Data are collected according to defined protocols.
Data verification steps include numeric range checks (i.e. checking if a value falls within a specified range), categorical checks (e.g. checking that a species code appears on the standard code list), formatting (i.e. that the dataset conforms to the specified data format) and logical integrity checks (i.e. checking the data make sense, e.g. that the dates in one dataset match those in a related dataset).
Appropriate range settings for ECN variables have been selected following discussion with specialists in each field. Where data fall outside these ranges, a cautious approach has been adopted towards discarding data on the principle that apparent errors may be valid outliers. Such values are discarded only if there is a clear explanation (e.g. an instrumentation error) and corrections are made where possible. If the reason is unclear, the values are stored, but are qualified using pre-defined quality codes or free-text descriptions. Data providers also use these codes or free text to describe factors affecting sampling outside their control, instrument damage or site management effects.