World - The Global Push to Share Ocean Data
It’s often said that we know more about deep space than the deep sea. Marine scientists are working to change that.
In recent years, technologies to sense, interpret and model the ocean have become more powerful, widespread and cheaper to install and use. Smart buoys bristling with sensors bob in the water and gather data on temperature, salinity, light and noise. Sensitive listening devices towed behind ships scan surrounding waters for life. And samples from good old-fashioned buckets and bottles thrown over the side of research vessels still play an important role in examining water.
As a result of all this activity, marine scientists are swimming in data. Much of it is collected by national oceanographic services or research groups scattered across the world. The quality of this data varies, and so do the ways it is gathered, stored, organised and formatted. All of which presents a problem. Given the ocean is a shared resource, and one that is growing in importance for a number of environmental, social and economic reasons, it would be better if all of these overlapping, conflicting and incompatible data streams could be organised – or at the very least, better coordinated and made more accessible.
UK efforts to improve data exchange
“In the past, the gathering of marine data was quite territorial, with people collecting data within different sectors and sometimes being quite possessive,” says Clare Postlethwaite, an oceanographer who coordinates the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) in the UK. “Now there’s a big push to get data into a single place for users to find.”