Proceedings of a Workshop
Sustaining Ocean Observations
Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief
Uninterrupted, multi-decadal observations of the ocean are critical to understanding the Earth system as a whole and managing the ocean’s resources on which human lives and economies depend. Short-term funding cycles in the United States challenge the continuity of ocean observations over the long term, and make support of a new generation of the workforce, technology development, and the research fleet vulnerable. To explore strategies to expand support for sustaining ocean observing over the long term, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a virtual workshop1 on September 16-18, 2020, for representatives from multiple sectors to share potential solutions and next steps for sustaining ocean observations. This workshop builds on the report Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate,2 which documented the value of long-term ocean observations, particularly for understanding and predicting the Earth’s future climate, as well as challenges in sustaining these observations.
An overarching theme of the workshop was consideration of how a collective impact organization might serve as a potential framework for overcoming barriers to sustained ocean observing in the United States. This framework was integrated into the workshop conversations about communicating the value of ocean observations, governance of the system and its players, and sustained funding. Molly McCammon, director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System and co-chair of the workshop planning committee, introduced the collective impact organization concept, describing it as the backbone for centralized infrastructure, staff, and processes to support partnership activities across independent organizations. McCammon said that discussions at the workshop were expected to look at how a new structure, or enhanced existing structures, can help bring together the many contributors to the ocean observing enterprise, as well as new partners, to achieve shared goals.
The workshop included brief presentations and panel discussions with representatives from academia, government, private industry, philanthropy, and nonprofits to share their experiences and recommendations related to the workshop topics. Breakout sessions on the first two days allowed all workshop attendees to contribute ideas about next steps for sustaining ocean observing in smaller group discussions. This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief provides a high-level summary of the main points from these presentations and discussions.
STRENGTHENING THE COLLECTIVE VOICE: COMMUNICATING THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINED OCEAN OBSERVATIONS
The theme of the first day of the workshop was providing a more effective, coordinated approach to communicating the value of observing to broad audiences. Heidi Sosik, senior scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, started the first panel by providing her own research as an example of how ocean observations can bring value to stake-
1 The statement of task and workshop materials can be found at https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/sustaining-oceanobservations-phase-2-workshop.
2 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24919.
holders, and how she coordinates with these stakeholders to communicate this value. Sosik has conducted plankton observations since 2006, using machine learning algorithms to classify billions of images collected with a submersible robotic microscope. The result is a long-term time series for multiple plankton species, from which further multidisciplinary studies on their effects on higher trophic levels, including to commercially valuable fish species, are built. The machine learning algorithm also provides a way to identify the presence of the toxic plankton that cause harmful algal blooms (HABs), which regularly make news headlines due to their threat to seafood safety. Resource managers directly benefit from this research because it can be used to inform beach and shellfish harvest closures. Resource managers engage with scientists studying the coastal and ocean ecosystems of the Northeast United States through the Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Network for Change in Northeast U.S. Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems, a network that Sosik noted could serve as a prototype for the organizational discussions at the workshop. Another partnership model that Sosik identified is the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Her research is conducted as part of the Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER, which has participation from multiple universities as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Dina Eparkhina, senior policy and communications officer with the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS), described the strategies EuroGOOS has used to communicate the value of ocean observations to their stakeholders (including policy makers, industry, and the public). EuroGOOS has developed visual materials that deliver straightforward messages to the viewer while also allowing them to interpret the images based on their personal values and experiences (an example is depicted in Figure 1). These materials are developed through collaboration among oceanographers, communication specialists, and visual artists. Eparkhina said that simple text-based narratives can also be an effective approach to communicating with stakeholders, highlighting the seven Ocean Literacy Principles3 as a model that can be used for communicating the value of ocean observing. Eparkhina described how EuroGOOS acts as a type of collective impact organization by coordinating many regional, national, and international efforts from across Europe to achieve ocean observing goals—including improving ocean literacy. She concluded with recommendations for effective collective communication strategies: (1) co-design materials with creative professionals, (2) engage across the many disciplines surrounding the ocean, and (3) identify the bottom line that will appeal to stakeholders.
Innovative technology can also capture the interest of the public by providing a means for people to experience the ocean from their own homes. Jyotika Virmani, director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), said that the same technology that fuels advances in ocean science can make the ocean more accessible and exciting for the public. SOI is a philanthropic organization that operates the Research Vessel Falkor (depicted in Figure 2) for use by scientists internationally. SOI also supports the development of innovative technologies such as novel sensors and unmanned vessels. Virmani said funding and testing of high-risk technology is a contribution to ocean observing for which philanthropies are particularly well suited. Remotely operated vehicles have rapidly increased access to the ocean for both scientists and for the public; Virmani used the example of a recent siphonophore sighting (seen in Figure 2) that captured the public’s imagination. Augmented reality, 360-degree cameras, 3D images, and real-time data transmission will continue to revolutionize the way scientists and the public experience the ocean. Virmani explained that it is through this experience and understanding that people grow to value and care for the ocean.
