Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Third meeting of the Marine Observation and Data Expert Group (MODEG)

Event date:
01/12/2008 - 17:00 to 02/12/2008 - 17:00
Table of Contents

    The third meeting of the Marine Observation and Data Expert Group (MODEG) was held on 1-2 December 2008. Eighteen members of the Group were present - Colpan Beken, Jean-François Bourillet, Peter Burkill, Antonio Bode, Gianna Casazza, Hans Dahlin (chairman), Yann-Hervé De Roeck, Robert Gatliff, Lars Hansen, Neil Holdsworth, François Le Corre, Ralph Rayner, Manfred Reinke, Lesley Rickards, Dick Schaap, Anastasios Tselepidis and Henry Vallius. Four others, Frederique Blanc, Remi Laane, Ilaria Nardello and Christopher Zimmerman - had apologized for their unavoidable absence. From the Commission there was Hugo de Groof (DG-ENV), Alan Edwards (DG-RTD), Pascal Le Grand (DG-RTD), Iain Shepherd (DG-MARE), Mikko Strahlendorff (DG-ENTR), Gert Verreet (DG-ENV) and Anne-France Woestyn (DG-MARE).
    Seabed Mapping

    Koen Verbruggen, Geological Survey of Ireland, presented Irish seabed mapping as an example of what could be done. €33 million had been spent on the primarily deep water areas as part of the effort to claim continental shelf and now €4 million a year is allocated for the slower process of mapping the shallower water, in the INFOMAR programme which is jointly run by the Geological Survey and Irish Marine Institute. He said that maps are essential for safe shipping, efficient fishing, infrastructure development – transport, leisure, coastal protection, aggregate extraction, wind and wave energy, aquaculture – as well as for protecting habitats. The mapping programme had discovered previously-unknown coldwater corals in the deeper waters and shipwrecks and new seabed features nearer shore.

    A €50,000 study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers showing that the benefits of this mapping exceed the investment cost by a factor of between 5 and 6 has been completed and will be ready to be published in late in 2008 or very early 2009.

    Work is ongoing to integrate the data with biological data but communication between geologist and biologists still presents some challenges due to lack of an internationally agreed approach to habitat mapping. The INFOMAR programme produces seabed classification or physical habitat maps as a standard product.

    MODEG was extremely impressed by the open data policy. The mapping and associated raw data, can be downloaded from the Web free of charge and without restriction of use. Some other countries faced distribution restrictions for security reasons. Mr Verbruggen thought, in answer to a question, that the possibility of enemy submarines using the maps to approach the Irish coast unseen was probably not considered a serious risk and that to date one of the obvious benefits of the open data policy could be seen in the incorporation of the data in electronic charting systems resulting in improved safety.
    UK experience – MEDIN

    After some false dawns, the UK are beginning to put their marine data in order through the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) which involves about 30 partners and is costing the agencies responsible for data distribution about €1 million per year. It was presented by Lesley Rickards who said that the main drivers are obligations from the Marine Framework Strategy Directive, marine spatial planning and marine protected areas. The system will eventually ensure that data collected is stored safely and can be found through a common portal. All institutions wishing to hold data can go through an accreditation process. There are some technical challenges:

    1. which data should be considered as "reference" if more than one measurement exists
    2. some old data might be impossible to recover because it is not accompanied by sufficient metadata.

    However Rickards thought that the main difficulties were institutional. It is difficult to persuade managers

    1. to adopt a common approach – possibly abandoning systems that they have invested much time and effort in
    2. that most of the technical problems had been solved and off-the-shelf solutions were available that already meet requirements
    3. However there are some grounds for optimism. Following the 2007 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee "Investigating the Oceans", longer term funding for monitoring programmes is being put in place.


    SeaDataNet is a Sixth Framework Programme infrastructure project (2006 - 2011) that links 40 national oceanographic data centres and marine data centres from 35 countries riparian to all European seas in a Pan-European network in order to render their data holdings known and searchable via common metadata and online accessable through a common interface and downloadable in common data formats for all potential users. Schaap said that a key challenge is establishing interoperability between the 40 distributed data management systems, which inter alia is achieved through definition and adoption of common standards for metadata and data formats, quality control procedures and quality flag scale, vocabularies, overarching data policy, and communication protocols, and by developing and providing common tools for entry, retrieval, validation and presentation of metadata, data and data products. In the first instance a Common Data Index system (CDI V0) has been put in place and has been populated by all data centres. This CDI service points to individual access and/or data request systems at partners. In the course of 2008, Version 1 of the Common Data Index system has been launched, which now includes a data shopping mechanism to provide users a unique and harmonised access to the data sets that are managed at the distributed data centres. This CDI V1 system is now in progress of being implemented by all data centres, aiming for a complete coverage by mid 2009, thereby phasing out CDI V0. Data sets can be downloaded by users in standard SeaDataNet data formats. For profiles, time series and trajectories the ODV4 ASCII format has been defined, which can be used directly in the popular Ocean Data View (ODV) analysis and presentation software package, which is being upgraded as part of SeaDataNet. Optionally also the MedAtlas data format is used for profiles, time series and trajectories. NetCDF (CF) is used for gridded data, while an international cooperation has been initiated with UNIDATA to achieve a new NetCDF Core Data Model, that will fit the global meteorological and oceanographic communities. The technical planning of SeaDataNet Version 2 has started, aiming for application of OGC viewing services for data products, and including services for making SeaDataNet fully compliant to the INSPIRE implementing rules, which are gradually becoming available (Note: recently the INSPIRE draft implementing rules for metadata standards and network services have become available). It is agreed that GMES/ Kopernikus projects interlink with the SeaDataNet infrastructure and its developments, including adoption of standards, such as the SeaDataNet common vocabularies.

