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IODE Structure

The IODE structure has two levels: (i) coordination of data and information management at the national level; and (ii) the IODE programme structural elements.

1- Coordination of data and information management at the national level

Until the late 1980s oceanographic data were mostly managed in a centralized national facility, i.e. a National Oceanographic Data Centre (NODC). Data consisted mostly of research cruise data or research projects, provided by research scientists to the data centres in delayed-mode. The delay between the observation and the submission to the data centre could be days to years depending on the data type. Often data would be submitted to the data centre only when the scientist had finished with it, often when a scientific paper was published. The task of the data centre, once the data were received, was to assess the quality of the data through a number of tests and procedures (e.g. valid temperature readings). Data were then archived for use by other “secondary users”.

Today’s picture is very different. Since the development of operational oceanography and the establishment of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) the number of data types and volumes of data have grown greatly. In addition, many projects and programmes have developed their own data management systems, often without coordinating with existing NODCs. The national data centres are therefore often unaware of new data streams and these are often not included in the NODC data systems. In some cases when a project ends, large volumes of data were simply left unattended and have been lost.

It is therefore essential that, at the national level, all ocean observation and research is properly coordinated and a data management plan prepared as part of every initiative. The NODC should be involved during the drafting of these data management plans. The following key national outcomes can have a fundamental dependence on an effective national oceanographic management system and should be considered when developing the data management plan:

  • Detecting and forecasting oceanic components of climate variability and change,
  • Facilitating safe and efficient marine operations,
  • Managing marine resources for sustainable use,
  • Preserving and restoring healthy marine ecosystems,
  • Mitigating natural hazards, and
  • Support for the marine research community.
  • Ensuring national security,

The rapid expansion of the number and capability of observation platforms, the number of data types and the volume of data collected means that NODCs are unlikely to be able to take responsibility for the management of all data types. Data management at the national level will therefore often move from a single centralized centre to a distributed system composed of a number of data centres. These centres can be permanent or may be project-based and are thus limited in time.

In order to manage the distributed architecture it is recommended to establish a National Oceanographic Data and Information Coordination Committee composed of all stakeholders involved in data collection and management. The tasks of the Committee should be: (i) to identify all ocean observation and research activities at the national level and their data management needs; (ii) to agree on the distribution of responsibilities for data management responsibilities, and; (iii) to ensure the use of standard methods by all facilities involved in oceanographic data and information management. It is recommended that the National Oceanographic Data and Information Coordination Committee meets at least once a year and elects a Chair to coordinate and monitor the activities of the Committee. In view of the increasing complementarities and application of similar system and technological solutions, it is recommended that the coordination committee deals with both oceanographic data management and information (libraries) management. It is recommended that a national facility be assigned the role of IODE National Oceanographic Data Centre (NODC) and will form part of the IODE global network of NODCs.  In some cases it may be preferred to have more than one IODE NODC in a country (this may be the case in a federal state structure where each state or region has extensive autonomy).

More information on the tasks of an NODC can be found HERE

Increasingly individual projects, programmes, institutions and programmes establish their own data systems. This poses a risk for the loss of data if these projects or programmes are terminated or if individual scientists change jobs. In addition huge volumes of data managed this wasy do not reach the NODCs and are therefore not shared globally. To respond to this the IODE Committee, at its 22nd Session (2013) established the new structural element "The IODE Associated Data Unit". 

IODE-XXII also established the "IODE Global Data Assembly Centre" to facilitate cooperation in the JCOMM Marine Climate Data System (MCDS).

