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Marine Knowledge 2020 and EMODnet
Access to marine data is of vital importance for marine research and a key issue for various studies, from climate change prediction to off shore engineering. The EU has recently published a communication 'Marine Knowledge 2020' which underpins the importance of data availability and access. 
Giving and harmonising access to marine data from different sources will:
  • Help industry, public authorities and researchers find the data and make more effective use of them to develop new products and services.
  • Improve our understanding of how the seas behave.
Information systems have an increasing role in the society and a strong impact on science, technology and business. 
  • Access to data can generate new science;
  • Retention of unique observational data which is impossible to re-create;
  • Retention of expensively generated data which is cheaper to maintain than to re-generate;
  • Data are necessary to assess compliance with legal requirements;
  • Data are necessary to validate published research results and for use in teaching.
The initiative for an overarching EMODnet (European Marine Observation and Data Network) is included in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), adopted in December 2007 by the European Parliament and Council. EMODnet is developing into a network of existing and developing European observation systems, linked by a data management structure covering all European coastal waters, shelf seas and surrounding ocean basins. It must facilitate long-term and sustainable access to the high-quality data necessary to understand the biological, chemical and physical behaviour of seas and oceans. Key elements for harmonisation and interoperability are establishing and adopting common standards and protocols for quality control, metadata and data formats, vocabularies and technical protocols. This vision for EMODnet is shared by the EU, ESF Marine Board, EuroGOOS and its regional associations.
EMODnet should respect INSPIRE standards for discovery and access. EMODnet will provide data on scales defined by the regions and subregions of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. EMODnet, as an open data system, is also considered as a significant observation and monitoring data conduit for the part of the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) that will be developed for dealing with marine information (WISE-Marine) and supporting the data and indicator needs for the initial assessments required by member States in 2012 by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. WISE and WISE-Marine are thematic branches of the envisaged Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) based on INSPIRE principles. EMODnet data should be directly available for viewing through WISE-Marine.
The "proof of concept" of EMODnet has been tested through preparatory actions. Portals for a number of maritime basins have been set up for hydrographic, geological, biological, chemical and physical data as well as functional habitat maps. These portals provide access to marine data and data products of a standard format and known quality.
In the past 3 years portals have been initiated for the following marine data themes, covering selected marine basins:
As outcome of a Call for Tender from September 2012 it was announced very recently that all portals will be continued and further expanded in geographical coverage and range of products. This will be undertaken by the leading consortia of the pilots with uptake of numerous new data providers and experts. The EU has arranged funding for the coming 3 years, also for undertaking supportive studies and activities, which together must result in a sustained and operational EMODnet. As part of this it will be examined how the portals meet the needs of users from industry, public authorities and scientists. It is also an objective to identify data gaps and arguments why these gaps should be filled in future monitoring.
The EMODnet approach with thematic portals for specific disciplines and communities and with EMODnet concertation meetings together with MODEG experts has proven to be very useful and effective. This way many potential players from a given discipline or theme can be engaged for their own specialism and interest, while the interoperability and cohesion between the thematic portals is achieved by using common standards from OGC for viewing services (WMS, WFS) and SeaDataNet for data discovery and access services and semantic interoperability.
Further information about EMODnet can be found at the EU DG MARE website