There is no commonly accepted definition of ocean science.

Ocean science includes all research disciplines related to the study of the ocean: physical, biological, chemical, geological, hydrographic, health, and social sciences, as well as engineering, the humanities, and multidisciplinary research on the relationship between humans and the ocean. Ocean science seeks to understand complex, multi-scale social-ecological systems and services, which requires observations and multidisciplinary and collaborative research.*

*Definition presented by the Expert Panel on Canadian Ocean Science in the report “Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the challenge, seizing the opportunity (Council of Canadian Academies, 2013)


Our work on Ocean Science

The IOC ocean science portfolio of activities are prioritized around four strategic themes or clusters: science in support of sustainability of ocean ecosystems in a changing environment; assessing and predicting ocean health and variations in ocean goods and services; responding to governments; and science for the unknown sea.

IOC activities on ocean science address: blue carbon, harmful algal blooms, acidification, deoxygenation, climate change, eutrophication/nutrients, marine engineering, plastics (marine), time series, modelling and predictions and multiple ocean stressors. 

Additionally, IOC contributes to building capacities in ocean science. In this regard, the Global Ocean Science Report 2017: The Current Status of Ocean Science around the World assessed for the first time the status and trends in ocean science capacity around the world. The report offers a global record of who, how, and where ocean science is conducted: generating knowledge, helping to protect the ocean health and empowering society to support sustainable ocean management in the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

The Global Ocean Science Report 2020: Charting Capacity for Ocean Sustainability (GOSR2020) addresses four additional topics: contribution of ocean science to sustainable development; blue patent applications; extended gender analysis; and capacity development in ocean science. 

The GOSR2020 is a resource for policymakers, academics and other stakeholders seeking to assess progress towards the sustainable development goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG target 14.a on scientific knowledge, research capacity and transfer of marine technology. The GOSR provides the information for the indicator for target 14.a as the proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of ocean science. GOSR2020 not only provides consistent reference information at the start of United Nations Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030), it evolves as a living product. The global community is given the online facility to submit and update data on the GOSR portal and consult data to regularly assess progress on the efficiency and impact of policies to develop ocean science capacity.  


Useful links:

IOC Ocean Science portfolio

Global Ocean Science Report 2020: Charting Capacity for Ocean Sustainability

GOSR Portal 

Global Ocean Science Report 2017: The Current Status of Ocean Science around the World