Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report


Exploitation of the oceans
1.We recommend that greater research effort be directed by UK public sector funders towards the understanding and mitigation of the impact of fishing on marine environments, and the coming Marine Bill must address this issue. (Paragraph 32)
Priorities for marine research
2.The world's oceans are fundamental to the continuing ability of human beings to survive comfortably on this planet, and it is vital that efforts to understand them are pursued with clarity, co-ordination and purpose, but also with an open mind as to future areas of importance. (Paragraph 43)
Funding and organisation of marine science in the UK
3.We recommend that funding be identified by the sponsoring Government department for a regular survey of marine-related research and development in the UK by the IACMST or any successor body with responsibility for co-ordination in this area. (Paragraph 46)
Research Councils: NERC
4.The declining trend in NERC funding for marine science is a worrying one and we seek an explanation from NERC as to why marine science has apparently been less of a priority than other areas within the NERC remit. (Paragraph 62)
5.We accept that NERC acts in good faith to support the best science in awarding funding under the responsive mode and that the number of applications is small, but we believe that the apparent bias against funding for marine science applications requires investigation and explanation from NERC. (Paragraph 66)
6.We recommend that NERC commit funding to the full five years of the Oceans 2025 programme in order to enable proper planning and effective organsiation. In doing so, it needs to ensure that the longer term programmes and facilities are not packaged together with the short term projects in the same project cycle, so that each can be assessed against their natural lifespan. (Paragraph 70)
7.We recommend that NERC review the use of the Strategic Ocean Funding Initiative, with a view to increasing the amount allocated to it within the Oceans 2025 programme and encouraging participation from universities in Oceans 2025. (Paragraph 71)
8.We recommend that NERC review the need for a director of science for marine and atmospheric science. (Paragraph 74)
Other Research Councils
9.We recommend that RCUK monitor applications and inquiries to ascertain whether there has been improvement in funding interdisciplinary work in marine science areas as a result of recent changes. (Paragraph 82)
10.We recommend that scientists working in marine research in the UK be eligible to apply for funding to any of the Research Councils, regardless of their place of employment. (Paragraph 83)
Government departments
11.We recommend a review be commissioned by Defra and NERC jointly on mechanisms for improving the relationship between the marine centres and the fisheries laboratories and for encouraging collaboration and co-ordination of research effort. (Paragraph 90)
12.We recommend that the role of the UKHO as a marine research establishment be explicitly considered as part of the MoD review of the future of the Office. (Paragraph 96)
Overall funding
13.A full review of future needs for increases in funding marine science, along the lines of the work undertaken already on marine monitoring requirements, is urgently needed.  Nevertheless, it is clear, even without such a detailed review, that a substantial increase in funding is necessary if marine science is to meet the challenges before it. (Paragraph 102)
Inter-Agency Committee for Marine Science and Technology (IACMST)
14.It is unacceptable for a Government-funded body chaired by a Chief Scientific Adviser to be ignorant of its formal reporting responsibilities. We recommend that reporting lines for the IACMST be clarified without delay. Defra and DIUS, including the Government Office for Science, need to discuss lines of responsibility and what reporting procedures are required and communicate the results clearly to the IACMST. (Paragraph 109)
15.We recommend that DIUS play a more active part in the successor body to the IACMST which we recommend later in this Report. (Paragraph 110)
16.We do not believe that the IACMST as currently constituted is capable of fulfilling the role required of it by the challenges facing marine science. It is fundamentally flawed in its constitution, and minor amendments to its budget or resources will not transform the organisation of marine science in the UK. (Paragraph 114)
Improving co-ordination of marine science and technology in the UK
17.We recommend that a new co-ordinating body for marine science, reporting to Defra, be established. This body should bring together all public-sector funders of marine research, together with stakeholders such as the universities and end-users of marine science, and should be properly resourced to fulfil its functions. Because of the range of activities for which greater co-ordination is required at an executive level, our preference would be for this co-ordinating function to be placed with a new marine agency, which should be given executive powers and a budget to oversee operational observations (Paragraph 132)
18.We believe that the transfer of functions to the new marine agency should provide an opportunity to reduce the number of co-ordinating bodies operating in this area and we recommend that the Government review the organisations, committees and other bodies co-ordinating marine-related activities with this aim in mind.  (Paragraph 133)
