European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water-column Observatory
General Info


Rome, Italy

legal status



remote, physical, virtual

The European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water column Observatory (EMSO), currently participated by 8 Member States (Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, Norway, Greece, and Romania), is a unique marine multidisciplinary, Research Infrastructure based on distributed facilities, with the goal to observe , monitor and better understand the phenomena taking place within and below the oceans, their critical impact on the Earth, and the complex interactions between the geosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere and atmosphere, and address the major environmental challenges. Included in the ESFRI Roadmap from 2006, in 2016 EMSO reached the status of ERIC by acknowledgement of the European Commission . EMSO coordinates facilities including data, instruments, computing and storage capacity, of diverse and numerous scientific institutes and research centers in Europe, operating in key sites in European seas, from North East to the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, to the Black Sea, according to a common strategic framework promoting and driving advances in marine science and technology while enabling access to services provided by the facilities. Through the valuable contribution of 11 deep-sea observation systems along the water column and on the seafloor, constantly recording biogeochemical and physical parameters, and 3 test sites, EMSO makes available time series of Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) and other physical and environmental variables, following FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). EMSO delivers and offers data and services to a large and diverse group of users, from scientists and industries to institutions and policy makers, supporting studies and providing science-based information on global challenges, such as climate trends, marine ecosystem preservation, and marine geo-hazards generation. High-quality and timely marine environmental information will nourish mitigation and protection strategies in the face of significant challenges and threats, such as natural disasters, habitat loss, human and species migration, food security, etc. EMSO ERIC aims at becoming a world-class Marine Research Infrastructure providing high-quality information on the significance and the dynamics of the deep oceans and the water column, to address global ocean environmental challenges that affect the Earth System, and impact the welfare of society.
Total Investment 100 M€ Design Preparation 5,4 M€ Implementation 137,8 M€ Operation 20 M€/year Project Landmark 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024 2026 2028 2030 2032 2034 2036 2038 RM06 RM08 RM10 RM16 RM18 RM21 LA24
Roadmap Entry
as project: 2006
as landmark: 2016
Total investment
100 M€
Design Phase
Preparation Phase
5,4 M€
Implementation Phase
137,8 M€
Operation start
20 M€/year
EMSO ERIC assesses and evaluates the scientific, technological and socio-economic impacts through i) the compliance with the open access supporting excellent scientific and technological research, and data interoperability; ii) the delivery of scientific and technological results through the publication of scientific papers and data products; iii) the contribution to the Indicators of Good Environmental Status, in line with United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development; iv) the development of technologies enabling the expansion and enduring observation of the deep ocean; v) the development of interactions and collaborations with industry within the framework of innovation promotion and knowledge transfer. EMSO provides essential data to address a wide range of challenges and threats: climate dynamics, sea level rise, acidification of the oceans, loss of biodiversity, pollution including noise and plastic waste, degradation of habitats, natural disasters. Science-based information on the above mentioned processes greatly support the policies, the decision making process and the stakeholders strategies in the medium and long term for the sake of increasing the resilience capacity. Moreover, accurate information is needed to mitigate the effects of extreme events which shock the wildlife, the populations and the anthropic activities. EMSO ERIC has a strong technological feature because of the deep ocean environment's harshness with respect to the deployment and the long-term operation of observation facilities. The technological advancements have eased the systems operation but important efforts are still necessary to make data communication systems reliable, to develop sensors addressing variables now seen as critical (e.g., quicksilver presence/concentration), to increase the standardization level of the data acquisition for a smooth and rapid data publication and assimilation, to develop smooth services of information and knowledge. All these aspects are of interest to the marine technology industry, and - in general - of the blue economy.
Access services for EMSO play a multifaceted role in facilitating access to the regional facilities, providing support and training, coordinating activities, ensuring quality and inclusivity, and promoting awareness and engagement. EMSO's virtual access services encompass a robust data management e-infrastructure, adept at handling extensive datasets from diverse observatory platforms. Employing a distributed model, EMSO ERIC federates ERDDAP servers to seamlessly integrate data from multiple regional facilities into a centralized platform. This consolidation simplifies access and manipulation of multi-parameter data, eliminating the need for researchers to navigate multiple platforms while ensuring data integrity. Moreover, EMSO ERIC's commitment to harmonization and standardization, as outlined in the EMSO ERIC Metadata Specifications document, enhances interoperability across oceanographic data platforms. By providing intuitive data visualization tools, EMSO facilitates meaningful insights and exploration of its rich data resources, empowering researchers to leverage them effectively. Moreover, the EMSO Physical Access service allows researchers to access remotely and/or in-person the different Regional Facilities using a single entry point provided and managed by EMSO ERIC. Researchers can run experiments at the observation site or its surroundings with the support of the Regional Facility in the form of logistics, training, co-development and data provision. Researchers can install their own instruments, platforms or prototypes to be tested in real ocean conditions in order to evaluate their performance or to obtain data for scientific research. The option to access more than one Regional Facility in a single project is also provided, giving the researchers a wide range of options to test their ideas in different environments. EMSO ERIC provides funding to researchers for travel, shipping, sea operations, sensor calibrations and hardware/software adaptations needed to perform the experiment at the chosen observatory/ies.
S S H D I G I T E N E H & F P S E
EMSO closely cooperates with all the European Environmental Research Infrastructures since the beginning by joining the ENVRI Community and the Board of European Environmental Research Infrastructures (BEERi), which works since 2015 on common strategies, positions, policies and participations. BEERi acts as a forum to strengthen the unified voice of the ENVRI RIs as the environmental RIs are connected to each other through similar challenges in their planning, design as well as in their operations. Moreover, EMSO is strongly supporting the cooperation with marine RIs in the frame of some specific initiatives such as GEORGE project “Next generation multiplatform Ocean observing technologies for research infrastructures” and AMRIT project “Advance Marine Research Infrastructures Together”, as combined expertise and assets of Europe’s marine RIs can form a comprehensive and holistic framework for long-term, sustainable integrated marine observation. Strategically EMSO tries to influence this area of joint cooperation between RIs using publications in SCI journals with relevant impact; for example,i.e., The role of the marine Research Infrastructures in the European Marine Observation landscape: present and future perspectives, 2023, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1047251; Toward a Comprehensive and Integrated Strategy of the European Marine Research Infrastructures for Ocean Observations, 2020, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00180