Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you cannot find the answer to your question in this FAQ or other ArrayExpress help pages then please email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk.

The FAQ is divided into two sections:

  1. Using ArrayExpress
  2. Submitting data to ArrayExpress

Please note that from July 2014, the MIAMExpress tool is no longer maintained for experiment or array design submissions. For experiment submissions, please use the Annotare webform tool instead. For array design submissions, please follow the instructions here.

 

1. Using ArrayExpress

Searching and understanding data
Data access policy - permissions and restrictions
FTP data download and programmatic access
Other general questions

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2. Submitting data to ArrayExpress

Accession numbers
Keeping unpublished data private
Public release date
Which files to submit
Making changes to data already submitted to Arrayexpress

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1. Using ArrayExpress

Searching and understanding data
  • How do I search the ArrayExpress database?
    For simple keyword searches and browsing, please visit the search help page. For more complex search queries, e.g. "Find me all the microarray experiments on Agilent chip X studying diabetes in mouse", please refer to the advanced search help.
  • How do I link sample and data file information in the downloadable files?
    All the downloadable files relating to an experiment are in MAGE-TAB format. Top level information about an experiment (title, authors, protocols etc) is in a file called the IDF (Investigation Definition Format). Sample, extract and hybridization information is in a file called the SDRF (Sample and Data Relationship Format) which also links to the protocol information in the IDF. The SDRF lists which data files are associated with each hybridization or sequencing assay. For more information on the MAGE-TAB format, please visit the MAGE-TAB help page. The IDF and SDRF components are described in greater detail on this help page.
  • I read a paper that referred to data in ArrayExpress but when I searched for the data I got no hits. Why?
    It could be that the submitter of the data has not yet told us that the experiment should be made public. If you come across this problem please email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk - tell us which paper you found the reference in and the ArrayExpress accession number quoted if any. We will make this data publicly available.
  • I have seen ArrayExpress experiment accessions with prefixes such as "E-MTAB", "E-GEOD", etc. What do the prefixes mean?
    The prefixes indicate the source and/or submission route from which the data came from. The common ones are:
    • MEXP = data submitted via the MIAMExpress submission route
    • TABM = data submitted via the Tab2MAGE submission route (discontinued since January 2012)
    • MTAB = data submitted via the MAGE-TAB submission route
    • GEOD = data imported from NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus
    See the accession codes help page for more information.

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Data access policy - permissions and restrictions
  • Are there any restrictions on the use of microarray data obtained through ArrayExpress?
    No restrictions, all public data from ArrayExpress can be used by anyone and our services are completely free of charge.
  • Do I need a login account to view or access data in ArrayExpress?
    For public data, no. We only provide login accounts to data submitters so that they, and their reviewers, can access pre-publication private data. All other data can be viewed by everyone.
  • I've lost my ArrayExpress website login details. What do I do?
    If you are viewing a curated experiment which you submitted to ArrayExpress, use the forgotten password reminder form in the login box. If you are not the data submitter (e.g. a reviewer), then please contact the the submitter. We can only give ArrayExpress login details to the owners of the data directly.
  • I'm reviewing a paper. How do I get a login to view private data that the authors have deposited in ArrayExpress?
    Reviewer login details are sent to submitters on completion of the processing of their submission. Please contact the data submitter, via the journal editor, to request this login information. We cannot provide access to private data to anyone without first getting authorization from the submitter or journal.

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FTP data download and programmatic access
  • Is there an FTP site to download data files in bulk?
    Yes, all the data and array designs in ArrayExpress are available for direct download in a number of different formats. For more information on what files are available and how to access them see our FTP files for download help.
  • Do you have any application programming interfaces (APIs) for accessing ArrayExpress?
    Yes, we have REST-style and WebService APIs for accessing ArrayExpress. Details can be found here: Programmatic access.
Other general questions
  • How much overlap is there between ArrayExpress and the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO)?
    We import data on a weekly basis from NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO). All experiments imported from GEO have accession numbers in the format of E-GEOD-n, where n is a number. For example, GEO accession "GSE29080" would become "E-GEOD-29080" in ArrayExpress. For more information see the GEO data import page.
  • How do I cite ArrayExpress in my publication?
    You should include your experiment accession number and the URL to ArrayExpress home page, www.ebi.ac.uk/arrayexpress. e.g. "Microarray data are available in the ArrayExpress database (www.ebi.ac.uk/arrayexpress) under accession number E-MEXP-12345." If you wish to include a citation for ArrayExpress then the following publication should be used: Rustici.G et al. 2013 ArrayExpress update - trends in database growth and links to data analysis tools. Nucleic Acids Res, doi: 10.1093/nar/gks1174. Pubmed ID 23193272.

