Submission from the National Oceanography
1. The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
(NOCS) welcomes the opportunity to provide evidence to this inquiry.
NOCS has also contributed to the responses provided by the Natural
Environment Research Council (NERC) and to the joint response
from the Directors of UK Marine funded laboratories collaborating
in the new Oceans2025 strategic research programme.
2. The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
(formerly Southampton Oceanography Centre), is a collaborative
Centre owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
and the University of Southampton. NOCS is based at a purpose-built
waterside campus in Southampton, and is home to some 520 research
scientists, lecturing support and seagoing staff as well over
700 undergraduate and postgraduate students. A statement of the
NOCS mission is provided in Annex 1.
3. The key points that we draw to the attention
of the Committee in this submission are:
The growing awareness of the key
role of the oceans in the climate system and in relation to natural
The need for greater capacity (ships)
to sustain UK sea-going marine science.
The strong participation of the UK
in international marine science.
The challenge we face in terms of
recruiting and retaining key staff from overseas competition (particularly
The tendency for progressive "self
organisation" of marine science (nationally, within Europe
and globally) around the key focus of developing sustained ocean
The major opportunity to engage science
and wider society through the medium of the oceans.
4. The marine environment is fundamental
to earth system processes and to developing solutions to pressing
societal needs. The oceans cover 70% of the earth's surface and
97% by volume of its biosphere. The upper 10 m of the oceans have
as much mass per unit area as the whole of the atmosphere and
the upper few hundred meters of the ocean contain as much heat.
Because the oceans are the cradle of life on earth, biodiversity
is greatest there (the only environment on earth in which all
phyla are present). Ocean sediments are the library of past changes
on earth, and so hold vital clues to the future. The ocean is
the largest reservoir on earth of mobile carbon and is the earth's
principal solar heat store, regulating both day-to-day weather
and climate. The human population is growing fastest in coastal
regions and sea level rise poses the single greatest threat resulting
from global climate change in the 21st century.
5. The oceans are fascinating and inspiring
with insatiable public appetite and interest in the sea. The oceans
thus provide a natural common medium for the engagement of wider
society with science.
6. Fundamentally, Marine Science is
interdisciplinary in nature but critically
dependent on key skills from core science disciplines (mathematics,
physics, chemistry, biology and engineering);
concerned with processes operating
over a vast range of space- and time-scales (local to global;
milliseconds to millennia);
heavily reliant on national and international
critically dependent on major infrastructure
and logistics support (eg ships, satellites) required to operate
in the oceans;
technology dependent (most major
advances in marine science have stemmed from new technologies
enabling new measurements to be made);
has a strong imperative (particularly
in relation to climate change) to undertake sustained (decadal
timescale) observations over ocean-basin and global scales; and
increasingly viewed within a wider
Earth System context (consisting of ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere,
land surface, deep earth interior), with growing interest in the
couplings between the ocean system and other earth system components.
1. How marine science is being used to advance
knowledge of the impact of climate change on the oceans
7. Given that the issue above is of particular
interest to the Committee, we have set out in Appendix 2 a series
of key research challenges that form part of the developing NOCS
science strategy that we expect to publish in autumn 2007. Our
strategy will address the key science challenges of strategic
importance to the UK, European and global communities over the
next 20 years. This encompasses the broad canvas of ocean and
8. We concentrate in Appendix 2 on the challenges
most directly related to the marine science remit of this inquiry.
In particular it is noted that the Oceans are not merely impacted
upon by climate change but in many respects the oceans regulate
or control key processes involved in climate change. This is because
the oceans are both a major store of heat and carbon and also
play a key role in transporting these around the planet.
2. Organisation and funding of UK marine science
in the polar and non-polar regions
9. The organisation of marine science in
the UK has been described in the collective response of the Directors
of the NERC funded marine Centres and in the submission by NERC.
10. A diverse set of ownership and governance
arrangements exist within the Marine Research Centres. Nevertheless,
there is strength in this diversity and the Centres work together
cooperatively and in a coordinated way at the strategic level
(eg development of the Oceans 2025 Programme www.oceans2025.org)
11. The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton,
as part of its refocused mission, has been given an explicit remit
by NERC to act to facilitate coordination of marine science in
an impartial and inclusive manner.
12. The major funder of marine science in
the UK is the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which
supports marine science through a variety of funding mechanisms
ranging from studentships to responsive mode standard grants,
consortium grants and strategic research programmes. NERC also
supports major science infrastructure and facilities (eg ships,
the national marine equipment pool, High Performance Computing)
in support of the whole science community.
