Preliminary Assessment of Oceans Observing Systems Value

Executive Summary

A preliminary assessment of the environmental, economic, and social value of Ocean Observation Systems (OOS) was carried out in conjunction with an inventory of OOS in Canada conducted by the Ocean Science and Technology Partnership (OSTP)1. The main objective was to identify actual cases of added value from existing OOS, rather than potential value. The highlights of this short study, in terms of lessons learned, are presented below.

1- Positive Benefits: OOS in Canada have demonstrated many positive benefits, although rarely quantified. These include:

  • demonstration of innovative technologies;
  • improving co-ordination and collaboration among diverse data sources;
  • development of export opportunities for expertise and technology;
  • economic and safety efficiencies in transportation;
  • improved access to information;
  • data support for a wide variety of applied and theoretical research efforts to better understand, monitor, and manage the marine environment.

2- Need for an Effective National Strategy and Governance Structure to Maximize Benefits of Investments: To date, the various OOS activities represent isolated, regional, and often technology driven projects. No national framework exists for developing long term, coordinated objectives and for sharing expertise. This fragmented approach decreases the potential value, at a national level, of the investments made and it decreases Canada’s potential effectiveness at the international level. Canada has a rich opportunity to use its unique regional differences to maximize its OOS capabilities and expertise, but to truly capitalize on this requires national coordination, leadership, and accountability.

3- Need to Measure and Communicate Benefits of OOS: Many of the major efforts, such as Neptune, Venus and Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), and even the American Great Lakes Observatory are in their formative stages. Others such as SmartBay and the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO) have begun to have an impact, however, even then quantifiable benefits are difficult to estimate. To obtain longterm continuing political, financial, and user support there is a need for all of the OOS efforts to focus more on who the end users are, what do they require, and how well the systems contribute to tangible added value. Many system managers had difficulty identifying specific examples of benefits to individual users. Canada needs to move beyond the published lists of possible benefits and now start to track real economic, environmental, and social impacts.

1 OSTP [2011]. Canadian Survey of Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Great Lakes Observing System. Report prepared for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Space Agency, March.

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