Seventh Session of the IODE Steering Group for OBIS (SG-OBIS-VII) 12-16 November 2018, Oostende, Belgium

Meeting Report


Executive Summary

The 7th Session of the IODE Steering Group for OBIS took place on 12-16 November 2018 at the IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende, Belgium. The meeting was attended by 36 participants from 24 countries representing 24 OBIS nodes.

During the intersessional period, 4.3 million species distribution records were added to OBIS from 350 new datasets, providing 11,300 new marine species to OBIS. OBIS now has 52.1 million occurrences of 121,400 species from 2,533 datasets. The OBIS network grew with eight new OBIS nodes (31 OBIS nodes in total). In partnership with IOC’s OceanTeacher Global Academy and contributions from many other institutions, OBIS has trained 317 people from 71 countries in 20 training courses, of which 8 OBIS training courses took place in 2018, and several more are already scheduled for 2019.

Soon with the release of OBIS 2.0 (expected in December 2018), OBIS will have a more solid foundation to build improved data processing/integration workflows, new data synthesis routines that add value to OBIS data, and new types of products and applications for scientific and decision-making analysis. The SG meeting established new focused and time limited projects, such as a Data Quality Control project team which will develop a quality assessment scheme iterating on a judicious set of criteria using the various quality control checks in the OBIS 2.0 system to flag and filter out the most suspect or problematic records. A Vocabulary Infrastructure project team will establish a basic framework for organizing and curating vocabularies used in OBIS. This will especially be important for the future of OBIS when incorporating new data types that characterize marine ecosystems in support of Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) and other assessment and indicator needs.

OBIS is working toward a more open and inviting process of co-developing OBIS as a global networked open-source data system. A dynamic OBIS “software” ecosystem of code repositories will enable the community to organize, document, and contribute analytical codes that interface directly with the OBIS API, provide analyses, and share results. The OBIS communication team will use these tools to develop data-driven analytics to develop regular news leads on new and interesting phenomena suggested from the new data and leverage its network with the CBD, IPBES, and other groups to bring together researchers and other experts, including policymakers, to develop policy briefs specific to different issues such as BBNJ, ocean acidification, and others.

OBIS may seek a cooperative development with an emerging alliance under the Global Biodiversity Information Conference (GBIC) which could focus on realizing economies of scale in the core data integration infrastructure needed for OBIS operations with accompanying increases in our ability to apply specific marine biodiversity knowledge into the system (e.g., marine-specific observation and measurement types, specific taxonomic enhancements and quality control, importance of third dimension in spatial aspects of the data, etc.).

This co-development process will need to involve collaboration between the OBIS data manager and tool developers. Recent survey responses about the types of technical and methodological tools that many of the OBIS nodes are willing and able to contribute are evidence of a growing level of technical maturity across the network. Nonetheless, the overall sustainability of the OBIS network remains vulnerable. The OBIS network just lost three OBIS nodes due to the fact that their funding source dried out. Only one third of the OBIS nodes have their operational budget secured for 2019-2020 and are sufficiently resourced in terms of staffing. To optimally run the OBIS enterprise and process the backlog of datasets (>600 datasets), the OBIS nodes would collectively need an additional 25 full-time equivalents (FTEs), to a total of 76 FTEs or increase from 1.8 to 2.8 FTE per OBIS node. The situation at the OBIS secretariat, where currently only the OBIS project manager position is covered by IOC’s regular programme funds, is even more problematic. The OBIS data manager position, a mission-critical position, need to be secured beyond 2019 and OBIS is asking more urgency from the IOC Member States and non-governmental partners to pledge resources to UNESCO and/or the IOC special account for OBIS to enable IOC to create a regular programme post for the OBIS data manager and support the implementation of the OBIS work plan, in order to secure the continuation of OBIS under IOC/IODE beyond 2019.

Decisions and Recommendations