Oceanographic and marine data include a very wide range of measurements and variables derived from a broad spectrum of multidisciplinary projects and programmes. This data is collected by thousands of research institutes, governmental organizations and private companies around the world. Various heterogeneous observing sensors are used which are installed on research vessels, submarines, aircraft, moorings, drifting buoys and satellites. These sensors measure physical, chemical, biological, geological and geophysical parameters, with further data for a wide variety of additional parameters also being derived from the analysis of water and sediment samples. These data sets are collected at a very considerable cost and are irreplaceable if lost.
Observation data are a key element for research as well as for monitoring, predicting and managing the marine environment, assessing fish stocks and biodiversity, offshore engineering, hazard and disaster management, the tourist industry and many other socio-economic activities at sea and along the coasts. The importance of this type of data in all aspects of marine assessment and planning is emphasized in the recent EU Marine Knowledge 2020 communication which seeks to improve the use of scientific knowledge through a more co-ordinated approach to marine data collection and assembly.
Large amounts of multidisciplinary and interoperable data need to be made available in order to carry out the cross-domain analysis and processing of data that is necessary. There is also an increasing requirement for the delivery of operational data in near-real-time for forecasting marine conditions and supporting operations at sea. Changing technology has also contributed to this expectation with the advent of the World Wide Web, wider adoption of IT standards such as provided by ISO and OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium), and new IT capabilities such as web services.
It is of great importance to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from data once it has been acquired. The slogan ?capture once – use many times? is adopted more and more to promote this concept. In order to make best use of these data for science and society, a robust operational infrastructure for the management and exchange of ocean and marine data is becoming essential. This should be based upon internationally agreed standards, covering data quality, and long term stewardship as well as technical and semantic aspects of interoperability. This has been recognised by many regions in the world, and in recent years through great efforts great progress is being made with developing and establishing well founded and structured ocean and marine data infrastructures in many regions, including the European Union, the USA, Australia and elsewhere. International organizations such as UNESCO‘s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange programme (IODE) are actively promoting and supporting the development of such e-infrastructures.