December 2020 OES Beacon

Enhancing the Ocean Best Practices System for Global Ocean Observation, Data Management and Applications

Jay Pearlman, Pier Luigi Buttigieg, Peter Pissierssens, Pauline Simpson

Nearly 500 ocean experts and enthusiasts participated in September in a virtual workshop addressing ocean observations, data management and applications. The workshop focused on ways that ocean observing across the values chain (from observations to end user decisions) can use best practices to improve interoperability and our knowledge of the oceans. The workshop also considered the capabilities of the Ocean Best Practices System (OBPS) and formulated recommendations for its enhancement.

Commonly accepted, widely used methods provide a foundational element when designing, building and operating an integrated global system [Pearlman, et al 2019]. When methods are both commonly accepted and widely used in a consistent manner, they may be termed best practices. A more formal definition of a best practice is: a best practice is a methodology that has repeatedly produced superior results relative to other methodologies with the same objective. To be fully elevated to a best practice, a promising method will have been adopted and employed by multiple organizations. [Bushnell, et al, 2018]

The OBPS, a UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission project, is a repository of ocean best practices and is implementing new technologies and solutions to facilitate the development and discoverability of best practices [Buttigieg et al 2019]. As the needs for best practices and their use has expanded, the ocean-focused communities have made recommendations for OBPS improvements through a series of annual workshops [Simpson, et al 2020]. This year, the Evolving and Sustaining Ocean Best Practices IV Workshop 2020 was held virtually between September 18-30. The workshop participants came from across the globe (see figure 1) and had a wide range of interests relating to ocean research, operations and applications. These participants offered many thoughts on the creation and use of best practices as well as recommending how the OBPS should evolve to better fulfil its vision and mission with respect to their community’s needs. The workshop consisted of three plenary sessions and eleven Working Group meetings. These Working Groups, who met multiple times during September 21 – 24, included topics in:

・Convergence of methods and endorsement of best practices
・Data and information management: towards globally scalable interoperability
・Developing community capacities for the creation and use of best practices
・Ethics and best practices for ocean observing and applications
・Marine Litter/Plastics
・Ocean Uncertainty Quantification
・Ocean Partnership Building
・Surface Radiation.

There were many ideas that appeared in multiple working group reports such as training, data, convergence, and decision trees. For example, the need for the development of new virtual learning capabilities was discussed as well as the importance of effectively engaging multiple cultures as educators and trainees. Indigenous knowledge was recognized as an important element for addressing a comprehensive ocean data and information system. Participants also noted the value of increasing collaboration among existing initiatives and the importance of defining the role of ocean best practices in support of the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). (
Many of the Working Groups identified their meetings during the Workshop as an opportunity for cross-community dialogue. The desire for such fora, where community discussions can occur and where an intergenerational mix can stimulate opportunities for learning (and mentoring), was highlighted. Extending beyond the workshop, the OBPS has a forum where communities can have their own continuing sessions. This capability was received with enthusiasm. Please contact Mark Bushnell for more information (

Summarizing some of the key areas that arose during the workshop:

OBPS infrastructure: Improve user experience and facilitate the sharing of protocols, samples, data, and software.

Capacity development: Create dedicated online training packages for different groups to facilitate contributions to knowledge of the ocean including, for example, those working in the blue economy. It was proposed that these activities align with the Ocean Decade actions.

Potential for collaboration and partnerships: A diverse group of stakeholders is encouraged to engage more actively in the creation and use of best practices, including Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs), the fisheries sector, sargassum management teams and experts in the areas of ethics. Future developments of OBPS should also support non-scientific stakeholders.

The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (OES) expertise in ocean engineering and science can play an important role in creating and propagating best practices in our work on sensors, platforms and systems. The contributions of the OES Technology Committees to best practices and OBPS should be expanded. For more information about the OBPS and how you can contribute, please contact: Pauline Simpson, OBPS Project Manager (

Useful links:
1. Buttigieg, PL; Caltagirone, S; Simpson, P; and Pearlman, J, (2019) “The Ocean Best Practices System – Supporting a Transparent and Accessible Ocean,” OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE SEATTLE, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-5. doi: 10.23919/OCEANS40490.2019.8962680
2. Bushnell, M; Buttigieg, P.L.; Hermes, J; Heslop, E; Karstensen, J; Muller-Karger, F; Muñoz Mas, C ; Pearlman, F; Pearlman, J; Simpson, P; (2018) “Sharing Best Practices Among Operators and Users of Oceanographic Data: Challenge, Status, and Plans of the Ocean Best Practices Project”, Marine Technology Society Journal, Volume 52, Number 3, May/June 2018, pp. 8-12(5); DOI:
3. Pearlman, J; Bushnell, M; Coppola, L; Karstensen, J; Buttigieg, PL; Pearlman, F; et al., (2019) “Evolving and Sustaining Ocean Best Practices and Standards for the Next Decade”, Front. Mar. Sci. 6:277.doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00277
4. Simpson, P; Pearlman, F; and Pearlman, J; (eds) (2020) “Evolving and Sustaining Ocean Best Practices Workshop III, 02– 03 December 2019, UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende, Belgium: Proceedings”, Oostende, Belgium, IOC- IODE: GOOS and IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, 37pp. DOI: 10.25607/OBP-788
5. The Evolving and Sustaining Ocean Best Practices System (OBPS) Workshop IV Agenda (

OBPS Workshop IV global distribution of participants and photos of some of the attendees