2016 was a very productive and pivotal year as we came to the end of the 2nd EMODnet development phase (2013-2016). During this phase, EMODnet evolved from a series of prototype data portals to a mature and operational service covering all European sea-basins. EMODnet data portals now serve more data and products covering all sea-basins to an increasing and widening range of users than ever before. As a result, EMODnet has become a reference point and has embedded itself firmly into the European marine data landscape. The EMODnet Central Portal, launched in 2013, has grown from simply providing a gateway to thematic data portals, to a full blown information hub providing an expanding range of data services covering all EMODnet themes. In 2016, a prototype Map Viewer and Products Catalogue were added to enable search, visualisation and downloading of core EMODnet data layers. These services will be further developed in the coming years.
While all thematic projects are ending, many new projects were initiated in 2016 as well. Four new EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints or ‘data stress tests’ were launched in June 2016 covering the Arctic, Atlantic, Baltic and Black Sea, complementing the North Sea and MedSea Checkpoints initiated in 2013. An entirely new kind of project, launched in spring 2016, will develop an EMODnet Data Ingestion Facility. This facility will provide a helpdesk and gateway for public or private data holders who wish to share their data but are currently unable to do so.
Our collaboration with external organisations and (marine) data initiatives has also improved greatly over the last year. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between EMODnet Physics and the Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS) formalising the commitment to work together to provide coherent and complementary sustained services, avoid duplication of efforts and facilitate access to CMEMS and EMODnet services to those who need in situ products. We have also increased our effort to collaborate with the INSPIRE community to improve alignment of EMODnet with INSPIRE and vice versa.
In 2016 we have significantly upped our communication efforts to increase the visibility of the EMODnet data portals and projects. Yet EMODnet is still largely unknown to many potential users and contributors. We have explored new ways of engaging non-traditional stakeholders beyond the monitoring and observation communities, in particular from SMEs and maritime industry. As a result, we created the new ‘EMODnet Associated Partnership’ scheme enabling EMODnet to become a more flexible, open and inclusive network. We are pleased to welcome the first three Associated Partners to join our Network: The Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) in Spain, the Coastal Research and Engineering Services (CORES) in Bulgaria, and Dredging, Environmental & Marine Engineering (DEME) in Belgium. Do not hesitate to inform potentially interested organisations, associations or companies about this opportunity if you think there would be a mutual benefit for them to join our network.
New Year, New Challenges
Looking ahead, we expect seven new projects for the further development, operation and maintenance of the EMODnet thematic data portals to start early 2017. This will be the real kick-off of the 3rd and final EMODnet development phase (2016-2020) which will focus on reaching the EMODnet 2020 targets described in the Communication from the Commission “Innovation in the Blue Economy” and associated Marine Knowledge 2020 roadmap:
“to deliver a seamless multi-resolution digital seabed map of European waters of the highest resolution possible, covering topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems. This will be accompanied by access to timely observations and information on the present and past physical, chemical and biological state of the overlying water column, by associated data on human activities, by their impact on the sea and by oceanographic forecasts. All of this should be easily accessible, interoperable and free of restrictions on use. It should be nourished by a sustainable process that progressively improves its fitness for purpose and helps Member States maximise the potential of their marine observation, sampling and surveying programmes.”
It is clear that much work remains to be done to achieve these targets and address the many challenges identified during the EMODnet Open Conference in 2015 (see Conference Report).
But this is not enough: as we move into the final development phase we need to increase our efforts to consider a sustainable future for EMODnet post-2020, when the core data sharing service is to be fully deployed and operational. To be sustainable, we may need to be more creative and ambitious than merely maintaining an operational service.
There will be another opportunity to meet and consider the future requirements for more efficient and effective marine observation and data acquisition, management and open-sharing practices in Europe at the upcoming EMODnet Stakeholder Conference & Sea-basin Workshops (14-15 February, Brussels). The Stakeholder Conference provides an exciting opportunity to showcase the work of the EMODnet Checkpoints and to interact with regional stakeholders to ensure that our sea-basin observing systems are fit-for-purpose. We deliberately organised this event on Valentine’s Day to celebrate our common passion for marine data and ocean observing and offer free entrance for all partners of attendees to join the Conference Reception on 14/02. It will be good to see you all there!
Finally, we take this opportunity to thank all EMODnet project coordinators, Steering Committee members, partners and contributors for your relentless efforts to shape EMODnet into what it is today: a growing network of people working together to realise the vision of a pan-European, interoperable, distributed marine data-sharing infrastructure. Because of these efforts, EMODnet is increasingly recognised by marine and maritime stakeholders as a crucial infrastructure and service underpinning the EC’s Blue Growth Strategy.
The EMODnet Secretariat Team
Jan-Bart, Belén, Oonagh, Vikki and Phil