Alexis Valauri-Orton, program officer at The Ocean Foundation, described how the foundation communicates the importance of ocean observing to regional, national, and international governing bodies in order to encourage policy support for ocean observing and capacity building globally. She shared examples of their work in developing support for ocean acidification observations by convening government and ocean scientists in Mexico to develop legislation, and by drafting a resolution under the Cartagena Convention to support regional ocean acidification observations. Valauri-Orton emphasized that while the foundation can provide tools to low-resourced countries, such as low-cost equipment, national investments and political support are still required to sustain ocean observing over the long term. Valauri-Orton also described how The Ocean Foundation embodies features of a collective impact organization. In addition to their policy support, the foundation provides administrative support to small organizations for nonprofit operations. They also provide a way for philanthropies to pool funds to mobilize and distribute philanthropic support for ocean science. In this regard, she said, the foundation must also communicate the importance of the ocean to philanthropic investors. Valauri-Orton shared the lesson that messaging needs to resonate with stakeholder interests; for example, “monitoring” may not resonate as well as its end goal of “managing a changing ocean.”
Kris Ohleth, senior manager of stakeholder engagement from Ørsted, an energy company developing offshore wind projects, described what motivates Ørsted to support and participate in ocean observing. In partnership with Rutgers University, University of Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ørsted has deployed a glider with passive acoustic monitoring sensors to detect the presence of North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species, in their offshore wind lease areas. Ørsted will use this data to prevent impacts to the whales during the survey, construction, and operation phases of their offshore wind projects. During the panel discussion, Ohleth further explained that private sector interests will often be driven by their bottom line and permitting requirements, such as their need to avoid impacts to endangered species. Addressing the bottom line will be key to making the case for observations. Similarly, Ørsted appeals to the interests of their stakeholders to promote the value of offshore wind. For example, they tie concerns about sea level rise and other coastal climate change impacts to the goals of offshore wind projects in order to engage stakeholders in coastal communities. Ohleth emphasized that building trust with stakeholders by building relationships over time is an important foundation for communicating effectively.
Several themes arose during the panel discussion moderated by Lexi Schultz, vice president of public affairs for the American Geophysical Union. Multiple panelists agreed that developing a communication strategy that captures the public’s imagination and curiosity is an important next step for ocean observing. Storytelling and case studies that people can relate to their business or personal concerns are an effective mechanism, such as Sosik’s example of the identification of HABs. Sosik also noted that harnessing fascination with the ocean provides an opportunity to reach broader audiences beyond the immediate stakeholders. Virmani re-emphasized that new technology will help capture the public’s imagination as well as increase access to ocean science, and that adopting technology developed in other fields (e.g., film, video games) will encourage further innovations. New technology can also facilitate public interest and participation in citizen science by providing easy-to-use tools, such as Smartfin,4 which is used by surfers to collect oceanographic data.
The need to appeal to individual stakeholders’ priorities was another common theme. Valauri-Orton explained that national well-being (e.g., economy, public health) is the priority for national governments, and the
importance of ocean observing should be framed for them in this regard. She said messaging about the value of ocean observations is very effective when delivered by citizens and businesses, such as a beachfront hotel owner who needs predictions of the sargassum seaweed washing up on their shores. Ohleth explained that many private sector companies who might be positioned to support ocean observations are unaware of how they can contribute. For example, the private sector does not always share data readily, but if they were made aware of the needs of the ocean observing community and the societal needs that could be addressed with their data, they can prioritize data sharing.
A breakout session allowed participants in the workshop to contribute ideas about possible next steps for developing a strategy to articulate the value of ocean observing as a collective voice. Comments made by participants in each breakout discussion group were documented, and following the breakout session they were summarized for all workshop attendees by planning committee members and early career professionals involved in session moderation. Many next steps suggested by the panelists were emphasized and expanded on by the attendees. Multiple attendees agreed that there is a need for the ocean observing community to work with professional communicators, and suggested this could be a role played by nonprofit partner organizations (e.g., Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, COMPASS Science Communication). It was also suggested that active facilitation would be useful to bring ocean observing stakeholders together to craft a shared message. Attendees pointed out that communications activities require financial support. Outreach components could potentially be included in calls for funding, and some philanthropies might also support science communication.
Success stories and case studies were included in the summaries from multiple breakout groups as effective mechanisms for communicating relatable messages to broad audiences. For example, “teachable moments” (e.g., hurricanes) provide opportunities to communicate the societal value of ocean observing. The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is developing a Benefits of Ocean Observing Catalog5 that can potentially be a tool for storytelling around the value of ocean goods and services. While attendees highlighted the importance of developing positive messaging and success stories, some said there is also value in explaining the challenges of ocean observing so that the need for additional support can be demonstrated. Across the breakout groups, attendees also stated that messaging could be “layered,” that is, targeted toward individual audiences while still fitting within an umbrella message (e.g., curiosity, economic benefit) agreed upon by the ocean observing community.
