The ocean is a critical component of the Earth system. It regulates weather and climate, provides food and other resources, trade and migration routes, and supports large ecosystems and ultimately affects human health. For us to better understand the ocean and climate system, and make informed decisions about sustainable development we need to monitor the ocean regularly and coherently.
Historical ocean data and new data collected is extremely valuable and needs to be carefully managed. Marine data management is faced with two major challenges: (1) the volume of data has increased dramatically; and (2) the diverse range of data types that must be handled: physicochemical, geological, meteorological and biological data.
Since the 1960's the Southern African Data Centre for Oceanography (SADCO) has performed the role of curating, archiving and disseminating South African (and later Southern African) marine data. For the past 40 years, the CSIR has served as the database agency responsible for "archiving, extracting and manipulating multi-disciplinary oceanographic information in the southern African region, in a professional, cost-efficient and user-friendly way, to the satisfaction of its clients and for the promotion of scientific and applied use of oceanographic data".
Over the past decade, the marine research and development landscape has changed considerably. With the South African government launching the Operation Phakisa Ocean Labs initiative to grow the ocean economy, there is new impetus in marine data management and information systems.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology has started the process of developing a national Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS) for South Africa. The vision is to have an interactive tool for improved decision-making, predictive modelling, research and public information.
Central to the planned OCIMS capability is data.
In response to this need, the Oceans and Coastal Research Directorate of the Oceans and Coasts Branch of the DEA is in the process of establishing the Marine Information Management System (MIMS). MIMS is intended to provide a repository and archive for South and southern African marine and coastal data from both monitoring and research efforts, and thus to provide a data module to support and service OCIMS.
The SADCO Steering Committee recognised that without significant investment and dedicated personnel, SADCO in its current form would not be able to serve the operational needs of MIMS or OCIMS and the broader user community. Thus, the steering committee decided to transition SADCO to a new data base agency that can sustain its activities in the long term and ensure that the data already accumulated in SADCO continue to be curated, maintained, disseminated, and preserved for the benefit of the nation and humanity.
The SADCO Steering Committee requested that DEA Oceans and Coasts propose to become the new data base agency for SADCO, capitalizing on its investment in MIMS. In collaboration with the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), DEA Oceans and Coasts wrote a proposal to become the data base agency for SADCO, retaining the core values under which SADCO was founded.
This proposal was accepted by the SADCO Steering Committee in May 2017 and over the next 2 years, SADCO will be transitioned to MIMS, and eventually MIMS will adopt the SADCO brand.
During this transition period, the SADCO will continue to function in its present form. The CSIR will continue to manage all data archiving and dissemination activities until MIMS becomes operational. Once MIMS is operational, there will be a phased transfer, where MIMS and SADCO run in parallel, and the SADCO system at the CSIR will gradually be phased out and MIMS will adopt the SADCO brand, becoming the new data base agency.