Science and Technology Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 727

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Science and Technology Committee

on Wednesday 5 December 2012

Members present:

Andrew Miller (Chair)

Stephen Metcalfe

David Morris

Stephen Mosley

Sarah Newton

Graham Stringer

Roger Williams


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Phil Durrant, Managing Director, Gardline Environmental Limited (representing the North Sea Marine Cluster), Professor Ralph Rayner, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), and Richard Burt, Chair, Association of Marine Scientific Industries (AMSI) Council, gave evidence.

Q47Chair: Gentlemen, can I welcome you here this morning? Thank you for agreeing to come and see us. It would be helpful if for the record you could introduce yourselves.

Phil Durrant: My name is Phil Durrant, and I am representing the North Sea Marine Cluster.

Professor Rayner: I am Ralph Rayner, representing the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology.

Richard Burt: I am Richard Burt, representing the Association of Marine Scientific Industries, part of the Society of Maritime Industries.

Q48Chair: In your written evidence, you talk about there being only limited improvements to strategic oversight in marine science since 2007. Why do you think progress has been so slow?

Professor Rayner: I had the pleasure, and to some extent frustration, of attending the previous two Select Committees, going back to 1987. In the reports of those two Committees, the central recommendation was not taken up by the Government. In both cases, we ended up with a body that had insufficient power and clout effectively to coordinate. To some extent, after the second of those Committees, we replaced what was already working moderately well with something very similar that was perhaps slightly more bureaucratic. We have maintained the status quo in the way this is addressed rather than addressing the central issue of coordinating properly.

Q49Chair: Let us push you a bit further on that. We would totally agree with you that Governments of any colour should listen to Select Committee reports very carefully. Let us hear from you: what do you think the aim of the marine science strategy should be, and what outcomes should we be seeking?

Richard Burt: Looking at marine science strategy as a whole, as Professor Rayner said, we identified very well in the last session that coordination and a joined-up approach for the UK was needed. The report went a long way to suggesting what was required to achieve that. As to where we are now, we still have the desire to achieve an efficient, joined-up UK marine science to meet our obligations, but there are also a number of other factors now. One is the economic climate, which is taking money away from marine science, so there is even more pressure to have an efficient coordinated approach. There is also the wider global view where in Europe, the US and Asia people are pushing ahead with marine science, and we have to see how our activities sit in that context so that there is no duplication at the national level and perhaps not at the international level.

Q50Chair: That is not adequately reflected in the current strategy.

Richard Burt: It does not appear to be.

Professor Rayner: An area that is not adequately represented is engagement with industry.

Phil Durrant: I would agree with that completely. Going back to the strategy, there have been some successes, but it is under-resourced in terms of both secretariat and funding; it is not outcome-focused, which it needs to be. Industry could play an important part in bringing some focus to the MSCC and marine strategy.

Q51Stephen Mosley: I would like to ask you questions relating to the impact of marine science on economic growth in the UK. Do you have any idea of the impact of marine science, and have you got any figures or examples to back it up?

Richard Burt: As part of the AMSI activities, we conduct an annual survey that looks at UK oceanographic and marine science industries. We survey about 90 to 100 typical companies in the UK. Most of them are small SMEs of perhaps fewer than 30 employees with a turnover of £1 million to £5 million a year. The survey shows that their annual turnover is about £1.35 billion, of which £500 million goes to export. It is a significant industry on the marine science side in the UK. When we look across to other activities, such as offshore renewables, oil and gas, marine planning and even climate aspects, all of those are underpinned by marine science at the beginning. We have a very important underpinning of industrial activity.

Professor Rayner: In a broader socioeconomic rather than straight economic sense, there are all the benefits of safety of life and protection of the environment that are rather more difficult to quantify. They are hard to quantify in strict economic terms, but, if you extend it to a climate dimension, the impact of marine science on our understanding of future risks and our ability to mitigate them is extremely large, but it is very hard to put into a strict economic valuation.

Q52Stephen Mosley: Are you saying there are no figures to demonstrate the rate of return, or anything like that, on investment in marine science?

Professor Rayner: There are figures which estimate that for very narrow parts of the activity in marine science, but there is no holistic view. It is extremely difficult to derive a holistic view.

Q53Stephen Mosley: In terms of action in developing a marine growth strategy, is there anything the Government can do to try to improve that?

Phil Durrant: Industry engagement is absolutely key here. Richard just said that marine science underpins everything we do. We are talking about return on investment. That filters up through industry and beyond. One of the key things we should be looking at here is getting involved at an early stage with industry in setting objectives and strategies, because they will take that forward in return, in terms of investment.

Professor Rayner: It is important to think about this in a wider context than just marine science. One of the difficulties with the present structure is that, understandably, the emphasis is very heavily on science but is very weak on enabling technologies. It is in those enabling technologies that many of the real industry opportunities lie. You have to find ways to create effective conduits into industrial exploitation of the technologies that arise.

Q54Chair: Do you have examples?

Professor Rayner: I have many examples from the other side of the Atlantic.

Q55Stephen Mosley: I attended a briefing yesterday at Manchester university on future energy. One of the things talked about was tidal energy. Rolls-Royce have developed a very good turbine for tidal power. Unfortunately, they have just sold the design to Alstom. Do you see that as one example?

Professor Rayner: That is an example from a rather different sphere. In the marine science and technology area, we are more concerned with the instrumentation, the sensors and platforms used to observe and understand the oceans, which in its own right is a fairly substantial industry sector. On the other side of the Atlantic, they have been far more effective in fostering the connection between their marine science and technology and its commercial exploitation. We certainly have examples in the UK, as Richard has outlined, of successful companies in that area, but we could do better.

Richard Burt: When we talk about industries, it is worth considering how broad are the marine industries that relate to marine science. We can start very small, as Professor Rayner has said, with people who will design and develop technologies that enable you to do marine science at sea, but that leads right the way through to people who perhaps develop the platforms on which these technologies will be used; people who will use the platforms to gather data for a broad range of marine scientific uses, which we have spoken about; people who supply anything from small-size platforms through to survey ships; and large multinational organisations that will process the data and resell it in another format. It is an extremely broad range of industries from little one-man-band consultancies to large multinationals. How all of these engage with the marine science strategy is important. All of them have parts to play, and their development road maps themselves should map across to the marine science strategy and its delivery plan. That is key to helping the engagement of industry in what we are talking about today.

Professor Rayner: Many of those enabling technologies find their way out of the science arena and into other applications in oil and gas and marine renewables, so technologies that are developed on the back of scientific issues and questions quite often find their way into much broader applications, and therefore much larger markets. A very good example of that in the recent past is the development of autonomous underwater vehicles, which is now an enormous global market in which the UK could have been very strongly positioned as a pioneer in that area but currently is pretty weakly positioned.

Q56Stephen Mosley: In a number of different areas we have heard of the problem that we are very good at developing things, but the valley of death comes along and we are not very good at producing commercial applications. From what you are saying, is it the same in marine science as well?

Professor Rayner: It is not just the problem of the valley of death; it is creating the right interfaces in the first place. Having created them, you still have to cross the so-called valley of death from a good idea and prototype to a commercially exploitable product.

Q57Stephen Mosley: Surely, the Government have a role in there as a big commissioner and large end-user. Commissioning must play a part in that. How important is Government commissioning in supporting your industry?

