Reporting Missing Values

The International Nucleotide Database Collaboration (INSDC) have a standardised missing/null value reporting language to be used where a value of an expected format for sample metadata reporting can not be provided.

The controlled vocabulary takes into account different type of constraints. Submitters are strongly encouraged to always provide true values. However, if missing/null value reporting is required, submitters are asked to use a term with the finest granularity for their situation. See the table below for accepted missing value reporting terms.


If your sample metadata does not provide enough context for your data to be easily interpreted, you may be requested to update your samples, so it is important to ensure you provide any metadata available and only use missing value terms when necessary.

INSDC Missing Value Reporting Terms

INSDC term (top level)

INSDC term (lower level)


not applicable

information is inappropriate to report, can
indicate that the standard itself fails to
model or represent the information


not collected

information of an expected format was not
given because it has not been collected

not provided

information of an expected format was not
given, a value may be given at the later

restricted access

information exists but can not be released
openly because of privacy concerns

Usage of INSDC Missing Value Reporting Terms

Please use the above standardised missing value vocabulary only if a true value of an expected format for a mandatory field is missing. If a true value is missing for a recommended or an optional field, then these fields should not be used for reporting at all. For any use cases, we discourage the usage of the top level term ‘missing’ and encourage to use a lower level term with a higher granularity to declare the reason for the absence of a true value.

Example of usage:

Checklist: GSC MIxS soil

geographic location (elevation): not collected

geographic location (country and/or sea): restricted access