The value of effective communication arose throughout the remainder of the workshop. Craig McLean, assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at NOAA, explained that the public is not always well informed about how they benefit from ocean observing data and its products. Transportation of goods, real estate, finance, industry, weather forecasting, fishing, farming, and aviation are all sectors that benefit from ocean observing data, but this message is not communicated well. McLean pointed out that public interest in space exploration has left a legacy of support for satellite observations of the land and ocean surface on the order of $1.5 billion annually from NOAA alone. In comparison, in situ ocean observations receive about $150 million annually from NOAA, NSF, and other agencies. McLean concluded that this gap can only be closed with aggressive marketing and boldly asking for what is needed to support the system.
GOVERNANCE TO SUPPORT SUSTAINED OCEAN OBSERVATIONS
The second day of the workshop explored how enhanced coordination and partnership among the various groups participating in sustained ocean observations, as well as new partners, could help to foster a stronger collective impact. McLean shared a vision for the future of ocean observations: a uniform and operational system that produces predictable products, has staff to operate it, and unifies these various projects under a larger umbrella. Currently, he said, ocean observing consists of a large number of individual research projects. From his federal agency perspective, he observed that funders struggle to support individual projects unless they are linked to a larger system.
Albert Fischer, director of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), described the governance of ocean observing at an international level and opportunities for future progress in his keynote talk. GOOS serves as a backbone organization for its members to develop a common agenda, support mutually reinforcing activities, and engage a broad scientific community. While national governments are the main funders and implementers of ocean observing, GOOS also engages a broad research community, and increasingly, local governments and private industry. Fischer explained that global ocean observations are governed by the Framework for Ocean Observing,6 which lays out an approach for setting requirements, coordinating networks, and delivering data products. This framework provides a foundation to address ocean observing challenges. Fischer also described the Global Ocean Observing System 2030
6 Lindstrom, E., J. Gunn, A. Fischer, A. McCurdy, L. Glover, K. Alverson, B. Berx, P. Burkill, F. Chavez, and D. Checkley. 2012. A Framework for Ocean Observing. IOC/INF-1284. Paris, France: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Strategy,7 which outlines a way forward for ocean observations by building partnerships and maintaining a system geared toward delivery of products to meet the needs of end users. Specifically, ocean data should provide a means to support environmental management, the economy, sustainable development, defense, and safety, he added.
Fischer highlighted opportunities for strengthening governance structures for ocean observing. He summarized the governance needs that were identified in breakout sessions at the OceanObs’19 conference, a decadal meeting of the ocean observing community: co-designing the system with stakeholders, democratization of data, growing observations in coastal areas, and embracing technology innovation. Two white papers submitted to the conference suggested frameworks to describe the governance of ocean observing. Tanhua et al. (2019)8 described GOOS as what Fischer called a multi-level polycentric “bricolage” (see Figure 3) where many players operate in a decentralized manner. While the diffuse structure allows for resiliency through redundancy and multiple mechanisms for achieving outcomes, it also has inefficiencies and unpredictability. An alternative perspective provided by Weller et al. (2019)9 described the advantage of a collective impact organization, which utilizes a backbone organization to coordinate across partners, for governing ocean observations. Fischer thought there could be compatibility between GOOS’s polycentricism and a collective impact organization. Both strategies agree on important starting points: mapping the players, building a common vision and strategy, and agreeing on governance roles.
Evolving the governance system will take effort, may lead to some failures, and will require a willingness to continue to adapt, Fischer said. He suggested that the upcoming United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which identifies a sustainable ocean observing system as one of its key challenges,10 is an opportunity to experiment with new models, build partnerships, and focus ocean observing on sustainability in order to increase its impact. As Fischer summarized, a sustainable ocean observing system is one that meets the needs of its users.
During the following panel discussion, Daniel Vimont, professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, explained how the model of a collective impact organization can provide structure to the governance of sustained ocean observations. Vimont described ocean observing as a system without equilibrium; technology changes rapidly,
7 GOOS Steering Committee. 2019. The Global Ocean Observing System 2030 Strategy. IOC, Paris, IOC Brochure 2019-5 (IOC/ BRO/2019/5 rev.2), GOOS Report No. 239.
8 Tanhua, T., et al. 2019. What We Have Learned from the Framework for Ocean Observing: Evolution of the Global Ocean Observing System. Frontiers in Marine Science 6:105. http://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00471.