Richard Burt: It is extremely important. There are some Government initiatives that are working very well. We have seen the recent TSB initiative where an £8 million fund for vessel efficiency has been announced. That was specifically targeted at maritime, but the links between maritime and marine science are becoming closer. The Government initiatives that are drawing those together more closely are not necessarily mirrored across to the marine science strategy, which is talking more about marine science as opposed to maritime. If we look across Europe, from an industrial perspective we see funding mechanisms that are relying on the convergence of marine and maritime, shipping and marine science and transport and marine science, and bringing them closer together. That factor is not necessarily addressed within the marine science strategy. Part of what the Government are doing is being done very well, but it is not linking across to the other activities and producing a joined-up approach.

Phil Durrant: It is interesting that you raise commissioning. I do not think commissioning is very prevalent in marine science. There are some good examples where commissioning has been delivered very effectively in marine science, but they are very few and far between. Commissioning needs to be looked at and embraced a little more in terms of delivery of marine science. By commissioning, you focus on the objectives and aims early on in a process and then bring together a group of stakeholders and a variety of people who can deliver and put it out to get a commercial advantage for UK plc, potentially.

Q58Stephen Mosley: A little bird has told me about the Marine Science Coordination Committee. Do you think their members are following best practice in commissioning?

Phil Durrant: I do not think they are following best practice in commissioning. I admit I would not be able to tell you exactly what best practice was, but I do not think there is enough commissioning going on in marine science. I said I could give examples. If you look back to the aggregate levy sustainability fund, a programme that is now concluded, that was a very good example of commissioning. A steering committee, which was funded through Government, looked at aims and objectives for research into aggregate-related science and delivered those through a range of vehicles, including the public and private sector. I do not see that continuing into the future. It was a very good model and it should be reconsidered.

Q59Sarah Newton: I want to follow up this rich vein of questioning about the Marine Science Coordination Committee and some of the comments we have heard today but also in the written evidence. Can you talk about the extent to which marine science is undertaken by industry and whether that is adequately reflected in the membership of that group?

Phil Durrant: To go back to Richard’s point about underpinning, industry does an awful lot of marine science; it delivers it in all shapes and forms, whether that is for regulators, developers or even for research institutes and universities. There is no industry representation on the MSCC at the moment. There is Richard’s Marine Industry Liaison Group, which is supposed to be industry-focused, or is the industry forum to liaise with the MSCC, but there is too much of a gap between the two entities; they are not close enough in terms of debate or discussion. I come back to the point that there is still no industry representation on the MSCC.

Q60Sarah Newton: In terms of improving coordination, do you think it would be critical to have industry representation on the main committee in addition to this sort of subgroup?

Phil Durrant: Absolutely. We are talking about cooperation and cross-sectoral integration. That cannot happen unless those people are sitting in the same room and debating things at the same time. You said that it is critical, and that is exactly what it is.

Q61Sarah Newton: You mentioned that industry does a great deal of research. We have understood that now there is a bit of a cross-over or emergence of marine science coming together with maritime science. It would be quite difficult to answer this question, but, as a rough idea, as a percentage of the science undertaken, how much would be done by industry? It would need to be only an estimate to give us an idea of the scale.

Phil Durrant: That is a difficult question. If I may refer to some notes, the DEFRA figure for public sector marine science funding in 2011-12 was about £150 million. Colleagues did some work and estimated that the percentage that potentially came from industry would be in the region of 20% or more of that, but that is directly measurable marine science. An awful lot of investment goes in research outwith pure public marine science. That would be on the very low side of investment.

Q62Sarah Newton: We know there are big gaps in our knowledge of the marine environment, and when industry has collected data it would be extremely beneficial to be able to share that. What other benefits do you think there would be from having industry being more closely involved on the committee working alongside others?

Professor Rayner: I am always very nervous about the use of the term "industry" when it is such a broad church. I tend to classify industry engagement with marine science and technology into three types of industry. There are those that provide the means to undertake the science, so people who build the instruments and sensors and perhaps do some of the core scientific research. There are those who use the outputs-the data and information-for practical purposes: policy compliance, safety or economic purposes. There are then the ultimate beneficiaries. You have to distinguish between those three types of industry, because they will have different reasons for being engaged. All three of those groups would benefit from closer engagement: in the provider case, because they would understand more of what is required by the science community and therefore can tailor their offering more closely to that. Even better than that, you can create an interface that fosters developing things that are required. The intermediate industries will have a much closer proximity to what is available to use in practical applications, and the end users will have greater connectivity in terms of the marine science community understanding how science can benefit their end uses, whether it is shipping, oil and gas, marine renewables or whatever area it might be. It is very important to look at it in at least these three classifications; otherwise, you end up blurring lots and lots of different issues because the stakeholders are engaged in very different ways.

Q63Sarah Newton: That is a very helpful segmentation for us to understand. None the less, you are saying that each of those sectors-there might even be more-would benefit from closer engagement together and participation in the committee.

Professor Rayner: In both directions.

Q64Chair: For clarity, can I press you, Mr Durrant, on your definitions? Were you describing work that is done through research councils versus work done through industry directly, or were you incorporating the whole of Government? For example, were you excluding the Ministry of Defence?

Phil Durrant: I was excluding the Ministry of Defence. I come from the survey industry, so that would be my focus. Data acquisition for the support of marine science would be the focus of my comments.

Q65Chair: Professor Rayner, in your categorisation, those who produce the means are not simply producing for industrial research; they are also producing instrumentation for academic research. One of that sector’s customers will be the public sector, won’t it?

Professor Rayner: That is certainly the case. I would go further than that and say that very often that is where new ideas that can feed into wider industry use come from.

Q66Chair: I have seen myself a fair amount of cross-over between some of the industrial players and the academic community in developing instrumentation.

Professor Rayner: There is some but not as much as there should be. I have the good fortune to see this from a US perspective very closely, because I work a week a month in Washington for NOAA. The linkages created in the US framework are much closer, and there is much greater emphasis on trying to take those ideas coming out of the research community. The research community is always looking for new and novel tools to be able to understand the oceans, so it is driving innovation. If you can link that innovation closely into the industries that then produce those tools, those industries can move on to sell those capabilities to other sectors, outside of research. That is the conduit we would like to see being much more effective than it currently is.

Q67David Morris: Professor Rayner, do you think a single UK marine agency rather than a co-ordination committee, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, would be needed here?

Professor Rayner: It would certainly help, and it was the central recommendation of the previous two Select Committee reports. You have to be a little careful in making a comparison with NOAA. NOAA addresses some of those issues, but I know only too well that NOAA is one of 17 agencies that have interests in marine science in the US. It certainly is not the panacea, but it brings some of the elements into much closer alignment.

Q68David Morris: What do you think the advantages of this particular mechanism would be beyond the Marine Science Co-ordination committee?

Professor Rayner: It creates a central focus that has a specific remit and is empowered to take that remit forward.

Q69David Morris: Are you saying you would expect the industry to have a stronger voice in a separate agency?

Professor Rayner: I would expect industry to have good proximity to such an agency, yes.

Phil Durrant: A separate or dedicated agency is one option; a better resourced MSCC is another alternative. If you go on to link that to liaison with industry, that could still be facilitated through the MSCC.

Q70Chair: When you say "better resourced", could you put some numbers on it?

