Appendix 6.8 Additional research questions.

  • This section describes in more detail the areas in which more work is required, in particular specific outstanding research questions related to the geospatial foundations of ocean accounting; ecosystem condition and services; valuation of ocean assets and services; use cases for Ocean Accounts; enabling factors for ocean accounting; and tools and methods for ocean accounting. The questions listed below represent a synthesis of submissions to date from the authors of this Guidance.

6.8.1 Geospatial foundations of Ocean Accounts

  • What is the necessary minimum scale for analysis in the accounting system (how does this intersect with needs for decisionmakers and researchers)?

  • What is the best way to represent/deal with the depth profile of the ocean from a geospatial perspective (and how to associate the indicators/metrics in the accounting system with depth)?

6.8.2 Ecosystem condition and services

  • What are the key, initial, bare minimum set of ecosystem condition measures that should be evaluated at a global level for the oceans?

  • Similarly, what are the key, priority ecosystem services for the oceans that should be evaluated at a global level in the accounting system?

  • What are the potential relationships between prioritized condition measures and prioritized ecosystem services (not to do actual analysis, but to ensure we are collecting relevant matching “sets” so that analyses can be done?)

  • How do we represent areas of supply and demand for ecosystem services – for example, is it where fish are caught, who catches them, where they are landed, where they primarily feed, where they nurse, or some weighted combination?

  • The UN must work together with interested Member States National Statistics Offices, data producers (of all types), data managers, infrastructure experts, algorithm developers, and application providers to support the development of a geo-spatial platform for implementing Ocean Accounts.

  • This platform should take into consideration the principles highlighted within the UN Environment concept paper for a Digital Ecosystem for the Environment and GEO’s Knowledge Hub in order to provide actionable evidence and maximise ownership, participation, co-design and reusability of the solution. 

  • There are a number of ongoing initiatives in the ocean and Earth observation domain which are related to the geospatial foundations of ocean accounting. While these are not exclusively research and development initiatives, there is an opportunity to join efforts in order to work on areas which can benefit the understanding of how best we can apply new concepts in geospatial infrastructures, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and Interoperability to Ocean Accounting.

  • How valuable can Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning be for Ocean Accounting? How can we specifically combine cloud technology, Artificial Intelligence and data science to address our objectives and develop a set of Ocean Accounting products?

  • There are multiple programs which are providing opportunities to study how best to bring together the vast amount of Earth observation data with advances in technology (storage, discovery and analysis). There is nevertheless a gap in the application of this new technology to the ocean domain. There is therefore an opportunity to engage with these programs (at both research and operational level) to develop specific geospatial solutions for Ocean Accounting. In addition to what described in Section 4, some (non-exhaustive) examples include:

  • AI for Earth: This initiative aims at making access to powerful Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology more practical for scientists and environmental researchers. In doing this, the initiative also supports users in making large datasets ready for AI for processing as well as assists in the development of AI and Machine Learning algorithms.

  • REV Ocean: In recognising that data-driven innovation and research for the marine domain is far behind the one done for land applications, the Ocean Data Platform is an initiative to establish a global, unifying ocean data platform to enable unbiased research and facilitate a data-driven debate, leading to better decision-making and enable more successful conservation and utilization of ocean resources. The objectives of the data platform are to: 1) Contribute to data liberation from source systems and remove proprietary silos; 2) Contextualize the data in a common format to enable cross-domain analytics and visualizations, and; 3) Make data available through open, high performing and well documented APIs to make it as easy as possible to access and build applications.

  • Earth on AWS:[3] In collaboration with GEO, this initiative provides free credits to projects using Earth observation datasets to support environmental and development goals. The cloud services include the hosting, processing and analysis of large geospatial data sets for non-commercial purposes, prioritizing projects that make use of open satellite data.

  • Data Cubes: The value of Earth observation satellite data is still underutilised despite modern computing and analysis infrastructures. Data Cubes provide a solution to streamline data distribution and management for providers while simultaneously lowering the technical barriers for users to exploit the data to its full potential. While many Data Cubes are being developed with the objective of providing solutions for land-based applications, there is a need to further advance the application of this concept to the ocean domain. This thematic could be further analysed together with the Open Data Cube project and its partners.

