Submission from the Scottish Association
for Marine Science (SAMS)
1. The Scottish Association for Marine Science
(SAMS) welcomes the opportunity to comment.
2. SAMS is a learned society, a Collaborative
Centre of the Natural Environment Research Council, an Academic
Partner of the UHI Millennium Institute and a charitable company
limited by guarantee, with its registered office is at the Dunstaffnage
Marine Laboratory. The mission of SAMS is to improve understanding
and stewardship of the marine environment, through research, education,
maintenance of facilities and technology transfer. It is governed
by an elected Council (the members of which act as Directors)
according to its Memorandum and Articles of Association. Council
delegates many of its duties to the Director of SAMS, who runs
the organisation with the aid of the Executive Group, which includes
the Deputy Director, SAMS' Company Secretary and the SAMSgroup
3. The SAMSgroup is the structural framework
in which the Council of SAMS coordinates the activities of SAMS,
as a charitable research and educational organisation, with those
of its wholly-owned subsidiaries; and pursues their common interests
and objectives. These subsidiaries are SAMS Research Services
Ltd (SRSL) and the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology Ltd
(ECMB) each of which has a special niche in the strategy which
focuses on the marine environment. All of these activities, however,
are complimentary to the objectives of SAMS. SAMS manages over
120 staff, representing a growth of over 100% from 1996. Current
growth rate is approximately 10% compound per annum. In 2006,
the annual turnover of the SAMSgroup was nearly £8 million.
4. This submission is prepared by the SAMS
Director: Professor Graham Shimmield FIBiol FRSE, Scottish Association
for Marine Science.
5. SAMS operates as an independent research
and education institution supported by several key stakeholdersNERC,
the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), and the Scottish Executive
(through the Enterprise network). As such it has to be flexible
and adaptive to rapid changes in policy and funding from these
organisations. However, its governance (Board of Trustees) and
membership guarantee total independence and impartiality of evidence
on marine affairs, and a scientific remit that is global in nature
(SAMS has and is working in every major ocean basin of the world).
As such, its academic credibility and reputation is of international
significance and is the envy of many smaller countries.
6. With the increased responsibility of
environmental affairs under devolution, the role of SAMS in Scottish
marine strategy is increasingly important. It is our opinion that
there is increasing pressure to ensure that the reserved role
of the Research Councils is satisfactorily discharged under the
devolved environmental agenda of the UK. SAMS' core strategic
funding from NERC has decreased in real terms year on year for
the past 10 years, whilst its involvement with the regional development
agenda (and especially Highlands and Islands Enterprise) has increased.
7. This submission should be read in conjunction
with the "Oceans 2025" submission from the joint marine
directors which gives more of the history of the NERC funding
and strategy for SAMS.
OF UK MARINE
NERC core strategic research organization and
8. NERC funding through the core strategic
mode has been vital for the long term programme of SAMS research
despite the regular changes in delivery mode. Since 2001, SAMS
has operated as a single management operation with both NERC and
SAMS employees. Oceans 2025 represents increasing collaboration
with our sister laboratories. The core programme will now represent
about 28% of the total scientific activity of the Association,
with the remainder funded through NERC responsive mode, Europe,
the SFC (QR mode), government agencies and departments and commercial
contracts to SRSL.
9. On 10 January 2007, NERC announced that,
to deliver key strategic scientific goals, it will fund a new
"Oceans 2025" research programme. This programme is
designed by and will be implemented through NOCS, PML, SAMS, SMRU,
POL, the MBA and SAHFOS, and will address, at a national scale,
the challenges of a changing marine environment. Oceans 2025 will
receive approximately £120 million from NERC over five years.
Under this new programme SAMS will receive about 25% less funding
than for the previous six years of strategic funding as a combination
of peer review, and application of Full Economic Costing. Significantly,
all work on environmental impacts of aquaculture and algal bloom
dynamics will not be funded via this route.
10. NERC funding also contributes to the
UK Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa, and the NERC Facility
for Scientific Diving, both hosted at SAMS. Both national facilities
are unique, providing good examples of how combining resources
(the Freshwater Collection was moved from Windermere to Oban)
can provide a better facility. The CCAP is the second largest
collection and biodiversity repository of its kind in the world.
11. Initiatives such as "pooling"
amongst Scottish HEIs will allow strategic science objectives
to be addressed. SAMS is playing a key role in "Marine Science
Scotland" allowing a more coordinated approach to be carried
out using the skills of research institutes, HEIs and the government
agency (FRS, Aberdeen). The Director of SAMS is an independent
member of IACMST and the Association recognises the benefit of
linking government departments and agencies with the marine science
providers. In Scotland, an advisory group, AGMACS (Advisory Group
on Marine and Coastal Strategy) has been created to help communication
on national policy.
Arctic marine research
12. SAMS has had Arctic polar interest right
back to its founding days when William Speirs Bruce was conducting
hydrographic surveys around Svalbard at the turn of the 20th century.