13. Within the context of paragraph 5 above,
the ability of the UK to remain at the leading edge of marine
science is crucially dependent on NERC's ability to be able to:
continue its funding for innovative,
curiosity driven "blue-skies" research by individuals
and small teams through standard research grantsbut crucially
also to continue to complement this by long-term, big-team approaches
to funding science (through strategic programmes, directed programmes
and consortium grants). These complementary approaches are particularly
important for Marine Science where wider critical mass and support
through major infrastructure is key;
support continued development of
critical mass and facilities in the spread of key marine science
disciplines within the UK, including through support for Marine
Research Centres such as NOCS. No serious player in the field
of oceanography world wide attempts to do so through reliance
on its University sector alone and major oceanographic institutions
are a feature of most of the major oceanographic nations;
to contribute to nurturing the health
of core disciplines (particularly mathematics and physics) essential
to marine science, and to promote cross-over/conversion of students
from these disciplines into marine science;
Marine Science per se does
not feature within the National Curriculum for schools and so
awareness of the subject is low in terms of undergraduate recruitment.
We note that marine science topics offer significant opportunities
to "bring to life" core science disciplines at School
level. In particular, at NOCS we have developed resources for
ready use in the classroom in support of science classes (eg Oceans4Schools;
support funding for programmes of
sustained scientific observation as part of national science capability
and to find better ways to recognise and develop more effective
synergies with the activities of operational observing agencies
within the context of global scale ocean-observing networks;
develop more strongly its approaches
to support and facilitate participation of UK scientists in major
international programmes including the European Framework Programmes;
continue investment in major capital
infrastructure and facilities for the support of marine science
(particularly research ships); and
increasingly recognise that the scale
of investments in major infrastructure required over the coming
decades (eg cabled sea-floor observatories) will require cooperation
at the European Level such as envisaged by the European Strategy
Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).
14. There is increasing recognition that
there needs to be a shift of focus of marine science towards the
Arctic Seas where responses to climate change are expected to
be most pronounced and where the impacts (ice melt, changes in
marine ecosystems, and the opening of new exploitation opportunities/risks
in Arctic waters) will have most immediate impact on the UK. The
International Polar Year (IPY) provides an opportunity to begin
this refocusing. The UK will need to develop its particular contribution
in this field of research where other nations have more experience
15. The issue of ocean acidification has
risen rapidly up the scientific and policy agenda, representing
"the other half" of the anthropogenic CO2 emission problem.
Whilst changes in pH can be predicted with considerable accuracy,
the impacts of these changes in the marine environment (particularly
on marine ecosystems) remain uncertain but potentially very severe.
Consequently we encourage a greater shift of funding resources
towards this issue in future. We note that the importance of ocean
acidification has emerged from the field of palaeooceanography.
This field of science is making profound impact on our understanding
of the earth system.
16. Other important sources of funding for
Marine Science are through the European Commission through its
framework programmes, from UK Government Departments and from
industry (particularly offshore hydrocarbon and related businesses).
In terms of the EU Framework programmes Marine Science is not
an explicit topic but is viewed as a cross cutting issue pervading
many topic areas.
3. The role of the UK internationally, and
international collaboration in marine sciences
17. NOCS believes that continued membership
of large international research programmes in earth and marine
science is vital. A selection of some of the international projects
in which NOCS participates is provided in Apnex 3. Some of the
most highly significant participations by us are described below.
18. NOCS involvement and leadership within
the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP and the former ODP),
the world's largest earth and ocean science research programme,
involving more than 20 countries (budget <£1,000M), is
among the most significant from any institution in the world.
NOCS has provided 4 Co-Chief Scientists and 21 others have sailed
as shipboard scientists on a range of drilling cruises. Leadership
is also demonstrated by significant involvement in 20 drilling
proposals currently under evaluation by the IODP science advisory
structure. One proposal has led to a scheduled drilling leg, and
five others on which NOCS scientists are leading proponents are
highly considered with a strong chance of success. NOCS scientists
have co-authored 11 Nature and Science papers from this ODP/IODP
work since 2004. UK involvement in IODP is facilitated by
membership of the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling
(ECORD) together with 15 other European countries and Canada.