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2. Submitting data to ArrayExpress (general)

Accession numbers
  • I urgently need an accession number to include in my publication - how can I get one?
    Firstly, start your submission if you have not already done so! ArrayExpress does not provide accession numbers in advance of submission of data. This is in line with the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO)'s policy of provision of accession numbers after deposition. If you have completed the submission and are waiting for a response you can email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk to let us know how urgently the accession number is required. To help us find your submission tell us your username, the title of the experiment or array. We will reply to your email as quickly as possible but please note that we often have several submissions requiring urgent attention.
  • How long will it take to get an accession number?
    If you submit using Annotare, after you've filled in the webforms with experimental information and uploaded data files, all information will go through a mandatory validation step. If there are no errors, you can proceed to submit and will then receive an automatic confirmation email containing the accession number. The number will NOT change throughout data curation and processing, so you can quote it in your manuscript.

    If you submit using the MAGE-TAB spreadsheet tool, after you complete a submission it is put in a queue awaiting review and checking by a curator. We aim to respond within a week upon receiving the submission, but response times do vary depending on submission volume. If there are no major issues with your submission (e.g. there is adequate meta-data in the MAGE-TAB spreadsheet describing your experiment and samples, all required data files are correctly formatted), the curator will send you the accession number, otherwise he/she will contact you to advise on how to revise and resubmit before an accession number can be assigned. Therefore, assignment of accession numbers also depends on how well the submitted files are prepared.

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Keeping unpublished data private
  • Can my data be kept private after I submit it?
    Yes, all submitted information will be kept private until the release date that you set at the time of submission, or until a publication is released that contains the ArrayExpress accession number relating to your data. You can also change the release date to suit the peer review progress of your paper. Please see our data availability page for more information.
  • The journal I am submitting to have requested private access to my data - how do I get an ArrayExpress login for them?
    Firstly, start your ArrayExpress submission if you have not already done so! You will be sent login details for viewing your private experimental data on the ArrayExpress website only when curation is finshed and when your data is loaded into the ArrayExpress database. If you are really pushed for time, reply to the email thread sent to you by the ArrayExpress curator in charge of your submission, or email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk to let us know about your situation. We will try our best to fast-track your submission.
  • I tried to login to ArrayExpress to see some recently submitted private data but it said my username and password were invalid. Why?
    Possibly you have tried to login with your submitter account with our submission tools ( Annotare, MAGE-TAB, or MIAMExpress)? These "submitter" accounts can only be used for submitting data, not viewing it in ArrayExpress. We will provide you with an ArrayExpress data access login account after your submission has been curated and then loaded into ArrayExpress. If you are using an ArrayExpress login which you have just received, it might not be working yet because ArrayExpress is updated only once a day at about 06:00 GMT. Try again after this time.

    If you've forgotten or lost your access account details, you can retrieve it using the forgotten password tool. If it still does not work, contact us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk and tell us what login details you are trying to use / which page you tried those details on.

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Public release date
  • I don't know when my paper will be published so what should I put as the release date?
    Enter an estimated public release date up to 1 year in the future from the day of submission. The release date can be changed during/after curation for multiple times to match the peer-review progress. Please see our release date change page for more information.
  • My paper is about to be published - how do I make the data public?
    For microarray data, you can change the release date using a self-service tool. Your experiment will appear on the ArrayExpress website at about 06:00 UK time the following day, following an overnight website update.
    For sequencing data, please email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk with the experiment accession number and tell us when it should be made public. We will change release date for you in both ArrayExpress and ENA (where the raw data files are stored) to make sure the records are in sync.

    Please email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk with the citation information too (including PubMed ID and Digital object identifier [DOI]) so we can add this to your experiment's record.

