Maritime Forum

Are the marine data in the North Sea fit for purpose?

Published on: Mon, 07/11/2016 - 11:22
Table of Contents
    It is difficult to ascertain the value of a dataset until the data itself are visible, highlighting serious deficiencies with the metadata. Also, although there may not appear to be a data gap at first sight, the detailed analyses uncover gaps which do exist

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    final report (40Mb)

    DG Mare commissioned a series of ‘Checkpoint’ studies, one for each European marine area. These studies were to determine whether the aims of providing good quality data of sufficient spatial coverage and presenting it in a way that can be used by both the public and private sectors, have been met, particularly considering the diverse nature of marine and maritime sector projects. This report outlines the approach adopted to answer the challenges set for the North Sea Checkpoint, gives a summary of the challenges and key findings, and provides recommendations for further development.

    The objectives of the study were to be met through a literature review and a series of seven challenges:

    Wind Farm, Marine Protected Areas, Oil Platform Leak, Climate and Coastal Protection, Fisheries Management, Marine Environment and River Inputs. These challenges, by design, test the breadth and depth of the data provision for the North Sea in different ways. This study has shown that the majority of these can be met, at least partially, to the satisfaction of the users and with data that can be located, sourced and processed successfully. The INSPIRE themes which relate most strongly to the challenges are Hydrography, Oceanographic geographical features, Atmospheric conditions, Habitats and biotopes, and Species distribution. Each challenge has identified gaps in the necessary data provision for achieving the challenge and it is also possible to discern some patterns in the limitations of the data provision.

    The overall statistics indicate that a relatively small proportion of the datasets initially identified were actually used to meet the challenges. A gradual reduction of data evaluated as ‘in scope’ occurs as the evaluation process proceeds. This indicates that it is difficult to ascertain the value of a dataset until the data itself is visible, highlighting serious deficiencies with the metadata. Also, although there may not appear to be a data gap at first sight, the detailed analyses uncover gaps which do exist. Moreover, a number of the challenges were, at most, partially met. Although a large number of datasets were on offer, these could not meet the challenge set to the satisfaction of the scientists undertaking them. In addition to identified limitations with spatial and temporal coverage, the main gaps in the data provision appear to be related to biology and ecology. There were also data gaps in physical parameters.

    Analysis of the lifecycle of finding, evaluating and using the data to meet the challenges shows that considerable potential for aiding the Blue Economy lies with the presentation of the available data to the user communities. With its coverage and guiding principles, EMODnet is well positioned to coordinate the adoption of a metadata standard for discovery and use of marine data. Adoption of this standard across the community would then facilitate the formation of a federated catalogue solution for marine data, incorporating existing data portals and supply mechanisms. It would not be the responsibility of a service like EMODnet to ensure that the data is used, rather that data suppliers have a well-publicised, high-usability avenue for ensuring that their data is described and accessible. Blue Economy users and interest groups would then place the onus on data suppliers to offer their data products using this federated catalogue solution.

    A key ingredient missing from the current information architecture is the user evaluation of the data. As a result, the project has prototyped the Data Advisor facility where context specific user experiences are recorded to aid evaluation by other potential users and generate summary statistics. The evaluation criteria used are intended to be intuitive and easy to assess. As such, EMODnet is also well placed to enable the creation of a user feedback service, based on the idea of the project’s Data Advisor to accompany existing catalogues of marine data.

    It is also clear that standardisation is necessary in the technical and functional structure of marine datasets. This issue is indicative of scientific data as a whole and, although a network such as EMODnet cannot be expected to solve this issue, it may be possible to move towards a solution through the adoption of standards for representing spatio-temporal data.

    This report is the first version of the final deliverable to DG Mare under the North Sea Checkpoint project contract reference SI2.658142. The work was undertaken by HR Wallingford Ltd, Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies (IMARES) and McAllister-Elliot & Partners (MEP)

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