Declaration of Mutual Understanding for Data Sharing within MarBEF Theme 1

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This text declares the principles upon which the rules for sharing data within MarBEF Theme 1 are based. The text has been developed during a number of meetings in the context of the MarBEF Network of Excellence and with the assistance of Partners outside the MarBEF community. It provides a solid basis of trust among MarBEF and non-MarBEF Partners for data-sharing.

The first attempt to perform ‘try out’ methods on existing large-scale data was the Oslo Meeting (15-18/03/2005). The meeting held in Oslo was a small workshop with invited specialists to quality-control the database and to try out initial analyses to check the performance and usability of the database. The database from the Oslo workshop consists of a large set of quantitative data on benthic macrofauna which ranges from the Arctic to the eastern Mediterranean, with all sample sites geo-referenced in a GIS system.

In October (24-28), an open workshop will be held in Crete to discuss spatial patterns. We are planning to have half of the workshop devoted to analyses of the new database, and half to presentations and discussions of spatial patterns of diversity. Analyses of data will be carried out at two levels: a) over large biogeographical areas across Europe, species inventories and schemes of phylogenetic relatedness, and b) information on environmental and biological variables, will be analysed in order to derive relationships between species diversity patterns and associated environmental variables.

Results of research into patterns of marine biodiversity in space, deriving from the Oslo-Crete workshops, will be presented in a series of publications in peer-reviewed journals.


Article 1: General definitions and abbreviations

The following terms are defined as follows and apply to the whole document:

  1. Declaration of Mutual Understanding (DMU): The present document, through which the general rules for sharing data among MarBEF and non-MarBEF Partners in the course of Theme 1 are set out.
  2. Data Providers (DPs): Individuals, Institutions or Academic Establishments, which are willing to provide Data Sets for the needs of the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (MarBEF) Network of Excellence (NoE), and share the mutual benefits that may accrue from these Data Sets.
  3. Dataset(s) (DS(s)): Any sequence of data, which can be used for biodiversity studies.
  4. DB (DB): The single electronic system including all the existing information within the DSs.
  5. Core Strategic Program (CSP): Common activities carried out in the course of the MarBEF life, for each Work Package, as described in the Description of Work (DOW) part of the Project.
  6. Responsive Mode Proposals (RMPs): Activities in the course of specifically targeted Projects, which allow MarBEF to achieve the deliverables and the scientific excellence, as described in the DOW.
  7. Theme Leaders (TLs): The Leaders of the respective Themes, as described in the MarBEF DOW and the minutes of the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC).
  8. Data Task Force (DTF): The Committee of persons charged with the collection of DSs from MarBEF and non-MarBEF Partners (individuals, institutions or academic establishments) for the achievement of the deliverables of Theme 1 and the communication and implementation of the DMU to all interested parties (see also Annex 1).
  9. Quality Control; Quality Assurance (QC; QA) activities: All activities aiming at amending the DSs provided by the DPs in order to improve and safeguard their scientific quality and reliability. This will include comparing the DSs against standard lists for taxonomy, geography and methodology.


Article 2: Data collection and storage

  1. Collection and storage of DSs will be carried out through the MarBEF Data Management Work Package. CSP or RMPs should not collect DSs for Theme 1, independently.
  2. Potential DPs will be contacted and informed about the data collection only by the DTF members. Information on the hypotheses already set by MarBEF Partners (see Annex 2) and on the various working groups is also provided by the DTF. DPs are encouraged to join and assist the working groups both in data analyses and interpretation, and to propose potential original hypotheses to be tested.
  3. DPs are requested to deliver DSs, which will assist MarBEF in making assessments of Patterns of Marine Biodiversity across Europe, as described in Theme 1. Potential DPs will be clearly informed as to the requirements of the DSs. To what extent DSs can assist MarBEF objectives is an interactive procedure between the DPs and the DTF.
  4. Any proposed DS is evaluated and accepted, accordingly, by the DTF members as valid for the Theme 1 analyses. Decision on the acceptance of a DS is irrevocable and implies its incorporation in the subsequent analyses and the co-authorship in all written scientific documents to be produced each time that this DS is used.
  5. DSs are stored in the MarBEF DB but remain as a property of DPs unless they decide to have their DSs freely accessible on the web. However, meta-data (e.g., information on the location of the stations and sampling details, details of the DP, etc) will be freely accessible on the MarBEF web site.

Article 3: Rules

  1. DPs are obliged to sign electronically the DMU on MarBEF web site, once their DSs are delivered and accepted, as valid for the purposes of Theme 1. This automatically implies acceptance of the full text of the current DMU and their willingness to act in the context of the DMU, both scientifically and ethically. Co-authorship in all scientific documents in which the MarBEF NoE has made use of these DSs is an irrevocable result, once the DPs have signed the DMU.
  2. The MarBEF Data Manager undertakes the task of performing QA-QC procedures, to collate the DSs into a single DB and to publish the meta-data on the MarBEF web site. He also delivers the DB back to all DPs at least two months before the workshop in Crete.
  3. All DPs have the right to perform analyses on the DB, by joining the working groups. Any of the DPs willing to test additional and original hypotheses may be allowed to do so under the condition that s/he informs the DTF.
  4. No DP has the right to focus his/her analyses on a specific geographic area, as the corresponding DSs may constitute scientific material for on-going Theses, Dissertations and scientific publications, unless this area is exclusively addressed by his/her own DS. However, any kind of mutual collaboration may be allowed after the workshop in Crete, provided that the involved DPs agree to this procedure.
  5. All DPs are invited to the Workshop in Crete, along with the Theme Leaders and the members of DTF.
  6. During the Crete Workshop all results from the analyses, as performed by the working groups, will be communicated to all DPs and discussed. Additionally, any potential new hypothesis and corresponding analysis will be communicated and discussed.
  7. Details on the scientific peer-reviewed publications will be discussed during the Crete Workshop.
  8. Any violations of the Articles of the DMU detected will be assessed by the DTF and submitted to the MarBEF SSC. The SSC is obliged to discuss these issues on a case-by-case basis and act according to the MarBEF Consortium Agreement and to the relevant EU legislation.

Annex 1: Data Task Force

A Data Task Force (DTF) has been established during the 2nd MarBEF General Assembly meeting in Porto (21-23/03/2005). The DTF has the responsibility for communicating this DMU to the MarBEF and non-MarBEF potential DPs and for communicating the scientific and ethical aspects resulting from the relevant activities. DTF is compulsorily working closely with the MarBEF Theme 1 Leaders (John S. Gray, Friedrich Buchholz).

The DTF consists of the following members of the MarBEF NoE:

  1. Dr. Christos Arvanitidis, HCMR, Greece
  2. Dr. Anne-Lise Fleddum, UiO, Norway
  3. Dr. Ward Appeltans, VLIZ, Belgium
  4. Prof. Herman Hummel, NIOO, The Netherlands
  5. Dr. Paul J. Somerfield, PML, UK
  6. Dr. Doris Schiedek, IOW, Germany
  7. Dr. Jean Marcin Weslavsky, IOPAS, Poland
  8. Dr. Salve Dahle, Akvaplan-niva, Norway
  9. Dr. Antoine Gremare, CNRS-LOB, France
  10. Prof. Ferdinando Boero, UNILE, Italy
MarBEF Theme 1 Leaders:

  • Prof. John S. Gray, UiO, Norway
  • Dr. Friedrich Buchholz, 86 AWI, Gremany