A conceptual framework for developing the next generation of Marine OBservatories (MOBs) for science and society

Alessandro Crise*, Maurizio Ribera d'Alcalà, Patrizio Mariani, George Petihakis, Julie Robidart, Daniele Iudicone, Ralf Bachmayer, Francesca Malfatti

*Corresponding author for this work

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In the field of ocean observing, the term of "observatory" is often used without a unique meaning. A clear and unified definition of observatory is needed in order to facilitate the communication in a multidisciplinary community, to capitalize on future technological innovations and to support the observatory design based on societal needs. In this paper, we present a general framework to define the next generation Marine OBservatory (MOB), its capabilities and functionalities in an operational context. The MOB consists of four interconnected components or "gears" (observation infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, support capacity, and knowledge generation engine) that are constantly and adaptively interacting with each other. Therefore, a MOB is a complex infrastructure focused on a specific geographic area with the primary scope to generate knowledge via data synthesis and thereby addressing scientific, societal, or economic challenges. Long-term sustainability is a key MOB feature that should be guaranteed through an appropriate governance. MOBs should be open to innovations and good practices to reduce operational costs and to allow their development in quality and quantity. A deeper biological understanding of the marine ecosystem should be reached with the proliferation of MOBs, thus contributing to effective conservation of ecosystems and management of human activities in the oceans. We provide an actionable model for the upgrade and development of sustained marine observatories producing knowledge to support science-based economic and societal decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number318
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2018


  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • Essential Ocean Variables
  • Global Ocean Observing System
  • Long-term sustainability
  • Marine OBservatory
  • Ocean observing


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