Best Practices Working Group

AtlantOS Best Practice for Observing Systems


Ocean observing systems rely on robust and stable instruments integrated into an equally robust infrastructure. Such infrastructures must be capable of converting raw observation data into usable information and knowledge products stored in repositories that provide management and access.  The methodologies and best practices associated with large-scale observing systems engage all aspects of an elaborate, end-to-end process which ranges from observatory design and sensor handling, to the deposition of quality data in repositories.  Best practices in this domain emerge from time-tested experience, usually gathered within organizations such as universities, private and public research institutions, or through collaborative projects and programs. For example, large programs such as the European FixO3 for fixed mooring observations, IOOS for coastal observations in the USA, or JCOMM networks may document best practices and urge their propagation. These valuable documents are often maintained by international organizations such as the UNESCO IODE or GOOS, which create forums for discussing, recommending and documenting observation and data practices. Despite the quality of these efforts, best practice documentation is still fragmented and their impact is difficult to sustain over time.


The long-term objective of this initiative is to provide the ocean observing community with a sustainable compendium of peer-reviewed best practices in ocean observing that can be used in training new oceanographers and data scientists, and also in providing references for experts. Where practical, a solution should reach across science communities and networks to support multi-disciplinary applications.

The near-term objectives are to 1) formulate the processes and infrastructure that can form the basis of a longer-term solution and 2) engage the ocean observation community in the evaluation of these processes and infrastructure.

Best Practices Working Group (BPWG) Contact us HERE

The AtlantOS Project, with support from the ODIP Project, has a Best Practices Work Group, which is coordinating its activities with international and national agencies and projects to improve access to documented best practices.

Name Representing
Mark Bushnell
Pier Luigi Buttigieg
Juliet Hermes
Emma Heslop
Johannes Karstensen
Frank Muller-Karger
Univ S.Florida
Cristian Muñoz
Francoise Pearlman
Jay Pearlman (LEAD)
Pauline Simpson

The BPWG is collaborating with AtlantOS partners in diverse ocean disciplines to populate the BP repository and to address the utility of the BP process for their communities. The AtlantOS partners currently include: EuroGOOS/GOOS, GEOMAR, Ifremer, IO PAS, Marum, PML, UPMC and others.  In addition, projects are contributing their experience and documentation including, for example, FixO3, JERICO, GROOM, IOOS, ONC, IMOS and EMSO.


The strategy for creating a useful and sustainable repository is to leverage existing capabilities whenever possible, both in the repository infrastructure and its content of best practices. Then expand the infrastructure with new search mechanisms based on ontologies which can service the different disciplines of ocean research from physical observation to chemistry to biology and ecosystems. The best practices cover all facets of the information chain from sensors, calibration, platforms and platform integration to communication of observed data, data management and user interfaces. The long-term goal is to provide repository users the ability to reach across many aspects/elements of observing systems from their own perspective.

While existing best practice documents will be included in their native formats, it may be necessary to add metadata elements to support improved discovery and access. As a strategy, the best practice repository will identify three levels of document processing to indicate the completeness of the documentation to users. At the highest level, the best practices will have comprehensive metadata and have been peer reviewed by the community or through a repository expert panel.   The figure below shows the institutional interfaces.



While the figure above shows the institutional relations in supporting users access to best practices, the flow process is better described in the figure below.

The flow works as follows: documents created by expert groups, agencies, or other stakeholders  should be deposited in   the OceanBestPractices repository where it will be allocated a persistent URI.  A methods description of the BP can then be submitted  to a companion peer review open access journal. The journal serves as a  dissemination platform with the full BP document archived in the Repository. In both cases, the submitters would include metadata descriptors, sourced from a continually updated ontology, clarifying what each section of their document is about (e.g. which parameters, which environments, which sensors, etc.). Within the repository, the document may be at one of several levels depending on the levels of metadata, completeness of information and peer review. BP Documents and articles that  are already peer reviewed would automatically be assigned the highest level of internal repository review after validation.

All documents will be exposed as web pages, with each section indexed by the assigned metadata descriptors, and assigned its own  persistent URI or Handle.  Users may access a web portal that would convert their requests (e.g. “Retrieve all BPs that are about measuring nitrate in coastal water”) into semantic queries that would be processed using the ontology. The responses to such queries will provide the Handles of all BP sections relevant to the user’s search, which will be retrieved and delivered to the user. Access to the documents are provided from the OceanBestPractices repository and will be available in native (the authoritative version)  or web-based formats. There is also an ongoing effort to facilitate submission of current and new best practices  in formats that are interoperable across ocean observation communities. This may include the availability of templates and recommendations.

