Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 46

Submission from the Ministry of Defence


  1.  A statement on the NERC/MoD Joint Grant scheme for marine science research and any other MoD-sponsored schemes to fund research outside the MoD.

  The Ministry of Defence/Royal Navy collaborates extensively with NERC and its research centres (in particular the British Antarctic Survey, the British Geological Survey, the National Oceanography Centre, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. The main forums are the Co-operative Arrangement for Research on Ocean Science, the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology, and the Marine Data and Information Partnership. The Royal Navy is keen to provide a service to the marine science community whenever possible.

  2.  A statement on the formal and informal arrangements between the OSI, the Research Councils and the MoD regarding access to naval vessels for scientific research purposes within the polar and non-polar oceans.

  The MOD provides access to Royal Navy vessels for research purposes on a case by case basis whenever possible and practicable within the limitations of the operational employment of the ships concerned. Examples of the contribution made by Royal Navy vessels were given by Professor Ed Hill in the oral evidence session on 16 May (Question 235 refers), and details of some collaborative work are provided below. Defence Intelligence—Intelligence Collection Strategy and Plans is in the process of arranging for CAROS members to meet with the Hydrographer of the Navy to discuss future collaborative work involving Royal Navy Survey vessels. Data routinely obtained by the Royal Navy, e.g. meteorological data, and ocean temperature and salinity data from expendable bathythermographs are also made available through the Met Office and Hydrographic Office.

  HMS ENDURANCE has a close working relationship with the British Antarctic Survey. Whilst there is no official agreement between the Royal Navy and the British Antarctic Survey, support to British Antarctic Survey science is given as one of the three tasks in the mission statement of HMS ENDURANCE. Whilst in Antarctica, approximately one third of HMS ENDURANCE's time is spent in support of British Antarctic Survey science, including the Antarctic Funding Initiative. This role is crucial to British Antarctic Survey science, particularly the helicopter capability.

  The British Geological Survey has been co-operating with the Royal Navy for over 25 years in using Royal Navy side scan sonar and bathymetric data collected in UK waters and interpreting this data for incorporation in British Geological Survey offshore maps and digital map products. The British Geological Survey also acts as a depository for Royal Navy side scan records and sea-bed samples collected in UK waters.

  After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 December 2004, the Royal Navy approached Government to offer the services of HMS SCOTT, a MOD hydrographic survey vessel with a specific purpose to acquire high-resolution multi-beam bathymetry. HMS SCOTT was in the Indian Ocean at the time of the devastating tsunami and, along with HMS CHATHAM, was offered for use in humanitarian aid. In collaboration, the British Geological Survey, the National Oceanography Centre and the UK Hydrographic Office met with the MOD and developed a survey plan to acquire seabed data over the earthquake rupture zone. The result was a unique high-resolution bathymetric dataset that allows insight into the processes taking place during great earthquakes. The experience on both sides (Royal Naval and scientific) was very positive.

  Since 1971 the Royal Navy has made submarine platforms available to support environmental science by the academic community in the UK, notably the ice-thickness studies by Professor Peter Wadhams (University of Cambridge) in the Arctic. The Royal Navy remains ready to assist with this research when possible, ie on an opportunity basis. In addition to offering platforms for research, the Navy is keen to help the scientific community promote itself through the media. For example, during the latest Ice Exercise (ICEX 2007), the Royal Navy welcomed a camera team to HMS TIRELESS for the filming of a documentary about ice-thinning.

  3.  A statement on the MoD's participation in the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, including attendance and the substance of discussions held over the last five years.

  Defence Intelligence—Intelligence Collection Strategy and Plans (DI ICSP) attends Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology meetings, including sub-groups (Marine Environmental Data Action Group, Global Ocean Observing System Action Group and Marine Data Information Partnership on behalf of MOD. The substance of discussions has covered the whole of Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology spectrum of activities. However, the MOD has been most heavily involved in discussions surrounding the continued support to ARGO floating buoys, the Marine Bill and Marine Data Information Partnership. Participation in Marine Data Information Partnership extends to active involvement in Working Groups and co-ordination of UK Hydrographic Office and Met Office input the initiative. DI ICSP recently developed a pilot project with the UK Hydrographic Office and Wessex Archaeology as a Use Case for Marine Data Information Partnership to demonstrate the benefits of collaborative data sharing.

  4.  Other ways in which the MOD research effort in the area of marine science and technology is co-ordinated with that of other Government departments and non-Government stakeholders.

  There is good co-ordination between MOD and other Government Departments. A prime example of this would be HMS SCOTT's move from Military Data Gathering to Marine Scientific Research (a civilian role rather than military) to provide MoD assistance to OGDs by the provision of a large quantity of survey data following the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004 and early 2005. This is not an isolated case and a close eye is kept to see where OGDs may benefit from integration with military data gathering efforts. Defence Intelligence—Intelligence Collection Strategy and Plans is responsible for Defence Geospatial Intelligence policy and the research efforts of the UK Hydrographic Office and UK Met Office in support of marine sciences. Work carried out by the Met Office as part of the Defence Oceanographic Programme and by the UK Hydrographic Office, as part of the Defence Hydrographic Programme is co-ordinated internally between the two MOD Trading Funds and with the Research and Development work conducted by the Research Acquisition Organisation to ensure a coherent approach which delivers an improvement in the ocean modelling capability provided to the Royal Navy.

  5.  A statement on the Department's policy regarding access to MoD data by the scientific community for research purposes.

  Meteorological data gathered by Royal Navy vessels is routinely made available to the Word Meteorological Organisation (WMO) through the Met Office. Oceanographic and Hydrographic data is held at the UK Hydrographic Office and is released on a case by case basis subject to classification and security implications. MOD supports the improved data sharing aspirations of Marine Data Information Partnership and the EU INSPIRE initiative and has been actively involved in providing input to both.

July 2007

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