Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report


165. Long-term datasets comprising oceanographic measurements and information on oceanic biodiversity are fundamental to the understanding of ocean processes, as well as for the analysis of climate change and other changes in the environment. POL stressed that "long-term monitoring of environmental fields (e.g. temperature and salinity of our coastal seas) provides a vital benchmark for assessing the impact of climate change. Long time series provide an invaluable method for assessing the predictive capability of climate prediction models."[323] The study of the oceans requires measurements over a wide range of timescales, from milliseconds (during the development of tsunamis) to decades (changes in species in a particular region) to millennia (modelling climate change), and a wide range of spaces, from millimetres to many hundreds of kilometres.

166. Monitoring and observation programmes may be nationally or internationally based. Defra listed some 370 such programmes in the UK, run by organizations such as the NERC centres, the fisheries laboratories, agencies, conservation groups and others.[324] Internationally, the UK is involved in programmes such as the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR); the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO); the Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) programme; and Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. Another such programme is the Argo project: a global array of 3,000 free-drifting profiling floats that measure and report the real-time temperature, salinity and velocity of the upper surface of the ocean. The UK Argo Project has been funded by Defra and the MoD (through the Met Office who manage it) and by NERC (through the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and the British Oceanographic Data Centre). Dr Bell of the Met Office singled out Argo as a "rather good example" of how technologies have changed dramatically in the last five years, enabling improved remote ocean monitoring.[325] The Met Office use the data "to keep our forecasts on track and close to reality"[326] and Argo data is used by the Hadley Centre for its climate model work, crucial to making decadal climate predictions.

Role of Defra and UKMMAS

167. Defra plays a pivotal role in marine observations as both customer and funder of the different operating systems. The department requires data to underpin its many marine-related policies, both in environmental protection and in climate change work. It is also the UK co-ordinator of GMES, which involves remote sensing of the seas using satellites, and it funds instruments on the satellite ENVISAT (for measuring sea surface temperatures with the accuracy necessary to detect climate change), as well as the Argo programme.[327] There is concern amongst the science community that Defra's investment in monitoring is declining. POL told us that "Persuading Defra to fund long-term monitoring is always an uphill struggle, and the situation is likely to become more challenging with Defra's funding cuts".[328] They cite the tide gauge network (which records UK coastal sea levels) as a casualty of these cuts, explaining that "About 2 years ago the funding of the tide gauge network was transferred to the EA, and now their funding constraints may well jeopardise the future funding and development of the network."[329]

168. In recognition of the need to co-ordinate the collection and use of data, Defra has set up the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) with the aim of shaping "the UK's ability to provide the evidence to fulfill our vision".[330] UKMMAS has been in development since 2005 and it is expected that it will be ready by December 2007 for implementation during 2008. It will establish a "revised structure through which policy aims, statutory requirements and operational needs are translated to field work, data are managed and assessed in a form that meets those aims and requirements for assessment of the marine environment and the best use is made of available resources".[331] UKMMAS is led by the Marine Assessment Policy Committee (MAPC). At the next level down, the Marine Assessment and Reporting Group (MARG) reports to MAPC and is itself informed by three Evidence Groups. A wry aside in Defra's FAQs on these arrangements notes that how the evidence groups will incorporate the ecosystem approach "is a challenge being investigated in the Evidence Groups".[332]

169. Defra describe UKMMAS as "a step-change in the way we monitor and assess in the UK" and Cefas also believed UKMMAS to be "a good step in the right direction of better-integrated observational science".[333] However, there are concerns about the strategy and what it is intended to achieve, as well as its ability to deliver. NERC commented that "the focus is currently on compliance monitoring, and there is a need for more consideration of how better to include generic marine research and meet longer-term and global-scale monitoring requirements".[334] In addition, NERC believed that "Almost inevitably, more resources are required than have so far been committed."[335] These concerns must be addressed by Defra as UKMMAS progresses.

