The ocean is the largest ecosystem on our planet, regulating change and variability in the climate system and supporting the global economy, nutrition, health and wellbeing, water supply and energy. The coastal zone is home to the majority of the world population; dependency on the ecosystem services provided by the ocean is likely to increase with population growth. The ocean was once thought to be a vast and indefinitely resilient compartment of the Earth system, able to absorb practically all pressures of the human population, from resource exploitation to fisheries and aquaculture development to marine transport. However, according to the First World Ocean Assessment, 1 our civilization is running out of time to avoid the detrimental cycle of decline in ocean health that will have dramatic repercussions on the ability of the ocean to keep providing the support we need. To achieve global sustainability and adequate stewardship of the ocean, as called for in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), ocean science is crucial to understand and monitor the ocean, predict its health status and support decision-making to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
The IOC-UNESCO Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR) aims to provide a status report on ocean science. It identifies and quantifies the elements that drive the productivity and performance of ocean science, including workforce, infrastructure, resources, networks and outputs. The report is intended to facilitate international ocean science cooperation and collaboration. It helps to identify gaps in science organization and capacity and develop options to optimize the use of scientific resources and advance ocean science and technology by sharing expertise and facilities, promoting capacity building and transferring marine technology. As the first consolidated assessment of global ocean science, the GOSR assists the science-policy interface and supports managers, policy-makers, governments and donors, as well as scientists beyond the ocean community. The GOSR offers decision-makers an unprecedented tool to identify gaps and opportunities to advance international collaboration in ocean science and technology and harness its potential to meet societal needs, address global challenges and drive sustainable development for all.
There is no commonly accepted definition of ocean science; the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea does not provide a definition of marine scientific research. For the purpose of this report, ocean science is considered to be a combination of disciplines classified into eight categories that cover integrative and interdisciplinary strategic research areas often recognized as high-level themes in national and international research strategies and policies (Figure ES1). This classification enables global comparisons and interdisciplinary analyses in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The report draws on a range of information sources. In addition to tailored questionnaires developed for the GOSR, ocean science output data (bibliometrics) by Science-Metrix and supplementary resources (e.g. web-based assessments and reports produced by intergovernmental organizations) were compiled to form the data set for the GOSR analysis.