9 Weller, R. A., D. J. Baker, M. M. Glackin, S. J. Roberts, R. W. Schmitt, E. S. Twigg, and D. J. Vimont. 2019. The Challenge of Sustaining Ocean Observations. Frontiers in Marine Science 6:105. http://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00105.
priorities differ between stakeholders, and there are different levels of stakeholders and funders. In this case, he said “sustainability” of the system means there will be a process of continual evolution and learning. The collective impact organization allows for decentralized governance by setting up the social infrastructure to organize a network (illustrated in Figure 4), which allows for bottom-up priority setting and facilitates connections through which learning can occur. Vimont emphasized that this role as a “backbone” organization is critical for organizing the decentralized system. As speakers throughout the workshop noted, there are existing organizations that embody elements of a collective impact organization, and Vimont identified two more with which he is involved. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts provides a forum for the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (now joined by other private, nonprofit, academic, and governmental members) to discuss shared interests in climate impacts in Wisconsin. Another example is CLIVAR (Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change program) and the U.S. contribution, U.S. CLIVAR, which facilitate interactions between the research and funding communities to advance climate understanding.
Kris Sarri, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), shared her experience facilitating public–private partnerships and lessons that can be drawn from NMSF’s model. NMSF works closely with NOAA and its Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and engages citizens, nonprofits, and businesses in stewardship to promote healthier oceans and Great Lakes. It was established in 2000 to (1) build awareness about national marine sanctuaries and their value to communities and economies, (2) raise money for the sanctuary system—particularly by leveraging public funds with private investments, and (3) build a constituency of stewards for the sanctuaries. NMSF works with a public sector champion, NOAA, but ensures that all partners have an equal voice. Importantly, said Sarri, this means that stakeholders should be included in project planning from the beginning. She pointed out the importance of identifying regulatory restrictions and other boundaries; for example, there may be limits to data sharing. Other features that need to be defined in the partnership include each participant’s roles and responsibilities; how skillsets, risks, and rewards will be shared across partners; and how stakeholders will be engaged.
Jane Au, program director of ‘Āina Momona, a native Hawaiian nonprofit dedicated to achieving environmental health and social justice, spoke about the need for inclusion of indigenous perspectives and representation when mapping the players for governance of ocean observing. Indigenous people of the Pacific Ocean have been observing and managing ocean and coastal resources for centuries. Their ability to predict currents and weather have allowed them to navigate the ocean without technology. They have used their knowledge of the ocean to develop sophisticated, ethical, and sustainable resource management practices that took generations to perfect. Au used the example of mariculture in fishponds (Loko I’a) to demonstrate how native Hawaiians used knowledge of the connectivity between ecosystems, such as the connection between the fishpond productivity and the water and nutrient patterns of the upstream watershed, to manage natural resources holistically. Au concluded that integration of indigenous knowledge, practices, and leadership into ocean observing governance will allow the observing system to be relevant to user
needs, create flexibility, improve communication, identify regional differences and make connections across regions, inform ethical and sustainable management, and ultimately improve the ability to monitor and forecast the ocean. During the panel discussion, she further explained that indigenous people should not only be included in data collection, but also in project conceptualization and data interpretation.
Kim Juniper, chief scientist at Ocean Networks Canada, continued the theme of identifying key contributors to ocean observing governance by emphasizing the need to include operators of observing platforms, research vessels, and cyberinfrastructure in the governance of ocean observations. Long-term sustainability of infrastructure is essential to sustained ocean observations. Ocean Networks Canada organizes academic researchers to work collectively by helping develop shared goals and research priorities. These goals are communicated to funding agencies so that these agencies can consider how individual research proposals contribute to the larger picture. Ocean Networks Canada also makes sure these goals align with international initiatives. Through this organizational system, research that contributes to these shared strategic goals can be prioritized.
James Stear, senior metocean (meteorology and oceanography) specialist with Chevron, described examples and lessons for inclusion of the private sector in ocean observing governance. Chevron is a user of ocean observations, and also participates in collaborative efforts with the government and academia to produce ocean observations and share observing data with other users. The Voluntary Observing Ship program is one where the government provides training to ship operators to help conduct ship-based observations. Stear said this program demonstrated that there is a wider industry community to include in ocean observations. Chevron has participated in the Climatology and Simulation of Eddies/Eddy Joint Industry Project since the 1980s with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (previously the Minerals Management Service) to provide in situ observations for safe offshore energy operations. This partnership is also an opportunity to provide data to the research community and other offshore operators. Chevron participates in mandated observing activities for monitoring ocean conditions that impact offshore operations and safety, but they make an effort to go beyond their requirements to engage other stakeholders in data sharing. Stear recommended strategies for engaging private industry based on his experience: (1) make the case for observations that appeal to each party (e.g., safety, efficiency, or environmental management), (2) have the right subject matter experts involved, (3) give each sector equal representation, and (4) identify each participants’ unique contributions—whether these are in-kind data services or funding.