Phil Durrant: I could not put numbers on it, but it needs better funding; for a start, it needs to control its funding. It needs a better and more substantial secretariat. It has a very good and dedicated secretariat, but it has an awful lot to deal with and a lot of sub-groups. It needs some objectives and real teeth to drive through some of those objectives.

Q71Stephen Metcalfe: I would like to talk a little about the role of NERC in all of this and its support for marine sciences. Could all of you describe for me where you think its strengths and weaknesses lie in the support for marine science?

Richard Burt: From the point of view of technology instrumentation, I have experience in liaising and working with NERC for 20 years. NERC is very strong at developing core technologies and science in-house. It has spent a lot of time recently trying to avoid duplication.

Q72Stephen Metcalfe: In terms of duplication of technologies.

Richard Burt: The duplication of technologies. There has been pooling of that aspect, which has been very good. Where it falls down is that there is still a rather disparate approach for integration with industry, which comes back to our previous point. Industry can interface with NERC at instrumentation level, but it can also interface at the data exchange and data processing level; it could even interface with industry at the capital asset level: the thorny problem of sharing ships, facilities and things like that. What it is doing in terms of rationalisation and efficiency drives across NERC is very good; it mirrors what industry would do in this sort of climate, but as to clear interfaces, and willingness to interface with industry, there is room for improvement.

Professor Rayner: To take that from a slightly different angle, not the industry angle, the remit of the Natural Environment Research Council is research. That means its focus necessarily is on its primary mission, which is to deliver quality research. There is another component of the marine science and technology equation, in terms of delivering regulatory compliance, operational efficiencies and those sorts of areas. That is the area of operational oceanography, where you have routine streams of observations. That is not primarily NERC’s core mission. It is more and more important to have those sustained long-term observations for a whole range of different applications. It is more akin to an operational function of the type the Met Office delivers. The current approach is not well structured to enable that sort of capability, and yet it is an extremely important thing to maintain, foster and grow at both a national and international level.

Q73Stephen Metcalfe: You think NERC do not understand that, or just do not see it as part of their remit?

Professor Rayner: I am sure they understand it but it is their core remit only to the extent that it underpins particular areas of science. It certainly is not their core remit in terms of creating that capacity to underpin other benefits.

Q74Stephen Metcalfe: Your organisation has been quite critical of NERC, in that it suffers from poor strategic planning on marine issues and inadequate engagement with marine industry. Is that an example of where you think they are failing?

Professor Rayner: That is going back to Richard’s point.

Q75Stephen Metcalfe: Presumably, the collection of observational data would be through industry.

Professor Rayner: No. If you look at it at both a national and international level, the largest proportion of the routine regular collection of data about the marine environment, and routine and regular capacity to predict the marine environment, is largely a public function and is funded through public funds, yet we have no body that really coordinates that at the moment. We have some emerging capability in that area.

Q76Chair: Where it is industry that is collecting the data, do you think there ought to be a public duty to make it available to researchers?

Professor Rayner: In the main, it is made available to researchers. It would be quite difficult. You can encourage a public duty.

Q77Chair: To take the example of offshore wind, some of the data sets collected by owners of wind farms are regarded as ridiculously commercial in confidence. If I was the Energy Minister, I would make it a licence condition that it should be available for research.

Professor Rayner: That would be a very good approach to ensuring that that was the case. If you look at the example of the oil and gas industry, that started with exactly the same view. Everything they collected they regarded as proprietary and were very reluctant to put into the public domain. That view has changed profoundly in the last decade, because there has been a recognition of the benefit of pooling it for all sorts of reasons, and a recognition that it is not core to the business of the oil and gas industry. The marine renewables sector is a little more difficult. The measurements they make of wind are very core to their competitive position and that is part of what drives their reluctance, but it is also an issue of maturity. I think that as that industry matures it will see the benefit of sharing. You could mandate it through the route you have described, and that has been used quite often in other cases. I think it will happen eventually anyway.

Phil Durrant: There are a couple of points there that I would like to pick up. We have to be mindful of who is paying for that data collection, and that is the wind farm developers, whether that is for regulatory purposes or their own commercial purposes.

Q78Chair: I am paying for it in my energy bill, am I not?

Phil Durrant: Maybe. Ralph’s point is very pertinent. A maturing industry would be more than happy to share that data, and it can still be on a commercially confidential basis. I do not think most developers would mind somebody using that data for research, for example. The key issue is collecting that data in a standard format, storing it somewhere and setting up a proper protocol and procedures for access to that data.

Q79Stephen Metcalfe: I would like to take you back to NERC’s role. Do you have anything further to add about strengths and weaknesses?

Phil Durrant: I think my colleagues have covered most of it. One of the key issues they picked out, which I would like to re-emphasise, is that currently NERC’s strategy does not identify marine science as a separate category. That is the core of this issue. It has to compete with everything else; it is not a core part of NERC’s strategy.

Q80Stephen Metcalfe: My next question was to be whether they had a strategy, and the answer to that appears to be no.

Phil Durrant: No.

Q81Stephen Metcalfe: You would agree with that. Can you speculate on why that is?

Richard Burt: All I can proffer is that NERC’s requirement is to deliver the science that the UK needs to underpin its requirements. Marine is just a part of that, and perhaps other larger sectors have a greater priority in the NERC programme.

Q82Stephen Metcalfe: But you have just told us how important marine science is in underpinning all sorts of other areas.

Richard Burt: It is.

Professor Rayner: To be fair, the view in NERC is that certainly large parts of the marine science portfolio are seen as being part of an overall earth systems approach to understanding the way the planet works. I can understand that approach, but the requirements of the marine sector are very different from those of, say, terrestrial science.

Q83Stephen Metcalfe: But are we not gathering more information from marine science than ever before about the way it is affecting our planet?

Professor Rayner: Globally, yes, in a relatively unsustained way. It is very hard, particularly at international level, to keep those programmes running, some at what would be regarded in overall terms as minuscule cost, and yet for some of those programmes one has to fight tooth and nail to sustain them.

Q84Stephen Metcalfe: Am I right in saying that there have been recent staff reductions at NERC for marine science?

Professor Rayner: Yes.

Q85Stephen Metcalfe: Is that an example of what you have just been referring to? We are not putting enough effort into this, with relatively small amounts of money.

Professor Rayner: Over the period since the two Select Committee reports we have seen a progressive decline in the UK’s capacity in marine science.

Q86Stephen Metcalfe: No one is going to contradict that.

Richard Burt: Not at all. Although the marine science part does not appear as a separate line item within the NERC strategy, that is not uncommon, even if you look at it on a European level. If you look at European funding, there tends to be thematic and coordination programmes. If you drill down to see where the line is for the funding for marine science, you probably cannot find it. That has been quite common over a number of calls, but, if you look through the aspects that rely on marine science to underpin those activities, they are deliberately there and they are quite significant sums of money. Marine science is there, but it does not have a high enough profile, or a profile of its own, which is one key thing. In the global context, we certainly see a lot of other countries pushing very hard with marine science agendas, and the status of the UK does not want to be left behind. Those are two key important points.

