USGS - science for a changing world

sbtools - sbitem

“Items” are the objects in which ScienceBase stores and organizes data, and are necessary to understand for using sbtools. This lesson will introduce ScienceBase items and the R equivalent, sbitem.

What is a ScienceBase “item”?

A ScienceBase “item” is the fundamental digital object available through ScienceBase. Items can contain files, contain and display metadata, or contain other items to create a hierarchical item/folder structure. Items all follow the same type of metadata model, so they have a structured format. Visit the ScienceBase Items help page for more information, and look at the table below for some examples of items.

Table 1. ScienceBase item examples.
Item Description
Oil producer well: Record Number 2016815 a standalone item
Bathymetric DEM of the lower Nooksack River, August 2015 item with files and metadata
Data for calculating population, collision and displacement vulnerability among marine birds of the California Current System associated with offshore wind energy infrastructure item that contains files and child items

What is an “sbitem”?

An sbitem is the sbtools equivalent of ScienceBase items. In R, ScienceBase items are represented with the class sbitem, which is a lightweight representation containing the item’s essential metadata. sbitems also contain links that allow you to query ScienceBase for even more information on the item.

Below is an example of what an sbitem looks like in R. This item was downloaded to the R object itemexample. The code to download this ScienceBase item will be explained in the lesson on getting data from ScienceBase.

# check class - it should be "sbitem"
## [1] "sbitem"
# all fields in sbitem
##  [1] "link"              "relatedItems"      "id"               
##  [4] "identifiers"       "title"             "citation"         
##  [7] "provenance"        "hasChildren"       "parentId"         
## [10] "contacts"          "webLinks"          "browseCategories" 
## [13] "browseTypes"       "tags"              "dates"            
## [16] "facets"            "files"             "distributionLinks"
## [19] "previewImage"
# view the item
## <ScienceBase Item> 
##   Title: Coastal-change and glaciological maps of Antarctica
##   Creator/LastUpdatedBy:      / 
##   Provenance (Created / Updated):  2010-10-06T04:25:43Z / 2017-08-12T08:52:59Z
##   Children: FALSE
##   Item ID: 4f4e4b24e4b07f02db6aea14
##   Parent ID: 4f4e4771e4b07f02db47e1e4

There is a helper function available to verify that it has the sbitem class, is.sbitem. This would do the same check as class(item) == "sbitem", just saves a bit of typing.

## [1] TRUE

Additional item descriptions

In addition to metadata fields, ScienceBase items can be described by alternative identifiers, e.g. digital object identifiers, USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS) codes, etc. They can be useful to identify your items in searches because they have a user-defined type, scheme, and key.

For examples of identifiers, see the “Additional Information | Identifiers” section of Differential Heating (one set of identifiers for a DOI which has a type/scheme/key) and nwis_01645704 (one set of identifiers; we invented the mda_streams scheme, with associated types and keys, to organize items in one of our own projects). You could create your own scheme to organize items, or use some of the standardized schemes that ScienceBase offers. Alternative identifiers will be used when introducing the function identifier_exists.

Now that you understand the fundamental unit of ScienceBase and the sbtools equivalent unit, you can learn how to search ScienceBase for available data, download items, and modify or create items from R.

Lindsay R. Carr