UK scientists are engaged within IODP through the development
of drilling proposals as well as through research on the cores
recovered, at an intensity that far exceeds (~4x) the UK's financial
contribution to the international program. This enables scientists
to direct the IODP to undertake projects of the greatest relevance
to UK environmental science priorities and to deliver on key government
research areas including ocean climate dynamics, rapid climate
change, extreme, climates, biogeochemistry and the carbon cycle,
gas hydrates, and geohazards. It is essential that the UK maintains
its commitment to IODP.
19. The increases in both temporal and spatial
resolution required to resolve processes of abrupt climate change
during the last few glacial-interglacial cycles can most effectively
be achieved through international marine science consortia such
as the International Marine Past Global Change Study (IMAGES).
To enable continued leadership of the UK to continue in the critical
data-driven disciplines working towards an understanding of abrupt
global climate change, it is imperative that the UK continues
to support the IMAGES programme and the ensuing research in a
structured and substantial manner, as part of a strategic funding
programme. This would complement deeper-time initiatives through
IODP as well as modelling studies, and will deliver an essential
broad-based understanding of the magnitudes, rates, and processes
of climate change.
20. NOCS participates in numerous EU Framework
Programmes and networks of excellence. Notable is the Hotspot
Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas (HERMES) Integrated
Programe which is coordinated from NOCS and consists of 45 partners
including nine small companies across 15 countries (one of the
largest Marine Science projects in Europe) Funded by the European
Commission, HERMES brings together expertise in biodiversity,
geology, sedimentology, physical oceanography, microbiology and
biogeochemistry so that the generic relationship between biodiversity
and ecosystem functioning can be understood. Study sites extend
from the Arctic to the Black Sea and include biodiversity hotspots
such as cold seeps, cold-water coral mounds and reefs, canyons
and anoxic environments, and communities found on open slopes.
These important systems require urgent study because of their
possible biological fragility, unique genetic resources, global
relevance to carbon cycling and susceptibility to global change
and human impact.
21. The UK hosts a significant number of
International Project Offices (IPO) for major international programmes.
At NOCS the most significant of these is the IPO for the CLIVAR
Programme (Climate Variability and Predictability) which is part
of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The hosting of
International Project Offices provides the UK with visibility
and influence internationally. We believe such activity should
be viewed as integral to the leadership role that the UK seeks
to provide internationally in science and the environment. Hosting
of IPOs usually requires some degree of subsidy by the host nation/institution
and NERC continues to be generally supportive of the hosting of
22. NOCS is a member of a number of bodies
in which Marine Centres are represented institutionally at international
level. These include:
The Partnership for Observation of
the Global Ocean (POGO) which is made up of over 25 of the world's
leading Oceanographic Institutions (of which NOCS was a founding
member). POGO is playing an increasingly prominent role in making
the case for in situ ocean observations to be incorporated into
and viewed as essential to the Global Earth Observing System of
Systems (GEOSS) being developed under the auspices of the Group
on Earth Observation (GEO).
The European Science Foundation (ESF)
Marine Board. A recent report (November 2006) of this Board "Navigating
the Future III" provides an excellent synthesis of perspectives
on marine science and technology in Europe (www.esf.org/marineboard)
NOCS together with IFREMER (France)
are associate members of KDM (the German Marine Science Consortium).
The University of Southampton is
a founder member of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN)a
partnership of leading institutions in the UK, US, China and Europe,
which are committed to working together in research and education
in rapidly moving areas of global significance. Currently around
80 groups are engaged in collaborative activity, including joint
research, joint distributed learning courses and staff and student
exchanges across many different subject areas. Postgraduate researchers
can participate in these activities and may seek funding for research
visits to the University's international partners through the
WUN Global Exchange Programme. NOCS is a site at which WUN distributed
seminars may be viewed, enabling audiences to interact internationally.
23. NOCS hosts the secretariat for the UK
delegation to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
and the current President of the IOC is a retired member of NOCS
staff (Dr. David Pugh).
24. Staff within NOCS have worked on aspects
of maritime territory delimitation for a number of years and,
along with the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, provide all
technical advice to Her Majesty's Government on limits to UK waters.
Of particular interest to coastal states is the determination
of the outer limits of the continental shelf where it extends
beyond 200 nautical miles from baseline, defined according to
Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
NOCS runs an annual international training programme for representatives
of nations wishing to develop their maritime territory.
25. In terms of developing future international
collaborations, we have a number of links with China (both Universities
and Research Institutions). Most of these are in the form of information
exchange visits, though we have several PhD students from China.
We would welcome the opportunity, however, to develop more substantive
project links in due course.
