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Magazines > Searcher > November/December 2003
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Vol. 11 No. 10 — Nov/Dec 2003
Information on the Seven Seas: International Ocean Science Web Resources [Part 2]
By David Mattison
Access Services Archivist | British Columbia Archives | Royal BC Museum Corporation

In general, the news about the state of the world's oceans continues to be gloomy, with occasional glimmers of brightness. From the Global Conference on Oceans and Coasts at Rio+10 (World Summit on Sustainable Development, August 26 to September 4, 2002, South Africa) to the Dalhousie University study led by Ransom Myers and Boris Worm on the global depletion of predatory fish stocks reported in Nature (May 15, 2003; and Newsweek (July 14, 2003; to the United States Pew Oceans Commission report released on June 4, 2003 [], it looks as though some kind of collapse in the marine ecosystem is imminent.

On the positive side, good-news stories and announcements have emerged, such as the formation at the Rio+10 summit of a Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands [], which held a follow-up Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands (November 10-14, 2003, UNESCO, Paris). The International Whaling Commission set up a conservation committee at its June meeting in Berlin []. On July 18th, Australia announced a draft plan to better protect its southeastern coastal and ocean zones [].

In part one of this article, I surveyed high-level tools — Web guides, portals, data sources — along with prominent U.S. and European Union satellite systems for ocean observation. I also highlighted the work of key oceanographic research institutes and the large-scale international efforts to standardize, collect, and analyze ocean observation and climate change data. In this second part, I look at three further areas of international cooperation in ocean science research: the physical and chemical ocean, meteorology, and marine life.

International Cooperation in Studying the Physical-Chemical Ocean

While satellite data gets a lot of public attention, it represents only one component in scientific instrumentation for ocean study. As Robin Brown at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, BC, noted, satellites do not reach beneath the ocean surface. The insides of the oceans are essentially black from space. To learn more about the relationship between satellite altimetry data (ocean height and depth) and shipboard measurements using acoustic instruments, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center's Global Seafloor Topography from Satellite Altimetry [

Satellite data, gathered by radar, optical, and other electromagnetic spectrum instruments, help oceanographers, biologists, and climatologists learn about ocean surface dynamics through its optical and kinetic properties. The International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group [], founded in 1996 under the IOC and based at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, coordinates ocean color sensor activities and also sets standards.

The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Goddard Space Flight Center's Distributed Active Archive Center offers two sites on global ocean color data: Ocean Color Panorama [] and Ocean Color Data & Resources [
. Goddard's SeaWiFS sensor (Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor) [], carried by the ORBIMAGE's SeaStar satellite, launched from an aircraft in 1997, is one of at least three orbiting sources of ocean color data. Japan and Germany have also developed orbital ocean color sensors.

You can access SeaWiFS data, along with links to other ocean properties research projects, via the NASA SeaBASS system (SeaWiFS Bio-optical Archive and Storage System) []. As of August 2003, only data collected prior to January 2000 was available to the general public. According to the SeaBASS site, the data comes from 14 countries. The U.S. Office of Naval Research's Worldwide Ocean Optics Database (WOOD) [], hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, also offers a variety of data from surface, water column, and remote sensing devices going back, for some parts of the world, to at least the late 1900s.

Sound is the primary remote sensing tool for studying and mapping the deep ocean. For background information on the history of acoustics in oceanographic research, I recommend the 1999 article "Sounding Out the Ocean's Secrets" [] in the National Academy Press series Beyond Discovery. The article covers major international experiments of the 1990s and is available in Chinese, English, and Spanish. Acoustic oceanographer Brian Dushaw's Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate [] will provide you with a broader overview of this field, including links to current experiments such as CLIVAR. Sensing devices for examining ocean temperature, salinity, and other aspects of its chemistry involve a variety of ingenious strategies, including satellite observation.

