Articles | Volume 33, issue 1
Program development
02 Apr 2024
Program development |  | 02 Apr 2024

The International Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP3)

Gilbert Camoin, Nobu Eguchi, and the IODP³ Planning Group
1 Importance and history of subseafloor scientific investigation

Science-based knowledge of Planet Earth is of fundamental importance for supporting a modern resilient society facing the global challenges posed by climate change, natural hazards, energetic transition, and the needs of a safe and sustainable blue economy.

The equilibrium between Earth, human society, and ecosystems can only be achieved by considering Earth to be a system in which the understanding of Earth's history, Earth's dynamics, and the deep Earth biosphere concur with the shaping of a better future for the planet.

Scientific drilling has supported science-based knowledge of Earth's interior since the 1960s through a continued and coordinated series of international programs that together represent the largest and longest-living initiative of international scientific collaboration in the field of Earth science.

In the ocean realm, which represents about 70 % of Earth's surface, scientific drilling facilities with engineers, technicians, scientists, and managers have allowed the scientific community to access some of Earth's most challenging environments, collecting data and samples of sediments, rocks, geo-fluids, living organisms, and monitoring data from below the seafloor.

Scientific ocean drilling programs have operated for more than 5 decades: the Deep-Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) 1968–1983, the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) 1985–2003, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) 2003–2013, and the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) 2013–2024. Scientific ocean drilling expeditions have transformed the understanding of our planet by addressing some of the most fundamental questions about Earth's evolution, narrowing knowledge gaps and generating new questions and challenges. Technological innovation by scientists and engineers has improved sampling and in situ measurement and/or monitoring tools that are now widely employed in the geosciences in both the academic and industrial sectors. Long-term borehole observatories have provided data and samples from below the seafloor. Those instruments were built by the generation of knowledge accumulated by researchers and engineers. Some of the observatories are connected to the seafloor cable network and provide in situ data in real time. Equally importantly, scientific ocean drilling has fostered enduring international collaboration, trained new generations of students and scientists across scientific disciplines, and engaged the public worldwide in scientific discoveries.

Each of the scientific ocean drilling programs has been scientifically inspired by science steering documents conceived by the international scientific community. The most recent one was published in 2020, is entitled Exploring Earth by Scientific Drilling – 2050 Science Framework (, last access: 19 March 2024), and is envisioned through long-term, multidisciplinary research efforts that require multiple expeditions over 10- to 20-year time intervals, each combining research goals from multiple strategic objectives – the Flagship Initiatives. The 2050 Science Framework was built on the legacy of previous programs and defined seven Strategic Objectives. It also introduced “Enabling Elements” for the first time in the history of scientific ocean drilling programs. These elements aim to increase the impact of scientific and outreach initiatives, promoting partnerships and collaborations with organizations that have complementary scientific goals, e.g., land-to-sea scientific drilling in partnership with the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) and stimulating continued technology development and innovative applications of advanced big data analytics.

2 Principles of the International Ocean Drilling Programme – IODP3

The end of the International Ocean Discovery Programme on 30 September 2024 will mark major changes in the organization of international activities related to scientific ocean drilling. After decades of unified international programs, from the DSDP to the current IODP, post 2024, scientific ocean drilling initiatives will see a transition from a single international program operated by independent platform providers to independent ocean drilling programs.

The European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) and Japan, who have advocated for the continuation of a single international program, intend to continue providing scientific ocean drilling opportunities post 2024 to the international scientific community, based on their well-established infrastructures, competitiveness in the international research landscape, and maximum scientific return from investment.

Through a 2-year long process of exchange of views and ambitions, ECORD and Japan agreed to build a joint scientific ocean drilling program: the IODP3 (IODP-cubed).

The IODP3 will consist of an international scientific collaboration addressing important questions in the Earth, ocean, environmental, and life sciences described in the 2050 Science Framework, based on the study of rock and/or sediment cores, borehole imaging, in situ observatory data, and related geophysical imaging obtained from the subseafloor.

The IODP3 will adopt a transparent, open, flexible, and international modus operandi, program-wide standard policies and guidelines, sustainable management, and publicly accessible knowledge-based resources. The IODP3 will adopt the 2050 Science Framework Enduring Principles.

3 Objectives and organization of the IODP3

IODP3 investigations will be based on research proposals that address the objectives of the 2050 Science Framework or other outstanding new research ideas.

