Submission from the Proudman Oceanographic
Global warming is creating changes in the Arctic
that are likely to have a global impact. The UK has a number of
small research groups with a strong track record in Arctic research
and POL recommends that they are coordinated to address the impact
of Arctic climate change on the climate of Northwestern Europe.
POL welcomes the modest real terms increase
in funding for strategic marine research announced by the NERC
at the launch of Oceans 2025.
Although Oceans 2025 is a five-year programme,
the NERC is only committing funding for the first two years due
to the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the comprehensive
spending review. A real-term cut in years three to five of the
programme would seriously undermine basic research aimed at improving
the predictability of climate models and assessing the impact
of climate change on the UK.
POL continues to be concerned about barriers
preventing cross-council funding of marine research. Collaboration
between NERC research and collaborative centres has been hampered
by their mode of funding and POL welcomes moves to address this
through the NERC Funding, Allocation and Budgeting project. Collaboration
between CEFAS and NERC is also lacking and this is holding back
research progress in the areas of marine bio-resources and marine
POL is concerned that recent budget cuts at
Defra and the EA could reduce investment in the UK tide gauge
network which underpins the storm and flood forecasting at the
Long-term ocean monitoring ranging from remote
sensing to ARGO floats is funded by a number of organizations
and the situation is unnecessarily complicated. Funding for long-term
monitoring of the oceans is also insecure.
Similarly, the current divided responsibilities
between several organizations for Earth Observation have an adverse
impact on global environmental monitoring capability in the UK.
POL struggles to recruit well-qualified physicists and mathematicians
trained in the UK and we frequently recruit from overseas.
What can be done to make a career in marine
science more attractive to scientists trained in these fields?
POL is concerned that there are no funded programmes
to protect the health of marine SSSIs. 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
POL welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence
to this enquiry.
Organisation and funding of UK marine science
in the polar and non-polar regions
1. An increase in funding and better organisation
for polar marine research is needed. In recent years it is apparent
that the Arctic is a barometer for the rapid climate change we
are experiencing. Feedback mechanisms operating between the atmosphere,
cryosphere and ocean and are responsible for the dramatic year
on year decrease in Arctic summer sea ice that we are witnessing.
The consequences of global warming are most starkly revealed in
the Arctic, where warming is greater than elsewhere on the planet.
One likely consequence of Arctic warming will be to impact on
the strength of the global thermohaline circulation due to an
increase in freshwater run-off from glacial melt. Thus, climate
change in the Arctic can be viewed as the "engine room"
for driving global climate change. In view of the extreme climate
sensitivity of the Arctic, the likely global impact that it will
create and the sensitivity of UK climate thereto via the thermohaline
circulation, we believe that the UK should be at the forefront
of research aimed at developing regional (including Arctic) climate
2. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) provides
the leadership for UK research in the Antarctic. However, BAS
is not in a position to provide similar leadership for Arctic
research. The ships that BAS uses are ice strengthened and have
only modest ice breaking capability. To reach the interesting
regions in the Arctic basin during periods when sea ice is forming
requires an ice breaker. The science programmes that BAS conducts
in the Antarctic leaves very little time to deploy their ships
and planes in the Arctic; usually 4 months at most during the
Northern Hemisphere summer. We require data from the Arctic throughout
the year and it is unlikely that BAS will be able to deliver it.
3. Other UK institutions with a track record
of running Arctic field programmes are the Scott Polar Research
Institute (SPRI) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science
(SAMS). In recent years SPRI has reduced activity in the physical
sciences. SAMS does not have a research vessel capable of operating
in the Arctic. However, SAMS has a long track record of collaborating
with Arctic nations, in particular the Norwegians. Collaboration
provides SAMS with access to the Arctic.
4. The picture in the UK for developing
regional Arctic climate prediction models is somewhat brighter,
with the Hadley Centre, BAS, the National Centre for Atmospheric
Sciences (NCAS), the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling
(CPOM), the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the Proudman
Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) all having capability in this field.
There is an urgent requirement to coordinate the modelling capabilities
of these centres under the umbrella of a new UK initiative, the
Arctic Climate Prediction Programme, say.
5. April 2007 marks the launch of the International
Polar Year (IPY).The recent NERC IPY funding initiative was very
small (order £5 million) for polar research. A project that
plans to collect and analyse data from the Polar Regions will
typically cost £2 million upwards. Thus, the NERC IPY funding
initiative supported two major projects only. Although the UK
has not committed a great deal of ring fenced money to the IPY,
UK based scientists are involved in a large number of IPY-approved
projects led by scientists based overseas.
6. Recently the NERC approved funding for
a new strategic marine science programme called Ocean 2025. Seven
marine laboratories in the UK will be collaborating on this programme
and the Executive Board of this programme will be submitting evidence
to this inquiry. The overall five-year funding envelope for Oceans
2025 exceeds the current NERC strategic funding to the seven participating
marine laboratories by approximately 4%. POL welcomes the planned
increase in NERC strategic marine funding, and is one of the laboratories
that can look forward to a real-term funding increase.
7. Until recently the funding for NERC centres
and surveys inhibited research collaboration between the laboratories.
In fact, the centres and surveys were competing against each other
for strategic funding. NERC's Funding Allocation and Budgeting
(FAB) review promises to create a funding environment that enables
centres/surveys to collaborate; POL welcomes this.
8. There are also unhelpful barriers for
funding marine science between research councils. For example,
offshore engineering is mainly funded by EPSRC which POL is prevented
from bidding for.
9. Looking beyond the NERC the issue of
funding for marine science is of concern. Defra funding cuts are
a major problem for UK marine sciences. 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.
