A half-day workshop “Improving the Knowledge of our Oceans and Seas and bringing them closer to citizens” jointly organised by the Blue-Cloud project in collaboration with the AANChOR and AORAC-SA projects and the AtlantOS program took place in Brussels, Belgium, on the 5th of February 2020 in co-location with the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Forum.
The event gathered over 90 experts from funding agencies, Research Infrastructures, data providers, research & academic institutions and industry throughout Europe, the USA, Brazil, Canada and South Africa forming part of the Atlantic blue economy to discuss the needs and the benefits of establishing a global “Blue-Cloud” as a means to bring the wealth of ocean data available to the benefit of society.
Research, innovation and data are critical to better monitor, understand, protect, preserve and sustainably manage our oceans and seas. Numerous initiatives and organisations are ongoing worldwide to facilitate the collection, access and management of data to provide scientists, agencies, the private sector and policy makers with ready-to-use tools and knowledge which can help address grand societal challenges and guide policy decisions. During the workshop, a set of examples were presented to reveal the potential of ocean and sea data such as the results of the project on satellite detection of Sargassum in the Caribbean presented by Juan C. Toledo-Roy, a researcher specialised in data analysis techniques and computational modelling and simulation at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), or the industry cases described by Ben Williams, Metocean Director for the Americas region at Fugro (see the presentation here).
These presentations set the scene to discuss the challenges and priorities to unlock the “blue-data” market. This was followed by four, in-depth round tables.
Citizen Science is the collaboration between scientists and volunteers from the general public, to gather and/or analyse data relating to the natural world. The vastness of the ocean and the lack of connection most people feel with the blue part of our planet, make marine citizen science a vital tool to promote ocean literacy and engage citizens in coastal and ocean research. Moderated by Toste Tanhua, GEOMAR & EuroSea Coordinator & Telmo Carvalho, IPMA, the round table discussion aimed at identifying success stories and main challenges in ocean citizen science and make recommendations to policy makers on how to enhance it.
The main conclusion was that trust and reciprocity are key to ensuring citizen involvement in science. Mechanisms to provide feedback to citizens need to be put in place to showcase the impact made by their contribution and to further stimulate their engagement. Citizens must also be equipped with easy-to-use systems to upload and download data, and encouraged to use cheap sensors to move from pure visual observations to sensor-based ones. Finally, citizen science should work with adequate support from scientists, and for this more engagement from both sides is needed, as well as best practices.
The focus of the round table moderated by Ben Williams, Fugro, was on the contribution to sustained ocean observation from Public, Private, Academic Partnerships. It was noted that industry is contributing more and more to making data available on a voluntary basis and there are already several examples where this is happening, such as in the Seabed 2030 initiative. However, policy makers need to engage with industry in order to establish fit-for-purpose measurements to be required by legislation to collect ocean data following FAIR principles. This can really help increase the availability of ocean data from industry.
Chaired by Sara Garavelli, TRUST-IT & Blue-Cloud Coordinator and Dick Schaap, MARIS & Blue-Cloud Technical Coordinator, the round table immediately recognised the value of establishing a global Blue-Cloud. But how? Top-down coordination actions at international level are needed to accelerate the establishment of a global Blue-Cloud with engagement and funding from regional authorities. In order to examine this topic in depth, the workshop participants were invited to contribute to the Blue-Cloud Roadmap 2030, a policy document that will provide recommendations for the future funding programmes and will discuss the actions needed to extend the pool of marine data infrastructures federated by the Blue-Cloud. Many expressions of interest were collected. Finally, it was observed that a gap still exists in terms of communication between scientists and policy makers and governments: one idea to fill this gap could be to simulate a disaster using local data (e.g. European only data) and repeat the same simulation using data from all over the Atlantic to showcase how data sharing can have a real impact and truly support policy makers. This action could also provide a useful lever for governments reluctant to share data.
The theme of communication was also the main topic of the last round table led by Skye Moret, TBA21–Academy. An integrated communication strategy, using physical and digital channels, to promote the scientific process is needed to elevate the social value of Blue-Science. Partnerships with media and stakeholders that are often overlooked such as youth, are key to maxmising impactand clearly funded and coordinated communication strategies across a range of platforms should be created.
Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation Research Education and Youth, opened the All Atlantic Ocean Research Forum outlining three priorities for the future of the ocean: 1. listen and learn from each other 2. act together 3. use existing tools. The European Commissioner mentioned Blue-Cloud as one of the key projects working towards the third priority, highlighting that Blue-Cloud is building a smart federation of existing data resources, computing platforms, and analytical services to provide researchers with access to multi-disciplinary data from observations, in-situ and remote sensing, data products and outputs of numerical models and to a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) with various services to undertake world-class science.
“The All Atlantic Ocean Research Forum was a vibrant and inspiring event.” commented Sara Garavelli, Coordinator of the Blue-Cloud project, “The mix of speakers and panellists featured during the event ranging from policy makers, funders, scientists, coordinators of projects to youth ambassadors, all with a common purpose, to preserve the oceans, made this event unique. They were not only capable of describing the most worrying challenges that society is nowadays faced with such as climate change, ocean pollution, ocean acidification and the increase of the sea temperature and level, but they were especially able to communicate that there are solutions and ongoing efforts in place to address these challenges, and that the coordination of these actions at a global level will be one of the keys to success. The event was extremely important for Blue-Cloud to strengthen links and cement new collaborations, not only with its sister project EuroSea, but also with other relevant projects such the iAtlantic and Atlantico projects and to invite a set of key international organisations to contribute to its Blue-Cloud 2030 roadmap”.