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Belgian Marine Data Centre Data policy

Version 3.0 – October 2014

Most of the data available at the BMDC pertain to environmental matters. They fall, therefore, under the scope of the UN Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (aka the "Aarhus Convention") which provides that "public authorities, in response to a request for environmental information, make such information available to the public". This convention has been implemented in both European and Belgian legislations (Law of December 17th, 2002).

Another reference frame to which the BMDC adheres is the “IOC Oceanographic Data Exchange Policy” as adopted during the 22nd Session of the IOC Assembly, through its Resolution IOC-XXII-6. This Policy establishes as a basic principle or goal to reach the “timely, free and unrestricted exchange of or access to” oceanographic data.

As far as possible, the data that have been submitted to the BMDC (hereafter “our data”) are made freely available to the public through our website.

The BMDC recognizes however the human efforts needed to collect and interpret data. Scientists, for instance, spend a long time setting up experiments, testing them, defining a methodology, performing the sampling and analysing the results. But their work is most often measured in terms of their scientific publications. Scientific publishing is a long process, from the field and lab works to the final version of the paper. It is therefore usual that data be covered by an embargo, allowing the author of the data to have sufficient time to exploit them.

The duration of the embargo is set in an agreement between the BMDC and the author of the data. A common duration is two years after the samples are collected or analysed. Such an embargo doesn't apply to data collected by or for public authorities as part of public-funded monitoring programmes. In such cases, free access to our data is granted as soon as data submitted to the BMDC have passed our validation procedures.

“Free access” must be strictly understood within the context of our “Data Access Rules”:

  • access to our data is granted to individuals; true information must be given when registering and a given username and password may not be used by anyone else than the registered person;

  • our data are covered by intellectual property rights;

  • data download is only permitted for personal use by granted users;

  • use of our data for scientific research is permitted, provided any publication making use of these data makes explicit reference to their Author and to the source;

  • no publication of our data in any electronic form is allowed without prior explicit agreement with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, represented by the Head of the BMDC, and with the Author of the data;

  • no direct or indirect commercial use of our data is allowed without prior explicit agreement with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, represented by the Head of the BMDC, and with the Author of the data;

  • the actions made by the user while accessing our server are monitored in order to provide means to backtrack possible misuse of our data.

It is the user's onus to obey these rules. The Belgian State, represented either by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences or by the Federal Science Policy, reserves the right to take any action, even in court, when there is evidence that these rules are infringed.

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