Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
WEDNESDAY 16 MAY 2007
Q160 Dr Iddon: Professor Hensley,
how important is the private sector to you?
Dr Hensley: Our remit is to meet
the safe navigation requirements of international mariners, so
the private sector as a customer of our products is very important.
In the paper charting the world, I think the figure is approximately
85 per cent of world vessels in the SOLAS market would carry British
Admiralty charts. It is very important that we do meet their requirements
precisely in terms of up-to-date information delivered on time
of reliable products and so on, so they are very important to
Dr Horwood: We obviously serve
the private sector as an agent of Defra, for instance with help
in licensing and with stakeholders in fisheries. But as direct
customers for our services, provided there are no conflicts of
interest or they can be managed, we can take on private sector
clients. As it has turned out, that really has not to date been
a very significant part of our business. The area we seem to be
most suited is support to other government departments or even
overseas governments or the European Union.
Q161 Dr Turner: The IACMST takes
the view that marine science could be better co-ordinated. What
is your view on that from the point of view of your agencies?
Dr Hensley: We have a representative
on IACMST, so we are party to that. We are involved in that. We
are also involved in the Marine Data Information Partnership (MDIP)
along with our colleagues within the MoD. As I said earlier, we
are not responsible for doing research but we are part of that
community. We play our part in that respect.
Q162 Dr Turner: Do you think it could
be better co-ordinated? Do you agree with the committee in that
Dr Hensley: I do not really have
view. I am not sure whether it can or cannot be, to be honest.
Dr Bell: The co-ordination certainly
between the Met Office and NERC has improved enormously over the
past ten years. The National Centre for Ocean Forecasting is a
very good example of that. That is a consortium that has been
set up to enable the marine research that is done within the consortium
within NERC to pull through more effectively into our short-range
forecasting operations. I think there things have improved a lot
at working level. That is very important. There is co-ordination
with the Met Office down to the use, particularly by government
departments, of the information and the forecast predictions that
we produce. I have indicated already that there are some areas
where that could be strengthened. We set up a stakeholders' group
to try to encourage that. That is certainly an area where things
could be better.
Q163 Dr Turner: That is within the
Ministry of Defence and yourselves, is it not?
Dr Bell: The stakeholder group
includes people from Cefas, from HR Wallingford, from BP and MCA,
so from quite a wide rage of organisations. The other area I would
mention is marine monitoring. Better co-ordination there is really
crucial. Some good steps have been taken with the UK Marine Monitoring
and Assessment Strategy and the setting up of the policy committee
and the sub-committees under that. It needs co-ordination of funding
as well as just co-ordination in meeting up to get some common
Q164 Dr Turner: Some of that long-term
monitoring has nearly been lost because of gaps in funding?
Dr Bell: Yes.
Q165 Dr Turner: Dr Horwood, what
is your view?
Dr Horwood: There is a great deal
of co-ordination that goes on that I guess you need to be able
to see to identify the particular weaknesses. The question was
put to us as: you see your work as coming from programmes. Where
there are some programmes, these are often aligned to European
programmes, and there is a great deal of co-ordination, particularly
at the European level because we are essentially an international
business. When things happen at sea, we have been used to joining
together with other countries for many years. There are key European
committees. The International Council for Exploration of the Sea
has a key remit to co-ordinate work. The European Science Foundation
has a marine board that brings together research councils across
Europe. Under the new Maritime Bill, ICES and the European Science
Foundation hope to get together to provide even greater co-ordination.
Nationally, the devolved administrations and Defra join together
to ensure there is a coherent UK programme in fisheries and the
marine environment. They are taking the lead on UKMMAS, the marine
environmental monitoring programme, which for the first time has
brought together national monitoring and includes a review of
what resources are needed to deliver that. There is a huge amount
of co-ordination that goes on. To me, the weak bit is then the
bit from our type of organisation to NERC, the research councils
and the universities. There is less coherence there than in some
of the other areas where there is very strong co-ordination.