Research Vessels
19.We believe that there is scope for better integrated management of the coastal fleet although this may well be limited in view of the demands upon it. A new marine body could act as a clearing house to co-ordinate research cruises and spare capacity on marine science vessels. (Paragraph 143)
20.We welcome the world-wide extension of the Continuous Plankton Recorder concept as an excellent initiative and we urge the UK Government to take the lead in promoting it to fellow Governments at the next GEO Ministerial. (Paragraph 146)
21.We recommend that NERC investigate the costs and benefits of a scheme for the widespread use of commercial vessels to take ocean measurements, with a view to providing UK leadership on this project. (Paragraph 148)
22.We conclude that there is greater demand for ship-time than the current arrangements are capable of delivering and that vessel capacity is a limiting factor in marine research. (Paragraph 151)
23.We recommend that an independent review be conducted of the cost-effectiveness of NERC's operation of its research vessels and management of alternative arrangements for access to vessels. (Paragraph 154)
24.We fully support the development of the new vessel planned for 2011 and recommend that the Government and NERC commit to ensuring that this vessel is delivered on time and to specification. (Paragraph 155)
25.We recommend that NERC develop a case for a new coastal vessel for submission to the large facilities roadmap and that DIUS look sympathetically upon such a bid. (Paragraph 155)
Other facilities
26.We recommend that the provision of facilities be regularly reviewed as part of the mandate of the proposed new co-ordinating body which would be the best available independent body to obtain objective information from potential users and providers, especially from those outside the NERC community. (Paragraph 156)
27.We encourage the development of partnership arrangements within Europe for the provision of highly advanced underwater technologies and infrastructure. (Paragraph 157)
28.We recommend that NERC keep the use of Isis under review and ensure that its potential is not undermined by factors such as the availability of crews or platforms. We further recommend that NERC investigate whether there would be more demand for use of Isis, if more time were offered. (Paragraph 158)
Information technologies for marine science
29.We recommend that NERC keep under review the computing resources needed in the environmental sciences, particularly with regard to NERC's new theme of environmental change. (Paragraph 160)
Government support
30.We regret the lack of attention paid by Government, in particular the OSI/DIUS, to marine science since the disbandment of the Marine Foresight Panel. We also regret that there has been no systematic attempt to track implementation of the recommendations made by the Marine Foresight Panel. We believe that greater effort is needed in horizon-scanning within the marine science and technology sector, and we recommend that this be included in the remit of the new marine body. (Paragraph 164)
Gaps in data
31.We recommend that social system indicators be part of future research and monitoring priorities for UK marine science. (Paragraph 172)
Funding and Co-ordination
32.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. (Paragraph 180)
33.We support the use of cost-benefit assessment to establish the value of maintaining or stopping long-term monitoring programmes 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. (Paragraph 181)
International ocean monitoring systems
34.We recommend that the UK Government renew its commitment to GOOS and ensure that the network of observatories is completed according to the timetable.  (Paragraph 184)
35.We recommend that funding be guaranteed for the Argo programme from centralised funds. (Paragraph 185)
36.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. (Paragraph 189)
Sharing data
37.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. (Paragraph 198)
38.We recommend that the Government reconsider its opposition to discussions on a European Marine Observation and Data Network. (Paragraph 199)
The importance of studying the polar oceans
39.We welcome NERC's commitment to the International Polar Year but consider that the additional funding dedicated to the UK contribution is less than generous. NERC must confirm that it will provide sustained funding to IPY projects after the end of the programme. (Paragraph 204)
The UK's role in polar science
40.The UK effort in the Southern Ocean conducted through BAS is truly impressive and gives the UK a genuinely world-leading position in this area of expertise. We support the continuation of this research focus and the resources dedicated to it. (Paragraph 210)
41.We recommend that BAS be brought fully within the scope of NERC's marine policy as it affects the research centres. (Paragraph 210)
42.We recommend that NERC identify funding for an expansion of Arctic research in collaboration with other nations which already have substantial presence there. (Paragraph 217)
Conservation of marine areas
