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NDSF Data Archive Policy


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) maintains an archival system 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 of the funding required to support these archives.

This archiving policy is intended to allow the WHOI/NDSF to fulfill its commitment to properly document and archive these data for future scientific and educational use, without compromising the Principal Investigator's (PI) right to sole use of the data for scientific purposes during the first two years of the project following the observational period.

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.

Because there will be changes and improvements in imaging technology, recording media, and operational characteristics of the NDSF facilities in the future, details of this archiving policy may be revised from time to time. WHOI, as Operator of the NDSF, will provide the funding agencies and the DEep Submergence Science Committee (DESSC) with periodic updates on the status of WHOI-archived NDSF data as part of normal WHOI facilities reports during DESSC meetings, together with any suggestions for improvements.

Protocols for Data Handling and Archiving

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

  • provide a Cruise Prospectus to WHOI prior to the cruise,
  • conduct the expedition and complete dive forms during the cruise,
  • assure that all data are properly documented and distributed to Principal Investigators,
  • specify to WHOI who will receive data post-cruise,
  • provide a Cruise Report to WHOI at the end of the expedition,
  • meet all requirements associated with foreign obligations for cruises that operate in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other nations.

Data are made available to the scientific party during the cruise as agreed among WHOI, the Chief Scientist and the Principal Investigator(s). Data are available to scientists post-cruise as specified by the Chief Scientist. Duplicating costs for additional copies of data will be charged to the individual receiving the data.

To assist in the proper archiving of data, and to assure that the data will always be useful to the scientific community, Chief Scientists are required to provide a complete Cruise Report to WHOI Marine Operations at the end of the cruise. This report will outline events and data acquisition during the cruise such that archived data are fully documented and usable by any interested party once the data become accessible following the proprietary period noted below. The Cruise Report will be archived at WHOI.

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.

A copy of this Archiving Policy will be provided to the Chief Scientist at the time that he/she is designated. The Chief Scientist has the responsibility to assure that the entire shipboard scientific party is aware of this policy.

Data Acquisition by 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/instrument inventory, data acquisition (e.g., processing, formats, recording media), and operational procedures are available in the submersible vehicle User Manuals, 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 Protocols, 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 video data are archived at WHOI.

Electronic Digital Still Camera Imagery

Digital images collected using electronic still cameras on AlvinJason 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 Summaries

Vehicle navigation and attitude data are provided as ASCII data with all data columns identified. A tabular summary of all vehicle lowerings (geographic location, data/times, etc.) is also provided as a text file and a hard copy. Digital and hard copies of these data are archived at WHOI.

Geological, Biological, and Geochemical Samples

While at sea, the scientific party will document all samples collected (e.g., type, dive number, location, water depth, disposition (i.e., repository where they will be stored), etc.), and they will provide a copy of this information to the WHOI shipboard technician responsible for data archiving.

This copy 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. Unless otherwise directed by the Chief Scientist, geological samples will be archived in the Seafloor Samples Laboratory at WHOI. Non-geological samples will not be archived at WHOI. It is the responsibility of the scientific party to arrange and pay for transportation of any samples to be stored at WHOI.

Data Acquired Using Third-Party Tools

Scientists may occasionally use sensors or samplers other than those in the normal NDSF inventory to accomplish their scientific objectives. Data acquired with these tools should be fully documented by the scientific party. It is understood that in some circumstances, tools which are prototypes or under development may not have data formats fully established, or specifications that could change in the future. At the end 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 shipboard technician responsible for transmitting data to the Archives at WHOI. The data are the property of the Principal Investigator who acquired them; but they may be archived at WHOI by special arrangement negotiated prior to the cruise. However, if a third-party tool displaces a standard NDSF tool, or if NDSF data loggers are used to record data from a third-party tool, a copy of the data from the third-party tool will be archived at WHOI unless other arrangements have been negotiated prior to the cruise. Please review UNOLS Third-Party Tool Guidelines for additional information.

Access to and use of Archived Data

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.

During a proprietary 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 Protocols, above. The length of this proprietary period is the same as that dictated by the policies of the agency funding the expedition (e.g., normally 2 years after the acquisition of the field data during the cruise for NSF and ONR funding). Principal Investigators may use their discretion in distributing archiveable 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 WHOI.

At the end of the proprietary period, all data are available for general use by scientists and educators, and for public outreach.

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 the WHOI Communications <>, so that these requests can be included in the NDSF report.


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.
The preceding 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.

Requesting Duplicates from the Archives

During the years of restricted access, Data Library personnel are responsible for acquiring a written release from the Principal Investigator 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 Alvin Group.

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 in the submersible, 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 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 Principal Investigator(s) 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.
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 Principal Investigators 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 Alvin 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.