  • Open SDG Data Hub: As for Ocean Accounting purposes, to fully implement and monitor progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, data and statistics needs to be accurate, timely, sufficiently disaggregated, relevant, accessible and easy to use. The Open SDG Data Hub promotes the exploration, analysis, and use of authoritative SDG data sources and provides an interface to retrieve data at national level through an open interface. How can the Ocean Accounting community take stock of this to discover, understand, share and communicate data products?

  • Ultimately, it is important to focus research and development activities on how we can build an Ocean Accounting geo-spatial platform, which can integrate different types of Earth Observation data (e.g. remote sensing, to in-situ, to modelling), with other economic and social science datasets (e.g. from fish catches to vessel traffic information), from various sources (e.g. from satellite, to national census, to citizen science), make use of cloud technologies to ease and rationalise discoverability, access and use and, exploit advances in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning algorithms and techniques to analyse and process the datasets?

6.8.3 Valuation of ocean assets and services

  •  What are the recommended approaches for valuing assets and services that can be done on a global level?

  • Along these lines, how can we make use of better benefit transfer and meta-analyses to be able to fill gaps in valuation so that we have a reliable global dataset?

  • Which are the beneficiary groups that we should focus on for valuation in the accounting system (e.g., extractors, consumers, non-consumptive users)?

  • How do we account for the impact of subsidies and management systems on values of assets and services if try to create a global estimate?

6.8.4 Use cases for Ocean Accounts

  • How should practical use cases for ocean accounts be classified, for the purposes of compiling a coherent and modular set of case studies, and more broadly?

  • What specific types of government decisions about oceans can be informed by ocean accounts, and how?

  • How can ocean accounts support the compilation of indicators and other reporting information supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators?

  • How can ocean accounts support the development, monitoring and assessment of nationally determined contributions and other commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change? 

  • How can ocean accounts support the design and implementation of marine spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management?

  • How can ocean accounts support the design and implementation of national strategies for ocean-based economic development, including sector specific development strategies (fisheries, tourism, etc)?

6.8.5 Enabling factors for ocean accounting

  • The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development ( provides an important opportunity to build on the current interest, need for and momentum for Ocean Accounting. An effort has to be undertaken to include Ocean Accounting within the priorities of the UN Decade, as the investments made towards the implementation of such a framework will also benefit and further enable the establishment of solid methodologies for the monitoring and reporting of SDG-14 indicators. 

  • One of the most critical enabling factors for the implementation of the Ocean Accounting framework is Capacity Building. Access to geo-spatial platforms, large volumes of Earth observation, economic and social science data, innovative use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms and techniques will be ineffective should these stakeholders not be proficient with the basic tools.

  • This Guidance document should therefore also serve as platform to understand the capacity building needs of Member States and their National Statistic Offices. From science, to data access management, to technological tools and methods, the process initiated by this document should be seen as a vehicle for the definition of a capacity building plan for Ocean Accounting needs within Member States.

6.8.6 Tools and methods

  • It is essential for the Ocean Accounting community to recognise the important role social sciences can offer in management and decision making for our global seas and coasts.

  • Marine Social Science must be considered an important, integral and substantial contribution for understanding the human dimension of ocean and coastal policy for any government agency (Bennet, 2019). Marine Social Science offers insights for the planning and decision making of ocean-focussed policies at local, national and global level, from documenting the social context, to assessing the impacts of ocean related conservation/management/development activities on humans. It is therefore important to assess how the Ocean Accounting framework can include marine social science in its process.

  • What is the relevance of each Ecosystem Biodiversity Variables and Essential Ocean Variables for Ocean Accounting purposes? What is the weight of each parameter and how critical are these variables? There is a need to evaluate in detail the different classes of parameters, their availability at national, regional and global level, and how these can be integrated within the overall Ocean Accounting framework.

  • How can we apply disruptive technology, entrepreneurship, and open innovation to develop new tools and methods for Ocean Accounting purposes? How can we create an environment where science, technology, social science, and government (NSO) communities come together to co-create tech-enabled solutions for Ocean Accounting?


Global Ocean Accounts Partnership, 2019