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What files to submit
  • Can I get a MAGE-TAB template spreadsheet for submitting experiment data?
    Yes. Using the MAGE-TAB spreadsheet submission tool, you can generate a template spreadsheet specific to your experiment. Check out our MAGE-TAB quick start submission guide or YouTube video to see how the submission tool works.

    If you use the Annotare webform submission tool, there is no need to create any MAGE-TAB spreadsheet. Just fill in the webforms step-by-step, and a MAGE-TAB spreadsheet will be constructed for you, based on what you've entered on the webforms. See this Annotare help page for more information.

    There are also some third party data annoation tools that can generate MAGE-TAB spreadsheets for you for uploading through the MAGE-TAB spreadsheet submission tool. There is more information about them here.
  • Which files do I need to submit for an Affymetrix experiment?
    For a MIAME compliant submission we need Affymetrix .CEL files as raw data and some form of processed, probe set level data. The processed data is preferably a matrix file generated by software such as as robust multi-array average (RMA) or dChip. A matrix file has the Affyemtrix probesets in the rows and processed intensity values per hybridisation in the columns (MAGE-TAB data matrix example).
  • How do I submit a high throughput sequencing (HTS) experiment?
    Whichever submission tool you may use (Annotare or MAGE-TAB ), you will need to provide as much information as possible about the experiment's purpose, starting materials (samples), sequencing libraries, wet- and dry-lab protocols used, raw sequence data files for each sequencing assay, and optionally processed data files, e.g. BAM alignment files, RPFM/FPKM values for each gene/transcript. ArrayExpress acts as a data broker and will transfer the raw read files to the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) on your behalf, so you do not need to send the read files directly to the ENA.

    Raw data files must be in a format accepted by the Sequence Read Archive (SRA) at the ENA, otherwise we will not be able to process your submission. We strongly recommend that you check out our sequencing submissions help page as it explains the requirements in a lot more detail.
  • I have very large data files, do I need to upload them through the web interface?
    Large (over 10Mb) data files can be sent to us via FTP instead of uploaded through the MAGE-TAB spreadsheet or Annotare webform tool. If you're submitting using MAGE-TAB tool, please email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk to let us know if you have transferred the files. (Note: When using MAGE-TAB tool, one small size (dummy/toy) data file must also be uploaded to allow the submission to be completed. This dummy file will be ignored as long as it is not listed in the MAGE-TAB meta-data spreadsheet.)
  • I have MAGE-ML files generated from in-house pipelines. Does ArrayExpress still accept them?
    No. MAGE-ML files are no longer supported and accepted by ArrayExpress. Please submit your array design files and/or experiment data using MAGE-TAB or Annotare, which are described on this submissions overview page. If you would like to update your pipeline to generate MAGE-TAB files, please write to us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk and we will try our best to offer assistance.

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Making changes to data already submitted to ArrayExpress

  • I hit "Submit" at the end of my submission but I haven't actually finished editing. I logged in to the submission tool but can't edit my experiment anymore. Help!
    Email us at annotare@ebi.ac.uk (Annotare submitters) or arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk (MAGE-TAB submitters) as soon as possible and ask us to "reopen" the submission or to "assign" it back to you. (Once submitted, your submission may already be worked on by a curator and is considered "closed", so as to avoid confusing, concurrent editing of the same submission by you and the curator.) Remember to include your username and the experiment/array design title in your email so we can quickly find your submission.
  • My data has been loaded into ArrayExpress but I need to change/correct something - how do I do this?
    Email us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk with the accession number and describe what corrections you would like to make. Minor corrections such as fixing typing errors can be made easily. Major changes like adding or removing samples/assays usually require the experiment to be unloaded from the ArrayExpress database, edited, re-curated and reprocessed, which can take a considerable amount of time.

    Note on editing public sequencing experiment: Due to data mirroring agreement between all partners of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC, involving DDBJ, ENA, and GenBank), once a sequencing data set has been released to the public, it is INSDC's policy not to make any changes to the data set (e.g. turning it private again, adding/removing/changing samples), unless there is an exceptional reason. As ArrayExpress brokers sequencing submission to the ENA, to make sure experimental data remains consistent across ENA and ArrayExpress, you will not be allowed to change/correct the ArrayExpress records for your public sequencing experiment either.
  • My contact details have changed, how do I update them?
    Send your new contact details to us at arrayexpress@ebi.ac.uk and we will change them in ArrayExpress.

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