In partnership with the International Council for Science, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Meteorological Organization (a U.N. agency), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission manages the permanent Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
[] with implementation by national and international bodies such as EuroGOOS [] and Ocean.US (National Office for Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observations) []. You can access GOOS data, along with records from the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), via the Global Observing Systems Information Center
[ or].

The Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) [] is one of the most ambitious international real-time ocean observation projects underway. It consists of a number of independent systems operating at the regional or multinational level. Begun in 1996 and scheduled for full operation by 2005, France's MERCATOR [] will provide live data for forecasting and analysis of ocean conditions.

Created in 1986, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) [] coordinates several core research programs involving the oceans and interactions between the oceans, atmosphere, and land. The programs, all of which accumulate and distribute data, include the following:

Joint Global Ocean Flux Study [], based in Norway and underway since 1987 with the participation of more than 20 countries, JGOFS linked up with the IGBP in 1989.

Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC International) [ or], started in 1991 and hosted by the U.K.'s Plymouth Marine Laboratory, is "responsible for understanding how Global Change will affect the abundance, diversity, and productivity of marine populations."

Global Analysis, Integration, and Modelling (GAIM) [] works on the synthesis of data to create a unified model of global natural systems. One of GAIM's most ambitious planned projects is a peer-reviewed Earth System Atlas that would function as "a well-known, single source of global change information."

International Global Atmospheric (IGAC) []

Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone []

Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS)
[ or] and Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems [] are among the newest Global Change research projects.

The Global Change program is one of four international programs sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) to investigate environmental and climatic change. The other three — International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) [], World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) [], and the international biodiversity project DIVERSITAS [] — also study some element of our planet's life-sustaining oceans.

These three programs manage a few projects that complement one another. For example, IHDP runs the Global Carbon Project [], which connects to the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study in examining the carbon cycle. The World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) [], as part of the WCRP, recorded observations between 1990-1998, and will eventually eventually distribute data compilations on DVD and through online data centers. For a visual look at WOCE data, go to the Electronic Atlas of WOCE Data (eWOCE)
[]. Another source of WOCE data, the WOCE Hydrographic Program Office (WHPO) [], is managed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and assembles and standardizes data gathered from water sampling (hydrographic) sources.

Floating and other kinds of instrumentation for monitoring sea-level and other physical processes in the ocean are coordinated by the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization through its Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology in-situ Observing Platform Support (JCOMMOPS) []. Here are four research programs and physical-chemical ocean data sources coordinated by JCOMMOPS:

Argo [] (official information center with data sources) and [ (background)], a global array of floating temperature/salinity sensors which complement ocean height data from the Jason-1 satellite. Coriolis [], a live oceanographic data reporting system operated by France for the European Union, is one of two centers for Argo data.

Data Buoy Cooperation Panel []

Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) [], itself a component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), includes the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level [] dating back to 1933 and hosted by the U.K.'s Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.

Ship Of Opportunity Programme (SOOP) [], a program that coordinates the use of commercial vessels to gather water column and biological samples.

OCEANIC, the Ocean Information Center at the University of Delaware [] maintains an authoritative site on international ocean research vessels. You can find information about the operations of U.S. oceanographic research vessels in international waters, including cruise schedules back to 1999, at the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System [].

The International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) [], one of seven organizations within the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) [], itself part of the ICSU, offers an overview of major international studies of the physical ocean through its Research Activity, Models, and Data Sources page [].

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library maintains a comprehensive directory to Tides and Tide Prediction [], including tide prediction software. As an example of the commercialization of ocean observation data, Norway's OCEANOR company, which acquires its own and purchases other data, sells a World Wave Atlas [] database.

The Ocean Is the Climate:

The Global Integration of Meteorological and Oceanographic Data

Anyone who has experienced the impact of El Niño weather events knows firsthand how the ocean affects global weather patterns. [For more in-depth coverage of the interaction between climate and ocean, see Barbie E. Keiser's "Weather, Climate, and Global Warming: A Web Review," Searcher, February 2002, pp. 28+.]