Gaps in data

170. The importance of monitoring and data-gathering has become of increasing prominence in recent years. It is widely agreed that there are gaps in monitoring of the oceans to meet the evidence needs of policies to address climate change or marine biodiversity. For example, IMarEST listed eight projects in the open ocean and five in coastal waters to which they asked the Government to commit immediately.[336] The £22m funding gap in monitoring identified by UKMMAS was composed of estimates calculated from proposals collated from various publications and bodies, including the IACMST, JNCC and others. The most expensive of these demands was a bid for £8m for mapping the seabed made by the UKHO, BGS and Cefas.[337]

171. There are also questions about the detail of the data that is being gathered. The Biosciences Federation argued that "many of the projects designed to understand the functioning of oceanic ecosystems—an essential pre-requisite for addressing climate change—are obliged to collect data at worryingly coarse levels of resolution."[338] They identify particular gaps in understanding groups in the coastal supratidal (lichens) and subtidal (algae) zones.[339] The MBA added that "There is particular need to separate broad scale low-amplitude global change from regional and local impacts".[340] Professor Sir Howard Dalton agreed, telling us: "We have got all of the sensors in place, except that we do not have enough of them necessarily and the level of detail is insufficient. We have got some pretty broad observational systems, which cover very large areas, but we do not get very much local information. I think the problems really are trying to drill down and get a higher resolution of what is actually going on, because in order to make much better predictions for the future we need measurements of much higher resolution."[341]

172. One aspect of data gathering that became apparent to us as the inquiry proceeded was the lack of information on the human science aspects of the UK's marine environment. We have struggled to find reliable and up to date estimates of the economic value of the marine sector, for example, and have seen no comprehensive information on the social implications of the seas and coast (such as how many people's jobs depend on the marine environment or how human perceptions and values are changing regarding the sea). Information on the social system is crucial for the implementation of the ecosystem approach and for the development of effective policies. Defra's survey of public attitudes (which included very limited information on the marine environment) has not been updated for six years and it is important not to neglect these aspects if the comprehensive approach announced in policy documents is to become a reality. We recommend that social system indicators be part of future research and monitoring priorities for UK marine science.

Funding and co-ordination

173. For many years, monitoring work has been a "Cinderella" science and the maintenance of long term datasets was considered an out-dated activity. The MBA pointed out that many such data sets were closed down in the 1980s to make way for marine science that was more fashionable at the time, and that "climate change impacts have 're-vitalised' interest" in this work.[342] The Biosciences Federation also commented that

    Long-term data gathering has proven especially vulnerable to funding cuts (often management-driven) through the last two decades. Arguments commonly offered in an attempt to justify such decisions include: (a) sufficient knowledge has already been gathered, (b) these are "stamp collecting" exercises rather than hypothesis-testing science, (c) only hypothesis-testing will bring external funding into the organisation, and (d) the expertise needed to maintain such programmes is no longer available.[343]

The Federation argued that it is still "far easier to obtain funds for establishing a database than for populating it with data, analysing those data, or archiving the outcomes".[344] However, the current strong focus on environmental change and sustainability has changed the perception of the value of such monitoring. Dr Horwood of Cefas, in surveying developments in marine science and technology, argued that the key change at the moment, "rather than the wonderful technologies that are coming on board, it is the increasing interest in getting proper baseline information".[345]

174. Given this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that monitoring and difficulties with funding and co-ordinating monitoring programmes were prominent in evidence to our inquiry. At its most basic, there is a problem with absolute levels of funding. The Secretary of the IACMST told us that shifting more funds into monitoring was "the single most important area I would identify where more resources need to be concentrated if the UK is going to be able to underpin its policy in marine better and if it is going to be able to fulfil its commitments on the international scene as well".[346] The ERFF has highlighted that the UK provides £500m for terrestrial observations per year and £36m for marine monitoring.[347] In addition, there are concerns about the stability of funding, especially for programmes such as Argo. Dr Bell of the Met Office, which leads on Argo, was adamant that the Argo funding needed to be made secure.[348] POL also noted the insecurity of funding for long-term monitoring and in addition pointed out that the situation whereby "long-term ocean monitoring ranging from remote sensing to ARGO floats is funded by a number of organizations … is unnecessarily complicated."[349]

