is based on the ISO 19100 series of data standards, this data model also complies with the data requirements of the EU Inspire Directive. What this means is that all data and metadata stored in the archive becomes interoperable with data in other systems stored elsewhere.

Supporting knowledge-sharing

The archive also makes extensive use of Linked Open Data (LOD). This approach allows any data entered into the archive to be connected to any other data in the archive – and potentially externally also. This is achieved by means of a controlled vocabulary (which can be viewed at containing thousands of terms; a policy of strict adherence to this vocabulary allows an individual column of data in the archive to be confidently asserted to be a measurement of the same phenomena as recorded using that term elsewhere. So if a column of data is labelled as ‘temperature’ then we know it is the same as any other column of data using the same label. This avoids confusing labels commonly used as shorthand by researchers such as ‘t’ or ‘temp’.

Data published in the archive is also assigned a digital object identifier (DOI), the DOI is a unique identifier that can be de-referenced to resolve to a URL for a given dataset. Adding a DOI means that the data can be cited in just the same way as any other scholarly work, journal articles being a good example as they too have DOIs. The DOIs assigned to data in AEDA are stored in a database held by Datacite, and also indexed by Thomson-Reuters, meaning that datasets will appear on searches in Web of Science.

AEDA also conforms to open data standards set by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and data held in the archive can be awarded one of several levels of open data certification that the ODI issue.

What’s in the archive?

In the first year of full operation AEDA has published twenty-one datasets (, of these, ten are published by the DTC Wensum catchment, one is from Syngenta, one is a PhD chapter and the rest are seismic surveys that have been digitised from the FBA’s own paper archives. The archive also houses numerous photographs and several thousand grey literature e-prints submitted by the Environment Agency.


What does the future hold?

In the coming months we expect to publish more data from the DTC catchments and from the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas platform, and more from a new group of researchers working with us. We will also be continuing our efforts to publish more of the extensive content held from the FBA’s unpublished collection.

2016 looks to be an exciting year in which the archive will grow to become a truly comprehensive source of environmental information, we hope you’ll take a look and offer any suggestions for content and improved features to our team by emailing