The new Instructions for Authors make significant changes in how to cite data bases. Previously, we tried (not quite successfully) to treat data bases as formal references. Since it can be difficult to identify the “author,” much less give a year of “publication” for an ongoing data base, this led to a lot of strange citations. Recognizing the futility of this approach, we decided to treat data bases as informal references. The key point, after all, is to make it easy to declare where one got their data! The less specific informal reference structure gives authors more freedom to direct users precisely to the data source.
Data sources should be specified with enough detail to lead a qualified researcher to an appropriate starting point in the data base. Dates of access may be given approximately or as a range, to help resolve any future updates in the source. Some examples of common data bases are given below. You may designate a “default” source for groups of data, as in the second example:
(U.S. Geological Survey, National Water Information System. Accessed December 8, 2008, http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis.)
(U.S. Geological Survey, National Water Information System. Accessed June, 2007 – December, 2008, http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis. Unless otherwise noted all streamflow data in this paper are from this source.)
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2008. STORET. Accessed December, 2008, http://www.epa.gov/storet/.)