If you want to see some basic ocean observation data for most areas of the world, Oceanweather Inc.'s Current Marine Data [] provides daily, but not archived, imagery at no cost. You can animate the data through a Java applet or view a static image of data for wave height and direction, wind speed and direction, and surface temperature, along with a table for each of the marine observation areas that lists the data source, location, and timestamp. For tables covering U.S.-monitored locations, hyperlinks exist to NOAA's National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) [] with further information. The NDBC site also links to non-U.S. data buoys, mainly in Caribbean and European waters.

The mother lode of global change (earth sciences) data sources, essentially a catalog, is NASA's Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) []. Monica Holland's May 2002 conference presentation, "Online Data Portals: Organizing Ocean Data for the Scientific Community" [
, provides background on the GCMD and its use of special subject directories (portals) for GOOS [], GLOBEC [], and DODS [] data. You can search the GCMD by keyword or browse the subject directories. An advanced search screen includes a map-based query tool. An e-mail subscription service for catalog updates is available. One of the newer subject directories lets you find Earth Science Data Tools and Services.

Another large-scale research project connected to the World Climate Research Programme with extensive links to international and regional oceanographic data is Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) []. You can query the CLIVAR SPRINT (Searchable Program Information Network) database to locate current and historic data.

Some other interesting research projects cover physical-chemical oceanography and climate change with near real-time access, including the Global Temperature­Salinity Profile Program (GTSPP) Database
[], led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Marine Environmental Data Service (MEDS)
[], the Global Eulerian Observatories (GEO) or Time Series Stations [], which use moored stations to sample a water column at fixed intervals, and TAO (Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Project) [], also part of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). TAO data comes from moored buoys in the Pacific and helps predict El Niño and La Niña weather.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [], created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, established a Data Distribution Center
[] in 1997 that includes data acquired from ocean observation systems.

The International Marine Past Global Changes Study (IMAGES)
[], based at the Institut für Geowissenschaften, University of Kiel, Germany, and part of the IGBP PAST (Past Global Changes) [] core research project, compiles data from marine sediments based on coring samples back to 1995 in order to learn more about past climatic changes. IMAGES is another example of an interdisciplinary inquiry into the global climate, in this case historic (paleo) geological data. You can discover more information on paleoclimatology through the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology [] and marine geology data sources through the World Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics [].

Operating for more than 2 decades, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center) [] maintains two data integration programs: the Global Ocean Data Analysis Project [], with data integration from international experiments such as the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) and the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), and CDIAC CO2, which provides data from WOCE and other sources about carbon dioxide in the oceans.

NOAA and the University of Colorado's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) jointly operate the Climate Diagnostics Center
[], which provides extensive current and historic weather information, including ocean observation data. Graphs and maps are the main visualization tools offered to help users extract and understand the data. The CDC's I-COADS project (International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set) [] offers a historic archive of "surface marine data" at various levels of detail and coverage around the world from 1784 to 1997. The project expects to have data up to 2002 by the end of 2003.

International Cooperation in Studying Maritime Life-Forms

Part of oceanography's roots lies in our exploitation of the ocean as a food resource. Understanding and protecting the life cycle of marine species are among the most important scientific objectives of marine biology research. Wholesale failures of fish stocks, such as what happened to Canada's Atlantic cod fishery in April 2003, continue to demonstrate the imprecision of our ecosystem models, even with gigabytes of data. Aquaculture, the more accurate term for fish farming, is a controversial, politically charged issue in many areas of the world. This section will cover biodiversity and aquatic species databases, along with endangered species, invasive species, and grand attempts to create a universal catalog of life-forms.

Created in 2000 by the U.N. Environment Programme, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre [] likely contains the largest concentration of free statistical and qualitative data on endangered life-forms and their habitats. Its Marine Programme sponsors research projects, gathers statistics about ocean habitats, and maps aquatic habitats and life-forms, including coral reefs, with this data integrated into ReefBase. You can search some of the maps, along with others pertaining to specific bodies of water, through the Interactive Maps Service (IMapS), developed in partnership with the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA). The UNEP-WCMC Species Database does not permit searches by marine life-form or ocean name, and limits searches to the biological classification system (from phylum to species, or common name), or by country. The UNEP-WCMC conducts extensive work with other partners, such as Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife Fund, into monitoring the status of marine mammals and plans a digital atlas on these animals. Polar regions are covered by a separate program area.