175. The source of the difficulty appears to lie in the way in which funding for monitoring programmes is organised in the UK. Professor Sir Howard Dalton told us that

    In many areas of science the UK punches very much above its weight. In this area, I think, probably we do not. I think this is an area where we do need to have a much more co ordinated and sustained effort, in terms of global observation systems. We do make our contributions. I think the problem is that the way in which it has been funded and resourced in the UK is fragmentary. We have had real problems trying to raise sufficient resources in order to be able to play our international part in being able to support and encourage and develop global monitoring systems. I think there is more that should be done.[350]

176. The problem hinges on whether such programmes are regarded as science and therefore funded by NERC, where it has the money, or operational, in which case other funders, such as Government departments or agencies, might step in. This is a crucial distinction, and an important decision since observational programmes require a commitment to long-term, sustained funding. The tension between observations for research and for ongoing operations was highlighted by several witnesses. For example, Mr Gallett of the Society for Underwater Technology explained:

    I think oceanography is going through a fundamental transition with the science at the moment, in that operational oceanography is a relatively new activity and there are huge problems with continuity of observations. Most observations in the oceans have their origin in research projects and research projects are generally short lived, so we get snapshots of the way the ocean behaves from a particular perspective and then that snapshot may cease. I see the biggest problem here is how do you ensure that certain key observations are made continuously and made consistently. This is not research. It may underpin research but it is not research. It is a fundamentally different activity and it needs to be managed and operated in a different way.[351]

The IACMST observed that "the criteria for monitoring national needs are different from those used in the evaluation of research proposals where observations are needed to meet specific, short-term research objectives".[352] It concluded, from its experiences with the use of short-term research programmes to fund long-term data in the case of the Jason-2 altimeter mission and the Argo programme, that "the present UK funding system is not well-suited to funding cross-departmental contributions to observing programmes."[353]

177. Professor Thorpe of NERC concurred that the these two programmes were among instances where "we have been close to the brink" of losing important datasets through shortage of funds.[354] He believed that this situation arose from a further complication where "research monitoring and instrumentation is set up, perhaps with funding, and is then translated into operational long-term use, because the hand-over of funding for that from the purely research to the purely operational, where NERC finds it much more difficult to invest long-term, is troublesome."[355] Dr Williamson, representing NERC, reassured us that "I do not think we have lost anything serious in the last five years, but it has been tough holding it all together".[356] He explained that

    The problem is that there is no shortage of new things that we ought to be monitoring and measuring and that come up through the science, through NERC that start as a time series of three years, then it is five years and then there can be very awkward decisions: do they get another five years from NERC and another five years after that, or is there a hand-over time? Some things have European funding and some of them have different agencies. Sometimes NERC pays for half and Defra pays for half, and we keep things going on that basis. It is getting harder all the time, in that the number of additional changes now that we feel we ought to have a handle on and that we ought to know about—ocean acidification, the plankton changes, the hydrographic changes—the value of having a time series is that you do not stop for five years, put them to one side and then come back again. All the time, the number of commitments is increasing, and that is a headache.[357]

178. These concerns have led organisations such as the IACMST to argue that there is "an urgent need for a new mechanism to fund sustained measurements that serve UK-wide interests in a cost effective way".[358] UKMMAS is doing good work in identifying gaps and trying to ensure that they are filled but it was suggested by the Met Office that UKMMAS "needs co-ordination of funding as well as just co-ordination in meeting up to get some common ideas".[359] POL explained that "There is a generic issue that as observing and predicting systems progress from research to ongoing operational status, beneficiaries should be identified and assume corresponding shares of the funding responsibility."[360] However, The Challenger Society told us that "it has proved impossible to date to find a funding mechanism for these studies or even a route by which to request new funds, for example via a bid in a Comprehensive Spending Review."[361] Sir Howard Dalton suggested that "Personally, I believe that we might need again some sort of central pot of resources which addresses this issue."[362]

