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A Strategy for Improved Accessibility and Sustainability of the Low-Cost Ocean Technology Community

The “Lean, Mean, and Extreme” Team from the DOOS Accelerator.

From October 2nd to October 5th, the Ocean Discovery League hosted a workshop at the Collective Solution Accelerator held by the Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS). This accelerator was a four-day event focused on bridging communities within the deep-ocean observing space to develop action-oriented solutions. The accelerator was broken into five concurrently running Mini-Workshops (Cheap & Deep Technology, Deepening the Decade, Habitat Mapping, Ocean Mixing, and Seafloor Microbial Ecosystem Services). ODL hosted the technology-oriented workshop “Cheap & Deep Technology as a Means for Capacity Development.”

Our workshop had a star-studded group of fourteen technology users, developers, providers, program coordinators, and funders from six countries. We aimed to assess the current state of low-cost ocean technology, generate a set of common language and technical standards, prioritize gaps in access, and develop a roadmap of low-cost technology goals for sustained ocean observation. We had our work cut out for us, and off we went!

The three-day mini-workshop encompassed nine 1.5-hour sessions during which we churned through a wide array of topics, priorities, and activities. Workshop attendees spent most of the time interactively engaging with each other while discussing the material. The excitement and camaraderie in the room were palatable as we churned through our topics (and, coincidentally, many post-it notes). After three days of intense workshopping, we arrived at pages worth of invaluable notes, a concrete set of recommendations to the low-cost ocean community, and larger coordinating organizations, such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). We are in the process of consolidating these findings and conclusions in a publicly available white paper. While our results are too numerous to summarize in this short blog post, we wanted to review several early learnings.

  1. Communication: The disparate nature of the low-cost ocean tech community means we are using different definitions or standards. During our workshop, we focused on coming to a consensus on a set of language and standards, which started with the definition of “Deep” within the context of our field. Unlike hard-and-fast scientific definitions of “deep,” this is much more nuanced as it is highly relative and contextualized by access within user communities. For “deep,” we came to the consensus that it should be defined as “anything below diver depth (40 m) where access gets difficult, and system complexity otherwise increases.” When considering the definition of “low-cost,” there was an overwhelming consensus to move away from the term “cheap,” as it implies low quality. So much for the catchy slogan!

  2. Connecting the Community: We need to work to bring together the low-cost ocean tech community, from the providers to the users to funding bodies. We must bring all stakeholders together when creating best practices, technology designs, or visions for the future.

  3. Building Infrastructure: Our field is currently fragmented and siloed. Our workshop group recommended that we need an overarching program or coordinator to sew together all low-cost ocean tech efforts across the globe to ensure field longevity.

We generated ambitious goals during the workshop, but our collective enthusiasm and momentum remain strong to continue to push the boundaries in this field. Now is the time to put these words into action. We want to sincerely thank the “Lean, Mean, and Extreme” Team (our new name for the workshop). Workshop attendees were (by order of last name) Titus Cañete, Collin Closek, Christine de Silva, Carlos Dominguez-Carrió, Patrick Gorringe, Brian Kennedy, Kim Martini, Erika Montague, Breanna Motsenbocker, Kaitlin Noyes, Tim Noyes, Adam Soule, Sheena Talma, and Amy West.

Images from the “Cheap & Deep Technology as a Means for Capacity Development" workshop.

Image Credits: Jessica Sandoval, Brian Kennedy, Océane Boulais

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