Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex 1


  1.  Oceans 2025 is a coordinated programme of Strategic Research. The Oceans 2025 proposal was approved by NERC Council in December 2006 with a budget of £116 million over five years (not including capital funding).

  2.  Previously our seven institutions have each been funded separately by NERC for our own individual strategic programmes. In contrast to NERC's funding for curiosity-driven, blue skies research, its Strategic Research funding is for programmes of directed research addressing areas of present or anticipated national need, and with environmental issues where sustained national capability or major critical mass is required. Oceans 2025 provides a framework for NERC-funded strategic marine science which will not only maintain the leading role in Europe of the UK in this area, but also enable translation of science into the UK and European policy arena and provide many other opportunities to build on the existing strength of the Marine Centres in knowledge transfer and engagement between science and society.

  3.  Oceans 2025 addresses major science themes of:

    —    Climate, ocean circulation and sea level.

    —    Marine biogeochemical cycles.

    —    Shelf and coastal processes.

    —    Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

    —    Continental margins and the deep ocean.

    —    Sustainable marine resources.

    —    Technology development

    —    Next generation ocean prediction.

    —    Integration of sustained observations in the marine environment.

    and supports three national facilities:

    —    British Oceanographic Data Centre.

    —    Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level.

    —    Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa.

  4.  Oceans 2025 will:

    —    implement an exciting new approach to implementing strategic marine research for NERC;

    —    provide NERC clear and coherent visibility of its major strategic investments in this crucial component of the earth system;

    —    provide the basis for tackling the key earth system linkages and processes within its broader strategy and internationally;

    —    enable NERC to demonstrate its "follow through"" on the major infrastructure and capability investments it has secured from Treasury over the past five years (eg ships, buildings, equipment and skilled people);

    —    widen the participation in strategic UK marine science through the provision of SOFI and providing access to the HEI sector of national infrastructure and capability; and

    —    contribute to many international research programmes (including those of DIVERSITAS, IGBP, SCOR and WCRP).

  5.  Funding recommendations at the "as bid" ("plus 10%") level and for major new areas will enable us to:

    —    deliver the full Oceans 2025 cruise programme as bid, recognising that measurement at sea is fundamental to our science. The cruise programme is a major platform for bringing together interdisciplinary science teams and for providing strong cohesion within the marine science community as a whole—encompassing Research Centre, University and International colleagues including collaboration supported through SOFI (Themes 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 10);

    —    develop the progressive clarity of the role of the "National Capability"" dimension of the NERC Marine Centres. In 2001 (at the last marine programme renewal) we clarified the role of "National Facilities" and Oceans 2025 now draws out very clearly the contribution to national capability made by our sustained observing programme and research infrastructure. The latter is integral to our science challenges, which fundamentally concern understanding decadal-scale variability in the earth system (Theme 10);

    —    contribute to the "earth system science" theme of the emerging NERC Strategy through a major collaborative effort in ocean biogeochemistry (a critical regulator of earth system feedbacks and the source of significant quantitative uncertainty in the global carbon cycle) and which also includes tackling the crucial problem of ocean acidification (Theme 2);

    —    advance significantly towards exploring the deep oceans and ocean margin frontiers. The recommended investments will provide us with the platform to capitalise on the UK's already world class status in this field, and to lever additional resources from major European and international collaborative programmes. These international linkages are crucial to developing our knowledge of this largely unknown, undoubtedly economically important, but also progressively "at risk"" part of the earth system (Theme 5);

    —    make a substantial contribution to UK Arctic marine research throughout the International Polar Year (2007-08), and to enhance long term observations of both physical and ecosystem parameters in the European Arctic shelf seas (Themes 1 and 3);

    —    increase our investments in technology development, and to enable us to operate in precisely the coordinated way recommended by the Marine Sector Review of 2005 (Theme 8);

    —    capitalise on the UK's world-leading position, working through the National Centre for Ocean Forecasting (NCOF), the Met Office and the Hadley Centre to develop and transfer into operational use enhanced current- and next-generation ocean prediction elements of coupled climate and other forecast systems. This now takes place within a much wider, coherent UK/EU ocean/climate modelling strategy in which NERC can now fully engage (Theme 9);

    —    by elucidating the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functioning, contribute to UK and European requirements to reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2010 thereby informing sustainable stewardship of healthy seas and coasts (Theme 4);

    —    work with key stakeholders (particularly Defra and SEERAD), to make an important start to developing and, more effectively transferring knowledge concerning sustainable use of marine bio-resources and ecosystem based approaches to marine management, one of the most pressing and challenging issues of the 21st century (Theme 6).This is despite the proposed reduction in funding for Theme 6;

    —    build important agility into Oceans 2025 and enable us to engage even more closely and strategically with University colleagues through the 7.5% contribution to the Strategic Ocean Funding Initiative;

    —    sustain key national facilities (British Oceanographic Data Centre, Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level, Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa) each with a distinctive and highly prized role, both nationally and internationally. It will also support the statutory duty placed upon NERC under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 (BODC, PSMSL, CCAP, SMRU); and

    —    lead best practice in data management and custodianship in all the Ocean 2025 themes and make such data available for the wider scientific and industrial community;

  All of the above elements generate strong knowledge transfer opportunities and engagement with key stakeholders.

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