Skip to content

NDSF Data Policy

On This Page


    During each expedition NDSF provides a single copy of the full data distribution to the Chief Scientist and a copy to the shoreside WHOI archive. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) maintains an archive for oceanographic data and samples, as well as visual and digital information, obtained using the vehicles and sensors of the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF). The federal funding agencies that support the NDSF provide some funding to help support these archives. This archive policy is intended to allow the WHOI/NDSF to fulfill its commitment to properly documenting and preserving these data for future scientific, engineering, and educational use, without compromising the Principal Investigator's (PI) right to sole use of the data for scientific purposes during the two years following data acquisition. Changes and improvements in sensor technology, recording media, and operational characteristics of the NDSF vehicles will necessitate periodic updates of this archiving policy. Suggestions for policy improvements will be presented during WHOI/NDSF facilities reports at DeSSC meetings along with updates on the status of archived NDSF data.

    Science Party Responsibilities

    Each cruise that uses NDSF facilities has a Chief Scientist designated by agreement between the Principal Investigators and WHOI/NDSF prior to the cruise. The Chief Scientist acts on behalf of the Principal Investigators to:

    • provide a Cruise Prospectus to WHOI/NDSF prior to the cruise,
    • conduct the expedition and complete dive plans during the cruise,
    • assure that all data are properly documented and distributed to Principal Investigators,
    • build event logs documenting scientific activities during dives,
    • specify to WHOI/NDSF who will receive data post-cruise,
    • meet all requirements associated with foreign obligations for cruises that operate in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other nations.

    A copy of this Archiving Policy will be provided to the Chief Scientist at the time that they are designated. PIs are responsible for archiving final data products and interpretations they create from data acquired with NDSF vehicles through the appropriate data repository. The Chief Scientist has the responsibility to assure that the entire shipboard scientific party is aware of this policy and their obligations with respect to data archiving. Data are made available to the scientific party during the cruise as agreed among WHOI/NDSF and the Chief Scientist. Access to archived data onshore is described below, see Post-Cruise Data Access and Archiving.

    When operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone of other nations, certain protocols and deliverable data products are part of the agreement the United States has with those nations when clearance is granted to conduct work in their waters. The Chief Scientist is responsible for meeting all the foreign obligations associated with the scientific data for their cruise. All principal investigators associated with a cruise are responsible for providing pertinent information to the Chief Scientist.

    Data Acquired with NDSF Vehicles and Instruments

    Data acquired by NDSF vehicles and instrumentation are considered “standard data” and will be archived at WHOI as described below. Details about NDSF vehicle and instrument, data formats  (e.g. format definitions, processing and quality assessment, data volumes, recording media), and data stewardship procedures are available in the submersible vehicle Data Deliverable document, which are routinely updated and available on WHOI’s web pages (  All data are provided to the scientific party for scientific research, as outlined under Science Party Responsibilities, above.

    Video Imagery

    On each dive or lowering of Alvin and Jason, various video channels are recorded.  These video data are duplicated at sea and first-generation copies are provided to the scientific party (see image use/copyright section below). The originals of all full-resolution and proxy video data are archived at WHOI.

    Digital Camera Imagery

    Digital images collected using electronic still cameras on Alvin, Jason and Sentry are recorded and processed at sea as standard image format files. The original media and a copy of the processed standard image format files are archived at WHOI, and a copy is provided to the scientific party (see image use/copyright section below).

    Vehicle Navigation and Attitude Data, and Dive Summaries

    Vehicle navigation and attitude data are provided as ASCII data (text files) with all data columns identified (either in the file or in an accompanying document). A tabular summary of all vehicle lowerings (geographic location, data/times, etc.) is also provided as a text file and in the dive/cruise reports. Digital copies of these data are archived at WHOI.

    Geological, Biological, and Geochemical Samples

    While at sea, the scientific party is responsible for documenting all samples collected (e.g., type, dive number, location, water depth, disposition (i.e., repository where they will be stored), etc.). A copy of this sample metadata will be provided to the WHOI/NDSF staff member responsible for at-sea data delivery. Sample metadata will be archived at WHOI together with a copy of any auxiliary data (e.g., descriptions, shipboard analyses) that are generated by the scientific party at sea.