179. In addition, there is the question of strategic oversight and co-ordination. IMarEST argued that, in relation to observations and monitoring, "UK marine science needs to be organised in a more coherent fashion, through a plan agreed by all departments and agencies, to ensure (i) that value is added by each observation made, (ii) that duplication of effort is avoided, and (iii) that gaps in geographic coverage or in technology are filled".[363] NOCS called for "science funders (e.g. NERC) and operational agencies (e.g. Met Office) [to] work more closely together on global ocean observing systems", identifying "a gulf between operational funding for observational infrastructure and that for science."[364] Professor Sir Howard Dalton agreed that "We need a strategy for bringing all of that [monitoring] information together under one roof".[365] NERC's strategy is clear: it invests where there is a science-driven need to have long term monitoring[366], but as decadal datasets become all the more important in monitoring climate change, the need for sustained observation systems to continue beyond the immediate scientific grant period will become ever more pressing.

180. It is clear that there is a need for more co-ordination, more clarity over responsibilities, more sense of strategy and more funding in the area of marine monitoring. Dr Rayner of IMarEST argued that "those sorts of observations are so critical to understanding climate change that they should be regarded more as critical infrastructure in which nationally and globally we need to engage in effectively".[367] He suggested that the Met Office could take on this role, but conceded that "perhaps we do need a new body" to take responsibility in this area.[368] Professor Watson of the UEA pointed out that "When one looks at the countries that do this well, the United States with NOAA, Japan with JAMSTEC, they have dedicated agencies that do this monitoring".[369] It is not simply a case of dividing monitoring for research purposes from operational observations since there is a continued need in all cases for dialogue between monitoring and research so that data is used to its best purpose and that new ideas can be incorporated into existing programmes. Those responsible for operations should therefore be closely linked to the scientists who design such programmes in the first place, not least so that potential operational requirements may be built into data collection from the outset. We recommend that the new marine agency, proposed in this Report, be made responsible for marine monitoring. It should also be responsible for setting priorities for monitoring and should have a central budget for operational monitoring and long-term international projects such as Argo. We also recommend that the £22m funding gap identified by UKMMAS be met from central Government funds.

181. There will always be more demands for monitoring activities than there are funds to meet them. Clearly, there may be occasions where funding should cease. We were interested to hear that the IACMST has provided the methodology for conducting a cost-benefit assessment to establish the value of maintaining or stopping long-term monitoring programmes.[370] We support this approach and recommend that it be adopted by the new marine body to ensure the efficiency of the UK monitoring programme and secure individual projects against threat of closure merely because they drop out of fashion.

International ocean monitoring systems

182. The problems identified above in securing funding for long term monitoring are not unique to the UK. Several witnesses called for the UK to take a lead in finding a solution, possible through the forum of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), on which the UK is represented by Defra.[371] We encourage the UK to do so.

183. There are concerns at the moment that the Government has not previously played its full part in international activity in this area. NOCS described Defra's "commitment to the international effort" on global observing as "more fragile" than its support for its immediate statutory and international obligations in coastal waters.[372] For example, several organisations, including the IACMST, called for increased and sustained funding for large-scale and long-term international ocean-observing projects such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

