Julia Vera, Seascape Belgium
The public stakeholder consultation towards Blue-Cloud Strategic Roadmap to 2030 has reached an important milestone: contributions have been gathered from nearly 100 stakeholders to shape policy recommendations towards evolving Blue-Cloud as a thematic, cloud-based Open Science ecosystem for marine research into the future. Blue-Cloud can play a significant role in connecting and mobilising a thriving community of practice within the marine community that contributes to harmonising tools and methods to support Ocean Big Data analytics and modelling in support of research of Oceans, seas and inland waters, leveraging cloud technologies and Artificial Intelligence towards that end.
The Blue-Cloud Project is about to conclude its second round of stakeholder consultations towards building the Blue-Cloud Roadmap to 2030 – the vision and strategic plan that will guide its further development and evolution into the medium and longer-term future.
Led by Seascape Belgium, Trust-IT Services and MARIS, this second phase of stakeholder dialogue ran between June 2021 and March 2022 and encompassed a public consultation (an online survey with 82 responses) and targeted interviews with key stakeholders from research institutes and infrastructures, European and global Ocean observing and data management initiatives, Blue Economy and policy representatives, EOSC related initiatives and other groups, as well as bringing in feedback from participants engaged in the Blue-Cloud Hackathon.
More power to cloud-based Open Science, please!
The consultation has looked, amongst other topics, into the added value that (current and potential) target users are expecting to get from Blue-Cloud. When asked about the core functionalities that are most sought in Blue-Cloud, marine scientists & researchers clearly highlighted the following: the possibility of accessing a wealth of marine data, from across existing services, through a single-access point without needing to download it to their own computer; the possibility to access and use a greater range of analytical software to process data; and the possibility of running analyses using Blue-Cloud’s computing power score highest amongst users. Based on these responses, “no need to download data; no need to buy new software; no need to buy an expensive computer” could be the punchline of what users are expecting from Blue-Cloud. Unsurprisingly, when asked “what else would you like Blue-Cloud to deliver?”, users seem to respond, “more of the same, but in larger quantities!” However, other noteworthy demands arise from the consultation, such as training and support in the application of Artificial Intelligence, a set of pre-loaded, open Ocean models that could be further used to provide context to data analyses run by researchers, as well as supporting visualisation tools enabling easier exploitation of analytical results. All these hint potential ways in which Blue-Cloud could evolve to enhance its value to the marine community.
Service performance, reliability of services and resources, know-how: the must-have for open science
Another interesting insight is what users deem important when considering adopting Blue-Cloud’s services. Service quality, confidence and long-term commitment are relevant considerations that come forward in the form of demands for INSPIRE compliant Open data, a guarantee of service performance and reliability and assurance of service sustainability in the long run.
Respondents are confident that the higher scientific productivity triggered by web-based Open Science can open considerable opportunities for increasing knowledge and understanding of marine ecosystems; enhancing ocean modelling and prediction capabilities; broadening our understanding of human interdependencies with the ocean; developing a sense of ocean citizenship and promoting international collaboration. However, an overwhelming majority of responses signal lack of resources (time, funding – 74%) as a key factor preventing participants from more intensively engaging in Open Science. Lack of know-how is also identified as a relevant barrier (26%) to this effect.
Shedding light on the road ahead
The consultation has confirmed a broadly shared aspiration of the marine community to advance towards a European cloud-based data space that provides access to a thriving portfolio of analytical, simulation and visualisation capabilities underpinned by seamless access to a wealth of FAIR, transdisciplinary ocean and freshwater data, enabling Open Science to deliver knowledge, collaboration, innovation, science-based policies, public awareness and citizenship for a safe, healthy, productive, predictive and transparent Ocean, in support of the EU Green Deal and the UN Agenda 2030.
Qualifying and further specifying Blue-Cloud’s contribution to that vision will be the core objective of Blue-Cloud’s Strategic Roadmap to 2030. More concretely, the consultation has helped to shape Blue-Cloud’s potential role as a trusted space and community of practice within the marine community that contributes to harmonise tools and methods to support web-based Open Science - including Ocean Big Data analytics and modelling - leveraging cloud technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) towards that end. Delivering on this role would contribute to ongoing efforts to advance the marine data space to support a future EU Digital Twin of the Ocean and to deliver on the objectives of the G7 Future of Seas Initiative and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
In Summer 2022, the Blue-Cloud project Partners and Experts will come together to reflect on these results, further arming Blue-Cloud’s Draft Strategic Roadmap with the high-level messages and policy recommendations that will shape the Blue-Cloud Strategic Roadmap to 2030. The final roadmap will integrate additional input from synergies being established with other European projects and initiatives. It will be released for wider dissemination at Blue-Cloud’s Final Conference.