The Convention on Biodiversity [], an international treaty adopted in 1992, incorporates a Clearing-house Mechanism [] through which you can locate organizations and data sources on biodiversity. The NFP-CHM link [] takes you to a table of "national focal points" or government agencies responsible for environmental issues. International Thematic Focal Points describes four areas and the organizations responsible for maintaining and providing access to data for the success of biodiversity issues as defined by convention members: bird life (BirdLife International) []; invasive species (the Global Invasive Species Programme)
[] with a list of databases relating to invasive marine organisms; taxonomy (see elsewhere); and habitat and species identification and protection (NatureServe) [], covering North and South America, along with Alaska, the Caribbean, and Hawaii). The convention's clearinghouse database of Biodiversity Related Organizations [] lets you display a list of those concerned with or responsible for marine and coastal biodiversity.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility [], an initiative started in 1996 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), works with the Convention on Biodiversity and regional information networks. Select the Nodes link to view existing biodiversity information nodes maintained at the international and national level, as well as by private organizations. For a customizable, working example of a national biodiversity information node, see the U.K.'s GIS-enabled NBN Gateway [], part of its National Biodiversity Network. Aquatic coastal zone species are part of the database.

Originally established in 1993 as the Mexican Biodiversity Information Network, the World Biodiversity Information Network (REMIB) [] incorporates biodiversity data in over 6 million records from nearly 150 countries.

Several global taxonomical research programs and databases cover marine life (animals and plants). The international Species2000 [] project's goal is to name and classify "all known species of organisms on Earth (animals, plants, fungi and microbes) as the baseline dataset for studies of global biodiversity." Begun in 1996 with U.N. support, Species2000 started with 18 taxonomic databases, four of which cover only marine life. Each Species 2000 database covers a specific group of organisms. The primary thrust of Species 2000 is the integration through standards and new software of existing taxonomic databases. Species 2000 works with the North American-based Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) [, or individually at;; and] and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (see elsewhere). Nifty linked features incorporated into the U.S. and Canadian versions of ITIS include a Google Images search, the "BioBot" (U.S. ITIS only) that calls up the U.S. National Biological Information Infrastructure site for additional searches, and, on Canada's ITIS site, links to other specialized Internet databases, including Scirus and the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information's Taxonomy Browser (part of GenBank).

While Species2000 appears to have thrived, a comparable effort started as an international effort in September 2000 by the ALL Species Foundation [] suffered a setback in the fall 2002 due to lack of funding. Kevin Kelly, one of several illustrious board members, explained in an e-mail message that when the foundation started, the Species 2000 group had yet to compile a Web-accessible database of species names. The ALL Species group has built the ALL Species Toolkit Search Engine [], the source code which you can download at SourceForge [], and the database architecture used in the California Academy of Sciences' AntWeb site []. Now down to one staff member, ALL Species continues to raise funds and develop new projects, such as digitization of type specimens. The National Science Foundation, with whom ALL Species and the Sloan Foundation co-funded the Planetary Biodiversity Inventories, also financed an interdisciplinary, multimillion-dollar, multiyear program called Assembling the Tree of Life [], whose purpose is "to construct a phylogeny for the 1.7 million described species of life." New taxonomic database work on individually funded projects is supposed to be coordinated with the ITIS and Species2000.

The BiologyBrowser [] from BIOSIS combines a browsable/searchable subject gateway, a discussion forum, and links to specialized search tools found, such as the Index to Organism Names and the Zoological Record Thesaurus. The Guide to the Animal Kingdom for Students and Educators describes the animal world by scientific and common names with links back to BiologyBrowser.