184. GOOS is an international programme to record and disseminate data from sustained collection of ocean observations for use in a variety of applications, notably in earth systems modelling and climate forecasting. The UK was instrumental in getting GOOS started, through work with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, a process that has taken over 15 years since its inception. However, IMarEST described GOOS as only around 50% developed and recommended that the UK should double its investment in GOOS "to meet the increasing requirement for detailed and accurate information in support of global sustainable development".[373] The Society for Underwater Technology also expressed concern that "the requisite network of ocean observatories in and adjacent to UK waters, and in areas of interest to the UK, is not yet in place", adding that "this will reduce the value of the other data being collected, with the UK lagging behind other nations in its commitments to both the GOOS and the GEOSS."[374] Dr Rayner of IMarEST argued that GOOS was too fundamental to our understanding and routine monitoring of the planet to be left to the IACMST and the Research Councils and "should receive much more attention and perhaps be elevated to a different position".[375] We recommend that the UK Government renew its commitment to GOOS and ensure that the network of observatories is completed according to the timetable.

185. During the course of this inquiry, we have heard frequent reference to the importance of the Argo programme and concern about the sustainability of its funding. We recommend that funding be guaranteed for the Argo programme from centralised funds.


186. In our recent inquiry into UK space policy, we heard much evidence about the need to invest in satellites and the benefits that remote sensing can bring to society. The role of satellites in ocean science is particularly remarkable since they can provide real-time data on a global scale. EADS Astrium pointed out that "measurements of the oceans by satellites have long been a major contribution to scientific understanding due to their ability to provide data over large areas of otherwise inaccessible locations".[376] The IACMST added that "Application of satellite remote sensing has matured over the last 20 years to the point where it is now regarded as an indispensable tool for most marine science, particularly when combined with in situ observations and numerical models."[377] Satellite altimetry has demonstrated capability to measure changes in sea level rise and ocean currents on regional to global scales to unprecedented accuracies.

187. The Met Office argued that the UK contribution to satellite monitoring "could be significantly stronger than it is".[378] The IACMST agreed and identified two specific challenges: "how to maximise the benefit to the UK from participation in Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and to ensure that the UK can take advantage of very cost-effective arrangements for participating in non-ESA satellite programmes that are of relevance to marine science", citing the Jason-2 altimeter mission as an example of the difficulties in this area.[379] IMarEST also stressed the need to "continue shared funding of the European Space Agency's (ESA) programme of measurements of the open ocean and increase funds to ESA for new sensors (e.g. salinity)".[380] The Institute was particularly concerned about the maintenance and continuity of the network of satellite altimeters which make observations of ocean circulation, stating that "At present there is a critical gap between existing missions (which are near to the end of their design lives) and replacement missions (which are not scheduled for launch until 2013)."[381]

188. The IACMST suggested that the UK "should also consider investing in constellations of small satellites", which "would overcome some of the sampling problems associated with observing the oceans and may also open up new possibilities for UK industry."[382] The IACMST Secretary told us:

    The UK does have real, leading expertise in small satellites and that is something really which could be exploited much better by the UK. There is a real sampling problem with the ocean, compared with the land, where you have got things changing rapidly, and this can be overcome partially by having constellations of satellites, equipped with suitable sensors. There is a real opportunity there for the UK to carve out a niche, which would be not only in line with UK technology and industry but actually would meet a number of user requirements in the research councils and in terms of meeting policy agendas of Government.[383]

We discussed the UK's small satellite sector in our recent Report, 2007: A space policy and we agree that there is potential for exciting developments here.

189. POL argued that "The UK needs to get its act together regarding all aspects of space research" and that "a proper strategy for space research, including who is responsible for funding the processing and archiving of remotely-sensed data is urgently required."[384] The importance of satellites to marine science was underlined by the NERC report on polar science which argued that "it is hard to overstate the contribution to our knowledge of long-term, ongoing change in the polar regions provided by satellite observations".[385] It went on to "emphasis the need to maintain these observations via the NERC Earth Observation programme of the ESA Earth Explorer and GMES programmes".[386] We note that there is likely to be a serious gap in the deployment of colour sensing satellites, key to understanding the earth's biological systems, particularly in the sea. This will affect a number of monitoring programmes that rely on the provision of this information in real time. Such looming problems demonstrate that there is no room for complacency and that international co-operation is essential in this field. We recommend that the new marine agency, proposed in this Report, become a partner of the British National Space Centre in order that the needs of the marine science community be fully represented when discussing and determining space issues.

