Improving the flow of critical information to key stakeholder

The social relevance of measurement and sampling at sea, and the need to disseminate the results as widely and in as user-friendly a manner as possible, cannot be overestimated.29 Improving flow to key stakeholders is about user expanding engagement. It builds on interoperability and supports the objective for sustainability. The key issues are understanding user requirements and providing timely, trusted data. This needs strong communication, not only in the provision of data, but also in the gathering of feedback. In particular, the state of the ocean is critical to human health and welfare and timely access to trusted information sources is essential for disaster and emergency response. The benefits of tsunami warning systems are an example30. For scientists, the advanced two-way communications may be from sensors to computers for monitoring remote sensors or autonomous operations31 on cabled observatories. The RCN will engage to improve the flow of information starting with understanding key requirements through contributions to ongoing activities. For example, GEO has done extensive work on user requirements through its User Interface Committee32 and only a small portion of this relates to oceans. This needs to be expanded through RCN support to GEO in collaboration with GOOS, IOOS and others. The RCN will also address global perspectives of the flow of information – how can it be improved and what are the critical blocks. Innovative approaches will be encouraged. GEONETCast/DEVCOCast33 are examples of innovative approaches by GEO for global distribution. Transmission of data to users via mobile phone is another area the RCN should encourage for improved communication. The RCN, with Steering Committee input, will decide if and at what level it should engage in this area. The other key aspect of effective flow to users is easy real-time access to comprehensive and trusted data sources. This was discussed above under sustainability and it is a common theme that the RCN will engage from a global perspective, creating workshops and outreach for further dialogue among observation system operations and users.

Capacity Building

Attributes of successful capacity building involve resources, the need for trust/personal relations, an understanding of the cultural environment and social reward structure and, most important, continuity through long-term commitments. These challenges are greater than the RCN can address from an integrated perspective. The RCN will address key leverage areas for emerging ocean scientists and young professionals, such as access to international networks, opportunities for being mentored, training in leadership and building of peer communities.

For example, to allow for broad participation in the network, a telephone/webex meeting will be held every three months so that travel limitations do not preclude young professionals from active participation. Where there are specific subjects in the quarterly meetings, the RCN will encourage mentoring of young scientists to take a role of topic leads. This will have a positive and near term impact on them.

The RCN will also focus on capacity building through working with GEO, IODE and others to identify and recommend individuals for training under existing national and international programs. This will involve identifying specific international exchange and training opportunities, knowledge of available resources and identification of promising student and young professions. Along these lines, the network will reach out to existing programs such as the ASLO Multicultural Program, or advising on the creation of SCOR working groups or leveraging individual university sandwich programs and more general programs such as the European Erasmus Mundis. There will be an emphasis on young scientists, including those from under-represented groups or regions. Senior professions of the network have offered to be points of contact for these network activities. Prof Ben Cuker of Hampton University, Prof Jorge Corredor of the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and Prof Dawn Wright of Oregon State University will be the focal points in the RCN for under-represented groups. The Steering Committee and the RCN Senior Investigators have existing networks that will be engaged. For example, the CZCP will participate in the mentoring of young scientists who have a special interest in coastal zone-related studies and applications. The framework of the RCN will ensure that these scientists understand and appreciate the importance of ocean and coastal observations.

Outreach and Community Building

1. RCN Fora

Opportunities for meetings and dialogues are essential for forming communities. The RCN will employ a number of tools to encourage communication and collaboration.

Annual Workshops

The OceanObsNetwork will have one meeting a year that will be organized around a major international ocean conference. The workshop meetings will be patterned after the successful GEOSS Ocean Observation workshops funded by NSF and IEEE in May 2009 and September 201034. The meetings included presentations by key community members, breakout sessions as focus areas and then outcomes and resolutions. The workshops have provided outcomes that are already impacting the community. For example, the concept of a GEO Ocean Observation Community of Practice (CoP), “OceanObs,” was raised at the Bremen 2009 workshop and matured in the Seattle 2010 workshop. At Seattle, there were strong probes on whether to move forward with an OceanObs CoP and appropriate terms of reference for this CoP. The results of the discussion, led by Bob Weller of WHOI, were that a CoP should be formed and focused on two strategic areas:

  • Coordination and facilitation of ocean observations including (1) building of commitments from the different nations to implement and sustain global ocean observations; (2) capacity building; and (3) development of processes to ensure successful transition from research support to sustained operational support.
  • Articulation and outreach, making clear to governments, industry, and NGOs the need for and value of ocean observations (e.g., to augment coastal and marine spatial planning, especially in the US to implement the National Ocean Policy). 

