Approaches for Sustainability of Observing Systems

What attributes are critical to sustainability of a system? The primary attribute is that the information “meets the users’ needs”. Primary among these is that users perceive they are working with a “trusted source”. Second, the source should be scalable in geometric coverage and in volume of requests. Third, the data sets should be comprehensive in the source’s specialty areas. Ultimately, there should be a “perceived sustainability” so that users are willing to invest their own efforts/resources to learn to work with it.

These are a starting point for discussion by the RCN as it works to define the key attributes and how they are translated into ocean observing systems sustainability. Sustainability has been a continuing subject over many years voiced in many committee reports and major international meetings (e.g. the Ocean Commission2 and the OceanObs’09 meeting4). The RCN draws together a multi-year international network to look at the common issues of observation system sustainability on a global scale. The Network strength is in creating and vetting approaches that are best stimulated by collaborating in an “environment of innovation”. Sustainability also comes from technology innovation, both from improved performance and reduced costs. Concepts such as common international sensor builds – a model demonstrated through the Argo float program5 – will be one of the technology areas for RCN discussions as well as defining common interfaces for observatories. Identifying areas of technology to improve performance and reduce costs are key RCN discussions that benefit from sustained dialogue and broad community engagement.

Ultimately, the RCN outputs will be brought to government organizations for further examination and appropriate actions. Members of the Steering Committee will guide the discussions.