    The transport and preservation of physical samples acquired during NDSF dive operations is the responsibility of the Chief Scientist. Unless otherwise directed by the Chief Scientist, geological samples will be archived in the Seafloor Samples Laboratory at WHOI. It is the responsibility of the scientific party to arrange and pay for transportation of any samples to be stored at WHOI. Non-geological samples will not be archived at WHOI. (see sample section below)

    Data Acquired Using Third-Party Tools

    Third-party tools are sensors or samplers other than those in the normal NDSF inventory used by the science party to accomplish their objectives. Data acquired with these tools should be fully documented by the scientific party. Prior to the start of the cruise, the Chief Scientist will provide a copy of this documentation, together with a list of how the data are being distributed, to the WHOI/NDSF staff member responsible for at-sea data delivery. It is understood that in some circumstances, tools which are prototypes or under development may not have fully established data formats or standards, and that specifications may change in the future. The data are the property and responsibility of the Principal Investigator who acquired them and it is incumbent on the PI to develop a data management/stewardship plan for these data as part of their proposal process.  If NDSF data loggers are used to record data from a third-party tool and the data are fed into multiplexed data files, that data will be preserved and archived by NDSF in the multiplexed data files. However, if a third-party tool displaces a standard NDSF tool, data from the third-party tool will be archived at WHOI unless other arrangements have been negotiated prior to the cruise. Additional information regarding third party tools is available in the DeSSC document archive:

    Video and Photo Use, Accreditation, and Copyright

    Types of Use and related terms and fees

    • Non-commercial - Non-commercial uses of data and imagery include, but are not limited to, science purposes (i.e. posters, scientific journals, presentations); some news coverage (press conferences, timely news coverage of the research); and free educational resources (in-classroom uses, presentations, free museum exhibits). Data will be made available to non-commercial users for the nominal cost of reproduction and distribution.
    • Commercial - Commercial uses of data and imagery include, but are not limited to, education products that are being sold (for example, textbooks, children’s books, digital apps, paid-access websites); museum exhibits that charge an entry fee; and documentary and other film productions.Requests for commercial uses of imagery (still and video) should be referred to the WHOI Media Office for licensing and NDSF reporting purposes.Licensing fees to be charged to commercial users of NDSF imagery will conform to industry standards and will keep in mind the importance of disseminating this type of information and providing the public with access to the results of deep submergence science and technology.


    The Chief Scientist will fill out a form upon receipt of data at the conclusion of a cruise, specifying the appropriate funding agencies and institution acknowledgments that should be included in the credits that will accompany the data. A standard credit would include: Anna Hunter, chief scientist, XYZ University, and other participating Institutions. Funder: NSF (and/or other funding entities. for example, @NSF_Geo). © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    When licensing imagery, WHOI will include this crediting information, as provided by the Chief Scientist.

    PI Responsibilities

    When providing material to non-commercial users, Principal Investigators should include the crediting information specified by the Chief Scientist and the standard terms of use language:

    • Permission is granted for the one-time and non-exclusive use of the data as outlined.  For future or third party uses please contact the WHOI Media Office.  Images displayed online may only be shown at 72 dpi to prevent unauthorized downloading of the images. Also, please CC Jayne Doucette at WHOI Communications, so that these requests can be included in the NDSF report.

    Copyright of Videos/Photos

    As archivist of NDSF data, WHOI retains copyright (except on OOI cruises) in order to track and report on data usage and to vet and facilitate commercial and non-commercial licensing requests, while retaining integrity of the data.  Exceptions may be negotiated on a case-by-case basis if warranted. Such negotiations are to be conducted well in advance of the cruise on which the data will be collected. Otherwise the above policy will apply.

    The NDSF will provide an accounting of all commercial income generated from deep submergence data as part of the annual Operator’s report to the DeSSC. All proceeds from the commercial use of NDSF data or images are to be used to support the NDSF and the archiving of data from NDSF vehicles. Reports summarizing such income will be reported annually at DeSSC meetings.

    Post-Cruise Data Access and Archiving

    Access to and use of Archived Data

    A copy of vehicle data will be stored at the WHOI Data Library and Archives and/or on National Deep Submergence Facility data servers. Access to deep submergence data is viewed as important and every effort will be made to facilitate access to this information via the Chief Scientist, WHOI Archives and the WHOI Media Office. A subset of data acquired with NDSF vehicles is passed to the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS) for online discovery and access. These data are assigned Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to promote citation of data and attribution to scientists who acquired it.

    During a post-cruise data embargo period following the cruise, archived data may be accessed only by the Chief Scientist, or by others documented by the Chief Scientist in writing, as noted under Science Party Responsibilities, above. The length of this embargo proprietary period is the same as that dictated by the policies of the agency funding the expedition (see Data Embargo section). Principal Investigators may use their discretion in distributing archivable images and data directly to the scientific and educational communities and to the news media for non-commercial use (see PI Responsibilities section below), or they may refer outside requests for such material to Jayne Doucette at WHOI Communications.

    At the end of the embargo period, all data, with the exception of video and photo, are considered freely publicly available for general use by scientists, engineers, educators, and the public.

    These policies do not apply in cases involving U.S. Government classified material. Such material will be archived at WHOI only by direction of the sponsoring agency.

    Data Embargo

    NDSF does not assign a default data embargo period to vehicle data, but instead uses the assignments made in the NDSF Data Receipt document signed by the Chief Scientist at the conclusion of the cruise. The maximum embargo period for data obtained on National Science Foundation-funded cruises is two years. Duration of embargo on data collected during cruises funded by other agencies may vary and will be addressed individually. No embargo will be applied to cruise metadata (e.g. ports, dates, cruise track).

