Vision 2030: Working Group 7 to sustainably expand the Global Ocean Observing System


Vision 2030: Working Group 7 to sustainably expand the Global Ocean Observing System

Vision 2030: Working Group 7 to sustainably expand the Global Ocean Observing System 1350 897 Ocean Decade

Observing the ocean is not only essential for comprehending the impacts of climate change, but also for ensuring sustainable development, safety, wellbeing, and prosperity. The Ocean Decade Challenge 7: “Expand the Global Ocean Observing System” is a key endeavor within the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (the ‘Ocean Decade’) focusing on sustainably broadening the global ocean observing system across all ocean basins, with a primary goal of providing accessible, timely, and actionable data and information to diverse users.

Coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) plays a fundamental role in understanding and addressing various ocean-related challenges, providing governments and ocean stakeholders with vital data on ocean variables including physical, chemical, and biological aspects.

With its Challenge 7, the Ocean Decade recognizes the critical role of GOOS in climate change mitigation and adaptation, monitoring ocean ecosystem health and pollution, preparing for and responding to disasters, conserving marine biodiversity, managing aquaculture and fishery sustainability, and informing policymaking. Drawing on its leading expertise in ocean observation and prediction, GOOS also guides the Decade Coordination Office (DCO) for Ocean Observing and in this respect oversees over 30% of all endorsed Decade Actions.

However, the current GOOS faces technical and operational gaps, including barriers to data accessibility, integration of science into policy, the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and local communities, and significant resourcing. Addressing these issues requires a transformative approach through innovation, co-design and collaboration, and inclusivity.

As part of the Ocean Decade Vision 2030 process, Working Group 7 was established to draft the ambitious vision for Challenge 7, aiming to reinforce global ocean observing capacity. It comprises co-chairs Dr. Joe O’Callaghan, Director of Oceanly Science, and Dr. Patricia Miloslavich, Program Lead of the East Antarctic Monitoring Program, as well as experts, stakeholders, and representatives from various sectors.

For the last year, the Group’s experts have been developing a roadmap for an operational, comprehensive, and resourced system that delivers priority observations and information to guide mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change, sustain ocean health, and facilitate informed decision-making for science, business, and society. The strategic ambition of Challenge 7 aligns with the GOOS 2030 Strategy, the Framework for Ocean Observing (FOO), recommendations from the OceanObs’19 Conference, and Decade Programmes’ perspective for the next edition OceanObs’29. It also considers the needs for ocean observations as articulated by all the Vision 2030 Working Groups.

Co-chair Joe O’Callaghan called for immediate collaboration to grow an integrated and responsive observing system at international, regional, and national levels. “​​The cost of inaction in ocean observing to human society and the blue economy is high. It’s estimated at ~$200bn USD each year and that number will grow annually due to climate change,” she warned.

Joe O'Callaghan
Patricia Miloslavich

Patricia Miloslavich detailed the essential actions for improving ocean observations: “We need to work all along the data value chain, we need automated and cost-efficient technologies, we need to expand it to remote areas and we need a big workforce to do all this work.”

In its White Paper, Working Group 7 has five recommendations for a collective vision and pathway towards fulfilling the strategic ambition for Challenge 7. These are:

  • Act now on known observational needs. Upgrade and expand ocean observing capacity in poorly observed areas such as polar regions, island nations, coastal areas of developing nations, priority coastal systems, and the deep ocean. Thematic priorities for ocean observing should focus on climate issues, weather (including events and hazards), ocean health and marine biodiversity and resources.
  • Technology and innovation will be a pillar. Optimize and harmonize observations across observing platforms (in situ, satellite, emerging networks). Develop innovative in situ, autonomous and cost-effective technologies to maximize reach, ensuring standardization and best practices. Technology barriers still need to be lowered to ensure everyone has equitable access to observing assets and can smartly manage these assets. Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) tools will provide user-ready information from integrated observations to democratize access and use. New collaboration across government, science, and the private sector will be vital.
  • Adopt new economic thinking. Diversify our partnerships across sectors (economic, public, private, philanthropic) to co-design, co-develop, and co-deliver observations that translate into the information required by these sectors. Establish new and sustained financing mechanisms for global ocean observing, including resourcing for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Use economic models for ocean investment to diversify and accelerate investment in ocean observing and infrastructure from new actors.
  • Partnerships are key. Increase national, regional, and global coordination, focusing on co-design and partnerships. Improved coordination that uses the GOOS framework to ensure standards, best practices for a sustainably expanded GOOS. Embrace the abilities and needs of the different stakeholders focusing on co-design and partnerships. Collaboration with industry partners to secure funding for developing a robust data infrastructure that supports efficient sharing will be critical.
  • An expanded, capable, and diversified workforce underpins success. Expand and diversify the workforce of skilled and trained ocean professionals. Training and capacity development will be critical at all levels of the stream, from data collection to data analysis and modelling.

Transforming ocean observations into accessible, fit-for-purpose, and timely information for current technological, cultural, capacity building, and economic needs will contribute to informed decision-making, the adoption of sustainable practices, and resilience for both the ocean and coastal communities.

The Ocean Decade transformative journey to 2030

The consolidated version of the Challenge 7 White Paper was presented and debated during ‘Session 3 Science and Solutions for a Safe and Predicted Ocean’ at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona, a pivotal event for the Vision 2030 process. The outcomes of discussions were incorporated into the final version of the document.

Click here to meet Working Group 7 and find out more about the Vision 2030 process.

Vision 2030 White Paper on Challenge 7

Read the recommendations of the Vision 2030 Working Group 7 to expand the global ocean observing system.

For more information, please contact: Vision 2030 Team (


About the Ocean Decade:
Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.

About the UNESCO-IOC:
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.


The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want





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