LTER Information Manager's Manual

A getting started guide

This project is maintained by lter

Tracking and Sharing LTER Publications

The LTER Network maintains a Zotero group library where we track publications (journal articles, reports, and theses) that have been made possible through LTER funding, collaborations, and activities. It does not include publications that preceded LTER funding at sites that now house LTER programs. The publications web page on the LTER Network website draws its data from the Zotero library. The LTER Network Office searches Web of Science monthly for all LTER grant numbers in the ackowledgements field and adds found publications to the library. We strongly encourage sites to update their publication lists at least annually (generally around the time of their annual report to NSF) beacuse our search strategy does not catch theses or publications where authors have not acknowledged your site by grant number.

Please include

Journal articles, books, book chapters, maps, software, peer-reviewed conference papers (not posters or presentations), published reports, patents, Master’s and PhD theses.

Do not include

Bibtex updates

Zotero is becoming the most common system for maintaining a publication database at LTER sites, but if your site prefers EndNote or a custom database, you may provide your update in the form of a bibtex file. See instructions.

Zotero updates

  1. Set up a Zotero account and a group library.
  2. Download and install the Zotero desktop client and the browser add-on for the browser of your choice.
  3. To facilitate sharing of publications that meet the criteria for inclusion in the Network bibliography, it’s helpful to add a “for the Network” collection. Collections operate like tags. There’s only one copy of the record – it just appears in multiple collections. So when you update it (with, say added tags or a print publication date), it is updated in all the collections within your library where it exists.
  4. Import your publications to your desktop Zotero client. Add a tag (LTER-XXX, where XXX= your site’s 3-letter acronym) to indicate which site(s) are associated with the publication. If it is a cross-site collaborative publication, do your best to add the tags for related sites, as well as the “cross-site” tag. If it is an information management-related publication, add LTER-IM and if it is an education-related publication, add LTER-EDU. Do your best with these, but they don’t have to be perfect. The LNO will also attend to adding necessary tags.
  5. Always include a DOI for items when available. This can help identify duplicates when the LNO adds new items to a network-wide bibliography.
  6. Sync your desktop client with your online group library.
  7. Invite the LNO staff ( or LTER Network) to your group library.
  8. IMPORTANT: When you do a significant update to your library, let the LNO know and we’ll drag the new publications from your library to the Network library and sync them so they appear in the LTER Network bibliography. There is not currently a way to autosync group libraries (which is probably a wise thing).
  9. After updating, the LNO will search for and resolve duplicates. The merge process adds all the tags that were associated with either of the duplicate publications to the resulting combined publication. For example: if Andrews Forest, and Harvard Forest each upload the same publication, marked with their own tags (LTER-AND and LTER-HFR), the merged publication will have both tags. This is a quick process for a few publications, but even so, it adds up for hundreds. If you can share with us when your last update occurred, it will help to focus the search.

Notes on item types

Conference “papers” are a particular challenge. Juried conference papers (where a full paper results and is reviewed and published) should be added to Zotero as conference papers. Abstracts of meeting presentations (which don’t appear as papers) should be entered in Zotero under the “presentation” item type. NSF accepts presentations in annual project reports, but the LNO does not include them in the Network bibliography.

Find full details on the definition of item types and the required and optional fields on the biblio-fields page.


Q: Do you have the publications from our most recent annual report? A: The LNO does not receive your annual reports to NSF. The LTER Network Office is not part of NSF and NSF has very strict rules about how they share information. The only way we would receive your annual report is if you send it to us.

Q: Where did you get those most recent papers? A: The LNO has a Web of Science alert set up for all LTER grant numbers in funding acknowledgements. We get 30-50 hits per month on those (for all of LTER) and we add them to our Zotero library (tagged with the appropriate site) when they come in. That’s the source of the newer articles. This allows us to keep the Network bibliography reasonably current. Otherwise, we would always be a year or more out of date.

Q: I see articles without dates or with only partial titles. A: Articles without dates probably were incomplete in the original file we received or they have only been published online (not yet in print) at the time we added them. When they come out in print, we generally receive a second alert, which we merge with the first.

Q: Our site uses internal accession numbers to track our publications. Where should that go? A: Many other kinds of information can go in the “Extra” field in Zotero, including accession numbers. You may need to develop a specific export mapping if you maintain your site bibliography in a custom database.

Q: Is there a way to track data that is associated with a publication? A: Yes! This too can go in the extra field. Be sure to include it on its own line. For additional information, see BLE’s Zotero Javascript Search Client Repo.

Q: I like the LTER Network search client. Can I create something similar for my own site? A: That would be awesome. Find more information at LTER Network Zotero client Repo and BLE’s Zotero Javascript Search Client Repo

Q: What’s the point of all this? A: Beyond simply reporting the products of LTER research, combining the LTER Network bibliography allows us to ask and answer questions about how network-wide synthesis happens. At least two big analyses have come out of the LTER Network bibliography:

Collaboration across Time and Space in the LTER Network. March 2020. Tian-Yuan Huang, Martha R Downs, Jun Ma, Bin Zhao BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 4, Pages 353–364, doi: 10.1093/biosci/biaa014

Evolution of Collaboration within the US Long Term Ecological Research Network. December 2010. Jeffrey C. Johnson, Robert R. Christian, James W. Brunt, Caleb R. Hickman, Robert B. Waide Author Notes BioScience, Volume 60, Issue 11, Pages 931–940, doi: 10.1525/bio.2010.60.11.9


Many thanks to Tim Whiteaker for developing the search client linked to Zotero; to Tommy Thelan, for customizing it for the LTER Network website; and to all the LTER information managers and administrators who have maintained the database over the years.

Thanks, too, to the many creators and maintainers of Zotero, which is developed as a project by the non-profit Corporation for Digital Scholarship. It was originally created at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.