257. The CCMST, the forerunner of the IACMST, commented
in 1990 on the difficulties in training and retaining sufficient
marine scientists and technologists, and the present-day IACMST
argued that "many of the same comments still hold today".
Although the Plymouth Marine Laboratory claimed that the UK skills
base for marine science is "extremely buoyant",
the difficulties of recruiting and retaining scientists to work
in the marine sciences in the UK emerge clearly from the evidence.
In the academic sector, Professor Henderson of Oxford University
told us that "from a research and both a strategic and non-directed
research point of view, there is a looming skills shortage in
Professor Shimmield from SAMS wrote that recruiting numerate PhD
and post-doctoral staff was an ongoing problem. He added:
We also recognize the need to maintain expertise
in marine taxonomy, but find that obtaining the research funding
to sustain this skill is very hard indeed. In the past 2 years,
we have lost substantial knowledge in deep sea biology and taxonomy,
and despite an international search, have found it hard to recruit
even at professorial level.'
Recent work by NERC has highlighted possible skills
shortages in taxonomy, physical oceanography, mathematical modeling
and deep sea biology.
Other witnesses identified shortages of mathematicians, oceanographic
and ecological modellers, molecular biologists and environmental
258. The numerical disciplines were cited as a particular
difficulty. The importance of complex computer modelling for climate
change and other forecasting data requires a strong skills base
in mathematics and physics. This makes it a matter of concern
that POL, for example, told us that they "struggled to recruit
well-qualified physicists and mathematicians trained in the UK".
Professor Willmott of POL believed that "for many undergraduates
studying mathematics, physics, they perhaps do not always realise
that there are some really very attractive, exciting careers in
marine science. I think there is a lack of information to those
sorts of people that there is a very large demand for highly numerate
graduates in our field."
259. Cefas offered a different explanation for its
particular problem in the recruitment of highly numerate scientists
with modelling and statistical skills, and also of experienced
very senior scientists, attributing these difficulties to the
availability of funding from Defra for salaries and for continuity
of research. Professor
Sir Howard Dalton accepted that this was a problem.
NOCS too blamed availability of funding for recruitment and retention
difficulties, arguing that German and US research institutes,
the UK's main competitors, "are much better funded than in
the UK generally and are becoming increasingly aggressive in their
targeting of individuals within UK institutions and NOCS in particular".
260. There is also a challenge in recruiting engineers
into marine technology. The NERC directors told us that "The
demography of the marine engineering community which risks losing
key capabilities in the next few years, particularly in relation
to experience of design and operation of moorings" was a
IMarEST noted that, from an industrial perspective, "At a
higher education level training provision is currently lagging
behind employer need".
POL runs an apprentice scheme to train technicians, but it stressed
the links between the shortages of mathematicians and others noted
above and the problem of engineering skills: "leadership
for marine technology development requires physicists, material
scientists and engineers trained up to postgraduate level and
at POL we struggle to appoint such people, mainly due to non-competitive
We note, however, that for the oceanographic industry, the requirement
is less for marine science graduates and more for electronic engineers
and software programmers and designers.
261. The picture is not uniformly gloomy. Professor
Liss of the Challenger Society told us that "I think marine
science is probably not as badly off as some other areas of science
in the UK in terms of recruitment".
Several witnesses also identified biologists as a skills set which
was well supplied. Cefas, for example, declared itself "able
to recruit high calibre biologists at the postgraduate and postdoctoral
attributed this to "Cousteau-effect".
Specifically on biology, however, one area of concern was fieldwork
skills. The Biosciences Federation believed that "Biology-oriented
students passing through the increasingly prescribed route of
GCSE-A-level-BSc are not exposed to the practical skills that
are essential for planning or conducting marine work in general
and its organismal (ecology and systematics) aspects in particular."
NOCS too highlighted the lack of recognition from funding bodies
such as HEFCE of the cost of fieldwork for undergraduate courses.
