Background and rationale

The members of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) operate a fleet of ocean-going research vessels to undertake scientific cruises in the oceans of the world. These research vessels represent a costly infrastructure, that should be used in an efficient and optimal way. At the 6th meeting of POGO in 2005, members recognised the need to improve information sharing on pre-planned, planned, current and past cruises to enhance awareness of opportunities, and to improve the cost-effectiveness of cruises.

A Working group was established to review the need for an International Cruise Information Database and related website from the perspective of international programmes and initiatives. Many potential benefits of an integrated, on-line cruise information system were identified:

  • Helps scientists from different countries coordinate future funded research through information about research vessels of opportunity
  • Aids in retrospective ability to find data in regions of interest
  • Makes it possible for projects to conduct joint work and to fill empty berths
  • Creates capacity-building and training opportunities
  • Aid in tracking and distributing data
  • Provides information to evaluate the benefit of observations from ships as part of GOOS
  • Makes it possible for scientists and operational users from other projects to get instruments deployed and/or samples taken in hard-to-reach areas of the ocean (e.g. drifters, profiling floats, moored buoy servicing)
  • Allows cost sharing among institutions, projects, and nations
  • Enables possible intercomparisons, intercalibrations, validation among different data types (eg. CTD vs. Argo, in situ vs. remote sensing)

The recommendations of the committee were discussed at the POGO-7 meeting in January 2006 and the POGO Members endorsed the plan to assemble, distribute and maintain a database of future cruises, with an extension to include past cruises when possible.  Furthermore, the POGO members authorised an investigation of the most efficient way to implement the action with partners, bearing in mind (a) the need for international oversight, and (b) the need to respond also to the needs of the Census of Marine Life (CoML). It was proposed that this initiative be taken forward as a joint POGO – CoML initiative.

Accordingly, POGO invited proposals from interested parties to establish an international cruise information database. Applications received were evaluated by a team of experts selected from CoML, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), POGO, IOC/IODE (the International Oceanographic Data Exchange of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) and SCOR (Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research). In mid 2006 in the proposal, submitted by a subgroup of the SeaDataNet consortium (consisting of BODC, MARIS, BSH-DOD and EurOcean), was selected to implement the Cruise Information Database (CID). Expanding the SeaDataNet meta databases to a global dimension and upgrading their entry and retrieval systems to support both the requirements of SeaDataNet and POGO forms the formation of the international CID.

The selected consortium to produce the CID agreed a definitive project description with POGO and CoML, which was submitted as a proposal to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and NOAA for funding the first year of the development of the International Cruise Information Database and website. Funding the support of further development and operation in years 2 - 5 has already been promised by NOAA.

The basic requirement of POGO is to have an operational and well maintained database and web-site for Research Vessels of a length > 60 metres, certified for open ocean research. This comprises ca. 200 - 300 research vessels, operated by ca. 50 institutes worldwide. Most of these institutes are represented in POGO and/or ISOM.

The primary goal of the project is therefore to establish an instrument supporting more efficient use of research vessels, mutual tuning of planned cruises, as well as pooling and combining resources. This will be implemented by a dedicated International Research Cruise website, giving access to the following interrelated information modules, specifically for open ocean research vessels:

  • Research Vessel Cruise Programme database, containing planned cruises per research vessel and owner / operator
  • Research Vessel Directory database, containing characteristics of each research vessel, owner / operator contact details and, if available, a link to the ship’s web page
  • Cruise Summary Report (CSR) database, containing details of completed cruises and providing a first level inventory of oceanographic measurements made and samples taken.

Gradually each of these 3 databases is becoming available on this web site and populated with entries of all Research Vessels  > 60 meters worldwide. The system will include applications to add new entries, update existing entries AND to search and retrieve information.

The SeaDataNet partners are primarily responsible for technical operation and for facilitating the maintenance of the POGO website and databases. The provision of new information  (i.e. content) and updates of that information is a task of the POGO members and Vessel operators, making use of the mechanisms provided.

SeaDataNet is a five year EU-funded project, which began in April 2006, and aims at a further development of the Pan-European infrastructure for marine and ocean data management. It is building on the progress made by the previous EU-funded EURONODIM and Sea-Search projects (focus mainly on metadata), the MEDAR/MEDATLAS projects (focus on data) and makes use of the underlying data management infrastructures provided by major oceanographic data centres and marine research organisations in Europe.

Partners in SeaDataNet are National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs) from 35 countries that are part of major marine and oceanographic institutes and are well experienced and engaged in many national and international data management projects and programmes, as well as active in international organizations, such as IOC/IODE and ICES. Research vessels and research cruises are included in the scope of SeaDataNet and are covered by a Cruise Summary Reports (CSRs) database and a Directory of European Research Vessels, in cooperation with EurOcean.