The GOOS Regional Policy 2013 sets out the goals and methods of the GRAs:
GOOS Regional Alliances (GRAs) are comprised of national and institutional efforts that come together at the regional scale to facilitate the advancement of GOOS, to aid the integration and coordination of sustained interdisciplinary ocean observations and services for scientific and societal benefit, and to provide mutual support for capacity development. The membership of GRAs varies between regions. In general they are made up of governmental and/or non-governmental organizations, and therefore have limitations in the controls they can impose and the communities they reach.
GRAs contribute to and benefit from the global observing system coordinated through GOOS global panels. GRAs facilitate sustained ocean observing, data management, modelling and services that meet regional and national priorities. GRAs are not distinctly open ocean or coastally focused but respond to the needs of national and regional efforts they represent; however the nature of the GRAs is well-suited to accelerate the integration and expansion of observations and modelling from global to local scales. GRAs are capable of identifying observing system gaps and proposed strategies to fill those gaps.
GRAs are both informally and formally brought together. Informally in that they are often voluntary organizations that see benefit in coordinating across national boundaries. Formally, a minimum structure and adherence to GOOS Principles is outlined below for recognition as part of GOOS.
GRAs are and need to be driven by regional initiative. Considering the strong links that GRAs have with their national and regional stakeholders and regional heterogeneity, they can choose to embrace various organizational structures and forms. The relationship of the GRAs to GOOS must be flexible to take this into account.