The success of NEON relies upon standardized and quality-controlled data collection methods and processing systems. NEON scientists collaborate with technical working groups to develop and document science designs and protocols for 1) data collection infrastructure and 2) observations and samples collected at field sites. Science designs inform data collection methods and protocols guide operations crews in the field.
A fundamental principle that has been applied in the design and execution of NEON observational protocols, as with its instrument measurements, is that observational data are acquired in a standardized and consistent manner across the entire Observatory. NEON designs have been optimized to embrace this central principle of the observatory while providing for some level of flexibility to accommodate site-specific needs. There are two main drivers underlying this principle.
First, it is essential to maximize the Observatory’s ability to detect trends in physical, biological and chemical measurements across large spatial and temporal scales. NEON’s physical, biological and chemical measurements have been designed to enable detection of decadal trends over 30 years and to draw inferences at regional and continental scales utilizing various statistical methods and process-based models. The standardization of protocols across all sites is key to the success of NEON (and its novelty) and must be maintained at all sites through time.
Second, having field crews trained and able to implement the same protocols in the same way, to the extent practicable, across the continent is operationally most efficient and effective, and helps to reduce measurement uncertainty. Although specific techniques may be required at some sites (e.g., due to different vegetation types, flow conditions, etc.), protocols have been developed to ensure data comparability. Site-specific modifications are detailed in appendices for each protocol.
NEON’s protocols are based on sampling methods broadly utilized by the research community and further refined with input from experts participating in NEON design workshops and technical working groups. Protocols are tested through characterization and prototype efforts. While the general methodology described in protocols will not change significantly, modifications can continue to be made to support more efficient and effective data collection. Updates to these documents will be posted as they become available.
Science Designs: The science design documents provide the background and strategy used for data collection. They frequently bridge related data products.
Aquatic and Terrestrial Protocols: Highly detailed protocols are used by field scientists to carry out sampling and measurements. Protocols are generally modified over time as recommended by our Technical Working Groups or our Science or Field Science staff. Each OS data table will specify which protocol version was used to collect each datum. All versions are available in our Document Library. We also provide access to protocols used by our partnering labs.
Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD): A full explanation of the algorithms used to process data. Each ATBD details the scientific theory behind the measurement, relevant processing algorithms, as well as the steps taken to determine uncertainty and to perform quality control/quality assurance. Some ATBDs are specific to a data product, while others describe algorithms applied to many data products.
Sensor Command, Control, and Configuration (C3) Document: Specifies the command, control, and configuration details for operating the relevant sensor and its assembly. It includes a detailed discussion of all necessary requirements for operational control parameters, conditions/constraints, set points, and any necessary error handling.
NEON Preventive Maintenance Procedure: Specifies a list and schedule of checks and actions that NEON personnel perform on the relevant sensor and its assembly to ensure its proper operation. Detailed instructions are provided for more complex tasks.
Data Processing Quality Assurance (QA) Document: A summary of the data quality metrics used to assess the validity of the AOP data products, as well as information on flight acquisition parameters, and processing parameters. These documents are optionally delivered with the data products for which they are applicable - they must be selected in order to be downloaded. Look for PDF files in the download workflow.
Data Product User Guide: A brief summary of the sampling design and the structure of the published data. In some cases a single User Guide may cover multiple closely related data products.