Developing Capacity and Societal Awareness

Because the ocean transcends national boundaries, and because it is so vast and challenging to access, oceanographic research requires international collaboration by its very nature. Capacity building for the use of ocean observation data and information provides a larger pool of trained personnel, more representation at the world scale and fulfils demand for such personnel. Capacity building in terms of data collection and analysis infrastructure and availability and access to integrated data sets is also critical to ensure adequate monitoring of the marine environment on local, regional and global scales. At present, there are large gaps in ocean observations in many parts of the world due to the imbalance in ocean observation capabilities (human resources and infrastructure/technology). Capacity building requires at the very least two-way interaction between developing and developed countries, for example through exchange of personnel, knowledge and expertise between countries. Such exchanges are facilitated by international organisations such as the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO), IOC/IODE and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR). Capacity building can be most effective through the participation of scientists from developing countries in training programmes and research projects run in collaboration with developed countries. The success of ocean observations also requires advocacy, at the public and policy levels, on the importance of ocean observations and integrated and accessible data.

The ocean is generally not recognized by the vast majority of the world’s population as being an important part of their lives, even though it is a source of food, transport and recreation, a large contributor to the global economy, and sustains livelihoods for millions of people in the poorest parts of the world. If people are not aware of the importance of the ocean, they are even less likely to understand the impacts that ocean observations can have (and do have) on their everyday lives. We therefore need to work together to explain, in simple and meaningful terms, to a lay audience, what ocean observations are, what types of products and services can be derived from them, and how they are essential for the health, wealth and well-being of humankind.

GEO Blue Planet Working Group

GEO Blue Planet has a developing capacity and societal awareness working group that links existing existing capacity building efforts and expands on advocacy efforts for integrated and open access to end-to-end information services and support for sustained ocean and coastal observations, products and services. The objectives of the working group are to:

  • Work with stakeholders to expand capacity in the field of ocean observations by advocating for and linking existing programs and sharing best practices, within the ocean observing community but also with other Initiatives and Flagships across the GEO Work Programme
  • Identify infrastructure needs and advocating for resources to meet these needs
  • Communicate with decision makers industry groups and the general public on the societal benefits of end-to-end ocean information services
  • Advocate for and promoting GEO Blue Planet at regional and international levels
  • Support GEO Blue Planet projects


Preliminary tasks for 2017-18

1. Developing best practices in capacity building for ocean observations and services [underway]

This work will address directly Objective 1 of the “Developing Capacity and Societal Awareness” WG, and will be conducted by a “Task Team on Best Practices in Capacity Building”. This TT will work closely with the GEO Task Team on Capacity Building and the CEOS WG on Capacity Building and Data Democracy, and other groups as relevant, to share information with the GEO community at large and leverage existing efforts. The leads of the GEO and CEOS groups will be invited to participate, and/or act as liaisons with the Blue Planet TT.

The initial focus of the Blue Planet TT will be to discuss best practices in evaluating the impact of capacity building programmes. POGO and SCOR, who have worked together on this in the last 2 years, will provide their insights and invite other organisations to contribute theirs, with a view to compiling best practices in both:


  1. How to conduct such an evaluation (surveys, testimonials, metrics…),
  2. How to analyse and interpret the results (e.g. what recommendations can be drawn on how to improve programmes or how to select the best type of programme to meet a particular need or requirement).

A subsequent topic could be assessing the capacity building needs of developing countries. IODE has done some work in this area and could share their experience and methods. The US-AID/NASA project SERVIR, which has been running for the last 10 years, has developed some guidelines on the full planning cycle, from scoping user requirements to engagement and evaluation.


  • Manuscript published in supplemental issue of the Journal of Operational Oceanography on “ocean observations for societal benefit” [submitted]
  • Best practices submitted to IODE Ocean Best Practices repository? [TBC]
2. Producing a guide and template for communication strategies [completed]
The group Ocean Communicators United is working on producing a guide and template for developing communication strategies, as a contribution towards the GEO Blue Planet WG on Developing Capacity and Societal Awareness. The guide is designed to be adapted and applied by a wide range of users, whether they have a communications background or a scientific background. It can be used to write a communication strategy for an international organisation, programme or project, a research institution, an educational venue, or even a specific product or service.


  • A guide and template for writing communication strategies, to be archived in the IOC repository Ocean Docs and linked to from the GEO Blue Planet website, and distributed widely among the GEO Blue Planet community [accessible at].
3. Mapping the ocean observation and services “seascape” [outstanding]
The issue of the “crowded field” in ocean observing and the lack of clarity on who is doing what and how all the organisations fit together were highlighted and discussed at both the Kick-Off and 2nd Blue Planet Symposia. During the 3rd Blue Planet Symposium, there was very strong support for the idea that Blue Planet would work on producing a diagram that would provide some clarity on which organisations are doing what in relation to ocean observing (e.g. capacity building, data management, coordination of observations, user engagement etc). Because it is such a complex field, it was agreed that an interactive web-based system would be most appropriate. This would allow each organization to be tagged with various criteria (e.g. global/regional, intergovernmental/NGO, etc) for greater clarity in presentation. It was also noted that a simplified version would be needed to reach decision makers and other people outside the field.  


