A long process (late 1980s – 2000) has led to propose the establishment of European standards for SD and to make visible a panel through the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation between 2008 and 2017. ESDP currently is receiving organizational support from the European network of Marine Institutes and Stations (MARSnetwork|ESDP holding page).

The requirement to establish standard competencies throughout Europe was foreseen, and in the late 1980s scientists who used diving in their research sought to initiate the harmonization of the rules and procedures for scientific diving in Europe, gathered in a European Scientific Diving Committee (ESDC).
In 2000, during the final meeting of ESDC in Banyuls-sur-Mer, France, this effort finally resulted in the acceptance and development of two European Scientific Diving standards: that of European Scientific Diver (ESD), and of Advanced European Scientific Diver (AESD). The quality and widespread acceptance of these draft standards by much of the European scientific community has resulted in them already becoming adopted within the health and safety legislation of several EU countries.

There are two different levels of recognition, both of which are occupational.

• The European Scientific Diver [ESD]
• The Advanced European Scientific Diver [AESD]

Both awards represent a minimum agreed training and attestation of competence which promote scientists to move freely throughout EU countries in order to co-operate on and participate in sub-aquatic research projects involving diving using SCUBA. The equivalence is issued following certification by authorized national agencies. Depth and breathing gas limitations may apply.
The ESD and AESD do not include any regulations such as insurance, medical examinations, employment rules, safety rules, diving limits, rules for recognition of national scientific diving schools, etc. These are covered by national law and European Directives. Neither do the ESD and AESD take account of any specialty requirements by employers. They simply define the minimum basic training of a scientific diver as needed for mobility and as a basic training level on which the employer can build further training modules.
National laws and regulations may regulate training but the minimum competency levels must be maintained.

Scientific diving training for these awards can be given by either one or a combination of more than one of the following:
• a taught course;
• a supervised programme of continuous training and assessment carried out in a nationally recognized institution;
• diving activities under the auspices of a nationally recognized diving training organization:

In all of these cases, all dives must be logged and certified in the candidate’s personal log. Any scientific dives must be further certified by the person responsible for diving safety at the scientific research institute for which they were undertaken.

A minimum of 18 years of age is required.

Both the ESD and AESD qualifications (or equivalent) can be issued to members of permanent staff, contract staff, research students, technicians, and trainees or students of nationally recognized research institutions. The issuing institutions should be members of the national scientific diving authorities that are represented on the ESDP.
A scientific diver who meets these requirements will obtain either a certificate corresponding either to the ESD or AESD reference level that is valid for a period as stipulated in the national legislation of the Member State of which they are a national. The ESD and AESD reference levels only indicates the training level, and not the current level of diving competence.

ESD standards
AESD standards