Creating and Using Data Portals to Support Ocean Planning: Challenges and Best Practices from the Northeast United States and Elsewhere
As more ocean plans are developed and adopted around the world, the importance of accessible, up-to-date spatial data in the planning process has become increasingly apparent. Many ocean planning efforts in the United States and Canada rely on a companion data portal–a curated catalog of spatial datasets characterizing the ocean uses and natural resources considered as part of ocean planning and management decision-making.
Data portals designed to meet ocean planning needs tend to share three basic characteris- tics. They are: ocean-focused, map-based, and publicly-accessible. This enables planners, managers, and stakeholders to access common sets of sector-speci c, place-based information that help to visualize spatial relationships (e.g., overlap) among various uses and the marine environment and analyze potential interactions (e.g., synergies or con icts) among those uses and natural resources. This data accessibility also enhances the transparency of the planning process, arguably an essential factor for its overall success.
This paper explores key challenges, considerations, and best practices for developing and maintaining a data portal. By observing the relationship between data portals and key principles of ocean planning, we posit three overarching themes for data portal best practices: accommodation of diverse users, data vetting and review by stakeholders, and integration with the planning process. The discussion draws primarily from the use of the Northeast Ocean Data Portal to support development of the Northeast Ocean Management Plan, with additional examples from other portals in the U.S. and Canada.