Funding sustainability of the environmental in situ observing networks in Europe
The Copernicus In Situ Coordination team conducted a survey to analyse sustainability of in situ measurements and infrastructures for ocean, atmosphere and met services. The survey shows remarkable differences in the funding of observations and indicates a direct link between the source of funding and the funding sustainability. For most meteorological observations, the funds are provided sustainably by national institutions, while for most of atmospheric composition and ocean observations, the main bulk of funding comes from short-term or research projects and is claimed unsustained in the long term.
Snow-covered Etna. Copyright contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by ESA
The Copernicus In Situ Coordination team conducted a survey to analyse sustainability of in situ measurements and infrastructures for ocean, atmosphere and met services. The survey was conducted further to the findings of the Copernicus In Situ State of Play report, showing that many environmental in situ observations in Europe are potentially under threat due to unsustained funding.
A web-based questionnaire was circulated to operators of in situ observing systems relevant for Copernicus focusing on collecting information on funding sources and sustainability. Based on a total of 233 replies – 91 for ocean, 122 for meteorology and 20 for atmospheric composition an analysis of the funding source and sustainability has been carried out.
The survey shows remarkable differences in the funding of observations – 73% of meteorological observations are funded by institutional funds, for atmospheric composition this number is 45%, while for ocean observations institutional funds cover just above 28% of the total expenses. The remaining part of the observation activity involves support from external funds such as national and EU research projects or other funds (EU or private) in various combinations.
A similar marked difference is also displayed in the analysis of the funding sustainability. Among the meteorological observation networks who responded to the survey, 68% have sustained funding, 27% face some funding uncertainty in the near future, 3% have no funding today but expect funding in the near future, and 2% state severe funding problems. For ocean observations the picture is nearly opposite – 28% of the networks have sustained funding, 52% face imminent funding problems, 7% have no funding today but expect funding in the near future, 9% have severe funding problems, and 4% claim uncertain. For the atmospheric composition observations, the situation is similar to one of the ocean with 30% of the networks funded sustainably, 40% having funding problems in the near future, and 30% claim to have severe funding problems.
Conclusions from this funding sustainability survey are:
- The relatively high degree of sustained institutional funding for meteorological in situ observations clearly reflects the way the meteorological community is organised. In the countries of the networks surveyed, there is one dedicated meteorological service with national responsibilities and international commitments to contribute to the global meteorological observation network under WMO (World Meteorological Organization).
- Only around 30% of ocean and atmospheric composition in situ observations have sustained institutional funding, while the remaining part is dependent on external funding primarily linked to research funds (national or EU) with the degree of uncertainty and time limitation that this implies.
- The clear difference in the funding sustainability in the meteorological, ocean and atmospheric composition communities reflects the fact that the ocean and atmospheric composition communities, as opposed to the meteorological community, do not have the same national and international commitments to monitor the environment on a regular and operational basis, a majority of their observations are linked to research activities.
The Copernicus In Situ Coordination team is following up on the survey results with two activities started in 2019:
- Analysis of Copernicus’ potential to contribute to improving sustainability of key observing networks;
- Information campaign towards national funders on the importance of sustained in situ observations for the success of the Copernicus Services.
The report’s findings have already been shared with the members of both EUMETNET (European National Meteorological Services network) and EuroGOOS (European Global Ocean Observing System) and discussed at their respective General Assembly meetings. According to EuroGOOS, the report reflects key areas for concern and will provide a useful baseline document to underpin establishment of more sustainable networks for the future. As for the EUMETNET, it was noted that although meteorological networks seem to be more secured in the long-term this might evolve towards less sustainability with an increase of free and open data sharing, as many countries still apply fees for data access to ensure funding levels. It was recommended that the report should be updated regularly to track the situation.