Jon White, president and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and moderator of the panel discussion, asked the panelists about successful models and best practices. While the weather community provides a good model for governance and sustained support, McLean identified some important things to consider. For one, the World Meteorological Organization is a centralized organization where nations contribute based on a treaty, whereas the International Oceanographic Commission, which houses GOOS, is a “coalition of the willing” with a more complex and decentralized network of players. Additionally, the weather industry has developed trust with industry partners through relationship building over a long period of time in order to encourage data sharing, something to work on for ocean observations, he added. Stear noted that there is opportunity for more data sharing when industry operators can see the benefit of the sum of the data, though sometimes regional regulatory complications may make data sharing difficult. Sarri pointed out that another aspect of trust is for industry partners to know that governance structures have been planned with a long-term outlook so that relationships will be protected as the governance structure builds out.
Panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities for supporting a collective impact organization. As a funder, McLean emphasized that knowing how organizations are related helps identify how investments will impact the whole system. Vimont acknowledged that this is a reason why collective impact organizations may be harder to fund, because they are so decentralized. But he also said there are examples of successful cases where a small investment in a backbone organization has had huge impact—Wikimedia being an example. Vimont also stated that initial investments can emerge as part of the collective impact organization process; when members identify their core values, it can incentivize support from organizations that share these values. Establishing open data is a core value that he said can be an appealing incentive for participation and support. Fischer added that making the economic case for ocean observations broadly can also incentivize development of this backbone infrastructure.
Workshop attendees participated in a breakout session to discuss the critical functions of an organization entrusted with supporting sustained ocean observations, and consider model organizations that embody these functions. The benefits of coordinating observing operations, particularly to bring in new partners, was highlighted by participants across the breakout groups. A coordinating organization for parties involved in ocean observing can encourage collaboration across programs and disciplines, provide guidance for data curation and sharing, and develop standards for what is included in the system. Ocean observing was described by one participant as a “system of systems” that needs to be coordinated so that data collected by different platforms and programs can be interoperable. Coordinating
with funding agencies and end users (e.g., energy production, fisheries management, deep sea mining) would help build support for the system.
GOOS and IOOS (IOOS is the U.S. contribution to GOOS) were both discussed as effective starting points for coordination. In the United States, IOOS develops trusted and sustained relationships with a wide range of users and other programs at a regional scale. GOOS coordinates at an international scale and has started to embrace a wider range of users to include private sector partners. A coordination challenge highlighted by attendees is that there is no organization that works from local to global scales; IOOS is specifically focused on coastal observations in regions around the United States. Alternatively, CLIVAR was discussed as an example of an organization that focuses on a specific sub-topic (the ocean’s role in climate) and works well from national (as U.S. CLIVAR) to global scales, but struggles at the local level. It was suggested that a backbone organization would integrate organizations like IOOS and CLIVAR for comprehensive planning at nested spatial scales.
Throughout the breakout session, attendees suggested additional organizations and initiatives that contribute to the governance of ocean observing. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) is a mechanism for the government agencies and the private sector to pool resources. Additionally, the Regional Ocean Partnerships11 already consist of wide-reaching partnerships between states and ocean observing stakeholders. Communities of practice, a network of organizations with a common vision, were considered as potential intermediate steps to a collective impact organization that organizes the community more formally. The World Ocean Council was shared as an example of one community of practice for the global ocean business and investment community. Its “Smart Ocean, Smart Industry” initiative is an industry-led effort to promote data collection by industries that operate in the ocean.
Two critical functions that attendees said are largely missing from existing organizations are marketing the value of ocean observations and encouraging support for sustained funding. The inclusion of not only professional communicators but also economists and business professionals in the backbone organization was suggested by some attendees. Through its coordination role, a backbone organization could be a way for the community to develop a shared communication strategy and message. Also, by coordinating with stakeholders, including members of the private sector who may be unaware of partnership opportunities, this message can be better disseminated.
THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN FUNDING OCEAN OBSERVATIONS
Two panels on the final day of the workshop explored how to sustain support and funding for ocean observing; the first was about the role of the federal government, and the second was about private sector interests and opportunities to engage them in ocean observing. David Legler, director of the Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program at NOAA, said the role of the federal government has been driven by its mission to support the public good, such as through the provision of accurate and reliable weather and climate services. This includes validating observations to ensure quality and consistency; setting standards for trusted sources of data and information; and supporting infrastructure, new technology, and research and development. He suggested this role should be expanded to encourage contributions from partners, while continuing to support those observations that may not be commercially viable. He pointed out that current ocean observing capabilities provide a rich set of products and services through partnerships among national governments, the private sector, universities, and intergovernmental organizing bodies. However, current capabilities do not meet the demands of an increasing set of stakeholders and do not adapt quickly enough to integrate new partners, Legler said. There is an opportunity for external partners to leverage federal investments and build tools and products based on observing data. For example, new strategies within NOAA around unmanned and autonomous vessels, artificial intelligence, and genomics provide an entry point for expanded community interactions with NOAA.