This Task Team will work on the following actions in relation to this task:
  1. Develop and circulate a survey to as many organisations/programmes/projects as possible to gather (or improve existing) information on their priorities and areas of activity.
  2. Compile the information into a table, and a list/repository of reports, strategies, road maps and other important documents produced by each organization/programme/project.
  3. Develop a method for visualizing all the information in web form (working with Jonathan Hodge, Blue Planet Technical Coordinator/CSIRO).
  4. Develop an infographic for a non-technical audience that will help to explain the “seascape” of ocean observing organisations (working with POGO Communications Officer with input from Ocean Communicators United).
4. Developing a brochure on the products of ocean observations [completed]
This Task Team will address directly Objective 2 of the “Developing Capacity and Societal Awareness” WG. The TT will work on compiling some iconic examples of ocean observing products that have a direct and tangible positive impact on society, e.g. saving lives, supporting livelihoods, producing economy benefits, etc. They will work with the POGO Communications Officer, a professional graphic designer, and Ocean Communicators United to translate these examples into a “glossy brochure” for distribution at major events, during outreach activities, and at any opportunity to engage with decision makers. This will also feature on the Blue Planet and POGO websites.

Operational Modality and Participants

The priorities and activities of the WG on Developing Capacity and Societal Awareness will be developed and guided by a small, strategic team comprising of some members of the Blue Planet Steering Committee, complemented by a few additional members selected from the community based on the required expertise. It is anticipated that the group will consist of no more than 10 members, including two co-leads.

The Working Group will develop strategic priorities and short-term priority activities (see above for 2017-18 activities), and assemble Task Teams to work on these. It is anticipated that these Task Teams will be short-lived, working on tasks for periods of 6-18 months and disbanding once the deliverables have been produced.

Working Group members:
Name Affiliation
Sophie Seeyave (lead) Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO), UK
Zaidy Afrin United Nations Nippon Fellow, Grenada
Anthony Akpan Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE), Nigeria
Elham Ali Suez University, Egypt
Isa Elegbede Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU), Germany
Juliet Hermes South African Earth Observing Network (SAON), South Africa
Vivian Lutz INIDEP, Argentina
Frank Muller-Karger University of South Florida, USA, & MBON
Shubha Sathyendranath Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK
Task Team on Best Practices in Capacity Building

It is envisioned that this will include representatives from international, regional (intergovernmental or non-governmental) and national organisations, programmes and projects involved in capacity building (both at the provider and receiver ends). A call will be issued to the Steering Committee and targeted participants initially, then to the community at large, for volunteers willing to participate in the Task Team.

A list of contributors to the manuscript on capacity development submitted to the journal of operational oceanography’s Blue Planet supplemental issue is given below:

Name Organisation
Patricia Miloslavich GOOS; University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia; Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela
Sophie Seeyave Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO)
Elham Ali Suez University, Suez, Egypt
Nicholas Bax University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Hobart,


Claudia Delgado International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO
Hayley Evers-King EUMETSAT; Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK
Ben Loveday EUMETSAT; Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK
Vivian Lutz Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP), Mar del Plata, Argentina
Frank Muller-Karger MBON; University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, USA
Jan Newton University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Ana C. Peralta Brichtova Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela
Ed Urban Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR)
Task Team on mapping the ocean observing “seascape”

It is envisioned that the work will be conducted by a small team including representatives from international, regional (intergovernmental or non-governmental) and national organisations, programmes and projects involved in ocean observations, particularly those who have already undergone efforts to map the ocean observing “seascape”, at local/regional scales (e.g. EMODNet, EuroGOOS). A call will be issued to the Steering Committee and targeted participants initially, then to the community at large, for volunteers willing to participate in the Task Team. The work will be conducted in consultation with the broader community (through surveys, requests for feedback etc).

Task Team to develop a brochure on the products of ocean observations

The work was conducted by a small team of members of the Blue Planet Steering Committee: Sophie Seeyave (lead, POGO), Fiona Beckman (POGO), Christine Pequignet (Met Office), Pierre-Yves Le Traon (Mercator), Ralph Rayner, Paul DiGiacomo (NOAA) and Samy Djavidnia (EMSA).

Related Links

NF-POGO - The Nippon Foundation and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (NF-POGO) have worked together to create capacity building programs including a visiting professorship program, the Center of Excellence in Observational Oceanography and regional training programs for scholars.

OceanTeacher - OceanTeacher is an activity of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). The objective of OceanTeacher is to support IODE training activities by providing training tools for Oceanographic Data and Information management.

SCOR Capacity Building - The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) conducts a variety of capacity building activities. The focus has primarily been on helping individual scientists from developing countries to be involved in SCOR activities and to network with scientists from developed countries. SCOR provides travel grants to scientists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition and supports visiting scholars.

Additional Capacity Building Resources

Related Documents