The Second Session of the IODE Steering Group for OBIS took place at the IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende, Belgium on 19–21 November 2012. In 2012, OBIS has undergone changes in management and operation, and all activities previously carried out at Rutgers University, USA have now been transferred to the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende, Belgium. The meeting resulted in several decisions and recommendations that will move OBIS forward. In addition, several task teams were formed to further develop OBIS and support the execution of the 2013 Work Plan. The new data system architecture was presented and new procedures will become operational from June 2013 onwards. It is expected that this will greatly enhance the data flow and provide tools to further improve data quality.
Despite the fact that the new OBIS manager was only recruited in May 2012, considerable progress was made with establishing international partnerships, engaging OBIS in global initiatives and increasing public awareness through social media. In 2012, 92 new datasets were collected and integrated in OBIS. OBIS now integrates 1,125 datasets, serving 33 million geo-referenced species observations of 120,000 marine species and is by far the largest global database of its kind. OBIS is increasingly picked-up by the scientific community; scientific papers using OBIS data appear on a weekly basis (80 publications in 2012) and 50,000 people visited the data portal in 2012 (35% are returning visitors). OBIS continues playing a crucial role in providing guidance and information for the identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (a process developed within the Convention on Biological Diversity). The 22 OBIS nodes (data assembly centres) are engaged in a wide spectrum of activities, which demonstrates that the role of OBIS is not limited to raw data encoding but also to develop tools and products and offering services (including capacity building) for data-science and science-policy activities on a local, regional to global scale.
In 2013, the task teams will produce an IOC Manual and Guides for OBIS nodes that will include the definition of OBIS nodes, the terms of reference and procedure to establish OBIS nodes, standards and best practices (OBIS handbook) and a section on quality assurance, criteria and evaluation of OBIS nodes.
Funding remains an issue for the OBIS project office as well as for many OBIS nodes. The November 2011 decision of the USA to cease funding to UNESCO is threatening all programmes and activities of the IOC, including OBIS. OBIS now relies almost completely on extra budgetary funding. An OBIS business plan will be finalized early 2013 and will address OBIS' vision and mission, objectives and key priorities, budget needs in relation to the work plan and potential funding opportunities. An OBIS data manager, bringing the staff to two professional positions, will join the OBIS project office in 2013.
The report of the meeting is available HERE.