The IODP3 will implement and fund

  • offshore expeditions following an expanded Mission Specific Platform (MSP) concept and

  • Scientific Projects using Ocean Drilling ARChives (SPARCs) that are international and multidisciplinary projects with objectives originating from or based on ocean drilling archives.

Drilling and SPARC proposals will be submitted with a bottom-up process to the IODP3 Science Office by teams of proponents belonging to the international research community.

The primary responsibility of the Science Evaluation Panel (SEP; Fig. 1) is to evaluate all proposals submitted to the IODP3 in a fair, open, and transparent manner in terms of both scientific excellence and the completeness and quality of the site characterization data packages. The SEP will be composed of top international experts selected through competitive calls.

Figure 1Organization of the International Ocean Drilling Programme. Photos and logos: © ECORD/IODP, © JAMSTEC, and © JAMSTEC/KCC.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The Safety and Environment Advisory (SEA; Fig. 1) Group will be an advisory body to the MSP-FB, SEP, and IODP3 Operators and will provide independent advice regarding potential safety and environmental issues associated with the general and specific geological settings of proposed IODP3 drill sites.

The SEP and the SEA Group will be logistically supported by the IODP3 Science Office and will serve all the platforms employed by the program. IODP3 drilling expeditions and SPARCs will be scheduled by the MSP Facility Board based on their scientific merit and operational constraints within the limits of the available resources.

The IODP3 Executive Board (ExB; Fig. 1) will be the IODP3 entity responsible for ensuring effective decision-making and overseeing the program.

The Magellan3 Workshops will be designed to support scientists from IODP3 and ICDP members in developing new and innovative scientific drilling proposals that meet the ambitions of the 2050 Science Framework and/or the ICDP Science Plan 2020–2030 by funding or co-funding workshop proposals and travel grants.

The IODP3 will include two task forces (Fig. 1): the Vision Task Force will be in charge of developing a long-term scientific and funding strategy, and the Communication Task Force will be in charge of program-wide communication activities.

3.1 MSP expeditions

IODP3 drilling expeditions will be implemented by the MSP Operators, ESO and/or JAMSTEC-MarE3, following the MSP concept. This concept will be an expanded MSP concept by diversifying drilling and coring technologies – riserless and riser drilling, giant piston coring – and applying them to all drilling environments, as determined by scientific priorities, operational efficiency, and better value for money. D/V Chikyu and R/V Kaimei are identified as MSP facilities that are crucial facilities for the successful implementation of the 2050 Science Framework.

Land-to-Sea Transects (L2S), requiring scientific drilling at both onshore and offshore sites or at shallow marine sites to be implemented jointly with the ICDP, are one of the prime objectives of the IODP3.

The duration of IODP3 expeditions will be flexible and determined by scientific requirements and available funds.

IODP3 drilling expeditions will be scheduled by the MSP Facility Board based on their scientific merit and operational constraints within the limits of the available resources.

IODP3 expeditions are intended to have no significant environmental impact, and they are carried out in conformance with the highest accepted levels of environmental sensitivity.

IODP3 expeditions will be undertaken by international teams of scientists – Science Parties – selected by the MSP Operator(s) and Co-chief Scientists and based on recommendations made by Program Member Offices (PMOs). Staffing decisions will consider, as far as possible, the goal of achieving the maximum diversity of gender, career stage, nationality, discipline, and culture in the Science Parties.

The sizes of the expedition Science Parties will be flexible and determined by scientific requirements.

The IODP3 will include the services provided by the current IODP core repositories in Bremen (BCR) and Kochi (KCC).

The IODP3 will provide open access to all expedition samples and data once the expedition Science Party members have had the opportunity to complete the initial studies within the established moratorium period, typically 1 year. After the expiration of the moratorium period, the program will make samples, cores, and data available to any scientist, in accordance with the IODP3 Samples, Data and Obligations Policy following findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability (FAIR) data principles.

3.2 SPARCs

The IODP3 SPARCs provide a mechanism for the international scientific ocean drilling community to propose new large-scale projects that may address any aspect of the 2050 Science Framework and involve interdisciplinary collaborations.

SPARCs will have objectives that maximize the return on the legacy assets (i.e., cores, samples, and data from current and past scientific ocean drilling programs) without new drilling or other operations at sea.

SPARCs will address globally significant processes and problems and use innovative, creative, and multidisciplinary approaches that could include, for example, the production of large new datasets from samples, integration of data across multiple expeditions and/or multiple boreholes, and/or the application of new methods or technologies (e.g., AI, “big data” approaches) that were not available when the legacy assets were collected. The scientific ambition of SPARC projects should far exceed that of standard requests for samples or data as they are intended to provide a new avenue to facilitate collaboration at scales larger than conventional single- or multi-proponent sample requests. In parallel, standard requests for samples and data may be submitted at any time.