Sharing data

190. Data from monitoring and indeed research projects is usually made freely available to all scientists who might find it of use. A common policy is that those directly involved have a period of up to two years of unique access to data, after which the data is made widely available to other researchers. However, issues do arise with access to data from certain organisations, including parts of Government.

191. The national facility for storing and sharing marine research data is the British Oceanographic Data Centre based in POL. This holds data which can be used by NERC centres, universities, other UK stakeholders and international institutions.[387] NERC's Chief Executive told us that "We have put quite a bit of investment into making sure that our data is made available, and that our researchers have access to international data sets as well. My feeling is that researchers in the UK anyway have pretty good access to data sets from NERC-generated projects but also world-wide."[388]

192. The IACMST has also been active in trying to reduce barriers to the exchange of data. It has established a network of marine data managers (MEDAG) and developed inventories, catalogues and products, including recent work on photographic and video records. It also hosts the cross-UK Marine Data and Information Partnership (MDIP) which was formed in 2005 to build "the framework for marine data stewardship in the UK in which data collected by any organization can be managed in the long term".[389] Great things appear to be expected of MDIP that it might not be able to deliver. IMarEST expressed concern that:

    Within the [draft Marine Bill white paper] the Marine Data Information Partnership (MDIP) appears to be considered as a permanent body that is appropriately funded, that could undertake some of the data storage and dissemination that will be required by the Marine Bill. In reality MDIP is a 2-year project coordinated by IACMST, with a single permanent member of staff. It is grossly underfunded and relies on the goodwill of industry, government agencies and academia.[390]

This view is supported by the chair of the MDIP group, Professor Liss, who told us that what the group was attempting

    is a very difficult job to do because the data is collected by lots of different organisations, and the attempt is to try to get this into a common framework, common standards, recognised data centres which obey those standards and make the data, as far as is possible, available to the whole marine community in the UK and further afield. That difficult job is run by MDIP, which is a professional organisation, which I chair, but is run on an amateur funding basis because we have only 0.8 of an individual who is paid to lead that work. All the other people have day jobs, which they have to do because they are paid to do them and they put time in whenever they can to contribute to the process. I do not think that is a satisfactory way of doing business because data is extremely important, particularly when we come to the MMO and marine protected areas and licensing and all those policy issues—you have to have the data to start otherwise you make wrong decisions even if you have a perfect system."[391]

We note these concerns and trust that Defra will take them fully into account in its plans under the Marine Bill.

193. Defra claims that data should be captured on the "collect once, use many times" principle. Its Marine Environment Division is currently drafting a marine data policy, including wording to be inserted into research contracts, to "facilitate the collation, release, re-use and storage of marine data", in line with the work of the MDIP.[392] However, concerns were expressed about access to data on three fronts. First, the IACMST, and others, were concerned that the release of data may be affected by "the way that Government activities are structured and funded, including the establishment of trading funds".[393] Dr Williamson of UEA believed that the obligation placed on trading funds to sell their data wherever possible caused particular difficulties for the universities in dealing with the Met Office, for example.[394] Professor Hill of NOCS supported this argument:

    In the UK I do think that there are some serious barriers in the system about being able to fuse certain data sets, not least because some important data—and it is not actually the data as such but the added value information products that are created from those data—are commercially tradable items. Three important sources of those data are the Ordnance Survey, the Hydrographic Office and the Met Office are trading funds and so there is a trade in their added value data products. Other bodies, such as Cefas and the British Geological Survey, whilst not trading funds are operating under increasingly commercial models whereby revenue generation is important.[395]

