About e-RA

The electronic Rothamsted Archive, e-RA, provides a permanent managed database to both securely store and disseminate data from Rothamsted Research's long-term field experiments (since 1843) and meteorological stations (since 1853). Both historical and contemporary data are made available via this online database which provides the scientific community with access to a unique continuous record of agricultural experiments and weather measured since the mid-19th century. The data are accompanied by extensive supporting documentation and the e-RA curators provide tailored assistance and support in selecting and understanding data as suits users' needs.

Further information on the development of e-RA and cases studies of uses of the data are described in Perryman et al, 2018 and in Ostler et al, 2023.

The e-RA project is an ongoing process with more data from Rothamsted's historical long-term experiments being provided continuously to make it an ever-growing resource.

Today e-RA is part of the Rothamsted Long-Term Experiments - National Bioscience Research Infrastructure (RLTE-NBRI), which also covers maintenance of the Long-Term Experiments, the Rothamsted Sample Archive and Rothamsted's environmental monitoring activities including the weather stations and its role in the UK Environmental Change Network

The RLTE-NBRI is funded by UK Research and Innovation - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UKRI-BBSRC) under award BBS/E/RH/23NB0007 (2023-2028). The RLTE-NBRI is also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust. e-RA has been part of a National Capability since 2012, previous awards from the BBSRC were Grants BBS/E/C/00005189 (2012-2017) and BBS/E/C/000J0300 (2017-2022).

The development of e-RA

Plans for e-RA were laid out in 1990 and it was initiated in 1991, funded by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT) and the Leverhulme Trust. At this stage, it was based on an ORACLE database management system under the UNIX™ operating system and programs specific to e-RA were written to perform tasks of data entry, description, and extraction. Perl scripts were used to generate static content HTML pages. A dedicated website for data extraction and background information was developed and this was one of the earliest data portal sites in the UK. The initial test version of the e-RA database Version 1 was available with a limited subset of data in 1993.

A major refactoring of the e-RA code base began in 2005 and, following migration to Microsoft SQL Server, Version 2 of the e-RA database was released to Rothamsted users in February 2009. A new e-RA website was released in March 2011, incorporating an extensive overhaul of the previous site with major additions to the content including comprehensive background information about the field experiments and meteorological data.

Refinements were made to the database to provide public access to an updated e-RA V2 and the launch of the e-RA database externally to the wider scientific community in May 2013. The most recent major addition to e-RA was the Document Archive (e-RADoc) which contains scanned copies historical document. Selected datasets started being made Open Access in 2013 and provided with Digital Object Identifiers from 2017. In May 2021 a new version of e-RA was released incorporating FAIR data principles (Wilkinson et al 2016).

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For further information and assistance, please contact the e-RA curators, Sarah Perryman and Margaret Glendining using the e-RA email address: era@rothamsted.ac.uk