The centres of the Helmholtz Association define their research within strategic programmes, the so-called programme oriented funding).
The programme of GEOMAR which is called OCEANS is outlined below. The programme contains a contribution from the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), a strategic cooperation with the AWI and HZG Helmholtz Centres, and an allied partnership with the University of Kiel. The programme addresses the physical, chemical, biological and geological properties of the world’s ocean basins from the seafloor to the atmosphere. This global approach, with a strong, but not exclusive focus on the open ocean, the deep sea and the tropics, characterizes the OCEANS programme. The research will be carried out in close cooperation with the "Marine, Coastal and Polar Systems (PACES II)" and "Geosystem: The Changing Earth" scientific programmes in the Helmholtz Research Field "Earth and Environment." The OCEANS programme also interacts with and supplements the "Atmosphere and Climate" programme being proposed by the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) and GFZ and the "Terrestrial Environment Research" programme being proposed by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Health Munich (HMGU), FZJ and GFZ.
The OCEANS programme is subdivided into four topics: