Getting Access to Shared Data

Summary information on the data shared in NDA is available on the NDA homepage without the need for an NDA account. You can also build queries and view summary information on data without an account. To request access to detailed human subjects data, you must be sponsored by an NIH recognized institution with a Federalwide Assurance and have a research related need to access NDA data. NDA federated repositories have their own access requirements.

If you meet the above criteria, you can request access by completing a Data Use Certification, and signing it, or having it signed by the investigator if this is not you, and an institutional official with signature authority. If you do not know your institution's signing official, contact us at The NDA Help Desk. Additional research staff from the same institution may be added to the Data Use Certification by completing the Senior/Key Person Profile (Collaborating Investigator) section. There is no limit to the number of additional staff members who can be added to a data access request so only one request is needed for your entire lab.

To get started, create an NDA account or login to your existing one. Once approved, you'll have access to query and download all data available in the repository.

To request access, follow these steps:

  1. Create an account.

  2. Log in and go to your Data Permissions dashboard.

  3. Complete the access request instructions.


Once completed, the request is reviewed by the Data Access Committee (DAC) established to oversee access to the NDA shared data. Refer to SOP-04 Data Access Permission Request for the entire procedure.

Those approved will have access to NDA for one year after which you will need to reapply. Those publishing are required to acknowledge NDA as defined in the Data Use Certification. Additionally, the sharing of an NDA Study is strongly encouraged to provide proper attribution to those who initially collected the data.


Accessing Data Directly in the Cloud

The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive (NDA) is to make research data available for reuse. Data collected across projects can be aggregated and made available using the GUID, including clinical data, and the results of imaging, genomic, and other experimental data collected from the same participants. In this way, separate experiments on genotypes and brain volumes can inform the research community on the over one hundred thousand subjects now contained in the NDA. The NDA’s cloud computation capability provides a framework in support of this infrastructure.


How does it work?

The NDA holds and protects rich datasets (fastq, brain imaging) in object-based storage (Amazon S3). To facilitate access, the NDA supports the deployment of packages (created through the NDA Query tools) to an Amazon Web Service Oracle database. These databases contain a table for each data structure in a package. Associated raw or evaluated data files are available via read-only access to NDA’s S3 objects. Addresses for those objects in the associated package are provided in the miNDAR table titled S3_LINKS. By providing this interface, the NDA envisions real-time computation against rich datasets that can be initiated without the need to download full packages. Furthermore, a new category of data structure has been created called "evaluated data." Tables for these structures will be created for each miNDAR, allowing researchers using NDA cloud capabilities and computational pipelines to write any analyzed data directly back to the miNDAR database. This will enable the NDA to make this data available to the general research community when appropriate.


miNDARs can also be populated with your own raw or evaluated data and uploaded directly back into the NDA for a streamlined data submission directly from a hosted database.


How do I get started?

To begin, email and request that cloud access be added to your account. Once your request is approved, the option to launch packages to a cloud hosted database will be available during package creation. You can deploy previously generated packages as well as new ones.


Initiating miNDAR

To move data to Oracle, first create a package in the NDA. Then, following registration, enter the package id and credentials requested on the miNDAR tab. This will start the miNDAR creation process, which takes approximately 10 minutes. Once created, the miNDAR connect details will be emailed to you, and can be used to establish a connection with your credentials.



File data that is usually included in a package download will now be accessible via S3. Each package will have a table “S3_LINKS” which contains URIs for all objects in that package. Using direct calls to Amazon Web Service's S3 API, a third party tool, or client libraries, data from these objects can be streamed or downloaded. 


Temporary Keys

For security purposes temporary AWS credentials  are needed to access the S3 Objects. Temporary credentials are issued by authenticating with a web service using your NDA username and password.  AWS credentials can be obtained directly from the web service (see examples on our GitHub page) or from the download manager, which is available in both a GUI and command line version.

For the GUI version, go to the 'Tools' menu and select 'Generate AWS Credentials'.  

For the command line download manager, use the following syntax: 

java -jar downloadmanager.jar --username user --password pass --g filename 

For help with the command line download manager, use the following switches: -h, --help

The web service provides temporary credentials in three parts:

  • an access key, 
  • a secret key, 
  • and a session token

All three parts are needed in order to authenticate properly with S3 and retrieve data.  

Additionally the web service provides an expiration timestamp for the token in YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS-TZ format (TZ=HH:MM).  New keys can be retrieved at any time. A service oriented approach allows for implementation of pipeline procedures which can request new keys at the appropriate stage of data processing. 


Additional Help

Please see our Cloud Tutorials for a video demonstration of how to create a miNDAR, how to generate temporary security credentials, and how to use these to retrieve data.  Please contact the Help Desk with any questions.