262. Issues involving salaries and sustained research
funding are not specific to marine science, although we recognise
that an important characteristic of marine science is its global
nature and several witnesses stressed the impact of this upon
their own workforce. Cefas told us
The mix of nationalities working for Cefas has
altered markedly over the last 10 years and the workforce is more
mobile with higher turnover rates. This brings many advantages
in terms of international networking and joining up the science
base, but has the disadvantage for the UK that many marine scientists
regard their workplace as global rather than local and they are
more ready to move for increases in salary.
The MBA told us that "many research laboratories
have a high proportion of non-UK scientists [as a result of lack
of skills in the UK], although this reflects the open door policy
of the UK scientific community to European and international scientific
263. Work has been undertaken or is planned to identify
skills shortages by the Environmental Research Funders Forum,
EPSRC and the IACMST. The ERFF is planning a review of the training
needs that will be required to support environmental science in
the UK to meet academia, policy and commercial end-user needs.
This will be scoped in November and so will not be available for
some time. EPSRC have tried to identify skills shortages and match
them with university courses. Dr Thompson identified five current
courses in marine technology areas, established in response to
needs identified by employers.
Mr Guymer of the IACMST told us that his Committee had "identified
not only that some skills which were needed in the past have declined
but also that there are emerging needs, particularly surrounding
the area of operational oceanography"
The IACMST has been "discussing with bodies such as the Institute
of Marine Engineering Science and Technology how to identify
future needs and what strategies should be implemented to meet
them", in areas such as operational oceanography where training
provision is lagging behind employer needs.
264. The IACMST suggested more effort should be focused
on this issue. Its Chairman, Professor Sir Howard Dalton, admitted
that trying "to stimulate industry to try to interact much
more with the higher education institutions so that there could
be a more active engagement for the universities to have an identification
of the sorts of needs that it would have and the skills it would
require in the future
is still an issue and it is still
something that IACMST talked a little bit about, but it is not
very high up on the agenda, I am afraid".
Mr Guymer, the IACMST secretary, argued that "We need to
have a better understanding of industry's and government departments'
present needs and what they anticipate they are going to be in
the next ten to 20 years, and then establish a strategy to meet
contrast, Professor Sir David King told us that "the prime
responsibility [for monitoring and addressing skills shortages
in marine science] must rest with employers who are able to make
representations through the Sector Skills Councils".
We disagree with Sir David on this occasion. We believe that
one of the key tasks of the new marine body should be to review
the training needs required to support marine science and technology
in the UK and to propose a strategy for tackling identified shortages.
NOCS suggested that there should be more Research Council
funding for Masters courses in areas of strategic skills shortages,
adding that "In general in marine science we feel that the
number of Masters studentships offered by research councils to
support students in marine science is inadequate."
The review of training needs should cover both industrial and
academic requirements across the field, including higher degrees
as well as undergraduate and other skills.
Education and outreach
265. Witnesses pointed to the strong attractions
of careers in marine science for young scientists. Professor Liss
of the Challenger Society commented that "going on research
vessels and conducting measurements of the oceans, observing the
oceans, going to Antarcticathese are all very big magnets
for young people, as you might expect".
Professor Willmott of POL added that "Things like the International
Polar Year I think provide a good platform for advertising and
marine science, for example, through POL's involvement in an IPY
project we have the opportunity to send a student and a science
teacher to go on board the Canadian icebreaker next winter".
266. However, this natural attraction is not well
supported in the UK education system. At the school level, marine
science and the study of the oceans are not covered in the national
curriculum. IMarEST told us that "Marine science is typically
integrated into the geography syllabus, or even, citizenship,
as opposed to being incorporated into the traditional sciences".
This is disappointing when marine science has clear attractions
to young people and could be drawn into many topics to increase
interest in science, such as climate change or the variety of
biodiversity in the deep ocean. It also means that there is no
incentive at school level for young people to seek careers in
oceanography or related disciplines and, at a wider level, it
has a negative impact on the general state of public understanding
of the relationship of humans to the oceans.