Phil Durrant: I’d just like to pick up on those points. You mentioned that we are collecting more data than ever in the marine environment. Globally that is so. We need to be. If you look at what we have got to deliver over the coming years in terms of the marine strategy framework directive, marine protected areas and marine conservation zones, they can be properly delivered only with good scientific data and evidence. We are already seeing delays in marine conservation zones because of a lack of evidence. If we do not seriously consider-this was brought up with previous Committees-that we need to invest in data collection and good evidence, we will struggle to deliver those things.

Q87Stephen Metcalfe: Therefore, a strategy may well help.

Phil Durrant: A strategy would definitely help.

Q88Stephen Metcalfe: And a line that said what the budget is so you can see what it is and whether it is declining or decreasing.

Phil Durrant: Absolutely.

Q89Roger Williams: NERC’s ocean-going research vessels make up a fairly large chunk of its capital expenditure and equipment. It is therefore important that efficient use is made of these vessels. Yet we are told that in terms of days at sea NERC achieves only in the low 200s every year, whereas commercial fleets like Gardline achieve over 300 a year. Can you tell us why that may be, and what industry is doing differently from NERC?

Phil Durrant: There are many different reasons why private companies can deliver over 300 days at sea. The first is that they have to, because that is what makes them viable. The one thing that makes a marine science business successful is the utilisation of its major assets, which are its vessels, so they have to be at sea for a considerable amount of time to reduce overall costs, which means that they can be competitive. We can go into details of maintenance and everything like that, but it is basically efficient running and ensuring that those vessels are at sea as many days of the year as possible with maintenance programmes, planned maintenance and so on. While I would not be able to comment in detail about the operations of ocean-going research vessels, definitely some work has to be done to look at how efficiently they are being operated and whether the private sector can assist in the operation of those vessels. Could they be managed a little more efficiently? It is a piece of work that definitely needs to be looked into in greater detail.

Professor Rayner: I add a comment, not so much on the vessels themselves but the future of the way in which data will be gathered at sea. We are literally on the threshold of a revolution in the way that is done. If it plays out the way it looks like it is going to, it will reduce the requirement for research vessels. I refer to the move towards the use of autonomous vehicles for scientific data collection. It is very important that we have an effective approach in the UK to adopting those technologies in a planned and carefully thought-through way, because in 10 years’ time, the way in which we collect a large proportion of the data that we acquire, particularly in the global ocean, will move strongly towards using autonomous vehicles and away from very expensive ships. You will still need ships for certain types of activity, but the requirement will change quite profoundly over the next decade.

Q90Roger Williams: You have been questioned about the Marine Science Coordination Committee. Does this have a role in making use of these vessels more efficient?

Richard Burt: Yes, certainly. Picking up Professor Rayner’s point, the key thing is that, when the Marine Science Coordinating Committee is looking at the strategy to deliver the science, the foremost science is undoubtedly climate-related, which needs vast amounts of data. To gather vast amounts of data you need to have globally distributed technologies giving you data in real time at the densities that you require it. Shipping will not give you that. The use of autonomous underwater vehicles is almost fundamental; otherwise, your whole science plan changes. They are intimately linked.

Q91Roger Williams: We have been told that the way forward may be not so many ocean-going vessels. Although I can understand why NERC would want to have their own vessels, can you say why they may be over-provided with that facility and could do better if they bought time on commercial vessels rather than running their own?

Phil Durrant: That needs to be investigated. The key issue here is that we are all in this together. We talk about restricted funding, and funding being squeezed harder and harder. We have to look at the most efficient way of delivering that science. If that can be done more cheaply with a private sector vessel so that you can get more scientists on it, do more days at sea and do more science, that has to be the right way to go. It should be looked at in much more detail. We are talking about the efficient delivery of science, whether that is through the private sector, public sector or a combination of the two. It has to be a collaborative approach.

Q92Graham Stringer: You have answered a lot of my questions in your answers to Stephen. You said there was no co-ordination of data collection at one stage. How would it be best co-ordinated? What would be the best way of dealing with data collection so we got the best possible sets?

Professor Rayner: At the level of routine data streams, we are seeing the emergence of an embryonic capability to co-ordinate that through the setting-up of the UK Integrated Marine Observing Network. The challenge is how we foster that and grow it from a great idea with no resources to a real co-ordination mechanism that can pull all of the somewhat disparate array of different capabilities together into a coherent framework. I would offer one suggestion. I spend a lot of time working in Washington specifically on this area. One of the things that has driven this quite strongly in the US is having some enabling legislation that recognises the need for an integrated ocean observing system. Enabling legislation has formed a focus for driving capability forward. It is not legislation with funding attached, but it provides a legal mechanism that helps to co-ordinate that activity more effectively.

Q93Graham Stringer: The next question is leading. In answer to David’s questions, you pointed out that this Committee had previously recommended a marine agency, and the comparator we were looking at there was the space agency, which has done a lot of space research. Do you think this Committee should recommend for a second or third time that there should be a marine agency? Would that be a good body to co-ordinate the collection of data?

Professor Rayner: I cannot speak for the Committee.

Q94Graham Stringer: Would it make your life better?

Professor Rayner: I think the Committee can and should make that recommendation only if it believes there is a realistic possibility of it being achieved. Past experience indicates that that is not so.

Q95Graham Stringer: It would reduce the number of recommendations we make. We are optimists.

Richard Burt: Past precedent would tend to point to the fact that that is probably going to fall on deaf ears. It would be better to do something better with some of the structures we already have and have some chance of it being enacted than to go for something that could be a much better solution but is unlikely to happen.

Q96Graham Stringer: Where are the big gaps in data collection? Are they in the area of biology, or is it physical data about temperature, salinity and wind speeds?

Phil Durrant: All of them, to be honest. We just do not have enough evidence-based data to make the decisions we will need to make. If you look at Ireland, it invested a considerable amount of money-I do not know the exact figure-over four to five years to do a full multibeam survey of its full continental shelf. If we were to do that for the UK, it would take about seven years and cost £210 million-I think that is an underestimate-but that is just multibeam data to get bathemetry data. You mentioned wind, waves, current and tide. I do not know whether Ralph would agree, but we need much more data in all those fields.

Professor Rayner: But there are different levels of maturity across those different areas. The core issue is sustainability in terms of regular data collection. You have to distinguish between the data streams we need in perpetuity to support a whole range of applications and those that are dedicated to a particular science question. In the area of routine sustained data, the physical data capacity is much stronger than the chemistry and biology, but the issue in all three cases is sustainability; it is making sure that you can continue those observations on a regular and routine basis into the future, in the same way that you currently do in meteorology.

Q97Graham Stringer: There is a terrible paradox here, isn’t there? We are concerned about conserving parts of the sea and we do not have enough data to decide where the best areas are in some cases. While we are not getting the data, these areas are being degraded. To go back to the last report, the concern of the Committee was that we should get in there and do something quickly, even if we did not have all the information. Do you think we should get in before we have the data because what we are trying to conserve may have gone by the time we measure it?

Professor Rayner: It is a fundamental tenet of management that you can manage only what you measure, which reinforces your point. If you do not know what the status is of something already, whatever that might mean, it is very difficult to come up with effective management strategies.

Q98Sarah Newton: To move away from marine conservation zones and that aspect of data, which we have been touching on, I would like to broaden it to data related to climate change. How well do you think the impact of global warming on the oceans is being monitored, and what more could the Government be doing to make sure that it is being monitored appropriately?

