GOOS and the Ocean Decade

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is set to launch on 1 January 2021 with a mission “to catalyse transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean.”

An essential Ocean Decade infrastructure challenge, one of ten identified, is to “7: Ensure a sustainable ocean observing system across all ocean basins that delivers accessible, timely, and actionable data and information to all users.”


GOOS plans to be a major contributor to the Decade, taking a central role in addressing Ocean Decade Challenge 7, and developing three transformative Ocean Decade programmes, united under the theme of integration:

  • Integrated system design
  • Connecting to local communities
  • Integrating observations into the coast

Teams from the GOOS Steering Committee are developing these concepts, and plan to open to community and partner input and co-design in the coming months. If you are interested, please contact us at

The first call for endorsed Decade Actions was issued last week, and is open through 15 January 2021. This call is focused on large-scale, multi-country, transformative Decade programmes, as well as contributions to Decade coordination.

Ocean Decade programmes are large-scale initiatives implemented at global or regional scale, contributing to the achievement of one or more of the Ocean Decade Challenges. They will be long-term, multi-year, and typically interdisciplinary and multi-national. They will be made up of component projects, which will be the subject of future calls for action. Endorsement of programmes will be decided by the Decade Advisory Board, based on endorsement criteria identified in the Ocean Decade implementation plan.


The three programmes proposals being prepared by GOOS have the potential to be fully transformational elements both for the Ocean Decade and for GOOS in achieving the 2030 Strategy.

Each programme would have the scope to encompass many projects. These projects could be initiated by GOOS, initiated by the community, and also be projects co-designed with partners. This is already taking place naturally, as GOOS experts are asked to provide input to proposals or are involved in dialogue for projects – however a programme framing gives structure to support cross-GOOS connection and to help shape and support projects to be more integrated in one of the dimensions articulated above. Hopefully many of the projects coming from the community can be integrated into these themes to increase interaction and improve outcomes.

Initial programme outlines, with working titles are:

Integrated system design
This dimension of ocean observing system integration is aligned with the GOOS 2030 Strategy Strategic Objective 5: “provide authoritative guidance on integrated observing system design, synthesizing across evolving requirements and identifying gaps.” A GOOS transformation and innovation programme in the Ocean Decade on this theme would facilitate engagement across different observing networks and structures in GOOS, from scientific panels to forecasting systems to regional organizations. It would support user engagement down the value chain to understand priorities and evolutions in requirements, as well as with funders of the observing system to engage and co-design future possibilities. It should also include an element of technological innovation, to design an integrated system that evolves with new technology, possibilities and opportunities.

Connecting to local stakeholder communities
This dimension of ocean observing system integration is focused on understanding and responding to the needs of end users, down to the community level. This could be within government, service providers, the private sector and NGOs. This requires deeper understanding of regional issues and building partnerships across the value chain – from observing networks through data and forecasting systems or scientific analysis and assessments, to service providers and to service users in specific situations – to help support delivery of information to support for actions taken at the local level, by specific communities, industries, and other end users. This would need to be through a (likely large) number of specific projects with outside partners, that include a strong element of co-design from communities using and developing ocean resources, or exposed to ocean hazards. Learning and sharing elements would also need to be incorporated. This programme would also include elements of capacity development.

Integrating observations into the coast
This dimension of ocean observing system integration builds on the concept of one global observing system serving many users – including with local enhancements down to the coastal level. A large number of users of ocean observations and information are in the coastal space, as are the highest local human impacts on ocean ecosystems. Extending into the coastal space has been a longstanding need not yet adequately addressed through GOOS, and not simple, given the multiplicity of implementers and users in this space. Part of such a programme might explore new observing technologies and techniques appropriate to the coast, or appropriate to coastal observations in resource-constrained situations with lower costs. This programme is working to articulate a strong relationship to the proposed CoastPredict project.

Members of the GOOS Steering Committee are presently shaping these programme ideas, and will begin to engage potential community projects and partners in co-design. In November and December, we will widen this engagement with the ocean observing community.

If interested please contact us at


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