Q166 Dr Turner: You are all basically
agreeing with the inter-agency committee's view then that co-ordination
is not as good as it might be. There seem to be far too many organisations
doing their thing that may or may not be talking to each other
and collaborating. It strikes us as somewhat analogous to the
situation we found in space science where there is a relatively
weak national committee charged with co-ordinating space science,
but it lacks clout and it lacks funding. The question there is:
should there be a national agency with its own funding and given
far more authority? We are wondering whether this applies to marine
science as well. We have the example in the US of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Association as just such a body. What
would your view be on the establishment of a comparable body in
the UK? Do you think it could improve for instance the overall
funding of marine science, which clearly is not enough to do everything
that is desirable?
Dr Bell: I think one of the points
that you do need to bear in mind is that different organisations
have different roles. You have the NERC institutes which are focused
very much on marine research.
Q167 Chairman: We are very anxious
to get an answer directly to Dr Turner's question. Is an agency
a good idea or not?
Dr Bell: I will come on to that.
One of the questions is what the scope of that agency would be,
what it would actually cover, and whether it would cover the whole
of marine research, whether it would cover research through to
operations and applications?
Q168 Dr Turner: Assume the answer
is yes to that question, then continue please.
Dr Bell: Across the whole thing,
I do not think that would be the right thing to do. For the operational
work, the Met Office is very good place to do that because of
the gearing that you get from the weather forecasting. If you
did that work anywhere other than the Met Office, it would cost
an awful lot more money. The Met Office has a rather small group
of people involved in marine research. That would not be an appropriate
place to bring all the marine research institutes. Those need
to be closer to the universities.
Dr Horwood: It is not entirely
clear that we have a UK strategy for marine research to underpin
what we need from the marine side. It would seem sensible that
somewhere there is a very high level overview on whether we have
the strategy right for UK plc, and whether all the key players
are contributing. I do not believe IACMST has worked but I do
not know why. Lots of the key players are sitting around that
table. Maybe that is the organisation you are talking about. I
have to say that there does seem to me to be a fair amount of
bureaucracy in co-ordination already. I do not think I would relish
a further layer of bureaucracy.
Q169 Dr Turner: Perhaps we might
be able to take some layers out. What is Cefas doing to help in
promoting collaboration with the marine science community, both
nationally and internationally?
Dr Horwood: Internationally, we
are involved in major bodies such as ICES, the International Council
for Exploration of the Sea; this is an intergovernmental body.
I happen to be their President. We have seats on the council.
As a body, it tends to be on the more applied side of co-ordinating
research rather than blue skies, although clearly there is not
a bar to that. Through ICES, we are seeking to join up at the
European level. Through OSPAR, the Oslo/Paris Convention, which
has responsibility for the marine environment, there are various
key groups there where scientists around Europe get together to
comment on the quality of the marine environment and its biodiversity.
Nationally, through consultations such as that through NERC 2025,
we do join and have partners, although they clearly own that process,
and at present Defra and the devolved administrations are funding
a specific programme to help join 2025 type activities with our
fisheries laboratory type activities.
Q170 Dr Turner: Dr Bell, no one would
suggest I think that we meddle around with the Met Office because
it does an extremely good job. I think you can rest assured on
that. Do you think that NERC is doing enough to enable researchers
to get the benefit of the Met Office's facilities?
Dr Bell: I think that there is
quite a good and an increasingly good working relationship between
the Met Office and quite a number of NERC research institutes.
We had a NCOF workshop a couple of weeks ago with 50 people present,
half of them from the NERC research institutes. I think that there
is good support from the directors of the marine institutes to
encourage their staff to work with us. There is good grass roots
support. We have a list of 50 small collaborative projects between
ourselves and the other members of NCOV, which is really helping
to pull their work through into our operations.
Q171 Dr Turner: You are conscious
of this issue?
