Research Application Tracking System (RATS)
Welcome to RATS, an online data management system designed to improve the transparency and efficiency of the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs' (OPA) implementation of the marine scientific research consent regime established by the Law of the Sea Convention. Through RATS, an applicant can generate an application, track its progress, receive authorization documentation, and submit reports. RATS increases the speed with which critical information is relayed between the applicant and the official channels responsible for obtaining and/or issuing authorizations.
Applicants must obtain a RATS username and password from OPA at MarineScience@state.gov in order to submit an application and track its progress. First time applicants are encouraged to contact OPA with questions about the process.
RATS application and consent records are not available for public reference until after the approved research has been conducted. The resulting research data and reports are also not available for public access through RATS, however the preliminary and final report transmission dates are available to prove the applicant’s satisfaction of coastal State obligations.
*Please note the new timeline requirement for submission of RATS applications to the Department of State, updated August 27, 2018.*
Guidance to All Applicants
- Applicants are encouraged to develop their research plans in consultation with scientists from the
- It is the responsibility of either the chief scientist or his/her sponsoring organization to seek coastal State consent through OPA in a timely fashion; the Law of the Sea Convention states that applications must be received by the coastal State no later than six months prior to the expected starting date of the marine scientific research, however many coastal States will accept applications with less than six (6) months’ lead time, but not less than three (3) months’ lead time.
- A file number will be assigned to the application and provided to the applicant. This file number should be referenced by the applicant in all written and oral correspondence with OPA.
- All files uploaded to RATS must be in Portable Document Format (.pdf). File names should be concise and should not include punctuation or diacritical marks.
- Should the information submitted in the original application change during the course of the application review process or after authorization is granted, the applicant must report these changes to OPA as soon as possible. OPA will seek revised authorization as necessary.
- It is the responsibility of the chief scientist to obtain and possess during the research a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) collection permit, if applicable. CITES permits must be obtained via the CITES National Focal Point.
- After the research is conducted, the chief scientist must submit a Preliminary Report Form and a Final Report through RATS. The Preliminary Report Form must be submitted no later than 30 days following the end date of the authorized research, and the Final Report must be submitted to OPA no later than two years following the end date of the authorized research. Failure to meet these reporting deadlines will impact other applications awaiting authorization.
Guidance to Applicants Seeking U.S. Consent
- It is recommended that applications be submitted to OPA six (6) months prior to the start of the research such that OPA can assure a timely response to all research applicants. Applications submitted less than four (4) months or sixteen (16) weeks before the intended start date will not be accepted.
- To determine whether the proposed research falls within U.S. maritime zones, see U.S. Maritime Limits and Boundaries, an information system created by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.
- Applicants must submit their application through the office of their Science Attaché to the United States.
- Applicants should be prepared to include (via RATS) the following additional materials, if applicable:
- If the research involves access to a National Marine Sanctuary, include the Sanctuary permit application.
- If the research involves access to a marine national monument, include the relevant monument application:
- If the research involves the study or incidental take of marine mammals or species listed under the Endangered Species Act, include the appropriate authorization from the NOAA Office of Protected Resources (i.e. Research Permit or an Incidental Take Permit/Authorization). Such activities include, but are not limited to, seismic research using airguns. Note that Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) permits and authorizations may take between 6 and 18 months to process, depending on the activity proposed.
- If the research involves the taking of commercial quantities of fish, include a letter of acknowledgement from the appropriate NOAA Fisheries Service Regional Science Center.
- If the research involves contact with the U.S. continental shelf and the use of explosives or deep stratigraphic tests, include the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management application.
- If the research is conducted off Alaska, review Guidelines for Improved Cooperation between Arctic Researchers and Northern Communities.
- If a U.S. agency requests clarification on matters related to the application, OPA will forward the query immediately to the applicant via the Science Attaché’s office.
- Resulting data must be submitted to the National Oceanographic Data Center. Raw and processed data must be accompanied by observation/processing notes and relevant interpretive reports.
Guidance to Applicants Seeking Foreign Consent
- Applicants must submit their application through the research platform operator’s office that should verify platform availability and identify, as applicable, planned port visits where publicity and goodwill activities may be scheduled.
- Supporting documentation in Portable Document Format (pdf) should be uploaded to RATS. File names should be concise and should not include punctuation or diacritical marks.
- OPA will make every effort to obtain a response from the foreign authorities prior to the start of the research.
- Applicants should NOT contact any Foreign Ministry or U.S. embassy during the application process, unless permission is expressly granted by OPA to do so.
- Applicants should not depict any maritime boundaries or claims in their rendering of the research area, tracklines and stations.
- Applicants should contact OPA if there is question as to whether the proposed research falls within one or more maritime boundary or claim. Other recommended sources include:
- Maritime Claims Reference Manual – U.S. Department of Defense list of claims made by coastal nations.
- Maritime Zones and Maritime Delimitation – the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) listing of national legislation and treaties regarding the delimitation of maritime boundaries.
- U.S. Board on Geographic Names – U.S. inter-agency body established to maintain uniform foreign and domestic geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government
- Prior to departure, applicants should review information resources available regarding both sea-based and land-based security issues (for example, see the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System’s Maritime Security Links). See also:
- Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, Country Background Notes – country-specific information for travelers.
- Travel Health Information from the Center for Disease Control – health information on specific destinations.
- Information regarding importation of scientific specimens can be found at Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service – bureau within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides agricultural producers with a broad range of cooperative programs for protecting the health of animals and plants.