"An Accessible Ocean" bridges the gap between science, policymakers and citizens

The sixth Ocean Decade Laboratory "An Accessible Ocean" on 10‑12 May 2022 focused on boosting the science‑policy nexus and co-design of ocean science and discussed how knowledge can be used to create much needed environmental changes.

The sixth Ocean Decade Laboratory started with a three-hour Core Event followed by over 20 Satellite Activities across the globe and ended with a Wrap-up on the third and last day. Over the course of three intense working days, participants discussed the relationship between the ocean science and policymakers and focused on three key questions that are essential for the future of the ocean and the planet:

1) What kind of knowledge is needed to support key ocean governance processes?
2) What does science offer in support of sustainability transformations?
3) What kind of science architecture is required to deliver relevant science to policy?

Stakeholders from 71 countries came together for this Ocean Decade Laboratory. Over half of the participants did not represent the science community but business, industry, NGOs or other parts of civil society.

Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Director of the German Development Institute (DIE) and one of the chairs of the Laboratory, reminded the participants of what is at stake. She said: "We are substantially falling behind in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations in 2015 and in our efforts to reduce global warming. The great transformation has to be accelerated – substantially accelerated."

Transferring knowledge into ocean policy is a challenging task. Even when a certain scientific community may be able to identify a problem – such as climate change or pollution in the Indian Ocean – this does not mean that politicians and decision‑makers use this knowledge in sustainable policymaking.

Joanna Post, Programme Management Officer at the Intergovernmental Support and Collective Progress Division (UN Climate Change), said: "The Paris Agreement 2015 really was a game changer in that sense. That policy [setting specific goals for reducing global warming] was based on the best available and recognized science as a driving force behind climate policy."

But, she added, scientists must also recognize the needs of policymakers. "It is a give and take", she said.

More than 20 Satellite Activities took place with discussions, workshops, and presentations of tools and projects, often on a local level. A very hands-on example of data sharing and how citizens can contribute to gathering knowledge about the state of the ocean was the presentation of the "Save the Waves" app. This is an application for smartphones that allows users to photograph "citizen-identified threats" on beaches. Initially created by surfers who wanted to warn each other about hazards along their favourite surf spots, this app is now increasingly being used by divers, fishers and other people who are interested in threats, pollution and hazards among coastlines. Even though the project was not created as a scientific data gathering initiative, it is an example of how people are fascinated by citizen science and data sharing on a basic level.

Sebastian Unger, second chair of this Ocean Decade Laboratory and Head of the Ocean Governance Research Group at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, summarized the importance of leaving no one behind in creating the future ocean we want. He said: "We need to have processes that create trust between science, policymaking and the people that are affected by those decisions on the ground".

If you missed the Ocean Decade Laboratory “An Accessible Ocean”, you can watch the full recording of the Core Event and Wrap-up here:

Core Event and Wrap-up.

 A video summary of the Core Event of the Laboratory is available here.