Towards a Unified Vision for Ocean Data Management in Canada: Results of an Expert Forum
Wallace, Douglas W. R.
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The world’s oceans are a critical part of the Earth system. Sound knowledge and understanding of the oceans is essential for mitigating human impacts on the global environment and for promoting sustainable economic use of the marine environment, including: the safe and sustainable use of natural resources; the assessment of and adaptation to climate change; deep knowledge about complex and interconnected ecosystems; our understanding of the entire Earth system; and health and public safety. Knowledge and understanding, in turn, depends on access to accurate, rich, available, and integrated ocean data, much of which is generated by regional Ocean Observing Systems (OOS) operating in our ocean and coastal zones. Such data is also increasingly relevant to stakeholders outside the oceans community, with a recent report suggesting that the industry sector engaged with ocean observation had revenues of over $7 billion in the U.S. alone, driven in part by their national OOS (NOAA, 2016). A careful re- examination of our data management practices, including how we share, access, and use data, is necessary to ensure we are leveraging Canada’s ocean data to best support scientific excellence, foster collaboration and innovation, and harness ocean data to inform decision-makers and other stakeholders. The Expert Forum on Ocean Data Management (November 18-19, 2015 in Montreal, Canada) brought together national and international experts and stakeholders to present and evaluate international best practices in managing data from ocean observations, the current state of ocean data collected and managed in Canada, and goals and visions for the future of ocean data management (ODM) in Canada. Planned based on input from the Community of Practice on Ocean Data Management (CoP ODM), and organized and sponsored by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) network, this forum built on previous events including a national Data Management Workshop (March, 2014) and a joint DFO-MEOPAR Workshop on Ocean Data Management in the Atlantic Canada Region (July, 2015). Over fifty participants from government, academia, and the private sector attended. International representatives from the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), MARUM (Center for Marine Environmental Sciences), and European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) described ODM experiences, lessons, and best practices in the United States and Europe. Canadian experts included representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) who spoke of the need to move ODM in Canada forward in an integrated manner; from Portage / Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) on the current state of research data management nationally; and from Compute Canada on their interest and capabilities in data storage. Members of the ODM CoP and other invitees spoke about how their organizations collected, managed, and shared ocean observation data at regional centres across Canada. (See Appendix B for a full list of participants. The Expert Forum program and presentations are available on our website at http://meopar.ca/calendar/event/856/.) Following the expert presentations, attendees of the Expert Forum participated in facilitated breakout and group discussions around two broad themes: “what do we envision” for the future of ocean observation data in Canada, and “what are we willing to commit” to achieve this vision. These discussions were led and informed by representatives of the CoP, who drew on their wealth of experience managing ocean data and history of advocating for improved collaboration in ocean data management. The vision that emerged from the discussion was unambiguous. Participants were ready for the federal government to take a leadership and support role in the formation of a Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS). Participants envisioned a national system that is robust, accessible, flexible, and sustainable, encompassing technology, expertise, services, and governance capable of providing single-source discovery, search, and wide-ranging access to quality ocean data for all stakeholders. Participants identified that one of Canada’s existing strengths is strong, regionally- based data collection on all three Canadian coasts, existing collaborations with DFO, and the consensus was that a system similar in principle to the U.S. IOOS model (a federated model of regional nodes with central coordination and incentives) would make best use of existing expertise and experience. The shared goal was an integrated platform for ocean data that would allow for Canadians (including researchers, decision-makers, and the general public) to benefit from the exemplary science and ocean observation already taking place throughout the country. A more detailed vision is presented in Section IV. In turn, the members of the CoP “committed to commit.” There was widespread recognition that such an initiative is necessary and timely and that the CoP members would be willing to offer their expertise and experience. Representatives of the existing ocean data centres in Canada agreed to continue their engagement in the process, expending time and energy toward defining and realizing this important initiative. A specific list of commitments and next steps is described in Sections V and VI.