Professor Rayner: at a global level, those monitoring programmes are in moderate shape. However, progress towards the capacity that is envisaged as a fully operational system to observe the oceans has stalled at an implementation level of about 65% of the envisaged capacity that is needed for regular and routine observation of the oceans from a climate perspective.

The UK has played a fairly strong part in creating that capacity, but the issue has always been one of sustainability and making a sufficiently long-term commitment to underpin that capacity. Every time an element of that capacity is under threat, a huge campaign has to be mounted to sustain it, whereas it should be regarded as fundamental core infrastructure that is needed to understand what is happening and the impacts on everyone.

Q99Sarah Newton: I agree. What made it stall at about 65% capacity?

Professor Rayner: At a global level, it has to be a collective endeavour. It is the buy-in of all the nations engaged in that process.

Q100Sarah Newton: Are there any mechanisms to try to encourage people to get round the table and find a way forward?

Professor Rayner: There are lots of mechanisms; they are not at the moment yielding any further progress.

Q101Sarah Newton: Is there lack of political will on the part of some of the partner organisations or Governments of the world to push forward with the investment?

Professor Rayner: Yes.

Q102Sarah Newton: We can look at our own country’s commitment. In some of the evidence there was talk about the UK’s commitment to the Argo programme. What is the UK’s current commitment to that, and do you anticipate it changing?

Professor Rayner: The UK’s current commitment is rather piecemeal; it is not a sustained guaranteed input, and it is below the proportion that you would expect in relation to UK GDP.

Q103Sarah Newton: Which is the sponsoring Department for that level of financial commitment?

Professor Rayner: That is part of the problem. It is not clear, so we come back to the issue of co-ordination. It is not clear where that responsibility should lie. It lies across more than one Department, and there is a tendency for it to be passed from pillar to post.

Q104Sarah Newton: Which Departments are passing you from pillar to post?

Professor Rayner: DEFRA and now BIS through the Met Office, which is now reporting to it. Those are the two that are predominantly involved.

Phil Durrant: That is an important point. We are here discussing marine strategy and the MSCC. It would be easy to point the finger at MSCC and DEFRA, but there are many different facets to it. Engagement by other parts of Government such as BIS is critical if we are to deliver what we are talking about here, which is a more integrated approach.

Q105Chair: In terms of the whole process of data collection across the various bits of Government, is there no mechanism for properly co-ordinating it at the present time?

Professor Rayner: For routine and regular data, there is an emerging mechanism in the form of the UK Integrated Marine Observing Network, which is a DEFRA-sponsored initiative but with the engagement of most of the other Government bodies, in one way or another, that are concerned with regular and routine data.

Q106Chair: You say "most of the other". Are there any obvious gaps?

Professor Rayner: It is pretty inclusive, but it is right at the start of its mission.

Q107Chair: Is that in respect of the continental shelf, or is it all oceans?

Professor Rayner: That is in respect of local, national and global, so you would envisage-indeed, it is the case-that the UK Integrated Marine Observing Network is partnered with corresponding observing networks in other parts of the world as a way of ensuring we underpin both the local and global capacity that is needed.

Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for your evidence this morning. That is very helpful.

<?oasys [np[pg6,cwe1] ?>Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Dr Phillip Williamson, Science Co-ordinator, UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, Professor Jonathan Sharples, Research Centre for Marine Sciences and Climate Change, University of Liverpool, and Dr Stephen Dye, Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP), gave evidence.

Q108Chair: Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming this morning. For the record, even though I know one of you extremely well, it would be helpful if you could introduce yourselves.

Dr Dye: I am Stephen Dye. I am here representing the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership. It is a secretariat hosted at Cefas, an executive agency of DEFRA, so I am a Cefas employee.

Professor Sharples: I am Jonathan Sharples and I am here from the Centre for Marine Sciences and Climate Change at the University of Liverpool which links between the university and the National Oceanography Centre site at Liverpool.

Dr Williamson: I am Phil Williamson and I represent the UK Ocean Acidification research programme. I am a NERC employee based at the University of East Anglia.

Q109Chair: I want to start with the impact that global warming is having on the oceans. Which do you see as the bigger danger: that the oceans will absorb carbon dioxide or that carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere?

Professor Sharples: It is difficult to separate them. Basically, you are talking about two halves of the carbonate chemistry of the oceans, so if you increase CO2 in the atmosphere, which has known warming effects, you will increase the amount of CO2 that goes into the ocean and increase the acidity of the ocean. I do not know whether you can really separate those two processes.

Dr Williamson: The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in a temperature increase and that increases the temperature of the ocean. That has all sorts of very crucial and potentially catastrophic effects for the sea level rise, ocean circulation and society in general, and ocean acidification is an additional stress on top of that. But ocean acidification slows down the rate of CO2 absorption so that is one feedback mechanism, but as soon as the system starts changing-there are a whole lot of other changes as well-the CO2 in the atmosphere has a warming effect and affects the circulation and stratification of the ocean, which affects the oxygen in the ocean. All these things have ramifications that feed backwards and forwards. As Jonathan said, you cannot really separate the two. One can calculate some of the economic consequences of a certain temperature rise or certain level of acidification.

Q110Chair: We heard in the last witness session-all three of you were sitting in the audience listening-about gaps in scientific knowledge in the broad spectrum of marine science. Are there gaps in this discipline, or is this very well researched?

Professor Sharples: If you focus on what happens in the atmosphere if you increase CO2, how that gets into the ocean and how the carbonate chemistry in the ocean partitions the CO2 in different forms, the theory of that is extremely well understood. That is 100% certainty. We understand all those processes. The chemistry of the situation is well understood. When you start to look at the effects that that has, that is where the uncertainties commence. As to the effects on the rate or acceleration of sea level rise, or the effects of acidification on organisms in the ocean, there are some big uncertainties about the impacts of what we do know is happening.

Dr Dye: When we looked at knowledge gaps in this area in the MCCIP programme, the other gap essentially was about how it will change on a local and regional scale. If you look at the global content, maybe we have a good idea, but in local variability and regional impacts potentially there is a greater gap that maybe the ocean acidification programme is helping to address.

Q111Chair: How are these gaps being filled? As a result of gaps, is there a need, as the previous witnesses were saying, to have better co-ordination of data?

Dr Williamson: For the ocean acidification programme, at present those gaps are pretty well filled, in that NERC, DEFRA and DECC are working together. We do have a national programme and it is doing the necessary science for a period of years. That has initiated additional measurements to look at some of the factors that Stephen mentioned related to variability. I reiterate that the global picture might be, "Yes, we can have those projections", but for regional patterns we find that the chemistry does not necessarily behave itself and there are differences. The pH around the UK and European shelf seas is falling more rapidly than expected from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so other things are going on. One does need to make the observations. As we heard from the previous session, we need to make those observations in a sustained way and marry that together with ongoing research on particular effects and processes and then try to improve understanding so we can have some sort of projection for the future.

Professor Sharples: The ocean acidification programme is quite a nice example of how I perceive that the NERC strategy over the last few years has worked quite well in trying to identify these gaps, particularly the link between NERC and DEFRA. You have the ocean acidification programme, which I suspect was the first one that really made that connection between the gaps as seen by NERC scientists and as seen by DEFRA, but now we have the macro-nutrients research programme, which again was a NERC-DEFRA focus, particularly on how nutrients are cycled through the catchments and out into the rivers. There is a shelf sea biology and chemistry research programme that is due to start in a year or so. There is another one as well, but I cannot remember it.1 The NERC strategy has worked by using theme leaders who go out among the marine science community and work out where the perceived gaps are in the research, and NERC and DEFRA have very strong links discussing where the parallels are and where the connections can be made. That has been working quite well over the last few years.

