About us

The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) is an initiative created to enable a greater scientific understanding of the services the ocean provides to humankind and the impact of the main human stressors upon it, enabling solutions to be explored and greater communication with decision-makers and the public. To that end, the initiative brings together science, communications, policy and legal disciplines.

Photo of coral
  © Octavio Aburto, Marine PhotoBank


IPSO works with the world’s leading marine scientists to consider the cumulative impacts of anthropogenic stressors, from climate change through to the harvesting of marine species, and what the consequences of these are for the ability of the ocean to function as part of the planet’s life support system and to provide food and other ecosystem services to humankind.

The IPSO scientists develop an ecosystemic (holistic) understanding of how the ocean functions at the Earth System level by synthesising existing science, developing new scientific models and approaches and enabling new scientific research and work to be undertaken.

A key role of IPSO is to provide a clear and independent assessment of the implications of this scientific knowledge for ocean, ecosystem and species management and decision-making, including of terrestrial ecosystems impacting the marine environment.


IPSO’s convenes regular ‘State of the Ocean’ workshops that bring together scientists from different marine disciplines and areas of expertise (from pollution and extraction to acidification and hypoxia) to consider how much we understand about the current state of the ocean and the measures necessary to protect it from wide-scale collapse.

The workshops also consider solutions to ocean protection including new or evolving ideas and approaches. This is supplemented by pieces of research and smaller workshops to consider specific areas of interest or concern.

IPSO’s meetings are conducted at Somerville College, Oxford University, UK.


IPSO also brings communicators, policy and legal experts together with the scientific community in order to consider the broadest possible solutions and to help the scientists reflect their findings and concerns in appropriate fora. IPSO representatives give evidence and are called upon for advice by international bodies such as the United Nations, national governments and departments, as well as by the media and others.

It is part of the initiative’s role to develop new ideas or approaches to communicating the role of the ocean at an Earth System level and IPSO was: instrumental in the foundation of the High Seas Alliance to help raise awareness of the much neglected areas beyond national jurisdiction; a founding partner in OceansInc, which broadcasts quality television coverage about the ocean from important international conferences; and a founder of Ocean Witness, a project still in development to enable ‘citizen’ marine science. IPSO also produces educational materials about the ocean for schools and is evolving a new campaign to tackle ocean toxic pollution.


JM Kaplan Fund Logo_small

IPSO was founded through the support of the J.M. Kaplan Fund in the United States.

IPSO does not receive any government or corporate money.

All our scientists and experts contribute their time and energy pro-bono.