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Coastal and Ocean Data Management: Best Practices and Training for Non-Governmental Organizations 

COINAtlantic has noticed a range in capacity for and knowledge of data management practices within non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and that there is growing recognition of the importance of data management to achieve shared goals and a desire for training to increase in-house capacity. This project is meant to respond to this need. The goal of this project is to empower non-governmental organizations (e.g., community groups, ENGOs, industry associations, etc.) that carry out projects in marine and coastal environments in the Bay of Fundy, Scotian Shelf and the adjacent coastal areas of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with a best practices guide and training to increase organizational data management capacity. A initial survey was circulated to gather insights about data management capacity and interests to make sure the best practices guide and training responds to the needs of the NGO community.


Data management is a process that includes acquiring, validating, storing, protecting, and processing data to ensure accessibility and reliability for data users. For example, your organization may collect water quality data to assess the efficacy of harbour clean-up efforts or conduct seabird surveys to help evaluate the ecological health of marine and coastal areas. The data that organizations create is a valuable resource that supports action and change through evidence-based decision making. Data management can help mitigate the risk that data is lost and can support data sharing so that the value of your data is fully maximized over the short and long term.



An online survey was circulated during the preliminary research stage of the project to ensure the best practices guide responds to the needs of the ENGO community. Survey participants included maritime-based ENGOs, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) employees working with data related to marine environmental quality. Participants had varying knowledge of data management best practices and were involved in a number of data management activities including reporting, field work, analysis, and equipment management. The survey results gathered insight on existing knowledge of data management practices and capacity, identified areas of least proficiency and needs going forward, and assessed the level of interest in training workshops that COINAtlantic can develop.


A total of 27 participated in the survey. Survey results suggest that a best practices guide would be valuable in dealing with data management within ENGOs. The majority of participants stated they would be likely to use a data management best practice guide, and further there is existing interest in attending a webinar on the topic. All participants indicated their data management needs are expected to increase within the next decade, sparking a need for improved data collection, research, and organization. Participants suggested that more education and training materials could improve data management practices - particular interest was shown for data publishing, and data quality management. The majority of organizations share final product deliverables to a variety of external data sourcing channels, including academia; however raw data is more carefully guarded.


Results do not pinpoint a single area of least proficiency among participants. Instead, proficiency levels are dispersed. Participants attributed their areas of poor proficiency to lack of time and lack of knowledge. Survey results show approximately 50% of the participants’ organization either has a data management policy in place, or has one in the process of being developed. Participants’ organizations that do not have a data management policy in place pointed to not collecting enough data to benefit from a data management plan, not having the knowledge to begin development, and being unsure of the time commitment. Participants noted that those familiar with data management are often more interested in further education on the subject than those lacking in familiarity.

Learn more about the survey results in the survey results report.


Webinar Series

CIOOS Atlantic, Data Discovery and Contribution

Guest Speakers: Jeff Cullis, Alexi Baccardax Westcott, and Shen Molloy

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System

Guest Speakers: Ward Appeltans, Maria Cornthwaite, Pieter Provoost.


Research Data Management: From Plan to Preservation

Guest Speakers: Nichole DeMichelis, Robyn Nicholson, Tamanna Moharana from the Digital Research Alliance of Canada


Best Practices Guide, Reference Guide and Final Report


Following consultation from the ENGO community, the Guide is tailored to address knowledge gaps and support the development and implementation of ocean conservation and management activities. Information was assembled from COINAtlantic’s Coastal and Ocean Data Management Best Practices Webinar Series, and existing data management tools.

  • Download the Coastal and Ocean Data Management Best Practices Guide here.

  • Download the Project Final Report here.

  • Download the short Reference Guide here.


Reference Guide Preview:




COINAtlantic worked with the Clean Foundation on this project and we thank the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for their financial support. 

Learn how to share your data in the CIOOS Atlantic open access data catalogue and what CIOOS Atlantic can do for your organization. As Canada’s nucleus for ocean observing, CIOOS makes connections for a sustainable ocean future. CIOOS aims to foster partnerships and grow a powerful online platform that generates information, knowledge, and place-based solutions to advance our understanding of the ocean.

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) is a global open-access data and information clearing-house on marine biodiversity for science, conservation, and sustainable development. Learn about OBIS, its purpose, and what type of data is submitted to OBIS. The webinar will include information on how you can contribute to OBIS through OBIS Canada, including requirements for submitting data and metadata to OBIS.​​

Research data management, or RDM, is increasingly recognized as an important part of the research enterprise in all disciplines. With the introduction of the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, and the broad recognition of principles such as FAIR, it’s crucial for researchers to understand and adopt good RDM practices. And it’s not even all that hard! This workshop will give you an overview of the essentials of RDM, with tips, resources, and tools that you can begin to incorporate into your work right away. Topics included:

  • What is research data management, and why is it important.

  • What is a data management plan, and how can it help you.

  • What are some simple but effective steps you can take to manage data now so you are prepared to share or preserve your data later.

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If you are interested in learning more about this project, contact

Sea Turtle
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