Dr Williamson: I would like to throw in the extra connection to the Department of Energy and Climate Change because of the implications of ocean acidification for climate change policy. We have a representative of the ocean acidification programme at the Climate Change Conference at Doha, and we have contributed to DECC studies on geoengineering and related issues. There is also a public perception issue. Even if you do not believe in climate change, ocean acidification is a real phenomenon and that has some resonance with the public. They are interested to know that coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification: cold water corals off Scotland and warm water corals, and organisms in the Southern Ocean.

Q112Chair: So the feed-in mechanisms are there from the research through the organisations you have described. Is there any evidence of the Government adapting policy based upon advice coming through those structures?

Dr Dye: I do not know whether the science is mature enough yet to have fed all the way through a policy process. To take one step back from policy, I know that acidification is now being brought into the Oslo-Paris convention process, OSPAR, which is looking at ways to monitor acidification under that process, or whether OSPAR should be involved in monitoring acidification. I guess that is one step behind actual policy; it is more the regulatory environment.

Professor Sharples: To be an optimist on that, you would say that these programmes-I agree with Stephen-are not mature enough yet in terms of where we are through the delivery of the science, but they are set up right from the proposals stage with very clear links among the scientists, DEFRA and marine management organisations. There is now a structure in place, which possibly was not happening quite as strongly maybe five or 10 years ago, where these links to get the information from the science into Government Departments should operate.

Dr Williamson: There is raised awareness at the national and international level that these are additional issues that need to be thought about. Whether or not they influence the mitigation policy of CO2 emissions, that is further along the line, but within Rio Plus 20, and the declaration arising there, ocean issues and ocean acidification came through. In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process, IPCC, again ocean acidification is coming through. In part, that is because of having European and national programmes and the research community saying, "Hey, this is pretty important. We ought to be thinking about it and taking it into consideration."

Dr Dye: The other place I have just thought of is through MSFD. Acidification is part of the characteristics of that and will feed into the descriptors in some manner, so it is feeding through in the MSFD processes.

Q113Graham Stringer: When you say we need more data and it is improving, I find it difficult to get a picture of just how many pH measuring points there are around the United Kingdom’s coast and seas.

Dr Williamson: Up until now there have been relatively few. It is only in the last year or so that there has been a coordinated and properly planned, through Cefas at Lowestoft and Marine Scotland-initiated in part through the ocean acidification programme-taking of pH measurements and carbonate chemistry at the same time at different water depths and having that data. There have been one-off surveys by different countries, but it has only just started. There have been some underway instruments on ships and Atlantic-wide measurements of carbon dioxide in the surface ocean, but there are only a few places in the world that have got a long record of measurements to the required level of accuracy and the information required to tie that very carefully into the full suite of carbonate chemistry measurements.

Q114Graham Stringer: So what is the answer to the question?

Dr Williamson: How many places do you need?

Q115Graham Stringer: I did not ask how many you need but how many were being measured at the moment. You can certainly answer the question about how many we need as well.

Professor Sharples: There are these systems, as far as I am aware, on three ships at the moment: the Cefas Endeavour; Marine Scotland’s Scotia and also the James Cook. These are continuous underway measurements, so there is a continuous pumping of water through the systems on the ships and you get measurements every few minutes. I am not quite sure how long it takes to analyse a sample. To be able to do this over the whole of the UK’s patch of the north-west European shelf that these vessels are visiting is a relatively recent development. It is tremendously powerful data. You can start estimating the absorption of CO2 into the ocean as well as changes in the pH of the ocean.

Thinking back to some of the points that came up in the previous session, the difficulty is that a lot of these programmes tend to get funded for two, three maybe five years at a time, so you keep hitting these cliff edges where you are not quite sure and you have to put in another proposal. You are losing staff who are skilled at doing those measurements because there is no security in their job. A lot of these things tend to limp along by little bits of money that are input from other research programmes just to keep them going because it is recognised that it is an important measurement to have.

Dr Dye: It is a fairly new process of getting the instrumentation to the state where we can make these measurements with accuracy and confidence. For things like set point measurements-a moored instrument in the Thames, Liverpool bay or something like that-the techniques are still not quite ready to have permanent monitoring to send back data every hour. For the instruments to make those measurements it is really at the development stage.

Q116Graham Stringer: As you said at the beginning, the chemistry is well understood; it is GCSE O-level chemistry, but, as to measuring what is going on, we are in a state of pretty great ignorance over a period of time. Is that fair?

Professor Sharples: Theoretically. You can work out these things on the back of an envelope, but to measure what is going on you have to take more samples.

Q117Graham Stringer: You need to have models for the chemistry to see what is happening. Dr Williamson, in your written evidence you say it might be premature to assess the quality of scientific output achieved but the new knowledge will have major policy significance. Isn’t it premature to predict that if you are yet to assess the outputs? How can you be sure?

Dr Williamson: How can one be sure that the information will be valid? Whatever the information, it is going to be used-even knowledge of a potential uncertainty, but knowing that the ecosystem is responsive to ocean acidification and that some organisms are impacted adversely, some might benefit and some not at all-but that necessarily has some knock-on effects. Perhaps I overreached somewhat in saying it is necessarily going to have policy influence. You can ask at what level or degree, but just knowing that information is pretty important.

Q118Graham Stringer: How is the UK marine strategy responding to the issues presented by ocean acidification, global warming and the other changes we see about? Is the strategy helpful? Could it be reinforced?

Dr Dye: My reading of it is that it identifies these as important priorities within the strategy. It is how you implement the strategy and how the individual bodies use that strategy to make their decisions that is really important. That would be how you would know whether it was working. It is a strategy and it cannot really be responsive in itself.

Q119Graham Stringer: You think the strategy is okay but it probably needs resourcing.

Dr Dye: I would not really know how the individual bodies would be using that strategy to set their priorities or work out what research funding needed to take place.

Q120 Sarah Newton: The Chairman asked the questions I wanted to ask, so I am going to go a little off-piste. Professor Sharples mentioned the Marine Management Organisation, which is a relatively new body. Their role in licensing activities in the marine environment, whether they are scientific or are exploiting the natural resources of the marine environment, is a pivotal one. In order to help them make their decisions they require an evidence base from people who want to do things in the marine environment, putting it very simplistically. I would be very interested to hear your comments on the evidence base collection process used by the MMO. They have one statutory consultee, but they also have independent scientific advisers to help them with this very important role. Would anyone like to comment on the evidence base used by the MMO and any of your interactions with or participation in that?

Professor Sharples: I have not had much interaction with the MMO. They are a relatively new organisation, so to some extent they are still finding their feet about who to interact with and where to get information from. For us, one of the interesting developments recently is how evidence or how data are made available. Within the science community effectively we have been used to a legal requirement to make any data collected using public money publicly available through the British Oceanographic Data Centre. We already do that. But MEDIN, the Marine Environmental Data Integration Network, is trying to draw together the work of the BODC and to start pulling in all these other data streams as well and set up standard protocols for the metadata that describes how data are collected and calibrated. I would imagine that that is the kind of thing the Marine Management Organisation will find valuable.