Here are some other useful taxonomic guides:

EcoPort: The Consilience Engine [], a U.N.-U.S. partnership conceived by Tonie Putter of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, is a user-contributed search engine and knowledge repository for species information.

Tree of Life Web Project [], which I coordinate and edit, combines taxonomic and biodiversity data in a user-friendly design similar to the well-known WWW Virtual Library system [].

Taxonomy Browser [], maintained by the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information, includes marine life-forms used for biological experiments.

Natural Science Collections Alliance [], an international organization based in Washington, D.C., and formerly known as the Association of Systematics Collections, maintains an excellent set of links to global Biodiversity Informatics, including databases and biodiversity sites.

For two other sources on aquatic invasive species, take a look at the World Conservation Union Invasive Species Specialist Group's Global Invasive Species Database [] and the International Maritime Organization's GloBallast (Global Ballast Water Management Programme) [], which identifies other data sources on marine invasive organisms.

IOC and SCOR established the GEOHAB (Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) [] to monitor, study, and predict the occurrence and impact of these toxic marine events. Several databases are available, among them the downloadable Harmful Algae Event Data Base (HAE-DAT).

The Census of Marine Life [] includes some component databases such as the Ocean Biogeographic Information System [], "an online, open-access, globally distributed network of systematic, ecological, and environmental information systems." The marine life-form databases to which OBIS provides access include CephBase [], FishBase [], and FishNet [].

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, better known by its shorter name, IUCN, the World Conservation Union, operates a Species Survival Commission [], which includes marine life. The 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] database documents endangered species. The basic search query page lets you isolate species by three biomes: terrestrial, marine, and freshwater. You can also pick from a list of specific marine regions, with some of the listed oceans and seas divided into compass quadrants.

One of the most publicized forms of endangered marine life-forms monitored through an existing observation system linked through GOOS is the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) ., part of the International Coral Reef Initiative []. The Australian Institute of Marine Science [] oversees the network that helps watch over the health of these fragile and important organisms. ReefBase: A Global Information System on Coral Reefs [] represents GCRMN's official database on the state of coral reefs. Started under a European initiative and maintained by the World Fish Center [] in Penang, Malaysia, ReefBase is also supported by the International Coral Reef Action Network []. Finally, NOAA maintains a gateway to its own and international coral data through CoRIS (Coral Reef Information System) []. As with many other oceanographic data sources, you can query the data through a text-based or a GIS (interactive map) search.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fisheries Department [] portal is the most authoritative source of data on commercial fisheries, including aquaculture. The department provides Windows software to use with its Fishstat Plus statistical databases. The FAO Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) [], called a "work in progress," represents the FAO's contribution to the economic and biological impact of commercial fishing and aquaculture. You can also use the FAO's World Agricultural Information Center (WAICENT) [] to browse or search for many other kinds of fisheries information. Information on fishery markets is tracked by the FAO's GLOBEFISH system []. Regional organizations that advise, manage, and study fisheries are tracked through the Regional Fishery Bodies site []. Some of these organizations maintain their own fisheries databases. The FAO's Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR) has also developed a user-driven portal, oneFish Community Knowledge Directory [], which will "net" you an incredible array of information on fisheries research.

The Fisheries Centre at UBC [] is one of the consortium partners that assists with FishBase. One of the center's research efforts honors Rachel Carson: The Sea Around Us Project [] studies the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems. Hosted by the University of Rhode Island, the Large Marine Ecosystems of the World (LME) [] is the major international database here, and you can use it with or without a GIS component. The LME Modules section breaks down coastal zones by region and provides extensive background data on each LME.

The International Organization of Biological Field Stations [] and the Organization of Biological Field Stations [] contain links to all such research facilities. While a number of these are inland, many are concerned with coastal zone and open-ocean facilities.