Dr Bell: Yes, we are. I should
say that in the climate area as well, and I have been talking
about the short-range forecasting of NCOF, there is a committee
for UK strategy for climate modelling. There is good collaboration
between the Met Office and a number of groups in the development
of the components of system modelling; for example, atmospheric
chemistry, land surface modelling and carbon cycle modelling.
Q172 Dr Turner: Finally, while I
am on this theme, there seems to be a player missing in this country.
In the United States, the US Navy actually plays a role in marine
science now. Do you think we should get the MoD to get the Navy
involved here? They still have a few ships, almost as many ships
as they have admirals. They could be asked to tow a few plankton
monitors while they are at it and so on. Why is the Navy not involved?
Dr Hensley: May I first pick up
on the NERC point? The UKHO provides data for example to the British
Oceanographic Data Centre. We do provide our data into the NERC
communities through that route. We also exchange data with our
NATO partners. We have some work, I hesitate to call it research,
for which we will contract some research establishments, such
as Southampton, to help us in answering relatively short-term
key questions on defence. We do have some links there. With regard
to the use of naval vessels, the MoD will set the policy for defence's
data collection and FLEET will be responsible for tasking vessels
to collect. So if there is a wider question on whether naval vessel
could and should be used, I am not the person to answer the question.
Chairman: Are you ever going to have
an opinion on anything?
Q173 Dr Turner: These are the opportunities
that are not being taken advantage of at present. For instance,
we have Royal Navy vessels patrolling in all sorts of parts of
the world for other reasons but, while they are doing that, they
are not fighting most of the time and they could have a scientist
on board making observations.
Dr Hensley: We receive data from
the Navy in support of the requirements they have, but I cannot
answer on behalf of the Royal Navy, I am afraid.
Q174 Dr Turner: Nobody listens to
this. You can be as honest as you like and disagree.
Dr Hensley: I have read the transcripts.
Dr Bell: The Navy does try hard
to be supportive of marine research and over the years they have
provided a lot of funding for marine research. Some of that funding
has dried up a bit in recent years. Robin has mentioned CAROS,
the co-operative arrangements for research in ocean science. That
is quite a high level group that co-ordinates this and there have
been some major programmes which the MoD has supported at the
National Oceanography Centre.
Q175 Chris Mole: We have seen some
evidence so far about long-term monitoring in areas such as the
continuous plankton recorder and the UK tidal gauge network. What
sort of long-term monitoring do your agencies support and how
do you share that data more widely in other issues to do with
securing the funding for that on a long-term basis?
Dr Hensley: From an environmental
perspective, we have a database on oceanographic observations;
that would be sea water temperature, salinity and so forth. As
I have alluded to earlier, those data are released into the academic
environment periodically. That would be where we could contribute
Dr Bell: The Met Office maintains
a network of moored buoys around the UK continental shelf. It
is also the leader of the UK contribution to the ARGO system,
so it co-ordinates that.
Q176 Chris Mole: Is the ARGO funding
Dr Bell: No.
Q177 Chris Mole: Do you think it
should it be?
Dr Bell: Yes.
Q178 Chris Mole: Is it the Met Office's
responsibility to ensure that is secured?
Dr Bell: No.
Q179 Chris Mole: Whose responsibility
do you think it is?
Dr Bell: It is across government,
so it is the government departments which have been involved in
that discussion: Defra, MoD and NERC.
Dr Horwood: On the UKMMAS, they
have tried to find out exactly where the UK is in terms of its
national monitoring. In the report we did for them very recently,
we reported 34 ongoing monitoring surveys covering radiological
work, contaminant work and diseasea raft of fish stock
assessment monitoring. Again, we made that available through the
MDIP website. That is accessible to third parties. We also feed
in to the national data storage programme through the National
Data Centre and also a range of our data goes to ICES where it
is amalgamated at an international level, so you have international
fishery surveys and contaminant data being stored there.