43.We urge the Government to establish a number of full-scale MPA pilot sites immediately, ahead of the Marine Bill, in order to gather the evidence necessary to develop the science needed to underpin MPAs and to enable the UK to become a leader in conservation science. (Paragraph 223)
The Marine Bill
44.We recommend that the draft Marine Bill be brought forward without further delay, despite concerns about Defra's ability to deliver a network of MPAs. We require an assurance from the department as to the speedy presentation of the draft bill and the subsequent bill itself, and a commitment to ensuring that the bill is enacted by the end of the next parliamentary session. We recommend that Defra publish a clear timetable for the bill to complete its passage through Parliament within this timeframe. We recommend that Defra conduct and publish an assessment of what is needed to enable it to designate and monitor chosen sites. However, this assessment should not be used as an excuse to delay proceedings on the bill: if the department waits until it has all the necessary data, it will never proceed. (Paragraph 233)
Technology transfer to the commercial sector
45.We commend projects such as EPSRC's efforts to stimulate work in sensor systems where Research Councils have identified a potential gap in the market and moved to address it. We believe that there is greater scope for such activity than has previously been explored and recommend that the Research Councils pursue an active approach to identify areas for technology development in the marine sector. (Paragraph 251)
Technology and policy formulation
46.We believe that there is an important role for a marine agency to promote knowledge transfer from scientists to policy formulation. This could include publishing data in an appropriate format and promoting stakeholder engagement. (Paragraph 254)
Industry and strategy
47.We believe that the development of marine technology should be an important component of the work of new marine body which should ensure that it engages with industry in developing its strategy and plan of work. (Paragraph 255)
48.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.  (Paragraph 264)
Education and outreach
49.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. (Paragraph 268)
50.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. (Paragraph 268)
51.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. (Paragraph 270)
Increasing public awareness
52.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. (Paragraph 271)
International organisations
53.We recommend that a co-ordinating committee, within the new agency, be established to bring together UK representatives on all relevant international bodies in order to establish agreed common policy goals and to make optimal use of UK expertise and technology. (Paragraph 274)
International projects
54.We recommend that NERC examine alternative mechanisms for funding long-term international projects in marine science. It may be that there is also a role for the new marine body here in helping with co-ordination across funders. We also recommend that more funding be made available by NERC or other funders of programmes to enable scientists to exploit the results of international projects. (Paragraph 278)
55.We conclude that NERC should continue to fund IPOs wherever possible and should provide direct support and assistance in the early stages of bidding for such offices, as well as during the period of operation. (Paragraph 281)
EU marine research
56.We believe that the UK should participate fully in the development of marine science and technology under the European maritime Green Paper process and show leadership to maximise the influence of UK scientists. We are concerned that this may not be easy with the Department for Transport in charge of Government policy in this area and we urge full consultation between that Department and those with greater knowledge of marine science and technology.  (Paragraph 284)
57.We recommend that the UK continue to work closely with EU to exploit FP7 to the full in the area of marine science. (Paragraph 288)
A UK marine action plan
58.We recommend that the UK Government develop a strategy for marine science, setting out priorities for fulfilment in the next ten years and identifying how these will be met. This strategy should be developed in full and open consultation with the science community, the private sector and all those with an interest in the health and exploitation of the oceans, including those involved in education. We further recommend that the marine science strategy be part of a larger holistic strategy or plan for maritime affairs, covering the range of uses of the sea, current and future. The priorities and objectives in this strategy should be underpinned by scientific data and evidence. We recommend that the strategies be the day to day responsibility of a new marine agency, an executive body with powers to require the co-operation of Government departments. At the top of this new structure, we recommend the designation of a Minister for Marine Science within Defra, who should act as the Government champion for the whole maritime strategy. (Paragraph 304)
59.Under this new arrangement, it would be illogical to leave the Department for Transport in charge of Government policy on the European maritime Green Paper. We recommend that this responsibility be passed to the new marine agency.  (Paragraph 305)

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