Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE 2007
Q340 Dr Spink: Which are the geographical
areas where you think there are gaps at the moment?
Mr Burt: For example, if you are
making deep ocean measurements for long-term climate change monitoring,
there are going to be different types of measurements you would
make, for example, in coasts and regional cities. There has been
a significant targeting at the moment for the deep ocean programmes,
the TOGA programme, the ARGO programmes, which are building upon
long-term datasets, which is good. Certainly there are gaps in
biological oceanography. There is a lot of emphasis on physical
oceanographic datasets, which are very, very important, but, once
those are becoming established, how the biology varies upon that
is very, very important and that clearly leads to two areas. One
is CO2 uptakewhich everybody is very keen to look at these
daysand resulting ocean certification. Both of those are
very early in their stages of knowledge.
Mr Gallett: I think there are
two issues here. One is gaps in types of observation, so areas
where, perhaps, sensor technology is not capable of making observations
we would like to make, and then there is the issue of lack of
continuity in routine observations. I think oceanography is going
through a fundamental transition with the science at the moment,
in that operational oceanography is a relatively new activity
and there are huge problems with continuity of observations. Most
observations in the oceans have their origin in research projects
and research projects are generally short lived, so we get snapshots
of the way the ocean behaves from a particular perspective and
then that snapshot may cease. I see the biggest problem here is
how do you ensure that certain key observations are made continuously
and made consistently. This is not research. It may underpin research
but it is not research. It is a fundamentally different activity
and it needs to be managed and operated in a different way. At
the moment in the UK, and I would say at an international level
also, the mechanisms properly to underpin the funding of those
regular routine observations are not well established and so what
tends to happen is that we have a stop-go sort of situation. We
will have some observation capability in place, whether it is
space based or in situ within the oceans, and then that observational
base will suddenly reach the end of its life and there has been
no attention paid to proper continuity. Clearly, if we do not
get the basic long-term observation correctly undertaken we will
not be able to understand properly the way in which the oceans
drive climate. That is one half of the equation. The other half,
as Richard has said, is that there are gaps in terms of the types
of observation that we are able to make and they are embedded
in the research area because there are some things we would like
to be able to observe routinely that we cannot observe routinely
at the moment because the technologies to do so are not sufficiently
developed. There are two different areas here that I think need
to be addressed. One is bringing up to speed the technologies
that are needed to fill gaps in the types of parameters that are
being measured. The other is creating mechanisms at a national
and a global level which properly ensure the continuity of routine
observation of the oceans.
Mr Gallett: One of the other things
that we do suffer from is that we have packets of data scattered
around the place. Quite often they are not being joined up, they
are not being utilised. The MOD has quite a lot of data that it
is very unhappy to release because perhaps it might reveal operational
activities of vessels. I do not know to what extent in recent
times those have been looked at again but there is an awful lot
of data being held by the MOD through their hydrographic office
in areas which probably other people have not been working on.
There are other packets around in some of the other research places
as well that have not been brought into the fold.
Q341 Dr Spink: Added to the problem
of inadequate funding and technical knowledge and a lack of coordination,
you would say, is protectionismprobably for fairly sound
Mr Gallett: Yes.
Q342 Dr Spink: What do you think
is the significance of the Global Ocean Observing System?
Mr Burt: From a scientific point
of view, it is very well proven, and I think its significance
is very clear. Also there are two other key aspects. It is global,
so that it does act as an overarching coordinating activity for
marine science and technology, but, also, from a commercial aspect
for companies that will participate in it. Again, that is companies
from developing technologies to giving added value to data products.
There is one interesting aspect of the Global Ocean Observing
System which is yet to be addressed. We have alluded to that today.
That is the significant change in the technologies that are needed
to achieve the data products that you require. If you were to
look around at worldwide technologies, instrumentation products
that are being used for Global Ocean Observing Systems, they all
invariably have their roots in scientific programmes. A simple
instrument for measuring temperature in the oceans, salinity in
the oceans, all have their roots in scientific programmes, where
a scientist may take some equipment to sea and make a measurement.
Very few, if any, are designed for what we would call long-term
operational deployments. At the moment you have a very large number
of observing systems using scientific equipment and then a significant
part of their budget, for example, would go towards maintaining
that system. It is a little bit like having a very, very expensive
racing car you want to use a few days a week. It is so expensive
to maintain. Whereas the technology input required is to develop
instrumentation and technologies that will last for many months
or years in the ocean environment and report good data continuously.
That may be seen as a very good topic for research, but if you
then sit and think about how many different oceanographic regimes
there are around the world, all inputting to a Global Ocean Observing
System, it gives you an idea of the size of the project. For example,
if you wish to measure a given parameter in the Thames Estuary
or in the Solent, you may use a totally different technology for
the same parameter from that you would use in the Arctic or in
the surf zone or in the middle of the Pacific. There is a huge
opportunity for assessing the types of different technologies
that you require and applying those to the most suitable regime,
even though at the end of the day they are all giving you the
same information: the temperature is X. There is a significant
opportunity and it is an opportunity that is not being addressed
The European aspect of the Global Ocean Observing System, EuroGOOS,
has identified this many years ago as a technology gap that is
required to be filled and it has looked, within the European context,
at where it can obtain this information. It cannot fund initiatives
but it can identify and act was a catalyst to try to get things
done. Certainly up to this stage, it has not been successful in
doing that. Many, many workshops and discussions that I have been
directly involved in have tried to achieve this technology gap
in trying to fill it but at the moment the consensus is still
that we continue to use scientific instruments and maybe adapt,
whereas in the long term adapting is too expensive. You need to
design again from the grassroots.
