Blue-Cloud 2026 Project Coordinator Sara Pittonet Gaiarin (Trust-IT Services) was invited to join the "Economist Impact - World Ocean Summit & Expo", more specifically the panel "Combining data to unlock better ocean health", moderated by Brian Helmuth (Proteus Ocean Group). We invite you to read below the "Blogpost" from our coordinator with insights on what was discussed during the panel.

The World Ocean Summit is taking place these days in Lisbon. Being a business event organised by the Economist Impact group, the Summit gathers mainly an audience of business and industrial actors. On the first day, the organisers have brought Science to Industry, and the narrative thread was prominently around Ocean Data and How ocean science can benefit from a new approach to ocean data. As coordinator of the Blue-Cloud2026 initiative I had the pleasure to join a panel titled “Combining data to unlock better ocean health” and I am glad to share my takeaways.

Data is the new driving force of almost any business, and industry actors operating in the oceans and seas produce - directly or indirectly - tons of data which are still too rarely shared. On the other side, the research community is strongly reluctant in receiving and using industry data due to the lack of quality and standardised approach in ingesting data into data management applications. Industry data are not FAIR, and there is still a long way to go.

But the demand of data is huge. There are never enough data, and there are never enough tools and software to turn data into valuable information. There is also a very few understanding of the potential of data. Ellie Mackay is a Cambridge University research scientist who now works as a professional science communicator and advocate of ocean data literacy. Her company, Ellipsis Earth, harnesses cutting-edge technology to accelerate and optimise the use of real-world environmental data in decision-making to drive lasting, targeted and successful impact. One of the main issue her company faces is understanding from customers what they need the data for. Having a clear understanding of the specific business objectives is fundamental to provide exact data, in the exact time frame, in the proper format, and visualising them in a useful way. There is also a gap in language and semantics: if the FAIR principles gave researchers a common “language” to interpret the quality of data, when dealing with industry even terminology is confusing or contradictory: what does “millions of plastics” mean?

Kendra MacDonald, chief executive officer of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, introduced the concept of “data as a service”: this is very close to the Data Federation approach that Bue-Cloud is bringing forward, producing a model for free access to quality ocean and seas datasets that can be re-used by research and non-research users, but also turned into data products for immediate ingestion into applications. And therefore the hope and push of Anya Waite, chief executive officer and scientific director of the Ocean Frontier Institute, Canada, for more data flows - not just datasets - as continuous, trusted data information that thanks to the work of Research institutes and Blue Data providers can be made at disposal of the marine community at large. It is exactly what Blue-Cloud is doing by working on producing workbenches on Essential Ocean Variables - temperature and salinity, oxygen and chlorophyll, environmental information - that will be fundamental to produce models and also cross-test the quality of other data types that can be introduced to design, for instance, Digitaltwins applications.

Ocean industry could also become a mainstream provider of huge amounts of datasets that could complement the research offer. But let’s suppose we manage to educate and guide business actors in providing accurate, quality and interoperable data, how can we convince them in sharing data, even more in open access? It can be an expensive activity, and industry is reluctant in sharing data considered “sensitive” (such as data on speed of wind collected by wind-turbines or the type of engine of a vessel responsible for a certain amount of CO2 released on water). The answers are two: on one side the models and forecasts that research institutes, start-ups and big data analytics providers can offer have much more value than the privacy of the row data, as highlighted also by Ana Patrícia P. M. Oliveira, an Earth-observation expert interested in data-driven applications for climate change adaptation. The second answer comes from policy: we need regulations that force industry players to share their data.

It came out very clear - once more - that no business will exist if we don’t take serious actions towards the health of our oceans and seas. I personally find this reassuring: if industry needs healthy oceans to reach its market objectives (a seaweed farmer cannot grow seaweed in the Mediterranean since it’s too polluted), we might have more chances to move towards restoring our oceans and taking care of them.

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