Q121Sarah Newton: To press you a bit on that, I imagine that they would find that very valuable and as a nation that would be a very good thing for them to do. Are you aware that that is actually happening? I know that the network is in its nascent stages; it is just beginning. You talked about the importance of nurturing it, but are you aware of those links? Does the MMO know of its existence? Is it supporting it? Is it involved in making sure it is using the evidence that has been collected?

Professor Sharples: I could not answer for the MMO.

Sarah Newton: Perhaps that is something for us to follow up with the MMO.

Q122Stephen Metcalfe: I would like to return to the vein of questioning I was pursuing earlier about the support by NERC for marine sciences. Could you individually give me your take on where you see NERC support and whether you think they have a strategy? Should they have a strategy?

Dr Williamson: NERC does not have a separate marine strategy. It used to 10 years ago and, with the realisation of a whole lot of interactions, it wanted to rearrange the grouping of programmes to encourage interactions and look at different issues and things. To a certain extent, there have been some successes. The ocean acidification programme has come through the system. It takes a couple of years or so under the mechanism we have had for the last five years, but that particular system is now likely to change. I am not quite sure what will come along in future.

The NERC supports lots of individual research projects; it supports blue sky and some of the larger thematic programmes. When they come to the end of their lifetime, that community is expected to continue its research because the community has been developed, but, as has been discussed, it is not really in the business of long-term operational measurements. Sometimes, it does get involved in long-term studies, but it does so from the point of view that, yes, interesting science is coming out of it, rather than a feeling that in some ways it is obliged to make long-term measurements. Those are its strengths and weaknesses.

Professor Sharples: The strategy of NERC over the last few years has had some successes in producing large research programmes that link across the NERC science community and into the DEFRA and Cefas requirements as well, so that has worked quite well. There is an issue with sustained observations and whether or not the UK is pulling its weight, particularly with global observations like the Argo floats, and how you support those kinds of sustained observations and retain the skills needed to keep these data sets of sufficient quality.

NERC is in a bit of a transition stage at the moment; its strategy is winding down and a new one is about to be developed. Certainly, the sense in Liverpool at the moment with the new strategy is that it is starting to focus more on what business can get out of marine science, which is slightly worrying if you are interested in trying to sustain observations and an understanding of how the climate is changing. We have not seen the details yet. It will be interesting to see how the strategy towards development of long-term, established information on how the climate operates sits within the new NERC strategy.

Dr Dye: In terms of MCCIP’s interaction with NERC, it sits on our steering group and is one of the partners. The scientists who contribute their work are, in the main, part-funded or have been funded by NERC; it is NERC science funding. We get a lot of our information from that pool of excellent science that NERC scientists are producing. Sometimes, it is hard for us to see how MCCIP fits into the NERC structure, because there are climate themes, earth system themes or biodiversity themes and marine climate cuts across all of those.

In terms of having a marine strategy, it is such a diverse area. If you reversed the thinking and said, "Should they have a terrestrial strategy?", there are too many different things or it is difficult to split things up like that. I can see why at the moment there is not central marine science at NERC but it is split across.

Q123Stephen Metcalfe: I take that on board; it is an interesting point. Professor Sharples, you talked about funding cliff edges. Presumably, that funding means it is very difficult to have a long-term sustained programme of science. You have also talked about cuts at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool and the impact that those will have on the centre’s work. Are those cuts directly related to the fact that there is no long-term strategy and funding comes and goes and you have to adapt to what is coming forward, or do you think this is a move away from investing in marine science?

Professor Sharples: It is a move away from investing in strategic marine science. The cuts occurred at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool and in Southampton. There was a 24% cut in scientists across the board. It has been forced on the oceanography centre because of the change in the amount of core strategic money that it gets. Two important aspects of that need to be borne in mind. One is that the cuts in staff were based on a set of metrics that looked more like those on which you might assess university staff. They were not metrics that took into account strategic work; they took into account the rate at which you published work in scientific journals or you were able to win competitive funding. A good proportion of the staff lost were those involved in the strategic work, which does not always feed through to rapid publication.

The other aspect is perhaps long term, which we might see develop if things carry on in this way. Because of that metric-based approach-using publications and grant income, as suggested to the rest of the staff in the oceanography centre, I suspect-that strategic work is not as valued as it used to be. Now they need to start thinking more like university scientists and bring in competitive funding and publish more. There is a worry that the career structure within the oceanography centre is starting to encourage a more non-strategic focus.

Q124Stephen Metcalfe: Is the oceanography centre the only one that has been affected by those metrics, or is that now applying to other strategic areas?

Professor Sharples: In terms of the metrics and how that process operated, it was just within the oceanography centre. The cut is all to do with a ramp-down in NERC of what is called national capabilities strategic funding, so that is a NERC-wide mission.

Q125Stephen Metcalfe: But the policy of assessing how good an area of research may be is done on metrics that might better be suited to a university.

Professor Sharples: It is within the oceanography centre.

Q126Stephen Metcalfe: And just within there? Can you give me any other examples? I know that is not what we are looking at.

Professor Sharples: As far as I am aware, it was just a local process.

Q127Stephen Metcalfe: In terms of the work that all of you are doing at the moment, how secure is your funding? Where is that coming from at the moment?

Dr Dye: In MCCIP, essentially a small secretariat is funded to provision the programme. It has moved into phase 2. The first phase was funded at about £100,000 a year; the second phase is £150,000 to £180,000 a year. That funding comes from lots of different funding bodies. The core funding is from DEFRA; there is funding from the devolved administrations, and conservation organisations also put money in. Each different organisation can commit its money over different periods because it has different financial processes. We have our core funding and year on year we get updates of the total amount of funding in place to keep MCCIP going. We are in the second year of the second five years.

Q128Stephen Metcalfe: So you know where you are until 2015?

Dr Dye: We know our projected budget but we do not necessarily know which partners will be contributing the money all the way through. Some are committed for this year only and will tell us next year whether they are committed for next year; others, like DEFRA, can commit for a further period.

Q129Stephen Metcalfe: Does that limit the amount of work you can do?

Dr Dye: Not specifically. Because it is a rolling programme and we have a good engagement with those funding partners it is not really affecting our ability to deliver the work. It is a small programme.

Professor Sharples: I am employed by the University of Liverpool, so my funding is relatively secure. As long as we keep persuading sixth formers that doing ocean science in Liverpool is a good idea, and we can keep bringing in the responsive money from, for instance, the research council for research projects, we are okay.

Q130Chair: I shall not comment on that as a member of the court of the University of Liverpool. Can I take you back to those metrics and tease out a bit more? In a previous report we produced recently on science capacity building within DFID, one of the issues we came across was the contradiction between the different pressures on research scientists, on the one hand, to publish, and, on the other hand, deliver the job at hand, particularly in the case of young scientists working in key delivery areas of malaria, HIV and so on. There are tensions. In one of our recommendations, we invited the research councils to have a close look at that. Do you see some parallels with the problems you are facing, and would you support the research councils looking closely at how measurements are made of the abilities of bright young scientists?

