Charting ocean science in the next decade | Compendium Coast and Sea

Charting ocean science in the next decade

Forty-five countries, responsible for 82% of the global ocean science publications over the period 2010–2018, contributed to the second edition of the Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR)[1]. The GOSR is a resource to chart and harness the potential of ocean science for addressing global challenges. It can inform strategic decisions related to funding for ocean science, reveal opportunities for scientific collaborations and foster partnerships for further developing capacity in ocean science. Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) contributed as co-chair of the editorial board, author and reviewer of the chapters.

The GOSR is the recognized method and repository of related data to measure progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 ‘Life Below Water’ and specifically target 14.a that focuses on strengthening ocean knowledge[2], as outlined in the UN Agenda2030. 

Data and information presented in the GOSR2020 and future editions will form part of the monitoring and evaluation process to track the progress in the objectives and goals of the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030), which kicks-off on 1 January 1 2021.

Ocean Science in Belgium:

  • Ocean science thrives when the people behind it thrive. There is a growing understanding of the critical role of the human component in the ocean science enterprise and in the science-to-management and science-to-innovation value chains. With approx. 140 researchers /million inhabitants, Belgium is among the top five countries in the world in terms of human resources in ocean sciences.
  • The scientific output of ocean science has tripled over the last 18 years from 40.000 peer-reviewed publications (2000) 120.000 (2017). Belgian marine researchers contribute approximately 700 publications, with an increasing proportion (54% in 2018) published in Open Access environment (versus 33% in 2008)
  • High impact in broad diversity of disciplines. Ocean science output in Belgium scores far above the world average (Average Relative Citation Rate ARC, a measure of impact) for the full range of disciplines and themes. Its ocean research is not highly specialised except for disciplines related to ‘Marine ecosystems functions and processes’ and ‘Ocean Health’.
  • Competitive ocean science is driven by international partnerships. Globally, international co-publications increased from 52% (2000-2005) to 61% in 2021-2017. Belgium is among the leading countries with more than 75% of its research output published with authors from 137 different countries.
  • Ocean science provides a crucial knowledge base for a sustainable blue economy and a sustainable development in general. Despite its relevance to society, and the efforts to step-up investments in scientific research and development towards 3% of countries gross domestic product (GDP), funding for ocean science is largely inadequate; this undermines the ability of ocean science to support the sustainable provision of ocean ecosystem services to society. Belgium spends close to 3% of its GDP on Research and Development (GERD, target 9.5 of the UN Agenda2030). Belgium is one of the fastest growing ocean economies in the EU, and has done important efforts to scale-up funding and investments in ocean science over the last years.

The Compendium for Coast and Sea, a collective effort by the marine research and innovation community in Flanders and Belgium, is a pioneer in charting ocean sciences since 2008. It serves as ‘best practice’ for charting ocean sciences in the global ocean community. Detailed methodology, facts and figures, and analyses can be consulted here.

The GOSR2020 builds on the success of the first edition in 2017, covering additional topics such as the contribution of ocean science to sustainable development, science applications as reflected in patents, gender analysis and capacity development in ocean science. It will guide ocean science actors, support the involvement of all countries in the Ocean Decade and help to remove barriers related to gender, generation and origin for all participants. It will inform the discussions and deliberations of international conventions and policy forums such as the UNFCCC, the 2015 Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


[2] SDG 14.a.: ‘Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology (TMT), in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries’.