OTN Data Policies and Guidelines

How the OTN Data Policy works, and how it applies to each category of data produced by telemetry-based and other studies undertaken by OTN collaborators

Data Policy


The type of data dictates when it is made public.

Always public: receiver station locations, instrument deployment/recovery metadata, summary information about the project (abstract, contacts etc.)

2-year embargo: tagging metadata, all detections.

Information available to array-operators: tags released by other projects (no biological information included) with contact information for the relevant taggers, unknown tag detections collected by the array, detections of known non-animal (sentinel) tags on your array.

Information available to tag-owners: all detections, from any Node, that have been matched to your tagged animals. Will include contact and citation information for the relevant array-operator.

Learn more about the available data products here.

Guiding Principles

In an era that is increasingly cognizant of the value of open data, it is often desired by researchers and their funders that data collected in the course of a study or research program be made available to the public as soon as is reasonable, in order to maximize the utility of that data.

"[D]ata sharing can maximize the efficiency and utility of funding for ecological research and accelerate the advancement of the science. " (Nguyen et al, 2016-0261 CJFAS)

While there is concrete benefit to sharing and cross-referencing technologically compatible telemetry studies, there are understandable concerns surrounding the publishing of animal tracking data.

The OTN Data Policy was designed to balance the utility of data sharing, both within the acoustic telemetry community and with the broader public, against the real and practical concerns of sharing sensitive ecological information. For this reason, OTN and its Nodes have reached a general agreement that animal (and tag) information should be protected at a higher level than moored instrument information.

OTN’s data policy states:

  • All acoustic receiver metadata (information about the deployments, offloads, and recoveries of listening stations) are made public as soon as is possible. The detection data retrieved by these operations are not included in the information that is immediately publicized.
  • Animal tagging metadata and their association with detections on any OTN platform are eligible to, by researcher request, be placed under 2 year embargo, i.e. will be kept private (PI access and designates only) until 2 years following the expiration of the tag (based on estimated tag life as provided by the vendor).

PIs may request extensions to the embargo period which will be reviewed by a Committee for approval. Earlier release of a researcher's matched detection data (waived embargo) is highly desirable and this information can be distributed immediately upon request by the tagging investigator(s) - simply reach out to OTNDC@DAL.CA to request this!

In both states of embargo and publication, the citation and collaborative rights of the data-producing researcher are retained and respected.

Implications for Nodes

Data systems that have adopted the OTN-Node framework are distinct from OTN, each having their own specific Data Policy. All Node policies are aligned to ensure the protection of the animal-tag data is preserved. The data policy of each Node will apply to the tags registered within and will follow that tag as it is matched to detections from other Nodes.

As a Node-member a researcher need only agree to the Data Policy of their Node, and these terms will apply to their tags across the entire OTN data-sharing ecosystem.

Oceanographic Observations

Oceanographic observations need to be submitted directly to the appropriate International Ocean Exchange (IODE) National Oceanographic Data Centre (NODC). They will be responsible for quality control and ensuring the data is submitted into the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). All OTN data products will be based on the oceanographic data being managed by NODCs and GOOS.

Use of Public Data

The OTN Data Policy prescribes that all individuals who access OTN data shall provide proper attribution to all Data Providers. The public-facing OTN Data endpoints (ERDDAP, GeoServer) contain citation metadata in each row of their station, detection and animal datasets. In this way, users that download and subsequently subset their copy of the data may still identify the various provenance of their filtered/subsetted data.

Use of the OTN-provided data confers responsibility for investigating and understanding the limitations of the OTN datasets. Neither OTN nor the Data Provider will be held responsible for any inaccuracies in the provided data. Data may be updated as new detections, details of the station deployments, etc. are received and processed at the OTN Data Centre. Any problems with the OTN datasets provided should be reported to the OTN Data Centre for investigation.