26. As part of our role to manage the NERC
multipurpose oceanographic research vessels (RRS James Cook and
RRS Discovery) we participate in international ship-time barter
4. Support for marine science including provision
and development of technology and engineering
Support for Marine Science
27. We welcome
the investment in the recently delivered
multipurpose research vessel RRS James Cook which replaces RRS
the announcement in autumn 2006 by
Government of the earmarking of funds for replacement of the aging
RRS Discovery by a new vessel in 2011.
28. The investment in a second ocean-going
multipurpose research vessel to replace Discovery is essential
to maintain the UK's position in oceanography, particularly in
research relating to the ocean's role in the climate system. The
UK's ownership of these vessels provides significant leverage
through international ship barter arrangements giving UK scientists
global reach and making for very efficient deployment of research
29. We are, however, concerned that a fleet
of just two multi-purposes research ships (plus the Antarctic/polar
vessel James Clark Ross) represents the minimum research ship
capacity for the UK and that high-quality science demand is outstripping
30. There is concern that coastal and shelf
sea marine science is currently compromised by lack of a research
vessel since NERC's multi-purpose fleet was reduced from three
to two ships when RRS Challenger was taken out of service in 2002. The
Fisheries Agencies FRS Aberdeen and Cefas do have vessels with
coastal sea capacity but these are difficult to access by the
wider NERC science community on account of their full commitment
to statutory monitoring duties.
Development of technology
31. NOCS has major capability for technology
development and deployment at sea. The NERC Marine Sector Review
of 2005 identified the need to maintain critical mass in technology
development across the UK.
32. As part of Oceans 2025 NOCS has secured
significant additional investment in its technology programme
and ensured that technology is more coordinated across the NERC
33. Nevertheless the UK investment in marine
technology remains relatively low compared to other nations, particularly
Japan, USA, France and Germany.
34. Future Marine Science will depend heavily
on major infrastructure for sustained observational networks (eg
cabled sea-floor observatories) which the UK science base will
not be able to support in isolation.
It is essential, therefore, that
the UK rapidly engages with initiatives in Europe that afford
the opportunity to work collaboratively to share the costs of
such infrastructure. For this reason NOCS is keen that the UK
engages in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures
(ESFRI). Of the 35 projects currently on the ESFRI roadmap we
are particularly interested in EURO-ARGO (European contribution
to the global profiling float programme) and EMSO (European Multidisciplinary
It is important that science funders
(eg NERC) and operational agencies (eg Met Office) work more closely
together on global ocean observing systems. There is currently
a gulf between operational funding for observational infrastructure
and that for science. However, as science moves to sustained observation
as a key tool in addressing decadal-scale change, the observing
infrastructures will increasingly need to be developed with dual
science and operational use in mind. Many parts of the global
ocean observing system (eg Argo) continue to be supported by research
funding which is unsustainable long term. The problem is common
to many countries but there is an opportunity for the UK to take
a lead in finding a solution to this problem which is a significant
barrier to developing a sustained ocean observing system. The
Intergovernmental body (Group on Earth Observation, GEO) is a
promising forum for taking this issue forward. However GEO operates
by voluntary means at present. Whilst the UK (via Defra) supports
as a priority its immediate statutory and international obligations
in coastal waters (eg requirements via OSPAR), its commitment
to contributing to the international effort global observing appears
5. The state of the UK research and skills
base underpinning marine science and provision and skills to maintain
and improve the UK's position in marine science
35. NOCS through the University of Southampton
is the leading UK institution in the education of the next generation
of physical and biological scientists in ocean and earth system
36. We have recently diversified our marine
science Masters (MSc and MRes) provision. We now offer courses
in Marine Resource Management, Marine Environment and Resources,
Marine Science, Policy and Law, Ocean Remote Sensing, Engineering
in the Coastal Environment, Marine Geology and Geophysics, as
well as our well-established MSc course in Oceanography. We have
concentrated new Masters courses in areas of strategic skills
shortages in the UK. While numbers are increasing, we feel that
research councils need to be more responsive to supporting new
Masters courses with studentships in order to accelerate the supply
of skilled graduates. 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.
37. One particular issue of concern at undergraduate
level in ocean and earth science is the absence of recognition
by HEFCE of the extra costs of fieldwork which is essential to
train scientists of the future. Organisations that accredit degrees
in relevant disciplines (Geological Society of London and IMarEST)
require a fieldwork component to degrees. This fieldwork is essential
to ensure the continued supply of graduates for industry as well
as PhD students with the correct skills. The current funding regime
results in fieldwork in ocean and earth science being squeezed,
and this is something that HEFCE needs to rectify.
