The Polar Data Catalogue


With the launch of the ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence in 2004, CCIN and ArcticNet, in partnership with Noetix and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, came together to develop a more sophisticated online presence and database to serve the data management needs of ArcticNet scientists. The resulting system, the Polar Data Catalogue (PDC), was developed initially as a metadata-only “Discovery Portal” to facilitate the exchange of information among researchers and other user groups, including northern communities, international programs, and the interested public. The PDC metadata records conform to both the FGDC and ISO 19115 standard formats to facilitate international sharing. Guidance comes from the Polar Data Management Committee, whose members, comprising representatives from PDC partner organizations, meet annually with CCIN and PDC management to review progress, form policy, and provide direction for future development.


With its online inception in 2007, metadata records describing datasets from a variety of programs were entered into the PDC, facilitating its evolution into a multi-disciplinary repository for cold regions data and information resulting from research on the natural environment (including snow, ice, and cryospheric modeling), social sciences, health, and policy. Nearly 30,000 RADARSAT images of northern Canada and Antarctica are also available in the PDC. In addition to its focus on the Canadian Arctic, the PDC also serves research products generated from other locations in the circumpolar Arctic as well as the Antarctic. Entries on other Canadian and international polar data portals, organizations, and programs are provided for users who seek further resources.

Numerous organizations and agencies have actively participated in development of the PDC, including Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian government’s program for International Polar Year (IPY), the Inuit Knowledge Centre of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (Inuit Qaujisarvingat), the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the ArcticNet Student Association and the Centre for Northern Studies (Centre d’études nordiques, CEN) headquartered at the Université Laval. The PDC has worked with scientists from these programs and others, including the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) and the Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment (BREA), to archive and serve their research data and metadata. The PDC is a founding member of the Canadian Polar Data Network (CPDN), the successor to the Canadian IPY Data Assembly Centre Network.

Starting in 2011, the focus expanded to include the data files which are described by each metadata record, with the addition of over 147,000 files in the first two years. Currently, the PDC contains over 1,750 metadata descriptions of datasets and over 120 datasets from Canadian and international programs, with a number of datasets under “Limited” availability until an agreed-upon future release date. Additional metadata and datasets are submitted, reviewed by PDC staff and partners, and released to the public on an ongoing basis.

Future plans focus on expansion of the research and satellite image catalogues and include enhancing access to external data sets through interoperable standards and technology, and reciprocally, providing PDC metadata to other data portals around the country and the world.

What is Metadata?

Metadata is basically data about data, or the descriptive information about a data set that can be searched to allow others to discover the existence and characteristics of the data. Metadata provides the what, where, and when of data and by whom it was collected, as well as its current location. Metadata facilitates the understanding, use, and management of data and is a tool for networking and collaboration. Standardized metadata is an internationally confirming standard of information fields that must be included within the metadata to allow interoperability between metadata management facilities.

Single Portal Policy

The PDC has released a Single Portal Policy Statement to guide future development of our online presence.

WDS Membership

CCIN and the Polar Data Catalogue are proud to be Regular Members of the International Council of Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS). To learn more visit the WDS homepage. WDS