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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1187

Archival Policies and Collections Database for the Woods Hole Science Center's Marine Sediment Samples

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Deaccession & Disposal

Deaccession Preliminaries

Before deaccessionary procedures can even begin, an annual review of the entire archive must take place. This review will determine which, if any, samples are eligible for removal. Samples which have remained in storage for the prescribed seven-year term will be added to a list of samples eligible for deaccession.

Also added to the list are any samples deemed unsuitable for further study due to lack of physical integrity from absence or loss of sample information or deterioration beyond usefulness for adequate scientific examination.

Once a sample has been determined to be eligible for disposition, it can be removed only through proper completion of the deaccession process.

Decision Making and the Committee

Samples in the WHSC's sediment archive eligible for deaccession will be recommended by the curator to an annual collections committee consisting of the curator, Principal Investigator, and any parties interested in the future of the samples in question, who will then decide the final fate of the samples. This decision in turn will be presented to the WHSC's Team Chief Scientist for final approval.

Deaccession Criteria

To be considered for deaccession, a sample must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Poor Condition: The sample has deteriorated or been damaged beyond any useful value for further scientific study. Condition also applies to adequate documentation of the sample. Sediment samples of unknown origin are scientifically useless.
  • Storage Limitations: The archive is not able to provide storage space for samples collected for more than ten years with storage extensions. Samples that have exceeded this time period will be disposed of.
  • Duplication: The sample is a duplicate of another sample currently stored in the archive (i.e., working and archive halves).


Upon consensus by the Principal Investigator and curator, with the approval from the Team Chief Scientist, a list of all samples to be deaccessioned will be made available to Center scientists and to the public.

This announcement will take the form of both internal and external emails. Messages will be sent to all research staff within the WHSC and USGS as well as interested institutions such as IODP, NOAA, WHOI and universities to which these samples may prove useful.

After the announcement has gone out, there will be a one-month waiting period during which requests for sample acquisition will be processed.

Sample Disposition

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The condition and status of the samples will be assessed and proposed for deaccession from this, final disposition will be determined. If the samples proposed for deaccession are in such a state that they are deemed unusable for further study due to natural deterioration or through extensive research conducted on the sample thereby destroying its integrity, the sample will be subject to appropriate disposal.

If the samples appropriate for disposal are deemed appropriate for preservation or prove valuable for long-term storage, the samples shall be referred to the approved collections committee alternate which may investigate local alternate storage options.

Another alternative would be to contact collaborating institutions involved with the collection of the samples to inquire whether their institution would find the samples proposed for deuseful to any ancillary research.

Geochemical samples may contain heavy metals, poisonous chemicals or other hazardous pollutants. The curator, in conjunction with the samples' Principal Investigator will determine any special needs the disposal will require, and consult the WHSC's safety officer to determine the appropriate course of action.

The Deaccession Recommendation form and records of all disposition actions will be retained permanently in the archive database. The curator will provide an annual report on all deaccession actions and place it on file at the end of the fiscal year.

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