The Importance of Data Citations

A key component of the research process is leveraging existing work to build new conclusions and discussion. Throughout the history of peer-reviewed literature, it has been necessary to reference relevant research publications. Traditionally, the final piece of literature produced by a research project was referenced, but it is clear that the data utilized in producing the work is just as important as the work itself. Datasets at the National Snow and Ice Data Center can be cited by providing the following information:

  • Contributing author(s)
  • Year of release
  • Dataset title
  • Publisher
  • Location
  • Subset utilized, if applicable
  • Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
  • Data accessed

General guidelines can also be found on our Use & Copyright page. The specific citation for any dataset can be found under the ‘Citation’ tab located on the dataset landing page:


The data citation can also be found on the dataset Documentation page:


Referencing data is important for a number of reasons. In addition to acknowledging data creators, data citation allows others to search for, access, and use data to recreate results or continue an analysis. Published data citations also allow NSIDC to provide better service to data customers.

A common task in starting research projects is determining if a data set is fit-for-purpose. The number of published works and the application of the dataset in the research can have a direct influence on the decision to choose one data source over another. Alternatively, new uses for data may become evident after considering the known use cases of the data set.

The number of data citations is directly related to the dataset impact. For federally-funded agencies and organizations, demonstrating the importance research and the return on investment helps to build the case for continued support and future development. If data are used without being cited, the case for future sponsorship is much harder to demonstrate and may result in proposals going unfunded.