Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observing System: A European Strategy
A full-day EOOS forum on 8 March brought together 80 ocean science managers, researchers, policymakers and private companies on the topic of ocean observations.
The information required to do business, research or ensure security at sea is based on an array of ocean observing infrastructures. We rely heavily on ocean information, but its sources are disparate, with measurements taken for various purposes, over disrupted time scales, and to different standards. Europe, trying to capitalize on the shared benefits of cooperation in ocean research and the blue economy, needs an end-to-end and sustained European Ocean Observing System (EOOS), allowing all users and implementers of ocean observations find information and help they need.
The EOOS framework is being developed by EuroGOOS and European Marine Board with experts and advisors from many regional, national and pan-European organizations. While there’s a broad agreement that an integrated EOOS is urgently needed for Europe, it is still unclear how exactly to fulfill this ambitious task. At the EOOS forum on 8 March, delegates brainstormed on the critical EOOS questions, including system design tools, funding, governance, technologies and innovation, as well as communications.
"Without ocean observations we are living in the dark" was stated at one of the group discussions, but "a cultural step change is needed to break the silos between multiple stakeholders".
EOOS will gather information on monitoring plans, discuss funding priorities, and engage with new partners. EOOS will also help make a business case for ocean observations and allow the community to reach out to governments, engage more systematically with regional efforts and inform pan-European research programming. EOOS forum delegates strongly emphasized the need to listen to the needs of various ocean observing users, to ensure EOOS is genuinely fit-for-purpose.
Elements of EOOS are already taking place at various geographical scales. However, while the space-borne observations are sustainably funded through the Copernicus programme, in situ (in water) observations are supported through numerous programmes and short-term projects. These capabilities are not only fragmented but also not guaranteed for long-term funding. An overarching strategy across all measurement platforms is required to ensure that best use is made of limited resources in European countries and at pan-European level, thus feeding into the global systems. EOOS will link the currently disparate components of the observing system in Europe and promote novel technology and infrastructure development, standardization, open access to data, and capacity building (EOOS Consultation Document 2016).
The EOOS forum was convened by the EOOS steering group composed of several ocean observing experts and representatives from the European Commission Directorates-General for Research and Innovation (DG R&I), Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), and Maritime Affaires and Fisheries (DG MARE). In addition, a high-level events committee was convened to advise on stakeholder engagement and prioritization.
An EOOS strategy and implementation plan will take on board the valuable intellectual inputs from the EOOS forum. These documents will present an EOOS vision and concrete steps over the coming five years and be open for stakeholder consultation in the spring. The finalized drafts will be presented for adoption at the EOOS conference on 21-23 November.