    The Expert Group thought that SeaDataNet had created sound foundations for EMODNET. Schaap said that so far a major part of the data users belong to institutes, that are associated to the data centres in the SeaDataNet consortium. Partly because these are major marine research institutes and national marine management organisations; partly because SeaDataNet is in a transition from V0 to V1. Active and wider promotion activities are planned, once the V1 system is fully operational for all its components, giving full coverage. At present Schaap did not have any figures of usage at hand, but monitoring takes place at 2 levels: 1) by general web statistics; 2) by registration of data requests and downloads. The Commission thought that it would be extremely useful to collect statistics and feedback on the usage of the evolving CDI V1 system, because that will give further insights in users, their uses, and their appreciation of the SeaDataNet interfaces.

    Recently, the CDI V1 interface has been tested and evaluated by a test panel of average users, organised by the Netherlands NODC. This has resulted in a number of comments and suggestions for improving the ease of use for non experienced users and the idea of a quick search interface next to the present more advanced interface. These suggestions have been adopted by the SeaDataNet Technical Task Team and are now in progress.

    The latest developments in INSPIRE Directive, which entered into force 15 May 2007, were presented by Hugo De Groof. He explained that INSPIRE is partly political – obliging Member States to make data visible – and partly technical – describing the standards that they must use to do so. EMODNET will adopt INSPIRE standards and contribute them in specific areas.

    These standards allow users to discover what data is available in a particular area. Considering the fact, that the INSPIRE Catalogue Services for the Web (CSW) will cover millions of data sets for all domains and disciplines of the environment, some of MODEG felt that it would be a serious challenge for INSPIRE to present these results to the users in order of relevance. Searches might result in hundreds of thousands of results, for which at present no sorting or weighing formulas have been defined or are being formulated by INSPIRE . The phenomenal success of Google can largely be explained by the fact, that Google did solve this problem for the listing of its results.

    The Commission study analysing legislation aiming to make marine data more available found that, broadly speaking, countries have correctly implemented Directives such as the Environmental Information Directive 2003/4/EC and the Re-use of Public Sector Information Directive (PSI Directive) 2003/98/EC and that there are no particular legal problems as far as access to marine environmental data is concerned. However the question of use/re-use is governed by the exercise of intellectual property rights and the implementation of individual data policies. In other words there is not a problem of non-implementation of existing international and European rules in terms of access to and the use/re-use of marine environmental data, rather that those rules have a limited impact on intellectual property rights and thus in their ability to facilitate data flows.
    Preparatory Actions

    Tenderers on the broad-scale seabed mapping project have been notified of the outcome of their bids The four EMODNET lots are still being evaluated. A budget of €1.2 million has been allocated for a further action in 2009. The Commission believe that it will probably focus on sea-bed mapping at a finer scale than has hitherto been the case. Ideas from the Group were:

    1. Create an inventory of multibeam mapping data held by public and private bodies in Member States - who owns it, what area does it cover, what format is it in?
    2. Analyse the benefits of more accurate sea-bed mapping in different sectors – fisheries, sand and gravel extraction, renewable energy
    3. Determine the fitness for purpose for regulatory needs – Marine Framework Strategy Directive, Habitats Directive.
    4. See how data from EU projects could be managed (possibly this might be the result of a separate action in the research programme)
    5. determine how data from deep-sea observing laboratories could be managed and distributed (this is taken care of in the ESONEDT network of excellence)
    6. follow-up SEPRISE with a project focused on near-real time observations


    The EMODNET roadmap document will shortly move to a consultation phase with services of the Commission before being finally released.

    The design principles presented by the Commission were broadly accepted by the Expert Group. Some thought that we should be cautious about advocating free access and use of data because of the risk that governments would not compensate institutions that need the revenue from sales of data and products to fund their activities with alternative income. Furthermore it is highly unlikely that such a measure could be enforced at an EU level. However most of the Group agreed that it was important to establish the principle.

    The Group also felt that there should be more emphasis on moving from the collection of data for single purposes to a true multipurpose infrastructure and on gaps in the monitoring network.

    The separate disciplinary groups -geology/hydrography, physics, chemistry, biology reported specific suggestions for the draft text.

    The Commission agreed to incorporate these and to further revise the structure by shifting some of the material on the current situation into appendices and so focusing more on what will be done. It indicated that more material was needed on the impact of current failings – not just lack of standards and undersampling but the implications of these failings in terms of inefficiencies and lost opportunities. The Group agreed to provide this information by the end of the week.
    Impact Assessment

    An impact assessment for EMODNET should be presented to the Impact Assessment Board by 22 June, 2008. A €250,000 study will be launched to support this effort. The Commission suggested that the study should aim to find out what a sample of countries are spending on marine data now, what they are collecting in income, what organizations who need the data are paying to assemble and process it and what benefits a reduced uncertainty in sea-level rise would bring.

    Some comments were:

    1. This would be extremely difficult to achieve only be questioning the data owners.
    2. A complementary approach could be to extrapolate United States figures weighted by Gross Domestic Product.
    3. Or to base it on the costs of research fleets
    4. It is essential that all costs including administrative overheads are included.
    5. It would be useful to include Netherlands in the sample because their data collection programme is relatively well organized
    6. The sea-level rise might not be a good example because reducing uncertainty relies on data from terrestrial as well as marine sources. It was suggested that the impact of better seasonal weather forecasting might be a better example.
    7. The Commission will present a draft specification to the Group before the end of the year.


    The Group should send

    1. comments on the draft roadmap and examples of the impact of monitoring gaps by the end of the week.
    2. Any economic studies on the costs and benefits of marine observation as soon as possible
    3. The next meetings of MODEG will be 3-4 March (focusing on preparatory actions) and 2-3 June (focusing on impact assessment).