POL is also concerned about the longer term funding of the UK
tide gauge network by the Environment Agency (EA). Defra funding
cuts filter through to the EA. POL has run the tide gauge (sea-level)
network for many years supported by Defra. About two 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. We must stress that long-term
monitoring of environmental fields (eg 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. 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.
10. Funding constraints at Defra have also
inhibited collaboration between the NERC and CEFAS. There is the
potential for a major advance in marine ecosystem management through
closer collaboration between CEFAS and the laboratories participating
in Oceans 2025.
The role of UK internationally, and international
collaboration in marine science
11. The UK takes the lead in RAPID and is
a big player in WOCE. Although ring fenced funding for IPY has
not been large, UK scientists are involved with almost half of
the IPY-approved projects. UK sea level science is excellent and
its profile should be raised further on the international stage.
POL hosts GLOSS (The Global Sea Level Observing System), an IOC/UNESCO
funded programme. The UK also has a high participation rate in
EU framework proposals. We believe the UK should be taking a stronger
lead in many international (eg IOC) programmes and not leave it
all to the US (as most countries do!). There should be a clear
line of responsibility for funding global programmes like CLIVAR,
GOOS etc. and not leave it to the fate of individual science proposals
like Oceans 2025. There is a lack of scientific administrative
support in the UK which prohibits our scientists in getting involved
in the leadership of international programmes. The leadership
of large international programmes carries a significant administrative
overhead that most UK laboratories cannot easily accommodate.
12. Without large ships the UK cannot participate
in international marine science. POL welcomes the imminent arrival
of the RRS James Cook and the planned funding to replace the RRS
Discovery. However, the cost of building new ships continues to
rise rapidly and we are concerned that there will be insufficient
funds to build a vessel with capability similar, if not greater,
than the RRS Discovery. The UK enters into a barter arrangement
with countries that run ocean going research vessels. This arrangement
is only possible if the UK can continue to offer berths to international
scientists on its own ocean going research vessels. The challenge
for the UK Government, and in particular the NERC, is to develop
a long-term funding model to support large-scale infrastructure
such as aircraft and ships. To conduct cutting-edge environmental
science it is vital to have access to these types of facilities.
13. Earth observations play a fundamental
role in monitoring our planet, but there is insufficient funding
for processing and archiving remote sensing data. The NERC subscribes
to ESA for science but not for monitoring. The UK needs to get
its act together regarding all aspects of space research. Present
divided responsibilities have an adverse impact on global environmental
monitoring capability in the UK. There are a number of organisations
with responsibility for space research such as the BNSC, EPSRC
and Defra. It is unclear to us what the roles and responsibilities
of each of these organisations are in space research. A proper
strategy for space research, including who is responsible for
funding the processing and archiving of remotely-sensed data is
Support for marine science, including provision
and development of technology and engineering
14. Oceans 2025 has made a significant step
forward in funding marine technology. In POL our proposal for
marine technology has been fully funded, enabling us to further
develop the Liverpool Bay Observatory and to develop state-of-the-art
telemetry systems for sea level data. There is however a caveat
to this good news. Oceans 2025 funding has been confirmed for
the first two years of the five-year programme only. Funding for
years three to five is dependent on the outcome of the CSR 2007.
Technology development is, by its very nature, long-term and costly.
If funding for years three to five of Oceans 2025 is reduced in
real terms then this will have a disproportionately large adverse
impact on the technology theme. Marine technology development
also provides opportunities for commercialisation. The time-scale
for developing a new instrument and then conducting the trials
required to reach the stage where commercialisation is a real
prospect is typically five to 10 years. Until recently strategic
marine science funding from the NERC was five years at most. The
FAB review proposes that "national capability" within
NERC centres and surveys (such as marine technology) be funded
on a longer time-scale, such as 10 years. POL welcomes this proposal.
15. Apart form the NERC there are few bodies
willing to fund marine technology. Better collaboration with EPSRC
may benefit technology funding. At present the UK is weak in developing
and deploying "big in situ technology" such as
robots, deep sea submersibles and autonomous under water vehicles.
Sea floor observatories, particularly of the cabled type, are
talked about, but nothing happens. We believe that the UK is missing
out by not getting involved with "big technology".
16. Attracting skilled engineers into careers
in marine technology is a major challenge. The UK does not train
a large number of engineers, and the most able tend to pursue
more lucrative careers than we can offer in the marine laboratories.
At POL we have had modest success in running an apprentice scheme
where we train technicians "in house". However, 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
State of UK research and skills base underpinning
of marine science
17. The UK skill base for marine science
is not healthy, particularly in the area of marine physics which
is at the heart of the research conducted at POL. POL requires
highly numerate scientists and engineers, usually trained to postgraduate
level. POL always seeks to recruit the best person for a given
post and in a many cases this results in recruiting from abroad.
The question is what will happen to UK (marine) science if the
supply of skilled scientists from overseas dries up? POL believes
it is strongly in the interests of the UK economy to train and
retain scientists and engineers. The status of scientists and
engineers in the UK is not high and the salaries they command
are significantly less than in many other professions. We have
a shortage of role models in science and engineering that young
people can be inspired by. High schools struggle to attract teaching
staff trained to degree level in science and engineering. Mathematics
and physics graduates are desperately required in the teaching
profession. The Research Councils are aware of these problems
but the debate is to what degree they should become involved with
addressing the problems at high school level. Universities are
perhaps better placed to address the problems with attracting
well qualified scientists in the teaching profession. Information
for young people about the skills required for a career in marine
science is often inaccurate. For example, it is not made clear
that certain fields in marine science require graduates in mathematics
Use of marine sites of special scientific interest
18. There are a number of marine SSSIs which
have already been identified. Unfortunately, there is very little
funding available to monitor such sites with the goal of determining
whether they are under threat. Further, there is a lack of a single
point of contact for data obtained through monitoring. We would
like Crown Estates to make data they collect available via the