Legler discussed existing partnership mechanisms that could be improved to better encourage participation from non-governmental sectors. NOPP is a tool for federal agencies to work with each other and with the private sector to sponsor joint activities, but Legler noted it has not met its full potential. The Interagency Ocean Observation Committee is another venue for federal agency coordination, though he said it lacks a strong mechanism for joint work and has limited resources. GOOS and IOOS engage with partners, but are not sufficiently staffed or resourced to carry out all functions needed to sustain partnerships. Legler suggested that a successful backbone organization would build relationships with new partners and communicate the value of ocean observations, areas that the federal government is not well staffed or structured to perform. During the panel discussion, he added that it is a question for federal agencies to consider if these new expectations are something they want levied on NOPP.
Nadya Vinogradova-Shiffer, program scientist and manager of the physical oceanography program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), provided an additional perspective on the role of the federal
government in ocean observing. NASA contributes to ocean observing through satellite measurements of ocean variables, some of which have been collected for several decades. Vinogradova-Shiffer said that the government takes a leading role in supporting ocean observing by setting priorities and investing in science and research teams who can deliver on these priorities. She emphasized the importance of supporting the workforce of scientists, engineers, and managers as essential for sustainability of observations. Through its satellite missions, NASA collects massive amounts of data and the research community needs to be provided with the computational infrastructure and analytical skills to realize the value of this data. During the panel discussion, Vinogradova-Shiffer said that partnerships allow for organizations to stick to their defined roles and strengths while benefitting from each other’s capabilities.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) was described by Holly Bamford, chief conservation officer at NFWF, as a possible model for how public investments can be leveraged for contributions from the private sector. NFWF serves as a platform for federal and private resources to be pooled in support of conservation goals by funding on-the-ground projects. In this respect, Bamford said, NFWF acts as a backbone organization for conservation. Currently, 70 percent of NFWF’s funds come from private contributions, which provides NFWF’s programs with stability in the face of fluctuations in federal funds year to year. Bamford applied her experience with NFWF to share recommendations with workshop attendees for partnerships between the public and private sectors. She agreed with the importance of a convening backbone organization that allows federal and private resources to be pooled. She said partners should be connected by common goals and an explicit agenda. While the backbone organization does not set these goals, Bamford said it should provide leadership to ensure these goals are met. To appeal to the interests of their private investors, NFWF develops Conservation Business Plans, 10-year plans that identify measurable and fundable goals. Bamford emphasized the importance of demonstrating a return on investment to private sector partners. This requires monitoring of projects to measure their progress and adapt where needed, which is particularly important when private companies want to see short-term progress on long-term programs.
Rick Spinrad, professor at Oregon State University and consultant from High Desert Ocean Associates LLC with prior leadership roles in NOAA and the U.S. Navy, provided his perspective on how ocean observations can provide a return on investment. Spinrad described the potential for a knowledge-based economy, or “New Blue Economy,” that utilizes ocean data to develop products and services.12,13 While he said this idea is not new, recent developments can now be capitalized on more realistically: (1) increased density, accuracy, availability, and reliability of ocean observations globally; (2) improved modeling capabilities that provide value to stakeholders by predicting ocean phenomena; (3) increased philanthropic investment in the Blue Economy; (4) opportunities to address ocean science challenges as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development; and (5) a growing market for forecasting products. He suggested ocean data should be treated like a utility, the services from which will become a necessity for supporting health, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity, thereby ensuring robust support for its infrastructure. In order to build out this economy, said Spinrad, the public sector needs to authorize permanence and stability of the ocean observing enterprise through legislation, such as reauthorization of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009—the statutory authority for IOOS. Additionally, a business case for sustaining ocean observations needs to be made by the ocean observations community in order to justify investments in the private sector, including what products will be offered, how they will be managed, how products will be delivered, and what the risks will be. During the panel discussion, he added that these partnerships will require new paradigms: comingling public and private investments, tolerating higher risk projects, and bringing in completely new partners.