38. There is a complete absence of applications
from Masters students from new-accession states to the EU, and
we wonder whether the UK Government should provide an enabling
programme in marine science.
39. There are currently 161 PhD students
enrolled within the Graduate School of NOCS (85 UK, other EU 35,
Non-EU 21) and on average 30-35 PhD students graduate each year.
We have relatively few students from outside Europe, and while
there are large numbers of high-calibre international students
that we would like to recruit, finding funding for these students
remains a major issue.
40. A key current problem in the UK marine
science community is the recruitment and retention of scientific
staff at all levels. There is substantial competition from German
and American research institutes. These institutes 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.
41. Retention and recruitment is difficult
mainly because of the gulf in funding between marine science funding
in Germany and the UK. While on an individual basis, salary supplementation
is possible, it is not possible under the current system, to guarantee
adequate access to science ship time. This issue needs to tackle
this urgently if marine science and technology is to continue
to be competitive.
6. Use of marine sites of specific scientific
42. Taking this to include also marine protected
areas nationally and internationally, we are concerned that deep
water trawling continues to destroy sites where there is still
not a full understanding of what these sites contain and their
scientific and ecological importance.
43. Of particular concern is the destruction
of deep cold water coral reefs. The EU funded HERMES project is
an international, multidisciplinary research programme coordinated
by NOCS which is investigating Europe's deep marine ecosystems
and their environment (see paragraph 19). These important systems
require urgent study because of their possible biological fragility,
unique genetic resources, global relevance to carbon cycling and
susceptibility to global change and human impact.
44. We are also concerned that this implication
of designation of sites, as set out in the Marine Bill consultation
might actually inhibit the undertaking of research in these sites,
perhaps by prohibiting the operation of research vessels or platforms
in particular areas or at specific times. Full access for well
planned scientific research needs to be built in to the designation
and operating conditions on a site by site basis.
45. The oceans are a key regulator of the
Earth's climate system and have a crucial role to play in the
provision of natural resources (energy, minerals and food).
46. The need for much higher levels of national
and international collaboration and coordination in marine science
is becoming progressively evident. Over and above the long-standing
tradition of scientific collaborations, there is evidence of progressive
institutional "self-organisation" or the Marine Science
UK national level (eg the Oceans
2025 research programme, National Centre for Ocean Forecasting).
European level (ESF Marine Board,
International level (POGO).
47. This "self organisation" trend
(which is largely focussed around the challenge of sustained global
ocean observing) perhaps points to a weakness in existing institutional
structures for coordination. An important UK initiative in this
regards has been the formation of the National Centre for Ocean
Forcasting (NCOF) which is a consortium of the Met Office, and
four NERC-funded institutions (NOCS, POL, PML and ESSC). This
seeks to develop more rapid uptake of ocean modeling advances
into operational simulation systems.
48. We emphasise the following areas of
risk to the UK's international competitiveness in Marine Science
the crucial importance of maintaining
research ship capacity to sustain the UK's international competitiveness
in marine science. The NERC fleet has progressively reduced from
five to two multi-purpose research ships (excluding Antarctic
vessels) over the past two decades. Two ocean-gong multi-purpose
ships in minimum capacity and will struggle to support high quality
science, especially in the face of the strategic need for ocean
research in the coming decades;
the challenges of recruitment and
retention of key staff against stiff international competition
(particularly Germany at present). The UK is viewed as a source
of intellectual capital and favourable funding arrangements (including
infrastructure) make other countries quite attractive. There have
been successes recruiting into the UK from overseas. However,
aspects of the German system in particular (eg pension arrangements),
tend to lock academics into that system making them difficult
to recruit into the UK;
the UK will need to improve the agility
of its research funding to enable it to make the necessary step
changes in marine research required to address the increasingly
growing recognition of massive impact of the oceans on global
earth system and the opportunities for natural resource solutions
to be found within the marine environment; and
the need to rapidly evolve processes
(and UK and international institutions if necessary) capable of
sustaining long-term, multi-user programmes of in situ ocean observing
which are at risk through over-reliance at present on research
budgets to maintain them (even within operational agencies).
49. NOCS welcomes this timely inquiry into
Marine Science by the House of Commons Science & Technology
Committee and extends an invitation to the Committee to visit
the National Oceanography Centre as part of its deliberations.