Dissemination events and outreach

IPOS Real World Labs: A Beacon of Hope for Ocean Sustainability


ERC Tradition researcher Leopoldo Gerhardinger has recently contributed to a side event during the 32nd General Assembly of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO). He argued for the inclusion of Real World Lab in the core strategy for advancing the International Panel on Ocean Sustainability (IPOS) implementation process. The session can be viewed on UNESCO’s youtube channel.

Ocean Science Day 2023 – General Assembly Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. IPOS Labs presented at min 31.

As we stand at the crossroads of ocean sustainability challenges, the need for extraordinary levels of cross-sector cooperation has never been more apparent. The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science provides us with a platform to transform commitments into tangible actions, bridging socio-ecological divides and highlighting the ocean’s integral role in sustainable development.

In this context, IPOS has been making strides in fostering dialogues and collaborations. In March 2023, the “Bridging Shades of Blue” workshop by IPOS in Barcelona began essential dialogues, bringing together marine social scientists, policy practitioners, and small-scale fishers from different parts of the world. This workshop underscored the importance of diverse knowledge, interdisciplinary research, and the inclusion of historically sidelined actors in decision-making.

Recognizing the intricate nature of the ocean system and the multitude of stakeholders, IPOS understands that a single roadmap for global ocean sustainability is insufficient. Our navigational charts must be multifaceted, representing various scenarios and pathways for ocean sustainability at multiple levels. Addressing immediate concerns is necessary, but outlining long-term priorities and strategies is equally vital. A synthesis paper of the workshop report (here) will soon feature in the Coastal Management journal.

The Birth and Role of Real-World Labs for Ocean Sustainability

The IPOS core team, together with an increasing body of ocean sustainability scholars and practitioners, envisage a solution in the form of Ocean Sustainability Real World Labs. These Labs, being dynamic and flexible, provide a consistent sustainability research approach that values epistemological diversity. They align with the Ocean Decade’s call for a vibrant global stakeholder forum, sharing potential synergies with UNESCO’s Media and Information Literacy and Critical Ocean Literacy programs and principles.

As IPOS initiates the co-design phase of the IPOS Labs, they draw inspiration from the UNESCO IOC Ocean Decade Laboratories and recent case studies on Ocean Sustainability Labs. For instance, Labs have proven instrumental in empowering early career Ocean professionals in unveiling opportunities to transition Brazil’s Blue Economy towards environmentally sustainable and socially equitable pathways. They have also guided the deployment of New Coastal Protection Strategies along the North Sea coastline in Germany.

The Labs serve as a crucial bridge between ocean knowledge and decision-making, seamlessly integrating with the seven Ocean Decade Laboratories. Within the UN Ocean Decade, these Labs can be invaluable, blending scientific research, policy-making, and societal engagement in co-design, co-production, and co-evaluation cycles. By fostering shared responsibility and collective action, these Labs are critical in achieving the Ocean Decade’s ambitious objectives.

From local communities to national governance, regional alliances, and global initiatives, the IPOS Labs aim to co-construct and identify best practices, scenarios, and pathways for transforming how ocean knowledge is used in decision-making interfaces with a focus on the constellation of global environmental assessments (such as IPCC, IPBES, WOA, GEO, etc).

A Call to Action

In conclusion, as we balance formidable challenges with remarkable potential, ERC Tradition researcher called the ocean science community to channel our collective knowledge into sustainable actions for our oceans’ health; to empower the IPOS and other Ocean Sustainability Labs to leverage the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science as a springboard for enduring, transformative change.

The presentation of the IPOS Real World Labs concept by ERC Tradition researcher Leopoldo Gerhardinger, in the session of UNESCO’s IOC General Assembly, is a call for strengthened commitment of the global ocean science community towards transformational sustainability science. The Ocean Science Day and the scope of the IPOS parallel session, as part of the 32nd session of the IOC Assembly, further highlight the importance of these initiatives. The IPOS Real World Labs stand as a beacon of hope, guiding us toward a sustainable future for our oceans and our planet.