Colour of Ocean Data:
a symposium on oceanographic data and information management with special attention to biological data

The Palais des Congrès, Brussels, Belgium
25-27 November 2002


More and more, ocean data management has to play a crucial role in global as well as local matters. Vast amounts of physical, chemical and biological oceanographic data are collected in all seas and oceans of the world. International networks are created, to standardise data formats and facilitate data exchange. Global databases of existing data have been compiled, global programmes are operational and new ones are developed, data are routinely exchanged. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, with the network of National Oceanographic Data Centres, and the International Council of Scientific Unions, with the World Data Centres, have played a major catalysing role in establishing the existing ocean data management practices.

No one can think of data management without thinking of information technology. New developments in computer hard- and software force us to continually rethink the way we manage ocean data. One of the major challenges in this is to try and close the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and to assist scientists in less fortunate countries to manage oceanographic data flows in a suitable and timely fashion.

So far major emphasis has been on the standardization and exchange of physical oceanographic data in open ocean conditions. But the colour of the ocean data is changing. The ‘blue’ ocean sciences get increasingly interested in including geological, chemical and biological data (e.g. the newly created IODE Group of Experts on Biological and Chemical Data Management and Exchange Practices – GE-BCDMEP). Moreover the shallow sea areas get more and more attention as highly productive biological areas that need to be seen in close association with the deep seas. How to fill in the gap of widely accepted standards for data structures that can serve the deep ‘blue’ and the shallow ‘green’ biological data management is a major issue that has to be addressed.

And there is more: data has to be turned into information. In the context of ocean data management, scientists, data managers and decision makers are all very much dependent on each other. Decision makers will stimulate research topics with policy priority and hence guide researchers. Scientists need to provide data managers with reliable and first quality controlled data in such a way that the latter can translate and make them available for the decision makers. But do they speak the same ‘language’? Are they happy with the access they have to the data? And if not, can they learn from each other’s expectations and experience?

The objective of this symposium is to harmonize ocean colours and languages and create a forum for data managers, scientists and decision makers with a major interest in oceanography, and open to everyone interested in ocean data management.