The oceans are life, and, as marine biologist Rachel Carson ominously concluded in the preface to the 1961 edition of The Sea Around Us, life cannot survive without the ocean, yet the ocean will go on without the life which evolved from its darkest depths. The oceans have yielded a wealth of scientific observations over the past half-century. Recent models of ocean/climate interaction, studies of and ongoing publicity about fragile marine ecosystems, along with international marine conservation efforts, including enforceable international law, may help save the seas and us. Like many of you, I admire, respect, and am fascinated by the ongoing, remarkable coordinated odyssey of scientific discovery and interpretation made possible by governments, organizations, oceanographers, meteorologists, marine geologists, biologists, and technologists around the world for more than a half-century to provide us with answers to the mysteries of the sea.


Oceans of Knowledge in My Backyard

Out on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, near the Victoria International Airport sits a remarkable Canadian government research facility that houses the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS)
[], the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Pacific Region, and the Pacific Geoscience Centre. The IOS and the Canadian Hydrographic Service operate under Fisheries and Oceans Canada, while the PGC forms part of Natural Resources Canada. The North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) [], a multinational body, also has its office at the IOS.

The IOS and PGC celebrated their 25th anniversary in June 2003. Up until April, I had never visited the complex in person. The IOS lies in the flight path of the Victoria International Airport, and many of the offices, along with the large cafeteria, enjoy tranquil views of Patricia Bay. Adapted to their setting by the sea, the buildings are low to the ground with lots of windows and wide, public corridors. The IOS librarian, Pamela Olson, and Robin Brown, head of the IOS Ocean Science and Productivity Division, answered many questions from this neophyte science writer. I also visited with Bodo de Lange Boom of the Canadian Hydrographic Service, who works in the unit responsible for creating nautical charts from hydrographic surveys.

Science data collected by the IOS includes real-time and forecast data on currents in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, an international body of water between Washington State and British Columbia
[]. Another live data source requires a software download in order to access data transmitted by offshore buoys. The public pride and joy for the IOS library, itself part of a network of a dozen Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries, is its bilingual WAVES/VAGUES catalog []. WAVES contains more than a quarter-million records, including electronic resources such as departmental reports. Accessible since April 1999, the WAVES OPAC runs on the BASIS Web server from the Open Text Corporation. The Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries manage their technical services with Techlib, also from the Open Text Corporation, and implemented in 1994. The WAVES catalog was the first Canadian government database released on CD-ROM in 1990, a stopgap measure while an OPAC solution remained under study. The WAVES catalog, while non-MARC, includes a thesaurus feature for more precise searching, something I wish other library OPACS would offer.

Gather Data Local, Migrate to Global

Robin Brown, head of the Institute of Ocean Sciences' Ocean Science and Productivity Division, Sidney, BC, provided this statement on the challenges of managing vast quantities of scientific data over time. The strategy adopted since the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) is to maintain a system of redundant data centers around the world. Paraphrasing and quoting some of his e-mail communication:

Data from the IOS are migrated to the World Ocean Database [] via Canada's Marine Environmental Data Service

With the increased interest in climate change, the oceanographic community has placed extra effort of assembling historical and contemporary ocean observations. In order to carry out global analyses, it is necessary to combine data from all countries.

This is a nontrivial process. Some of the challenges are:

• locating and decoding original records (paper records, printed data reports, logbooks, punch cards and legacy data storage media/formats).

• reducing to common formats.

• dealing with duplicates. Data are often reported through a number of paths and due to differences in the way that key variables (time, latitude and longitude) are coded (and rounded), it is often a nontrivial exercise to get rid of duplicate profiles.

• quality control. How do we know these data are correct? If they are very different than we expect, is this an important discovery or some sort of error in measurement, transcription, or calibration? Data centers put quite a bit of effort into this and will often assign quality code "flags" to describe their confidence in these values.

• appropriate metadata. This is closely linked to the quality control issues. We like to know who made these measurements (country, institution and scientist). Sometimes, this is the best indicator of quality. It also may provide a means to check or confirm suspect data. Other important metadata include description of instruments used, calibration techniques and analysis methods.




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