To formalize the different structural elements of IODE, the IODE Committee adopted Recommendation-XXII.17:

Recommendation IODE-XXII.17



The IOC Committee on International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange,


Acknowledging the important role and success of the IODE National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs) as key partners in realizing of the IODE objectives,

Welcoming the close and growing cooperation between IODE and JCOMM,


Noting with appreciation the considerable and sustained support by Member States in establishing and maintaining the National Oceanographic Data Centres,


Taking into account the considerable changes in information technology, the growth of ocean research and observation programmes and projects, and the ability of these projects to establish data systems,


Taking into consideration the adoption of the IODE Quality Management Framework through Recommendation IODE-XXII.[8.4], and Recommendation IODE—XXII.[8.2.3] on the establishment of IODE Associate Data Units,


Recommends the revision of the structural elements of IODE to include:

  1. (i)             National Oceanographic Data Centre (NODC)
  2. (ii)           IODE Associate Data Unit (ADU)
  3. (iii)          IODE Global Data Assembly Centre (IODE GDAC)

Instructs the Secretariat to communicate with current DNAs to determine the possibility of changing their status to NODC or ADU.

Recommends the OBIS nodes to become NODCs or ADUs.


Marine Information. Within the IODE programme, Marine Information Management (MIM) focuses on the implementation of national information management capacity. Within the framework of IODE a separate network of national marine information centres has not been developed. Instead IODE attempts to link together the many existing marine libraries and marine information centres that have been in existence for decades in IOC member states. During the past 20 years the importance of marine information management has been widely recognized at the national level and this has also been reflected in the increasing number of activities related to MIM in the IODE work programme.



2- IODE programme structural elements

Over the past 50+ years the IODE programme has grown substantially in terms of member states that have established national data management centres, but also in terms of activities. In order to manage these activities IODE has created a number of structural elements. The reason for this is simple: IODE is a programme owned by the IOC member states. Decisions regarding IODE are taken by the IOC Member States and mechanisms therefore need to be in place that allow all member states to discuss issues and make decisions by concensus. In some ways this creates heavy decision making mechanisms but on the the other hand it does allow ALL member states, small or large to have their say and participate in IODE.

The IODE Committee is the main management and decision making body of the IODE. Note however that IODE is a subsidiary body of the IOC so all decisions need to be approved by the IOC Assembly or IOC Executive Council. The IODE Committee when it meets every two years is composed as follows:

  • The Committee is chaired by two Co-Chairs. The decision to have two Chairs was taken to ensure that IODE can be represented at all essential meetings organized by IOC or other organizations. This would be difficult with just one Chair (who also has a full-time job at the national level!).
  • As shown in the diagram each management body of IODE has a membership (composed of experts designated by Member States or selected by the body itself) and a Chair or two Co-Chairs. This allows for the highest degree of ownership by Member States.

As mentioned above the IODE Committeeis responsible for the decision making (governance) of the IODE Programme. It generally meets every two years for a period of 4-5 days. During these meetings the Committee reviews progress during the past inter-sessional period and recommends necessary actions during the next inter-sessional period. The Committee can either make decisions by itself (if these decisions have no financial implication) which are called "resolutions" or it can make "recommendations" which need to be adopted by one of the IOC Governing Bodies (IOC Assembly or IOC Executive Council). Recommendations usually have financial implications. The output of an IODE Committee meeting is the "Summary Report", a comprehensive document that summarizes the discussions during the meeting and includes also the Resolutions and Recommendations. This document is adopted by the Committee during the last day of the meeting. The Committee also elects its two Co-Chairs (prior to IODE-XIX there was an IODE Chair and Vice-Chair. Since IODE-XIX there are two Co-Chairs).

The IODE Officers (2 co-chairs, Chairs of Groups of Experts, 2 Past Co-Chairs) are responsible for monitoring the follow-up of the work plan adopted by the IODE Committee. Most of the time they work by email but they also try to meet once a year to review progress and, as necessary, to decide on corrective actions. (see more here)

IODE Groups of Experts are small groups (up to 10 members) that provide expert advice to the IODE Committee. IODE currently has four such groups (see more here). The Groups elect their own Chair.

IODE Steering Groups are small groups (usually around 5 members) that manage projects.


© 2017, UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende, Belgium.  Google+