The IACMST had also experienced cases "where ownership of IPR is compromising what can be delivered in terms of inter-agency working and is a major disincentive for commercial organisations to propose innovative solutions to problems".[396]

194. Secondly, scientists reported difficulties in access to data from the MoD. In an otherwise positive account of its relationship with the MoD, NERC reported that "one area that may be raised in future discussion with the RN is access to the data HMS Scott acquires in her service role".[397] This clearly is not available at the moment for scientific research. Mr Gallett of the SUT, who had direct experience of working in the Navy, observed that "The MOD has quite a lot of data that it is very unhappy to release because perhaps it might reveal operational activities of vessels".[398]

195. Thirdly, POL argued that "Data collected by Crown Estates on marine SSSIs should be deposited in the British Oceanographic Data Centre to facilitate its wide dissemination in the marine science community."[399] The Crown Estate collects a great deal of data to support its business interests which arise from ownership of the seabed and much of the foreshore around the United Kingdom. This data is made available on their website or on an easy access basis to researchers. In these circumstances it does not appear to us necessary to deposit Crown Estate data in the BODC but we encourage full co-operation between the Crown Estate and the BODC and individual scientists.

196. The Society for Underwater Technology reminded us that "users of these data and measurements do not always come from the government laboratories and agencies. There are many companies providing services to a wide range of user communities and who have need of this input data. There is a need to ensure that our scarce resources are well spent and well co-ordinated in the gathering of this data, which can then be made available to the full range of user communities."[400] Another end-user, IMarEST, argued that "To gain full benefit the quality controlled data gathered by the UK must be made readily available within the framework of the EU Inspire Directive and UK commitments to other international data exchange initiatives",[401] while the Environment Agency complained that, despite the British Oceanographic Data Centre, "there is no common database for archiving and disseminating ocean and other marine data".[402]

197. It should not be forgotten that private sector data is also useful to scientists. BP told us that "in general terms BP's marine meteorological and oceanographic … data is available to the scientific community".[403] Having recognised the difficulty that scientists might not know what is available, BP and several other companies have joined an initiative called SIMORC (System of Industry Metocean Data for the Offshore and Research Communities) which consists of an index metadatabase and a database of actual data sets, accessible through the internet. SIMORC is funded under an EU framework VI programme and is intended to make data freely available to registered users in consistent and high quality, harmonised data sets.[404]


198. In general, we believe that data should be made as widely available as possible as early as possible, through a co-ordinated mechanism such as the BODC. We accept that raw data may in fact be misleading and there will need to be a period of refinement in some cases, although in other cases, real time or near-real time data is already available. We also note the warning of Professor Boyd of SMRU that "making data available does not mean that it is useable".[405] He explained that

    Data needs to be interpreted and, however that data is used, there will almost certainly be an interactive process between the producers and suppliers of the data and the users of the data and we need to find a mechanism that allows that to happen much more smoothly than it does at the moment. We have a mechanism in the marine mammal sector to allow that to happen in the UK which comes out of a rather quirky piece of legislation that came up in 1970, the Conservation of Seals Act, and I personally think that that is a model by which could work in the future in a much wider scale.[406]

We recommend that the principle of "collect once, use many times" be applied to marine data across Government, including the Royal Navy. We further recommend that the new marine agency which we have recommended, or an equivalent body, be charged with finding mechanisms to facilitate the release of data and interaction between producers, suppliers and users of data to maximise its value to the community at large.


199. The EC maritime Green Paper proposed the establishment of a European Marine Observation and Data Network to give public and private organisations access to all monitoring data via a single portal. The UK Government's position on this proposal is that "We are not persuaded that a new … network is needed".[407] The Government argues that "it would be better to fund [existing] networks effectively and collect this data on a longer term basis than establish another network".[408] This position is difficult to understand as the network is not intended to act as a monitoring agency in its own right. Shared data sets will be critically important for managing transboundary waters (that is, everything that surrounds the UK). We recommend that the Government reconsider its opposition to discussions on a European Marine Observation and Data Network.