Bruce was a founder of the Scottish Oceanographic Laboratory,
which later merged with the Scottish Marine Biological Laboratory
under Sir John Murray. For the past six years, NERC strategic
funding has supported a range of polar studies in the European
Arctic. To this, SAMS has added its role in many major EU programmes
which it has coordinated (GREENICE, SITHOS), and is part of the
new Integrated Project, DAMOCLES. SAMS is the only UK partner
in the Marine Laboratory at Ny Alesund, Svalbard, and has dedicated
funding for a 10-year contributions to this facility.
13. With International Polar Year, and an
increasing awareness of Arctic issues, we believe that the coordination
provided by NERC (through Dr Tracey Henshaw) could be augmented
by a physical coordination and logistics centre, akin to the support
provided by BAS for their own and HEI operations in the Antarctic.
SAMS experience in Arctic polar oceanography, and its close links
with all the European Arctic marine science organisations (eg
the Norwegian Polar Institute), make the option of considering
SAMS in this role a viable possibility.
UK INTERNATIONALLY, AND
14. The USA is the dominant world leader
in marine science and oceanography, with a strong tradition in
military support (Office of Naval Research) for the science. In
Europe, organization of marine science among the three FP6 Networks
of Excellence is bedevilled with a high administration overhead.
Nevertheless, UK marine scientists are sought after as international
partners, and all the marine institutes host major programmes
and Project Offices. SAMS supports the European Census of Marine
Life PO, and hosts the IP on an Ecosystem Approach to Sustainable
15. Over the past few years Arctic marine
science coordination is improving. SAMS was a founder member of
the EU Integrated Infrastructure ProgrammeENVINET working
in the European high Arctic. From this network has spawned our
co-coordination with Norway and Canada on the IPY cluster examining
Arctic marine ecosystems (PAN-AME). Regular student exchanges
and sabbaticals are organised with our Norwegian colleagues in
Tromso and Svalbard (UNISthe University of Svalbard).
16. The UK needs to continue its role in
major international programmes, currently RAPID and SOLAS are
examples, but also regain the initiative to lead such programmes
as happened during the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS).
We believe that more investment in our scientific leaders and
directors, rather than at the funding agency level is required.
An example where the NERC-based decision ran counter to both international
and national expectation was in the EUROCORES (ESF) programme
on the deep ocean (EURODEEP). The UK is not a participant, whereas
all the other major European countries have signed up. Issues
over the use of national facilities (vessels and ROVs) should
have been sorted out with the scientific community.
17. NERC requires a new ship to replace
the RRS Discovery, which at the time of this submission, is unserviceable
(again). The RRS James Cook is a very welcome replacement to the
Charles Darwin, but the UK research fleet has reduced in size.
More use of smaller capable vessels for shelf seas work, and investment
in autonomous instrumentation and remote observation is one way
to maintain our field capability.
18. Marine technology is priority strategy
at SAMS and one that links directly to the Knowledge Economy strategy
in Scotland, receiving support from the Enterprise network. To
the traditional engineering skills (we have international expertise
in satellite communications technology, sea ice drifters and underwater
profilers), we can now add marine biotechnology and a growing
business cluster exploring for novel compounds in marine organisms
(The European Centre for Marine Biotechnology business incubator
concept). Molecular biology and genetics of marine organisms requires
expensive and major investment in analytical facilities. Cross-collaboration
across Europe (eg Marine Genomics programme) is one way to address
the low level of investment in this growing field in the UK. Laboratories
like PML and SAMS offer the intellectual capability but lack the
major funding investment in the new sequencing techniques.
19. Recruitment and retention of engineers
and biotechnologists in these fields in problematic on standard
university pay scales. As metrics advance to discriminate high
quality innovation and application in these fields, then the funding
flow should enable appropriate salary rewards to be made. In a
recent recruitment round at SAMS we found that a geochemical technician
at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute is paid the same as
a junior Professorial chair in a UK university!
UK RESEARCH AND
20. In common with other science subjects
we are experiencing the problems of a lack numerate skills in
recruitment of PhD students and post-docs. 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 two 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.
21. As mentioned above, technologists and
engineers need to be provided with rewards and promotions commensurate
with their professional qualifications, which can be difficult
in an academic career structure.
22. SAMS is providing the only BSc Honours
degree in Marine Science in Scotland. Nevertheless recruitment
is quite difficult, in part due to the delayed award of university
title to the UHI Millennium Institute.
23. The marine context is probably the EU
designated Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Such sites provide
an opportunity to understand whether our understanding of ecosystem
response to man's influence is correct. Designated species and
habitats allow the testing of management plans and engage key
stakeholders and the public. Areas closed to fishing allow research
into impacts and recovery times for the marine environment. Some
areas (eg military ranges) have been closed for decades (an example
is the Raasay underwater range in the Minch) and now provides
unique example of the underwater habitat undisturbed by bottom