What is covered here:

There are many ways to access data in BETYdb. This document is written for people who want to get data from BETYdb through either 1) the web browser interface search box or 2) the more powerful URL-based methods of submitting queries programmatically. These URL-based queries are the basis of the rOpensci 'traits' package that allows users to retrieve data in R.

What is not covered:

While these methods allow users to access these data, some users may wish to use BETYdb actively in their research. If you want to contribute to BETYdb, see the Data Entry documentation. That document teaches users how they can curate their own data using BETYdb—either via the primary instance hosted at https://www.betydb.org or as a distributed node on the BETYdb network that enables data sharing.

Many people who contribute data—and others who want to submit more complex queries—can benefit from accessing a PostgreSQL server. Users who want to install a BETYdb PostgreSQL database (just ask!) are able to enter, use, and share data within and across a network of synced instances of BETYdb (see the BETYdb Technical Documentation topic "Distributed BETYdb"). This network shares data that has not necessarily been independently reviewed beyond the correction of extreme outliers. In practice, data sets in active use by researchers have been evaluated for meaning by researchers. Expert knowledge is encoded in the priors table, in the PEcAn meta-analysis models, and in the Ecosystem models parameterized by the meta-analysis results. Users with access to a BETYdb PostgreSQL database can access data through R packages—in particular PEcAn.DB, which is designed for use in PEcAn—or through any programming language a scientist is likely to use. When not using PEcAn, I recommend the R package dplyr unless you prefer constructing joins directly in SQL.

Data sharing

Data is made available for analysis after it is submitted and reviewed by a database administrator. These data are suitable for basic scientific research and modeling. All reviewed data are made publicly available after publication to users of BETYdb who are conducting primary research.

If you want data that has not been reviewed, please request access. There are many records that are not publicly available through the web API, but that can be accessed by installing a copy of the BETYdb PostgreSQL database.

Access restrictions

All public data in BETYdb is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) v1.0. You are free to share, create, and adapt its contents. For tables having an access_level column, data in rows where the column value is 1 or 2 is not covered by this license, but may be available for use with consent.

Quality flags

In tables and views containing trait and yield data, the checked column value indicates if data has been checked (1), has not been checked (0), or has been identified as incorrect (-1). Checked data has been independently reviewed. By default, only checked data is provided through the web browser interface and API. As of BETYdb 4.4 (Oct 14 2015), users can opt-in to viewing and downloading unchecked data either by way of a web browser or via the API. Unchecked data may also be loaded into a local PostgreSQL database simply by running the script ./load.bety.sh.


Please cite the source of data as:

LeBauer, David; Dietze, Michael; Kooper, Rob; Long, Steven; Mulrooney, Patrick; Rohde, Gareth Scott; Wang, Dan; (2010): Biofuel Ecophysiological Traits and Yields Database (BETYdb); Energy Biosciences Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. http://dx.doi.org/10.13012/J8H41PB9

In publications, please also include a copy of the data that you used and information about the original publication. The original publication data corresponds to the citation author, year, and title in database queries.

It is important to archive the data used in a particular analysis so that someone can reproduce your results and check your assumptions. Keep in mind, though, that we are continually collecting new data and checking existing data: BETYdb is not a static source of data.

A brief overview of some key topics

Data access

Data is made available for analysis after it is submitted and reviewed by a database administrator. These data are suitable for basic scientific research and modeling. All reviewed data are made publicly available after publication to users of BETYdb who are conducting primary research. Access to these raw data is provided to users based on affiliation and contribution of data.

Search box

On the Welcome page of BETYdb there is a search option for trait and yield data. This tool allows users to search the entire database for specific sites, species, and traits.

Enhanced search capabilities: the Advanded Search page

The result of a search using the Welcome page search box is displayed on its own page, called the Advanced Search page. This page has additional search features, including map-based searching.

Following a search using the search box, one may click the "Search Using Map" button. The results of the search are then shown in Google Maps, that is, each site represented in the search result will be highlighted on the map. Moreover, a search can be further refined by site location by clicking locations of interest on the map.

Another feature of the Advanced Search page is the "Download Results" button; clicking it will send a CSV file of the most recent search result to your computer.

General CSV downloads

Data from any database table can be downloaded as a CSV file.

For example, to download all of the Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) yield data, open the BETYdb Welcome page at https://www.betydb.org, select Species under Data menu. Type "Panicum virgatum" in the search box and click on the "Show" icon in the Actions column of the row for Panicum virgatum. You should see the URL https://www.betydb.org/species/938 in the address box after the View Species page is displayed. The trailing number in the URL—938—is the id number of the species Panicum virgatum. You can now use this number to search for yields for this species.

To do so, enter the URL for the species listing page, https://www.betydb.org/yields, into the browser address box, append ".csv" to indicate that you want results in CSV format, and append the query string "?specie_id=938" to indicate that you want only the results for Panicum virgatum. Your browser should then download a CSV file containing all yield records (subject to your user permissions) for Panicum virgatum.

This is just one of a number of ways of downloading data from BETYdb. See the API for URL-based Queries for additional information.

API keys

Using an API key allows access to data without having to enter a login. For example, assuming "Kq2xEWiRCyj90Sq7EFVn2A0LxJb58UTbscJl4fJP" is a valid API key, you could visit the URL https://www.betydb.org/yields.csv?specie_id=938&key=Kq2xEWiRCyj90Sq7EFVn2A0LxJb58UTbscJl4fJP" directly (that is, without first logging in) to download a CSV file of Panicum virgatum yield data.

Installing BETYdb (the complete database)

See Installing your own version of BETYdb.

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