Current Activities

The initial challenge is two-part: 1) first, a sufficient quantity of best practice documents must be aggregated to effectively serve the community and 2) an enhanced resource for the efficient archiving of, discovery of, and access to these practices must exist. The AtlantOS-led collaboration is addressing the first challenge by drawing together a range of methodological documents endorsed by communities of ocean observing practitioners. This is being done both by manual submission and machine-assisted web crawling. The collection is then being used as the material with which to address the second challenge:  a best practice repository is being created with technologies to persistently archive, systematize, expose, index, version, and cross-link collected best practices. As this is a multidisciplinary and constantly evolving space, technologies which are capable of sustainably yet flexibly linking material across domain-specific terminologies are being deployed, as well as mechanisms for quality management and review. Efforts are being made to ensure even novice ocean observers can use the resource effectively, with little to no training.

BP Document Templates

Is there an ideal Best Practice Document format?  It is unlikely that one size will fit all and it could even be argued that there should be a format per platform.  Any document format recommendations cannot be over-prescriptive, but it is possible that in addition to a document data sheet, there are core topics that should always be found in a Best Practice document; with additional sections added as the authors see fit.  The observation and analyses communities are working with the BPWG to identify what these core sections should be by beta testing using Focus Groups, online discussion forums and a BP Workshop, in the three pilot areas selected for process demonstrations: Applications; Data Management; Sensors.

Repository (

The central and permanent archive, OceanBestPractices (OBP), is considered as the repository of choice for this initiative. OBP is hosted and managed by the IODE/IOC for its partners, JCOMM, WMO and ICES. Any ocean-related Best Practice can be deposited by the community and the upgraded infrastructure will support all attributes of the flow process discussed above

Peer Review

All BP methods will be encouraged to go through peer review, either in their originating community or through a journal of best practices peer review system.  In addition, a Peer Review Panel populated by community volunteers will be established within the OBP. This panel will also serve as peer reviewers in the best practices journal.


Wiki Interface

To provide greater visibility and discoverability of BP content, the contents of BPs uploaded to the OBP system will be made web accessible via a ‘Wiki-style” interface. Similar to other wiki solutions, the OBP wiki will expose the contents of each BP to search and web indexing services, allowing users to find material more easily. Further, each section of a given BP will have a stable URL assigned to it, allowing clear and granular referencing of a BP’s contents. This technology will form the basis for extensions such as community commenting and discussion around BPs and their parts, offering users the opportunity to alert the community of new developments or potential issues with BPs in the OBP, facilitating harmonization of ocean observing practices across communities.

Semantic Search Capabilities

The content of the OBP wiki (see above) will be indexed using semantic technologies: technologies which represent the meaning of each BP’s content to machine agents in a knowledge graph, known as an ontology. This will allow users to discover and retrieve results which are not necessarily syntactic or verbatim matches to a given search term, but which are known to be related to it through links in the ontology. The BPs and their sections in the OBP will be “tagged” or annotated with ontology classes (e.g. nodes in the knowledge graph which represent the environments relevant to the method, sensors used, or chemicals measured), allowing granular and flexible searches across the OBP collection, guided by the knowledge captured in the ontologies used. Importantly, we will leverage and reuse existing and mature ontologies adopted by other communities in the life and Earth sciences to promote interoperability. Furthermore, we will express the needs of the OBP community to these ontologies, shaping them for improved performance in ocean science.

Communication and Outreach

This activity will focus on engaging the community by using a variety of communication channels.


This monthly newsletter shares information about new developments in Ocean Best Practices and the Ocean Best Practice System including the OceanBestPractices Repository


  1. Presentation of Best Practices process and infrastructure, Oceans 2017 Conference Anchorage AK, USA   18-22 Sep 2017
  2. Evolving and Sustaining Ocean Best Practices Workshop, Paris France 15-17 Nov 2017
  3. Best Practices Town Hall, AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting, Portland OR, Feb 2018

OceanBestPractices Community Listserv

Our discussions have already brought us into contact with many in the BP Community. To maintain momentum and provide a central discussion forum for the whole community, an oceanbestpracticescommunity listserv has been created (  


AGU American Geophysical Union
ATLANT0S Optimising and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing Systems
AWI Alfred-Wegener-Institute
BP Best Practices
EMSO European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water-column Observatory
EuroGOOS European Global Ocean Observing System
FIX03 Fixed point Open Ocean Observatory network
GEOMAR GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research
GOOS Global Ocean Observing System
GROOM Gliders for Research Ocean Observation and Management
ICES International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IFREMER Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer
IMOS Integrated Marine Observing System
IO PAS Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences
IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO
IODE International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange of IOC
IOOS U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System
JCOMM Joint Committee on Oceanography and Marine Meteorology
JERICO Joint European Research Infrastructure Network for Coastal Observatories
MARUM MARUM Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften Universität Bremen
OBP OceanBestPractices (Repository)
ODIP Ocean Data Interoperability Platform
ONC Ocean Networks Canada
PML Plymouth Marine Laboratory
SAEON South African Environmental Observation Network
SOCIB Sistema d’observació i predicció costaner de les Illes Balears
UPMC Université Pierre et Marie Curie
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
URI Universal Resource Identifier
WMO World Meteorological Organization