ICAN is a project of the
International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange Programme

ICAN is a community of practice of organizations who have been meeting since 2006 to scope and implement data interoperability approaches to coastal web atlases (CWAs). In 2013 ICAN became a project of UNESCO IOC´s International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Programme. The mission/strategic aim of the IODE ICAN project is to share experiences and to find common solutions to CWA development (e.g., user and developer guides, handbooks and articles on best practices, information on standards and web services, expertise and technical support directories, education, outreach, and funding opportunities, etc.), while ensuring maximum relevance and added value for the end users. The long-term view is for global-level operational interoperability which will evolve as the ICAN project members strive to increase awareness of the opportunities that exist for increased coastal and marine data sharing among policy makers and resource managers as strategic users of a CWA. ICAN members seek to play a leadership role in forging international collaborations of value to the participating nations, thereby optimizing regional governance in coastal zone management. A major goal is to help build a functioning digital atlas of the worldwide coast based on the principle of shared distributed information. We will go about this by organizing a cooperative interoperability network for the integration of locally-maintained CWAs as the premier source of spatial information about coastal zones throughout the world. We will do this by developing community-held constraints on mapping and data distribution conventions to maximize the comparability and reliability of information about our coasts. This is done to provide a basis for rationally-informed discussion, debate and negotiation of sustainable management policies for our societies, nations and people throughout the world. This has tremendous potential to be relevant for global spatial data infrastructures, marine spatial planning and related projects around the world. View our interoperability prototype at ican2.ucc.ie. Background on this prototype may be found in this American Geophysical Union poster abstract and the Report of Trans-Atlantic Workshop 2 on Coastal Atlas Interoperability. If you would like to join the IODE ICAN project or be kept apprised of our progress, please feel free to email Marcia Berman or Ned Dwyer, or to join the spam-free ICAN_updates mailing list. If you a participating institution, please consider putting an ICAN logo and link on your CWA web site! Download this zip file of logos for use on your site. Thanks to Yassine Lassoued of CMRC who designed the logos.

Founding Organizations of the ICAN Initiative:


Mission/Strategic Aim: The IODE International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) project aims to be a global reference for the development of coastal web atlases, which we define as: "...collections of digital maps and datasets with supplementary tables, illustrations, and information that systematically illustrate the coast, oftentimes with cartographic and decision support tools, all of which are accessible via the Internet." O'Dea et al., 2007, Trans-Atlantic Workshop Report 1 These atlases organize and coordinate all of the above through a single portal or entry point, with a common design theme that is followed through all of the pages of a coastal atlas web site. As such, many of these atlases play an important role in informing regional decision- and policy-making across several themes:

  • Marine spatial planning
  • Climate change impacts, coastal vulnerability
  • Coastal governance (boundaries, protected areas, etc.)
  • Coastal conservation and protected areas management
  • Coastal hazards
  • Population pressures
  • Resource availability and extraction

Further details about what a coastal web atlas entails may be found in ICAN's handbook, published in 2011 by IGI-Global publishers. Via the expertise of its members, ICAN intends to inform, guide and influence in a coherent manner on matters related to research, development and use of coastal web atlases. ICAN is developing several products for this purpose, such as user and developer guides, handbooks and articles on best practices, information on standards and web services, expertise and technical support directories, education, outreach, and funding opportunities, etc. Furthermore, it encourages and help facilitate global operational interoperability between coastal atlases in order to enhance data and information sharing among users. Goals and Objectives: The long-term strategic goal of the IODE ICAN project is to encourage and help facilitate the development of digital atlases of the global coast based on the principle of distributed, high-quality data and information. These atlases can be local, regional, national and international in scale. This can be achieved by sharing knowledge and experience among atlas developers in order to find common solutions for coastal web atlas development whilst ensuring maximum relevance and added value for the users. In some cases users may be significantly involved in atlas development itself. In order to reach this goal ICAN has the following objectives:

  • Ensure that ICAN has representation from coastal web atlas development and user groups from across the world.
  • Develop technical and policy guidelines to assist coastal web atlas developers in acquiring data and engaging with data providers. Accordingly, collate and publish a set of best-practise guidelines for the development of coastal web atlases.
  • Highlight the benefits of interoperability and standards based systems to the coastal atlas developer communities.
  • Develop collaborative projects for the sharing of know-how, implementation of technical solutions and demonstration of atlas benefits to users.
  • Align the atlas efforts of the Network partners in order that interoperability can be facilitated.
  • Engage with other relevant international IODE projects and developments as well as relevant activites outside of IODE.
  • Involve representatives of the relevant user communities to help in tailoring coastal web atlases to their needs.

To further these objectives ICAN has identified a range of activities in the areas of technical implementation, atlas assessment, outreach, training, and participation in scholarly communities, and strategic planning and funding.

See our ICAN Poster! Click image to enlarge Thanks to Kathrin Kopke, CMRC, Ireland and Kathy Belpaeme, Co-ordination Centre for ICZM, Belgium

See related sections on ICAN People, Organizational Partners, and Benefits

If you would like to join the IODE ICAN project or be kept apprised of our progress, please feel free to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ned Dwyer, or to join the spam-free ICAN_updates mailing list.