ESONET - The Vision

Virtual Institute of Scientific Users of Deep Sea Observatories

Second VISO Workshop 16 December 2010, Marseille (France)

ESONET is coming to an end, marked by the last ESONET yearly meeting that took place in Marseille (France) from the 13th to the 17th of December. The objective of this 2nd workshop was to ensure the continuity of the effort made by the ESONET-EMSO community, and to lead towards the construction of the observatories to help answering the questions and emergency actions mentioned during the 1st workshop. We also aimed at answering some questions related to the construction and the success of such a structure. You can find the agenda and the talks by clicking on the link VISO2_agenda.



The experience of EUR-OCEANS (EO) consortium, created as a follow-up structure of the EUR-OCEANS FP6 Network of Excellence (cf. presentation by Pierre-François Baisnée) is an important source of information for the ESONET/EMSO partners eager to create a permanent structure for ocean observatories. P.F. Baisnée presented pros and cons of consortium agreement (like EO) and legal personality, but insisted on the fact that those were only based on his own experience. In summary, a legal personality lets the ‘structure’ engage as such in projects (MoUs, agreements, contracts), when a consortium  required the signature of all Members (often unpractical). It can also greatly simplify administrative and financial coordination and eliminate obstacles impeding to specifically hire non permanent yet relatively ‘durable’ executive staff for the ‘structure’ at some Member Organizations. However, a consortium agreement has advantages regarding reluctance of some MOs to see new legal entities proliferate and/or engage in one, and they may feel they have more control on the structure and its staff. Moreover, the coordinating MO can provide ‘in-kind’ support for tasks that a legal entity would have to pay for. Finally, he gave advice on bottle neck that can occur: the Legal structure needs engagement of projects, English translation of statutes, willingness of MOs to engage and fund; a Consortium agreement needs a precisely describe governance, financial appendix, etc. to minimize later administrative load to manage the structure and to avoid revising the agreement (which was necessary in the case of EO).

Richard Lampitt then presented his point of view on the way towards an integrated sustained open ocean observing network around Europe. He highlighted the need to speak in one voice to have a better position for Brussels funding and national funding. An effective data management is necessary for a good link to user communities, and the integration of low atmosphere through the water column and to the bottom is essential. There are some opportunities for the future (GOOS, European Environment Agency, MyOcean, SeaDataNet, EMODNET, etc.) as well as framework programmes: FP7 Infrastructure (fixed point open ocean observatories) that will allow sharing experience within groups to have much longer and better integrated activity in the future, FP7 Environment (SOOFI “Sustained Open Ocean Frontier Initiative”) and FP8.that needs to be pushed forwards. The actions needed according to R. Lampitt are: respond to July 2011 capacities call, interact on FP7 Env. Call, engage with GISC (European Governmental Agency)/GMES, coherent approach to FP8, better links with industry, links outside Europe, paths to users.

NEPTUNE Canada is a loop cable infrastructure with all different observatories. Chris Barnes stressed the importance of international link as well as political frontiers. Physicists and biologists need to work together and not in competition. “We have to consider ourselves as a community without frontiers.”

Funding opportunities are coming up that will allow future expansion. Asking for money is a long process, and new topics might come meanwhile. C. Barnes advised us to explain what we are doing in term of societal benefits.

An example of participation to NEPTUNE Canada by European teams was presented by Laurentz Thomsen, who got a funding for the mobile system Wally which was first tested in 2009 in the sediment in Canada. The first deployment occurred in October 2009 with a crawler, a camera with 2 lights, ADCP, CTD, sensors (fluorometer, turbidity, microsensor, etc.). Wally can be directed through internet with a moving camera so we can decide where to go. This is an online observatory, with a decision taken on the spot. Biofouling problem was clarified.



These talks opened different topics of discussion, including the best way to speak in one voice as was mentioned on several occasions. It was clear that funding is easier to get when speaking in a coherent voice, which seems to be in a good process at least in term of “finding the right sites for our observatories”. However, publications are necessary for which we need good users. We also need to make sure that VISO and EMSO are not overlapping, and VISO could have a broader view and help EMSO to focus. In order to do so, VISO should be proactive and interact with other Networks of Excellence and programmes. There might be a danger of being too wise, by including little experiments that might weaken VISO. We need a document showing the success of what has been done so far. We also need to convince that we can organize ourselves so that the money will not be wasted by undefined projects. VISO should bring new ideas and does not need a lot of money.

The discussion on funding raised the importance of money for equipment and not only for observatories (installation of hardware).  The call next year for FP7 infrastructure initiative should be taken into account. A decision needs to be made about the ERIC and someone has to take the decision to lead before 2011. In North America, cooperation between WHOI, the University of Washington, etc. where the budget planning is made before the money comes out shows the vision and the capacity to commit. The next step here is to build an ERIC.

A first practical way to organize VISO would be to keep a scientific steering committee and an assembly, and further send reports. A list defining the role of VISO, EMSO and other organizations was defined during the session “after ESONET” following the 2nd workshop and will come further. The next step is to create and MoU. A draft will be prepared by the ESONET coordination team using the consortium agreement of ESONET NoE as a basis.

The question about the name for VISO was raised, as it is criticized by a majority of partners. It was in particular mentioned that the word “virtual” makes the organization weak, and the word “institute” does not reflect the network that we are actually building. However, VISO is now well known by the community as well as the EU and it might make it very confusing if we change it now. We could try to find another definition but keep the name. The name ESONET Vi (ESONET the Vision) was voted. However, not all partners were present and the question is still in discussion.


 The list of participants are available on VISO2_participants.