Closing the gap in ocean research: GOOS Steering Committee meets in Halifax

July 10, 2023

The Global Ocean Observing System Steering Committee gathered in Halifax,  Canada earlier this year for its 12th session. Hosted by the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) at Dalhousie University, the group focused on strengthening its advocacy efforts and discussed aspects of governance, while taking time to explore opportunities in project co-design and regional coordination.  

The Steering Committee was tasked with assessing the challenges, opportunities and level of implementation under each of the 11 GOOS Strategic Objectives, which include; partnership for delivery, communications and advocacy, evaluating impact, empowering end user applications, authoritative guidance design, strengthening and expanding the system, open data, supporting innovation, developing capacity, human impact observations, and evolving GOOS governance.

Overall, there has been considerable progress made under every strategic objective. However, the Steering Committee identified several priority areas for the next year: 


The Steering Committee members welcomed the progress made in communicating the value of ocean observing and the role of GOOS over the last year. Particular note was made of how the importance of ocean data was acknowledged in the Implementation Plan of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), as well as during several conferences of the United Nations - such as COP-27 and CBD-15.

The Committee noted that greater awareness and visibility efforts are still required. Committee members encouraged more resources and targeted campaigns to support sustained and coordinated observation advocacy to ensure that ocean observing is front and foremost in international fora. Suggestions were made to explore cooperation between GOOS components and sponsors to help amplify this message.

Dr. Anya Waite, OFI Chief Executive Officer and a co-chair of GOOS highlighted the advocacy challenge. "Our ocean is the most critical element in any sustainable development efforts, and yet so much of it remains as a data gap in our knowledge library. We need to show how the work of GOOS is an essential tool for closing that gap and for giving our scientists the data they need to develop effective evidence-based climate solutions.”

Regional implementation

The Steering Committee recognized the growing role of regional coordination, declaring it not just as beneficial to the work of GOOS, but as a vital part of the organizations long- term strategy. They welcomed the rejuvenation of the Pacific Islands Global Ocean Observing System (PI-GOOS) and recognized the ongoing revitalization work in the Caribbean with IOCARIBE-GOOS, GOOS Africa, and support ocean observing coordination in the Arctic region, and approved the proposal of the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS) to become a GOOS GRA (formally adopted at the IOC Assembly in June), taking the number of GRAS to 14 globally.

Further development of strong and active GOOS Regional Alliances was highlighted as one of the top priorities of the Steering Committee for enabling regions to collaborate and develop the observing system they need.


Working within the United Nations Ocean Decade continues to be viewed as an key opportunity for GOOS, and the work of the Ocean Observing Co-Design Programme was referenced as important to several of the GOOS Strategic Objectives.

Even with very limited funding, great progress was achieved in improving engagement between different stakeholders. The Co-Design Exemplars, if well utilized, can provide focus for international collaboration and for expanded investment in areas of high societal impact, where the return on investment is clearly demonstrated. The co-design approach, involving closer collaboration with users, services and modeling communities, will at the same time develop new best practices to increase connection along the value chain, from observations to users - core to the GOOS 2030 Strategy.


Evolving the governance of the Global Ocean Observing System is an important action for 2023. The Terms of Reference were agreed in Autumn 2023, and a new Task Team will be constituted through an open call to IOC, WMO and GOOS channels.

However, significant progress has been made in several areas, such as National Focal Points (NFPs). The Steering Committee adopted the updated GOOS NFP Terms of Reference. The overarching objective of the NFPs is to promote and support nationally and regionally coordinated strategies for the implementation of a sustained global ocean observing system, and to act as a focal point for communication between GOOS and the national organizations and individuals involved in the Member State's sustained ocean observing infrastructure.

Strengthening the core

The Steering Committee recognized the need for GOOS to evolve, strengthening its ability to deliver on the GOOS 2030 Strategy and Ocean Decade actions. This critical need will be reported on at the upcoming IOC Assembly in June.

GOOS continues to grow in size and capability to deliver integrated multidisciplinary ocean information in support of monitoring and predicting our changing climate, ocean health, ocean life, weather, and hazard warnings, despite continued risk due to short-term funding horizons and inflation-related pressures.

However, to deliver on its strategy and Decade actions, GOOS needs to both stabilize and grow further. The support of GOOS sponsors, Member States and philanthropic organizations will be vital to achieve this.

Dr. Toste Tanhua, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel Senior scientist and GOOS Co-Chair, highlighted the increasing significance of GOOS. “Our work has never been more important.  It is clear that the pressure on GOOS to deliver sustained and coordinated ocean observation will only continue to grow,” he said, “through our strategy, and with the support of our partners, I am confident that this organization will play vital role throughout the Ocean Decade, and far into the future.”

The 13th Meeting of the GOOS Steering Committee will take place in April 2024.