Each SPARC will have a funded duration of 3 years and will receive EUR 300 000 for its implementation. SPARC proposals should have a maximum of five co-proponents. All the co-proponents of a funded SPARC will automatically become Science Party members (with two selected as Co-Chief Scientists), but the remaining Science Party members will be selected following an open call for applications. The overall size of the final Science Party for a SPARC is flexible and can be adapted to project needs but will normally consist of a minimum of 15 scientists, with no fixed upper limit.

4 IODP3 partnership

As Platform Providers, ECORD and Japan will be the IODP3 Core Members.

International governmental and non-governmental entities not regularly providing scientific ocean drilling platform(s) to the IODP3 can become Associate Members by making annual cash contributions to the IODP3 (on the order of EUR 1 million) or as Temporary Members by providing cash and/or project-based in-kind contributions (IKCs) (with a minimum of EUR 0.5 million) to access IODP3 expedition(s). The Australian and New Zealand IODP Consortium (ANZIC) and India have already sent letters of interest to become IODP3 Associate Members.

IKC and/or cash contributions from any IODP3 member or non-member country or institution are potentially acceptable for funding offshore expeditions. IKCs may include essential scientific or operational services that the IODP3 would normally pay for, fully or partly funded drilling platforms, support vessels, hazard site surveys (if required), permission assistance, onshore facilities near drill sites (if required), ice management, and remote logistical assistance.

IODP3 will set up an overarching Scientific Drilling Forum as a venue for exchanging ideas, views, and information between all international research programs that employ scientific drilling to explore Earth and planetary processes.

5 Forward look

Based on the well-established operation of the ECORD and JAMSTEC infrastructures, their successful implementation, their competitiveness in the international research landscape and a maximum return from investment, a bright future is promised to the international communities and ECORD and Japan in their intentions to play a prominent role in post-2024 scientific ocean drilling.

Data availability

No data sets were used in this article.

Team list

IODP³ Planning Group: Gilbert Camoin (EMA, ECORD Managing Agency/CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France), Nobu Eguchi (MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Angelo Camerlenghi (ESSAC, ECORD Science Support and Advisory Committee/National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics, Trieste, Italy), Nadine Hallmann (EMA, ECORD Managing Agency/CEREGE Aix-en-Provence, France), Annalisa Iadanza (ECORD Council/Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome, Italy), Minoru Ikehara (J-DESC, Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/Kochi University, Japan), Fumio Inagaki (MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Katsuyoshi Kawaguchi (MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Masataka Kinoshita (Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/University of Tokyo, Japan), Yusuke Kubo (KCC, Kochi Core Center/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology/Kochi, Japan), Shin'ichi Kuramoto (JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology/Yokosuka, Japan), France Lagroix (ECORD Council/Institut du Globe de Paris, France), Guido Lüniger (ECORD Council/German Research Foundation, Bonn, Germany), Harue Masuda (J-DESC, Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/Osaka Metropolitan University), Dave McInroy (ESO, ECORD Science Operator/British Geological Survey, Edinburgh, UK), Tomo Morishita (J-DESC, Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/Kanazawa University, Japan), Yuki Morono (J-DESC, Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/KCC, Kochi Core Center/JAMSTEC/Kochi, Japan), Tony Morris (ECORD Science Support and Advisory Committee, Univ. Plymouth, UK), Natsumi Okutsu (MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Sanny Saito (J-DESC, Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium/MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Nobukazu Seama (CIB, Chikyu IODP Board/Kobe University, Japan), Ursula Röhl (ESO, ECORD Science Operator/BCR, Bremen Core Repository, Germany), Hiroyuki Tojo (MarE3, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration/JAMSTEC, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan), Gen Totani (MEXT, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology/Ocean and Earth Division, Tokyo, Japan), Sasha Turchyn (EFB, ECORD Facility Board/Cambridge University, UK), Gabriele Uenzelmann-Neben (EFB, ECORD Facility Board/Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), and Mike Webb (ECORD Council/Natural Environment Research Council, Swindon, UK).

Author contributions

All the authors have collaborated in the development of the concepts described in this paper, as well as the preparation, creation, and/or presentation of the published work. GC and NE have conceived the summary of the paper and have synthesized and written all parts of the paper.

Competing interests

The contact author has declared that none of the authors has any competing interests.


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