Mind the (data)gap!
The EMODNet Sea Basins Checkpoint Stakeholders Conference – Mapping the gaps & exploring the way forward for future monitoring and observation activities in Europe | by Val Cummins ( FEC SSC Co-Chair)
The EMODNet Sea Basins Checkpoint Stakeholders Conference, which brought together over 200 participants, was held in Brussels on 14th and 15th February 2017. The conference had a mix of plenary and workshop sessions. The Conference brought together EMODnet experts and interested stakeholders to consider whether marine data collected via current observation and monitoring activities in Europe serve the needs of those who rely upon marine knowledge derived from observations and monitoring data. Experts from the Baltic, Mediterranean, North Sea, Atlantic and Arctic attended from scientific communities spanning ocean observation to data science. The European Commission was represented by Bernard Freiss and Iain Shepard, DG Mare.
I was invited to present the Keynote talk on the opening of the Conference, entitled: The importance of data and information for users of ocean and coastal space and the role of industry of users and providers of marine data. This was an excellent opportunity to explore the need for ocean and coastal monitoring in the context of global drivers such as climate change, energy scarcity, the need for protein, and diminished ecosystems goods and services. The talk also elaborated upon the data needs perspective of marine industry stakeholders in the context of Blue Growth. Lessons from research and practice within UCC were showcased including the Marine Irish Digital Atlas (MIDA), Future Earth Coasts and IMERC. The Conference presented the findings of the EMODnet Sea-basin data stress tests (Checkpoints) and considered how to strengthen open data repositories serving users who face real problems. The participants discussed possible solutions and ways forward to improve and better coordinate the existing and future monitoring and observation activities in Europe.
Key recommendations referred to the need to address major gaps in data availability, such as those pertinent to the coastal zone, via the greater deployment of systems for HR Radar, higher resolution bathymetry for near shore areas, habitat maps and mass sediment budgets. Issues pertaining to situations where data exists but is not readily available included access to important VMS data for fisheries management. It was interesting to learn that aggregated version of VMS data may become available through new ESA satellites in junctions with EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency). As someone with little knowledge of the EMODnet community prior to the invitation to speak at the conference, I came away with a positive impression of the work of EMODnet today. The secretariat coordinates data inputs form over 120 partners across Europe with a budget of circa €16m. Working at the Sea Basin scale, it offers a test bed / opportunity for collaboration with methodologies for coastal futures work under development in Future Earth Coast. The exercise is given credibility as an initiative driven by the European Commission.
The next phase of the initiative will include roll out of an ingestion portal for industry data, among others, and a focus on high resolution datasets. The portal is an easy to use tool, of value to planners, industry, scientists and students. Within UCC’s BEES, there is an opportunity to encourage students to review datasets, such as those on habitat mapping for completeness, or for generating map products for dissertations. At a more analytical level, the data can underpin baseline mapping techniques in centres such as MaREI. I would encourage colleagues to log on and become familiar with this resource, as, it may serve as useful tool into the future. Finally, it was interesting to observe the sense from the Conference participants, that Europe is considered a global leader as a result of this integrated approach to the provision of marine data. A huge amount of work is also underway to develop a European Ocean Observing System (EOOS). Fellow Irishman, Glenn Nolan from the Marine Institute addressed the audience on Day 2 to give an account of progress in this area.