Q343 Dr Spink: We saw in the United
States a couple of weeks ago instruments that were dropped in
the ocean and left there to operate over a number of years, a
decade perhaps, that bob up from time to time, release their data
and go back down. Is that technology not shared around the world
for everyone to use?
Mr Burt: It is a well known programme.
All the technology requirement came out of the US and the technology
development to meet that came out of the US as well.
Q344 Dr Spink: Hence your earlier
comment about the US being more effective in start-up, seed corn
Mr Burt: Absolutely. The US did
provide full funding for the manufacturers of the sensor technologies
on those particular buoys, to produce instruments which are designed
for that use. Certainly at the time of requirements for sensors
on those buoys, the American pull-through of technology was far
better than it was over here. We had full visibility of it but
it was not economic to pull it through.
Q345 Dr Spink: Do you think the UK's
participation in the GOOS project and its long-term viability
are sound and becoming more secure as we get more political understanding
of the need for these datasets or do you think they are at risk
in any way because of short-termism?
Dr Rayner: Clearly, the Global
Ocean Observing System is an absolutely critical component of
the overall earth observation system and there is a well-formulated
plan for how the Global Ocean Observing System should be created.
Necessarily and by definition it is a global endeavour but it
relies on effective participation of individual nations to perform
a routine programme of observations. The UK's participation is
not particularly strong. There have been several recent instances,
in fact, where the UK has reduced its level of participation.
You mentioned the ARGO programme specifically in your earlier
Q346 Dr Spink: In fact there are
some people in the industry who believe the UK should double its
financial participation in this project.
Dr Rayner: And should engage perhaps
at a different level.
Q347 Dr Spink: Would you explain
Dr Rayner: At the moment the representation
to the Global Ocean Observing System is through IACMST and it
is funded through the research councils. I would argue again that
it is not a research council function. It is so fundamental to
our understanding and routine monitoring of the planet that it
should receive much more attention and perhaps be elevated to
a different position.
Q348 Dr Spink: An operational department
like the Met Office or something.
Dr Rayner: Yes.
Q349 Chris Mole: Who should operate
Dr Rayner: At the moment the only
organisation I think in the UK is positioned to do that is the
UK Met Office. But of course it is not funded to do so.
Q350 Dr Spink: What part has the
Marine Climate Change Partnership had to play in addressing the
gaps in our scientific knowledge of the oceans?
Mr Burt: In terms of our scientific
gaps, I do not know, but, in terms of technology applied to it,
I am not aware that we have had any pull-through yet.
Chairman: Is that across the board? Yes.
Q351 Dr Turner: I would like to ask
some brief questions about international collaboration and organisation.
There are many international and European organisations involved
in the governance of the oceans. Do you feel, Dr Rayner, that
the UK is adequately represented at the international level in
UNESCO and the other bodies like the IOOC and the International
Dr Rayner: It is certainly represented.
I would ask the question of how the position of the UK is determined
in some of these bodies. Who briefs representatives? How do they
decide what position is taken when they attend those sorts of
Q352 Dr Turner: In other words, should
our representation be more forceful?
Dr Rayner: I would say yes, it
Q353 Dr Turner: What impact do you
think better representation or more effective representation could
have on our own marine science and policy development?
Dr Rayner: It would be more informed
by what is going on in other countries and what is going on at
a global level.
Q354 Dr Turner: How serious a deficiency
do you think this is?
Dr Rayner: I would say it is a
relatively serious problem. It is very difficult to understand
or even to see if there is a process for how UK position is determined
in those bodies.
Q355 Dr Turner: Do you all feel this
to any degree?
Mr Gallett: It is outside my field.
Dr Thompson: It is outside mine.
Mr Burt: I would agree totally.
Q356 Dr Turner: There is a European
Marine Strategy Green Paper, what impact is that going to have
on the UK?
Dr Rayner: If it forms the basis
for the Maritime Directive it will have quite a specific impact
on the UK, in that the UK will have to enact legislation appropriate
to that Directive. Formulated in the right way, it will create
some coherence and it will raise this whole issue to a higher
Q357 Dr Turner: It is a reasonable
expectation that a Green Paper will lead to a Directive. Do you
feel that the Green Paper as published is good or bad for us?
Dr Rayner: I think it is good
Q358 Dr Turner: If the Directive
follows that, you will be quite happy.
Dr Rayner: Because I think it
will create a focus for the maritime sector which is currently
Q359 Dr Turner: Could I ask you all
finally to comment on how well the UK collaborates internationally
with the development of marine technologies?
Mr Burt: Let me try to answer
that with two examples. One is the well-known European framework
programme which, by its necessity, forces collaboration or otherwise
you do not participate. Certainly in previous years there has
been a significant dip in what I would call SME participation.
It was very, very positive and then, as the funding mechanisms
became less attractive, fewer and fewer SMEs participated. In
the current round now, framework 7, it is a lot better. It is
early stages but there is more funding for SMEs at a greater percentage
level, which is good, and also there is a stronger role that SMEs
are expected to perform within the projects so there is less opportunity
to undertake research for research's sake. With collaboration,
you have to outline explicitly how your technology pull-through
will happen. I think that is good. The second example is if we
look across the waterdare I say againto the United
States, to look at what is happening there. There are opportunities
for UK companies to license technologies from the US and to develop
thoseagain, coming back to our funding models, perhaps
at our expensethen launching them on to the US market.
I think UK companies do as good a job, if not a better job, at
technology pull-through than US companies. Whereas US companies
have more opportunity, I think we can do a better job, but it
is beholden on the individual companies to go over to find the
perfect technologies and bring them back.
2 2 Footnote by the Witness: In the USA, NOAA
has established the Alliance for Coastal Technologies to specifically
address the technology requirements for long term marine measurements
in the coastal zone. Back