267. Several marine-related organisations are taking
steps to increase their outreach work to schools. A section on
the IACMST website points to internet resources for teachers and
education provided by its members; BAS was praised for its education
work during evidence; and we had the opportunity to discuss NOCS'
classroom@sea project while visiting the James Cook in Lisbon.
Professor Sir Howard Dalton also praised the work of the fisheries
laboratories and the Plymouth institutions.
We commend these individual efforts but it remains the case that
teachers and pupils have to seek out such opportunities and are
not directed to them through the curriculum or official guidance.
IMarEST called on the Government to "seek to support careers
initiatives in Marine Science, Engineering and Technology"
and to conduct "a review into the correct place for marine
science education", together with paying "more attention
. to increase teacher confidence in teaching 'unusual subjects'".
268. In the US we were struck by the work that has
been undertaken by the National Science Federation to link marine
science to all aspects of the school curriculum. We recommend
that the Department for Children, Families and Schools investigate
the US programme and other ways of integrating marine science
into schools and adopt a strategic programme to encourage the
study of marine science-related subjects in UK schools. This
should involve inclusion of marine science in the mainstream school
science curriculum and presenting it in an integrated manner,
not just focussing on the biological aspects. Young people need
to appreciate the importance of marine systems at various scales
and the relevance to their daily lives and future prospects. We
were also impressed by the US Sea Grant programme run by NOAA
which gives funding to 30 public universities in the US to conduct
programmes into marine science. We recommend that DIUS and
Defra jointly examine the US Sea Grant programme with a view to
whether the new marine body could usefully expend funds of its
own to encourage marine research in the HEI sector.
ROLE OF LEARNED SOCIETIES
269. There are several learned societies with interests
in this area, including The Challenger Society for Marine Science,
the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT), the Marine Biological
Association of the UK, SAMS and IMarEST. There are also some international
learned societies, such as the Oceanographic Society, the Amercian
Geophysical Union and the European Geophysical Union, which are
highly influential in pursuing and facilitating developments in
international marine science. We believe that there is scope for
the UK societies to extend their own influence by adopting a similarly
outward vision in order to take advantage of international scientific
270. Dr Rayner of IMarEST argued that in any attempts
to improve co-ordination by the IACMST or a new agency, "you
can use the links to the professional societies as well that have
a strong role to play in this process. They can help to foster
We believe that the learned societies have a role to play in
outreach work and encouraging greater knowledge of ocean-related
issues among the general public and in promoting careers in marine
science. We recommend that the new marine body, proposed in this
Report, develop links with the learned societies for this purpose.
Increasing public awareness
271. NOCS stressed the fascinating and inspirational
aspect of the oceans and the "insatiable public appetite
and interest in the sea".
They argued that "The oceans thus provide a natural common
medium for the engagement of wider society with science".
Dr Rodger of BAS suggested that "the deep sea with all its
peculiar animals is one way to inspire, so instead of necessarily
looking at dinosaurs I would really like to see this generation
of youngsters focus on the fantastic biodiversity that you get
within the ocean and particularly the deep ocean."
Moreover, the current focus on environmental issues and sustainability
led IMarEST to suggest that the importance of increasing public
awareness of wider marine issues was such that "Government
must promote the message that the health of the oceans rests with
the entire community. To ensure this government must be committed
to broadening its acceptance of the duty of care for marine heritage
and to promoting marine science education for all".
This is in accordance with the spirit of the European Maritime
Green Paper The new marine body should be charged with raising
public awareness of marine issues, including better use of facilities
such as science centres and public aquaria. A focus on extreme
environments (space and oceans) would entice young people into
science. There should also be a duty placed on the new body to
raise awareness of marine sustainability issues so that the general
public is accurately informed about the importance of the oceans
in their lives.
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