Mel Briscoe, president of OceanGeeks, LLC and moderator of the panel, asked the panelists to define the value proposition of sustained ocean observations and consider who should be tasked with communicating this value. Spinrad stated that there are multiple ways of looking at it. A commonly agreed on value is the support of people’s lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles. IOOS and the IOOS Association (a nonprofit partner to IOOS) have produced products speaking to this value. Another value, he said, is in the potential for significant but currently unforeseen advances made possible by sustained ocean observations, which he likened to the unknown potential in the early days of the Internet. Bamford added that both the public and private sector value such advances in technology, but cautioned that while the federal government can take risks on innovations that do not all work out, the private sector will be looking for short-term return on investment. She added that even federal agencies need to be shown the added value of partnering and pooling their resources. Vinogradova-Shiffer said that as a science agency, NASA’s metric of success is that of scientific discovery, and thus NASA is very interested in partnering with others interested in the pursuit of scientific discovery. Legler explained that the federal government has not been good at communicating these values, instead
13 World Ocean Initiative. 2020. A sustainable ocean economy in 2030: Opportunities and challenges. The Economist Group Limited. http://www.woi.economist.com/sustainable-ocean-economy-2030.
relying on partners like the IOOS Association and the research community, and help is needed to communicate this value from a variety of perspectives.
PRIVATE SECTOR INTERESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO SUPPORT OBSERVATIONS
Representatives from the private sector provided examples of partnerships they have entered in support of ocean science and observations. The moderator of this panel, Mary Glackin, president of the American Meteorological Society, pointed out that the private sector is diverse—members of this panel represented privately-held and publicly-traded companies as well as philanthropy, each of which will have different motivators and modes of action. The first panelist, Troy Bertram, chief revenue officer at Saildrone, described how Saildrone has supported ocean observing by providing data collection services for government and university scientists from their fleet of unmanned vessels (see the “Saildrone” depicted in Figure 5). The company provides their vessels at a cost-effective daily rate rather than selling the platforms outright, which allows their customers to obtain the data they need without bearing the full cost associated with maintenance and operations of the observing platform. Saildrone develops and manufactures the vessels, which currently have 20 different sensors for collecting data on various ocean parameters. By working with many partners, Saildrone benefits by being able to continually test and improve their product. A close partnership with NOAA has also ensured that data collected by their platforms meet federal data quality standards.
Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, described how the Pollock Conservation Cooperative facilitates support of ocean science by the pollock fishing industry in Alaska. The Alaska Education Tax Credit allows members of the cooperative to receive tax credit for donations made to eligible educational institutions. The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center is a partnership between the cooperative’s members, the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the state of Alaska, and NOAA Fisheries. Through this partnership, members jointly determine research priorities and fund research projects based on these priorities. Pollock fishers have an interest in ocean observations that inform stock assessment models and models of distributional shifts based on changes in ocean temperature.
Madsen explained that even for industry, funding can be an issue. Changes in international trade agreements as well as impacts from COVID-19 during the 2020 season have stressed the market. She said that these challenges highlight the need for a cooperative approach. Madsen shared her recommendations for partnering with the private sector: there needs to be a clear alignment of goals, the value for the private sector needs to be demonstrated, and private sector roles cannot replace the federal government’s responsibilities for conducting observations and maintaining observing platforms. She also noted that the fishing industry will not enter a long-term partnership without establishing trust first. Examples or pilot projects are one way to establish this trust, which may be a role that a backbone organization could serve.
Another potential role for a private sector partner is to provide in-kind support, such as the data services described by Ana Pinheiro Privette, lead for the Amazon Sustainability Initiative. Amazon provides these services as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative, motivated by a concern for solving sustainability problems. Amazon offers both financial awards and in-kind services that leverage its scale and infrastructure, like cloud data storage. Their focus for data services covers three areas: (1) democratizing access to data by working with stakeholders to identify important datasets to host; (2) enabling access to analytical tools and encouraging experimentation; and (3) promoting knowledge exchange through tutorials, webinars, and other training. By removing financial barriers to acquiring, cleaning, accessing, and storing data, Amazon aims to accelerate the pace of knowledge. Privette noted that datasets for weather, ocean forecasts, climate change, satellite images, and many others are currently available on the cloud.
Nick Rose, director of Environmental Programs at Royal Caribbean, provided an example of a long-term partnership between government, academia, and industry. For more than 20 years, Royal Caribbean has collected atmospheric and oceanic observations from sensors provided by NOAA and the University of Miami on cruise ships in the Caribbean. In 2019, a Royal Caribbean ship in the Galapagos was added to the program. He described how this partnership provides benefits to all of its members. NOAA and the University of Miami have been able to collect data from along a consistent route that is used to inform short-term forecasts of hurricanes and other weather conditions, as well as long-term trends and predictions of climate change impacts. Royal Caribbean benefits directly from these forecasts for the safety of their operations at sea. Additionally, Royal Caribbean develops educational materials for their passengers based on these observations in order to encourage interest in the ocean, thereby promoting the value of their cruises.
