- From November 16 to 20, 2009, the International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) held a
workshop on “Formalizing the Network, Engaging the Mediterranean” at the Adriatico Guest
House of the UNESCO International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. The
workshop (aka “ICAN 4”) engaged 32 participants from 12 countries, representing 26
organizations and multiple areas of scientific and technical expertise. This meeting was a
follow-up to the successful 2008 workshop on “Federated Coastal Atlases: Building the
Interoperable Approach” (aka “ICAN 3”) held in Copenhagen, Denmark, as well as the 2007
workshop on “Coastal Atlas Interoperability” (aka “ICAN 2” in Corvallis, Oregon, USA) and the
2006 meeting “Potentials and Limitations of Coastal Web Atlases” (aka “ICAN 1” in Cork,
Ireland). ICAN 3 continued the momentum by identifying the additional opportunities for
partnering on coastal web atlas development throughout Europe, demonstrating the atlas
interoperability prototype to the European Environment Agency and its many partners, and
initiating the development of a long-term strategy and governance model for ICAN. ICAN 2
examined best practices for achieving interoperability between atlases, and led to the design of
a demonstration interoperability prototype using the metadata catalogues of two atlases. ICAN 1
examined state-of-the-art developments in coastal web atlases (CWAs) from Europe and the
U.S., shared several case studies and lessons learned, and established key issues and
recommendations related to the design, data requirements, technology and institutional
capacity needed for these atlases.
At the conclusion of ICAN 3 it was abundantly clear that ICAN had grown from a simple idea to
the cusp of a formal virtual organization, which had captured the interest of the European
Environment Agency (EEA), the European Commission, UNESCO, and several government
agencies, companies, non-governmental organizations, and universities. However, much more
work needed to be accomplished. Therefore, the activities of ICAN 4 included:
Discussions of final implementation structures for governance (including formal
procedures for receiving new members), technical activities, and continued
identification of funding opportunities, so that ICAN can formally incorporate as a
virtual organization (aka “community of practice”).
Presentations on emerging atlases in European countries (especially the Mediterranean)
and beyond that are making themselves relevant through policy, environmental and
socio-economic indicator work and related themes.
Continued progress on our ontology and semantic interoperability work, with an eye
also toward articulating the benefits of semantic interoperability at a broader scale to
non-specialists. In this we look forward to the advice and assistance of MMI and
SeaDataNet, as well as to the new NETMAR (Open Service Network for Marine
Environmental Data) initiative, which has already developed conceptual framework
documents in this area. To this end, we also:
o Held a small “workshop within a workshop” for atlas administrators on how to
become a new node in interoperability prototype.
o Initiated strategies on making further improvements to all those nodes
(according to the Shared Environmental Information Systems (SEIS) principles
of sharing information for multiple purposes, using data and systems that are
accessible and interoperable).
o Facilitated further work on partnerships, infrastructure and data exchange
formats, all with the overall objective of enabling the nodes to share and
communicate with each other, avoid duplication, and streamline information
Presentations and discussion of user issues, including better knowledge of our atlas
users, their needs, and on continued inventory, assessment, and evaluation of atlases.
To this end, we discussed as part of a small “workshop within a workshop” how to
improve the functionality of CWAs for general users, especially as the technology
continues to change.
Small group meetings on potential funding opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic
(European Union, US National Science Foundation and government agencies) in order
to continue the work of ICAN.
Initiation of plans for a major ICAN presence at Littoral 2010 in London (European
ICAN partners), as well as a standalone ICAN Americas meeting in Wisconsin, USA.
In addition, the ICAN workshop took place around a two-day Workshop on Maritime and
Coastal Information Systems, organised by the EEA’s Environmental Information and
Observation Network (EIONET), which was open to ICAN 4 attendees as well. The main
objective of this meeting was to inform the many participating countries of the EIONET
National Reference Centre (NRC) network and to allow for a first exchange of views on scope
and roles in the new formation for this entity. Four participants of ICAN 4 were invited to give
presentations at the EEA/EIONET workshop, which allowed EEA/EIONET to explore
collaboration opportunities as a result of ICAN’s emergence.
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) had originally awarded support for two ICAN
workshops, so there will be a 5th international workshop (aka ICAN 5), at the headquarters of
the UNESCO International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) in Oostende,
Belgium, August 31 to September 2, 2011. IODE will co-host CoastGIS 2011 in Oostende
immediately following ICAN 5. Objectives of ICAN 5 will include follow-up activities that we
did not have time to accomplish at ICAN 4, including:
Continued progress on our ontology and semantic interoperability work, but with an
eye also toward articulating the benefits of semantic interoperability at a broader scale,
Continued engagement and servicing of users of coastal web atlases, and on continued
inventory, assessment, and evaluation of atlases.
Revisiting the main recommendations of the ICAN 1, especially evaluating atlas impact,
and developing analysis and decision-support tools in atlases.
Forming proposal teams and submissions to the next available and appropriate NSF and
other grant competitions (e.g., NSF Partnerships for International Research and
Education, NSF Community-Based Data Interoperability Networks, NOAA, European
Framework Program, InterReg, and ESF ).
Exchanging lessons learned in spatial data infrastructure between the US, European
INSPIRE and other national and regional efforts.
Continued implementation and improvement of new governance, strategic planning,
and technical working groups.