    NDSF retains the right to use the digital data, video, and still imagery obtained during all cruises for operational and engineering purposes (pilot briefing, equipment development, performance analysis, etc.). Any data used for engineering purposes prior to the end of the data embargo period will not be published or publicly disseminated without the approval of the Chief Scientist.

    Requesting Duplicates from the Archives

    During a data embargo period, Data Library personnel are responsible for acquiring a written release from the Chief Scientist before any requests for viewing or duplication can be honored. If no such release is given, the request must be denied.

    All requests to view and/or duplicate film, video tapes, or data disks must be submitted in writing to the Data Library. Each request must specify cruise and leg number, dive number if known, type of material and amount of duplication needed. The Data Librarian will assist the requestor in identifying cruise, leg, and dive numbers, if necessary. Film and video tapes must be viewed within the confines of the Data Library.

    Cost quotations for duplication of film and video tape will be provided by the Data Librarian. Upon receipt of a purchase order or prepayment from the requestor, the Data Librarian will forward the job estimate form and the film or video tape to Graphic Services for fulfillment of the order. Requests for copies of the data disks will be forwarded to the NDSF data team.

    When the duplication is completed, the film, video tape, data disks and the job estimate form will be returned to the Data Library. The Data Librarian will prepare an invoice and mail it and the duplicates to the requestor.

    Procedures for Curation and Disposition of Samples Collected

    There are several unique and fundamental attributes of scientific deep submersible operations which dictate special concern over the management of collected samples. These include:

    1. The limited duration and high cost of time actually spent on the bottom.
    2. The unique nature of actual in situ observations and measurements, and the invaluable capability for documenting in great detail the environment from which samples are collected.
    3. The limited ability of the personnel directly participating in dive activities, and in fact, those taking part in any given expedition, to fully comprehend the significance of and utilize the observations made and the samples collected. A diverse set of processes, including biological, geological, and chemical, create the environment into which the submersible dives, and thus the data and samples collected by NDSF vehicles are potentially useful to a diverse set of scientists.

    These considerations led the UNOLS Deep Submergence Science Committee (DeSSC) to establish the following regulations concerning the collection, curation, and disposition of samples.

    Sample Collection

    The Chief Scientist has ultimate responsibility for the sampling program. All sample collection will be done under the direction of the scientists aboard the ship although, in practice, the actual sample collection is carried out by the pilot, whose skill is ultimately responsible for the quality of sampling operations, and who has responsibility to determine that the sampling operations do not compromise the safety of the vehicle.

    Sample Curation

    All samples returned to the surface by Alvin or Jason, without exception, and regardless of whether collected intentionally, incidentally, or accidentally, will be curated on board the ship. This curation assures access to information about the samples to the scientific community, and ensures that important samples not relevant to the immediate goals of the expedition are not lost. Such curation will include the following:

    1. Labeling of the sample with a unique number, which will include the Alvin or Jason dive number.
    2. Preservation of biological samples according to accepted standard procedures.
    3. Recording the following:
      • Sample number (including dive number)
      • Geographic position of sampling site with the best precision available
      • Date and time of sampling
      • Depth of sampling site
      • Brief sample description
      • Disposition of sample, that is, the name and address of the individual who assumes responsibility for the sample when it leaves the support vessel on arrival in port.

    A copy of these curation records will be supplied to the operating institution (WHOI) as part of the cruise report, and copies will be provided to interested scientists on request.

    Sample Disposition

    The funded Principal Investigator(s) of a project are ultimately responsible for disposition of all samples. The disposition of all samples must be in accordance with the requirements of the funding agencies.

    Geological Samples

    Within one year after the end of the cruise, all geological samples will be stored in a recognized marine geological sample repository funded for such purposes by NSF (for example, L-DEO, WHOI, SIO, Oregon State, University of Washington, Hawaii, USC or others as may be established). The distribution of such samples to scientists not participating in the expedition will be governed by the written policy of the repository, or, in the absence of such a policy, will be guided by the policy of the WHOI Core Lab (as outlined in WHOI Institution Memorandum #3-75).

    Biological Samples

    These samples will be stored under the direction of the Chief Scientist or those to whom he/she/they delegate this responsibility, and the distribution of these samples to scientists not participating in the expedition will be under their direction.

    When analyses of biological specimens are complete, or within three years, the specimens will be offered to a recognized repository, such as the U.S. National Museum (Smithsonian Institution).

    Water Samples

    These samples will be stored under the direction of the Chief Scientist or those to whom they delegate this responsibility, and the distribution of these samples to scientists not participating in the expedition will be under their direction.

    Distribution of Incidental or Accidental Samples

    These are samples collected by NDSF vehicles which do not fall within the scope of research for which the Principal Investigators are funded. The Chief Scientist is responsible for their disposition. Biological samples will be offered directly to the U.S. National Museum. Geological samples will be sent directly to the core repository at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.