For six months following the workshop, these recommendations were iterated with the members of the global ocean observation community and terms of reference were created for OceanObs CoP. In April 2011, the OceanObs CoP and its terms of reference were approved by GEO though the User Interface Committee. This is an example of how workshops can and should provide critical outcomes for the RCN and the ocean observing community. This is the RCN model.

At least one of the annual RCN workshops will focus on observational requirements and observation system needed to meet these requirements. The workshops will include inputs from many complementary activities. For example, the CZCP is frequently reviewing the observational requirements based on information and service needs of users in the coastal zone. Within the framework of RCN, and building on efforts of the IGOS Coastal Theme (2006) and the previous and current coastal panels of GOOS, the CZCP will carry out a review with particular focus on requirements for ocean observations including but not limited to geophysical and biological/biogeochemical variables such as sea level, waves, currents, winds, nutrients, oxygen, pH, pCO2, phytoplankton biomass and productivity, abundance of calcareous organisms, colored dissolved organic matter and total suspended matter. These and other observations will support key coastal and marine ecosystem issues and applications such as eutrophication and hypoxia, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, habitat loss and modification, water quality, and flooding. The RCN will provide a valuable opportunity to integrate and consolidate the results of these reviews.

The Steering Committee meeting will be held in conjunction with the RCN workshop. By having the workshop at a key international meeting, most participants will have funds available from their institutions to attend. This will encourage broader participation of both senior scientists and young professionals. It will also enable the RCN funds allocated to Steering Committee Member travel to be used more efficiently. Agendas for each workshop will focus on the evolving RCN participants’ and community needs, supporting key OceanObsNetwork objectives.

Quarterly Network Meetings

The purpose of the quarterly meetings is to review new activities and stimulate discussion of progress in the network objectives. Where specific issues arise which could further the outcomes of the RCN, teams of volunteers will be invited to address these subjects. This will stimulate brainstorming on goals, areas of further collaboration and opportunities to cooperate.

2. Web Site

The RCN will maintain a web presence for communications and networking. This will be an information source for providers and users alike. In addition to news and events, successful collaborations will be highlighted, a corner will be available for those needing help within the network, a calendar of events and meetings will be provided and a dialogue of positive impacts of observations is envisioned. Technical features of the web site will include a consolidated listing of observatory sensors worldwide, an area to discuss approaches for common sensor builds and a resource for standards and interoperability. The last of these will be aligned with the IEEE leadership of standards and interoperability for GEOSS. In addition, the GEO CZCP is developing a comprehensive information system for the coastal zones, and the RCN web site will feed into this system.

Objectives and working methods


To achieve its goals, the RCN has defined a series of objectives:

  • Motivate commitments to sustaining ocean and marine observing systems
  • Stimulate inter-disciplinary cooperation for both observations and analyses
  • Facilitate open exchange of ocean data
  • Promote interoperability
  • Improve the flow of critical ocean observation information to key stakeholders
  • Stimulate capacity building and retention in ocean and marine observations community

The RCN will also consider related issues such as integration of space-based and in-situ measurements, and innovative concepts in sensors, information systems and user interfaces. Additional subjects may be proposed by the network members.

In achieving these objectives, the RCN will motivate new research outcomes, provide wider visibility for the value and impacts of ocean observations and encourage a new generation of scientists to focus on the oceans and their challenges.

Working Method

The RCN is primarily a forum to address issues of enhancing ocean observation and information. It is not a body chartered to undertake new scientific research. Issues engaged by the RCN will be addressed by the body as a whole (Plenary) or through working groups (WG) constituted by the RCN. A working group will generally focus on one of the objectives cited above and will produce a report clearly identifying the issues, approaches, impacts and recommendations for achieving the objective(s).

Working groups will have a defined term of operation, generally six months (renewable), to assess issues and then submit their recommendations for review by the Plenary. The reviewed recommendations will be provided to international, national and program level organizations for consideration and possible implementations.

Working Groups will be constituted by members of the network and other invited experts. They will create Terms of Reference including objectives, a schedule, an operations modality and a list of deliverables. Network members may serve on multiple working groups. In their deliberations, the working groups may invite external experts to make presentations and provide background on issues being addressed.

Working Environment

The RCN working environment will be as follows:

1. The RCN will operate primarily through electronic information exchange. The RCN will have websites, discussion forum and other tools for communication and collaboration.

2. The RCN will meet three times per year, two virtual meetings and an annual in-person meeting.

3. The RCN Plenary will review and comment on the WG reports prior to their forwarding to appropriate parties.

4. The RCN will work closely with existing coordination bodies and mechanisms for ocean and marine observations. Coordination with existing networks will be facilitated by members of the Steering Committee and senior network members whose organizations are participating in existing networks such as those under UNESCO IOC and GEO.