Philanthropies, though not driven by profit motivations, also have their own values and goals directing their interest in partnerships. The goals of the philanthropy OceanX to support ocean science research and communications were described by Vincent Pieribone, the organization’s vice chairman. OceanX operates the research vessels Alucia and OceanXplorer, which are used for research as well as media production. The research goals for the use of the vessels are broad, mainly driven by the scientists who are invited onboard. In addition, professional communicators such as media companies, directors, and cinematographers are invited onboard the vessels for media production. Pieribone emphasized that these goals are of equal importance to OceanX. In pursuit of their goals, OceanX partners with academic and government science organizations as well as media organizations like National Geographic and Disney. Pieribone reiterated what had been heard previously in the workshop, that understanding the ocean is key to public stewardship.
Glackin asked the panelists what the next steps should be for encouraging partnerships with the private sector. Panelists agreed that there is huge potential for finding opportunities for aligning goals. Privette stated that it is important to first define the problem space, then partners can identify where they can contribute. Bertram emphasized that common goals need to be identified before there can be discussions about financial support from private partners. All panelists stated that the private sector will need to then understand how they will benefit from participating in the partnership. Rose further stated that a project needs to align with the strategic goals of an organization in order to be sustained for the long term, because it will be expected to outlast the contributions of an individual person. Pieribone said that as a philanthropy, OceanX has capabilities they are willing to contribute, such as the ability to deliver observing platforms to the open ocean. What is needed, he said, is a forum where needs can be identified and shared so the private sector knows where they can contribute. Glackin noted that a collective impact organization could assist in identifying shared goals.
A WAY FORWARD
Eric Lindstrom, chief scientist at Saildrone and co-chair of the workshop planning committee, summarized what he heard throughout the workshop as potential next steps to better organize, fund, and communicate the value of ocean observing. To address communication challenges, he said a marketing campaign is needed. Its messaging will need to be multi-layered, both unifying the community and also speaking to individual audiences. This is a complex challenge that requires the inclusion of professional communicators. Strengthening and expanding the network of trusted partners is required for agreeing on and communicating this unified message. In this respect, communicating with a collective voice is strongly tied to addressing governance challenges. Lindstrom repeated what was heard throughout the workshop: there are already many successful partnerships and communities of practice that can serve as starting points for strengthening ocean observing governance. What is needed is for their reach to be expanded to include and be co-designed with new partners and for their responsibilities to include marketing the value proposition of ocean observing, he added.
Lindstrom put the funding needs for a sustained and networked ocean observing system in context: the U.S. government has a budget on the scale of trillions of dollars. The question is how to get ocean observing to have a relatively small but dedicated allocation of this budget. According to Lindstrom, the first stage for sustaining long-term
support for ocean observing is establishing the backbone organization that can provide marketing and organizational capabilities, one option being a “National Ocean Observing Foundation” using NFWF as a model. He estimated that such an organization may require about $10 million. A key activity of this organization would be to bring in new partners. Having a good story and being well organized will be necessary for the second stage: an established endowment for a sustained, global ocean observing system. Lindstrom suggested this would be on the order of $10 billion dollars endowed to operate at a cost of $1 billion dollars annually.
Agreement on the end goal is a key next step for the community, said Margaret Leinen, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in her closing remarks. Throughout the workshop, there had been references to sustaining a science-based system as well as developing a business case for the system with involvement of new sectors. She said these are both worthy goals but will require different strategies. Historically, the voice of the research community has been the loudest, because that is who built the current observing system. But a fit-for-purpose observing system with contributions from private and nonprofit partners may look different from the observing system that exists today. Leinen suggested that a follow-up meeting is needed where representatives from the business, philanthropy, nonprofit, and government sectors could resolve what they are trying to accomplish.
If the community does not think seriously about organization models that bring in private and nonprofit partners, Leinen said, the ocean observing community will continue to have these same conversations about how to sustain ocean observations. Existing entities like GOOS and IOOS are not constructed to have an impact on funding; they do not lobby or broker deals, they do not develop business cases, and they are not constituted to serve a significant communication role. Leinen asked the workshop participants if they are comfortable with an organization that bases itself on business rather than niche research systems. Leinen suggested that these functions are essential to obtaining public support for the science they want.
DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Emily Twigg as a factual summary of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the planning committee; the sponsors; or The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Kai Lee, Owl of Minerva LLC; Eric Lindstrom, Saildrone; Josie Quintrell, IOOS Association; and Nathalie Zilberman, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Steering Committee for Sustaining Ocean Observations Phase 2: Workshop: Eric Lindstrom (Co-Chair), Saildrone; Molly McCammon (Co-Chair), Alaska Ocean Observing System; Jennifer L. Hagen, Quileute Nation; David Millar, Fugro; Jan Newton, University of Washington; Julie Pullen, Jupiter Intelligence; Raymond W. Schmitt, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (retired); Mark Tercek, Independent Consultant.
SPONSOR: This workshop was supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shell, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
For additional information regarding the workshop, visit https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/sustaining-ocean-observations-phase-2-workshop.
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Sustaining Ocean Observations: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25997.
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Copyright 2020 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.