The ocean needs integration to optimally combine multiple sources of data

  • An international team led by the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB) calls for transformative organisational changes for the achievement of better integration of the ocean observing system. 

A work published yesterday in Frontiers in Marine Science by an international team led by the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB) has addressed the need for enhanced organisational integration among all the actors of ocean observing in order to improve coordination between ocean research activities and ensure an optimal and efficient response to science and societal needs. “Understanding and sustainably managing complex environments such as marine ecosystems benefits from an integrated approach to ensure that information about all relevant components and their interactions at multiple and nested spatiotemporal scales are considered”, says Adèle Révelard, postdoctoral researcher at SOCIB and first author of the position paper. This requires efficient collaboration between disciplines and domains of expertise, between observing networks, between in-situ and remote sensing, between modellers and observers, and between researchers, institutions and nations.

“The real integration of multi-platform observations—HF radar, satellite, moorings, gliders, drifters, ARGO profilers…— together with numerical models is one of the key challenges today in ocean sciences given the well-established, international platform-driven ocean observing networks and forecasting initiatives”, explains Joaquín Tintoré, director of the SOCIB and second author of the study. “We need to work towards integrating the different components of the observing and forecasting system at different scales, to show the added value of the integration, to characterise and understand ocean state and variability at a variety of scales, from large basin scale to meso/submesoscale”, he adds. 

To reach this goal, the authors of this study (from more than 35 institutions all around Europe, North America and Australia) advocate for transformative scientific, cultural, organisational and management changes. After analysing the barriers that currently prevent this full integration within the occidental systems, the authors have suggested several approaches for breaking down the organisational silos and promoting better coordination and sharing. These recommendations include the redefinition of scientific excellence, the establishment of a common agenda and principles, the redesign of ocean governance at various levels, the elaboration of sustainable funding mechanisms, as well as connecting the diverse communities, establishing clear design and implementation plans, facilitating the transition from research to integrated sustained operations, coordinating data management and delivery, and efficiently communicating the value of ocean observing. “Achieving ocean integration requires a profound change in the way we have been historically working so far in oceanography and a shift in our research culture”, says Jacques Verron, emeritus senior scientist at CNRS, founder of OceanNext and third author of this study. “We hope this work will pave the way for questioning our working habits and for implementing concrete actions", adds Adèle Révelard.

Overview of the challenges to be faced in order to reach efficient integration within the ocean observing system. The most critical ones are highlighted in grey.


This work began within the framework of the EU-funded EuroSea project. However, it has rapidly evolved towards a more international and multi-sectoral dimension, involving key actors from science policy, economy, policy advice and decision-making. “This is timely because we now have the scientific and technical capabilities as well as urgent societal and political drivers,” highlights Tintoré. “The ambition of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and the various efforts to grow a sustainable ocean economy and effective ocean protection efforts all require a more integrated approach to ocean observing”, he points out.

Reference article

  • Révelard, A, Tintoré J, Verron J, Bahurel P, Barth JA, Belbéoch M, Benveniste J, Bonnefond P, Chassignet EP, Cravatte S, Davidson F, deYoung B, Heupel M, Heslop E, Hörstmann C, Karstensen J, Le Traon PY, Marques M, McLean C, Medina R, Paluszkiewicz T, Pascual A, Pearlman J, Petihakis G, Pinardi N, Pouliquen S, Rayner R, Shepherd I, Sprintall J, Tanhua T, Testor P, Seppälä J, Siddorn J, Thomsen S, Valdés L, Visbeck M, Waite AM, Werner F, Wilkin J and Williams B. (2022). Ocean Integration: The Needs and Challenges of Effective Coordination Within the Ocean Observing System. Front. Mar. Sci. 8:737671.