200. Data from observations has traditionally been used to track changes but it is increasingly being used for modelling future scenarios. These models can then be tested against real-life events and the results fed back into the model to improve their accuracy. In this way, scientists aim to be able to predict the future and model how different actions might affect it. Models in use or development at the moment include a Defra-funded £11m pa research programme with the Hadley Centre. Ocean modelling is an important component of this state-of-the-art climate model which is being developed and run to inform policies to address climate change.[409] The Met Office also creates "complex models of the Earth System which are used to make weather forecasts, seasonal forecasts and to simulate the Earth's climate and changes in its climate".[410] Within these models, there are separate model components to simulate the atmosphere, the oceans, sea-ice, land vegetation and other components of the environment.

201. Access to these models by scientists and collaboration in their development is an important factor in their effectiveness. The Met Office told us that its policy was to enable NERC staff to contribute to the scientific development of these models and to have access to them for scientific experiments and evaluation.[411] We commend collaborations on modelling, such as those between NERC scientists and the Hadley Centre and Met Office. We note that it is also important to simulate alternative future economic scenarios. This has been the basis of several IPCC predictions for climate change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that looked at how global and regional biodiversity is likely to be influenced by future development patterns. Economic predictions underpinned the Stern Report on climate change, and a similar approach might be considered for the UK's marine environment.

323   Ev 103 Back

324   Ev 264 Back

325   Q 138 Back

326   Q 138 Back

327   Ev 152 Back

328   Ev 103 Back

329   Ibid Back

330   Ev 150 Back

331   UKMMAS: A Strategy for UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment, revised 12 March 2007, 1.7 Back

332 Back

333   Ev 100 Back

334   Ev 271 Back

335   Ibid Back

336   Ev 231 Back

337   Ev 266 Back

338   Ev 144 Back

339   Ibid Back

340   Ev 162 Back

341   Q 57 Back

342   Ev 162 Back

343   Ev 144 Back

344   Ibid Back

345   Q 143 Back

346   Q 13 Back

347   Ev 129 Back

348   Q 177 Back

349   Ev 102 Back

350   Q 53 Back

351   Q 340 Back

352   Ev 129 Back

353   Ibid Back

354   Q 589 Back

355   Q 587 Back

356   Q 588 Back

357   Q 589 Back

358   Ev 129 Back

359   Q 163 Back

360   Ev 103 Back

361   Ev 122  Back

362   Q 53 Back

363   Ev 230 Back

364   Ev 171 Back

365   Q 521 Back

366   Q 587 Back

367   Q 227 Back

368   Q 338 Back

369   Q 439 Back

370   Ev 129 Back

371   Ev 167, 198 Back

372   Ev 171 Back

373   Ev 232 Back

374   Ev 141 Back

375   Q 347 Back

376   Ev 212 Back

377   Ev 130 Back

378   Q 182 Back

379   Ev 130 Back

380   Ev 232 Back

381   Ibid Back

382   Ev 130 Back

383   Q 54 Back

384   Ev 103 Back

385   Polar Science Working Group Draft Report, Version 5 for Comment, NERC Polar Science Working Group Report, para 66; Back

386   Ibid Back

387   Ev 183 Back

388   Q 590 Back

389   Ev 130 Back

390   Ev 234 Back

391   Q 203 Back

392   Ev 264 Back

393   Ev 129 Back

394   Q 590 Back

395   Q 237 Back

396   Ev 130 Back

397   Ev 238 Back

398   Q 340 Back

399   Ev 102 Back

400   Ev 141 Back

401   Ev 231 Back

402   Ev 221 Back

403   Ev 252 Back

404   Ev 252 Back

405   Q 413 Back

406   Ibid Back

407   Com (2006) 275 final, p 22 Back

408   Ibid Back

409   Ev 152 Back

410   Ev 178 Back

411   Ibid Back

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