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The Bjerknes Centre is a collaboration on climate research, between the University of Bergen, Uni Research, the Institute of Marine Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre.

Ocean view, Cape Town. Photo: Oda Eiken

SOCAT Version 3 – Developing ocean research through the means of trust

Transparency and trust are the most important reasons for SOCAT’s success, and this type of network will become more important for further research on the marine carbon cycle.

Are Olsen, one of the founders of the database, expressed this important detail in the context of the launch of the third version of SOCAT (The Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas). The database includes 14,5 million surface ocean CO2 values collected from the global oceans and costal seas between 1957 and 2014.

- The trend has been that scientists kept their data concealed until their article was published, and frequently also longer than that. SOCAT is helping to reverse such behaviour, Olsen argues.

The Global Carbon Project uses the database in their annual estimates of carbon emissions and uptake, and this global recognition is one of the reasons why researchers now want to contribute with data to the CO2-Atlas. Previously, founders of the database had to ask researchers to participate.


Mutual trust

The way SOCAT is structured is unique. One of the most important components of its success is trust. The project is a two-way street where both parties benefit from the collaboration. Scientists are given the possibility to contribute when their data is used in publications and the database is accessible to all. 

- Scientists want to gain recognition for their work, and this influences scientists to improve their methods of measuring. More precise measurements will also improve the database, Olsen explains.

SOCAT is accessible to everyone online, and this open access has lead to a few incidents where scientists who have collected measurements have not been properly credited in some publications. - In order to avoid this problem, we ask our users to contact researchers who have collected data that are critical to the science and invite them to take part in their studies, Olsen explains. He goes on to say that SOCAT is in dialogue with scientific journals to make them aware that proper crediting is a criterion that should be included in the peer review when data from SOCAT are used.


Sharing knowledge

The data are subjected to a thorough evaluation before they are incorporated in the database. This process secures the quality of SOCAT.

- We need to become less afraid of sharing our knowledge and data, and rather focus on enhancing the quality and scope of our research. There is greater possibility to build a qualitatively strong and extensive knowledge base when we collaborate. We hope that scientists become inspired by the success of the SOCAT model to develop more open and collaborative fields of research, Olsen argues.

SOCAT continues to grow and in order to streamline the process, an interactive system will be launched next year. It gives each researcher access to uploading their measurements. This makes the development of the database easier and more efficient. New versions of SOCAT will be launched once a year, starting June 2016.

More information about SOCAT: http://www.socat.info/