Professor Sharples: I think so, particularly bright young scientists that you want to get involved in this important strategic work. You use malaria and HIV as examples. An example in the NOC would be sea level. It is a globally leading centre for understanding how sea levels varied in the past and being able to predict what sea levels will do in the future, not just in terms of climate change but in fundamental underpinning work that the Environment Agency and the Met Office do in predicting storm surges around the UK coast. That is an example of an area that has been hit by this metric-based approach, in a strategic sense. It would be good to encourage the research councils maybe to have a clearer idea about what areas of science they view as strategically important and how that should get supported long term.

Dr Williamson: There is increased emphasis within the research councils on impact, but the problem is quantifying that and realising that impact does not happen in the same time scale as the research award. A programme might last three years, but the impact might be a contribution to something five, 10 or 20 years down the line. Although in the granting of NERC awards there are now pathways of impact, with emphasis on the knowledge exchange aspects within any programme-what you are going to do with that information and how it is going to be used by the wider community-it is difficult to include that within the sort of assessments that Jonathan mentioned.

Dr Dye: It is something we notice in MCCIP. We are asking people for their time to write reports that are not "peer-reviewed ISI" literature and send them to us. They are peer-reviewed by the scientific community, but they are not published in a high-quality journal, if you like, so they will be seen in a different context on their CVs and in terms of their scientific career. We try to make sure they can see the impact that they are having and that the reports they are writing for us feed all the way through to our summary reports, and that does get taken up into the steering group, in various different processes in government and policy.

Q131David Morris: Dr Williamson, what was the UKOA set up to achieve? Do you feel you have achieved these aims, and how do you measure your success?

Dr Williamson: We are only half-way through the programme, so the answer to the previous question about the funding is that it is a five-year programme, and within that there are three-year research grants. We are aiming to achieve better understanding and a knowledge base of how organisms and ecosystems respond and react in order to have some predictive capability to say: given the likelihood of a certain change of carbon dioxide levels in future, what are the implications for the ecosystem and ecosystem services and the things we get for free? What are the ecosystem services that have got monetary value? Will it affect the UK shellfish industry? The answer is: maybe not as much as the US shellfish industry because that is already further along the line. Their water conditions are such that they have lower pH to start off with. There is an impact there on shellfish hatcheries. The question is: will that happen in the UK? Maybe, maybe not. For the fishing industry, on a global basis in terms of the stability of shorelines and coral reefs, what is the sensitivity of these organisms? What biodiversity is likely to be lost, and is that important enough to worry about? How do the ocean acidification effects interact with temperature effects in other parts of the globe? We are trying to get an answer to a pretty complicated picture. There will not be an answer at the end of five years to know everything there is to know. We are part of an international effort to try to tease these things out, but it is a relatively young discipline. Ten years ago, ocean acidification was the subject of three, four or five publications a year; now there are hundreds, and it is a matter of making sense of them, putting them together and getting the bigger message out of it.

Q132David Morris: You are working on an ever-evolving project. How do you measure your success in that? How can you say, "We have come from that point to this point", or, "We envisage that we are at this point now. We may be at that point in future"?

Dr Williamson: As to whether there are some conclusions we are drawing from it, every year we have a small annual report with the scientific highlights, but in the discussions having DEFRA and DECC involved in our programme executive board means they hear about things at our science meetings. They respond and say, "That sounds interesting." The guidance is that maybe you ought to be doing more work in this area or the other. Most of the funding is now committed, but we do have the opportunity for a little supplementation or additional effort. That is where we have the advice of DEFRA and DECC that this is where a little bit of extra money ought to go to. But as for the success of it-whether we are delivering-we are delivering the science, but is it science in a way that is going to be useful to broader communities, to OSPAR and our international colleagues as well? Does it fit into a bigger picture? Are we helping to fit it into the climate models and impacts and feed into other different processes?

Q133David Morris: Dr Dye, in your written evidence you refer to responding to new challenges, such as supporting marine adaptation strategies. How do you plan to do this?

Dr Dye: Adaptation has been more difficult to start up. MCCIP was started to find out what the impacts were. The impacts are the evidence base that you would need to start to think about adaptation. This is taking two directions. I know that a lot of the MCCIP evidence that has been collected was used to help inform the climate change risk assessment process and is also feeding into the national adaptation plans that organisations like DEFRA and Marine Scotland will be working on. In terms of going to the sectors that need to adapt, there are some large ones that are naturally working on adaptation anyway. In particular, the coastal flooding sectors will have a good infrastructure set up to think about adaptation, and the Environment Agency will be heavily involved in that. Recently, we have started working with developing our adaptation approach to work with small marinas to give them the information they need to think about what adaptation they might need to do.

Q134Roger Williams: You have told us about the challenge of funding long-term monitoring projects, and how communities are built up and then funding is withdrawn or diminishes and those communities have to try to keep going. The fundamental question is: is NERC or any other research council the right way to fund long-term monitoring projects, or should the Government be looking to have an arrangement with industry to carry out that sort of work?

Professor Sharples: That does not necessarily fit within the remit of industry, especially when you are trying to do this on a global scale. Maybe industry would be less inclined to be involved. The question is almost: do we need a NOAA-type agency or possibly the current Marine Science Coordination Committee? In its present form it is not able to do that, but can something be done to that committee to up its remit and resource it properly that would turn it into something that would be able to do that? It would be really useful to have an overall view of what kind of level of involvement we need in long-term sustained observations of the ocean. It is not clear whether there is an existing group that could do that or whether we need a different group. I guess that is for you to suggest in your recommendations.

Q135Roger Williams: We would like a hint from you.

Dr Williamson: There is a gap, and we heard about it in the previous session. As to the overall cohesion of the marine data-gathering exercise, there is not anyone who really has that as their main interest; it is always secondary. For any individual Government Department, it is always fairly low down any priorities, but it is a matter of bringing the information together. Within ocean acidification, there is a lot of movement for having global development, but it is bottom up from the scientist rather than Government saying, "This is really important; you’ve got to make it happen."

Q136Roger Williams: When the current awards to UKOA come to an end, will scientific interest in ocean acidification be maintained, or will it go off the boil, so to speak?

Dr Williamson: The scientific interest is going to be there, and then it is going to be competing within NERC for individual projects rather than on any national basis. For the observational work-making routine measurements-if there is sufficient funding within DEFRA on a two-year basis, there might be more money for a little longer, but it will have to fight everything else. Then the pressure will be, "If you do that, what are you going to stop doing elsewhere?" The way the dilemma is phrased is, "If you think that’s high priority, what are you going to stop doing?" That makes it very difficult.

Dr Dye: Speaking more from a personal point of view, to make real long-term measurements over 20 or 30 years takes a lot of stamina by individual scientists, and it also takes lots of different career paths, leading scientists to take these things on. You may lose by retirement somebody who has been collecting data for 20 or 30 years, and having a willing scientist to take that over, who also has a profile that is high enough to gain the funding, is a slightly different issue from the basic question: is there funding for it? Are there scientists who can carry this on? It is sometimes a real slog, particularly once you get past the initial stage. We are finding new things: five years on, maybe you are not finding new things, but you need to keep going.

Q137Graham Stringer: You have partially answered this question both in your written evidence and what you said earlier. What commitments do the Government have to do international worldwide research into ocean acidification?

Dr Williamson: at present, the governmental research is primarily through the programme. There are some additional studies and efforts outwith that programme, but the current Government effort is focused on what we have got as a national structure, and how that will follow through is not at all certain. For representation at international meetings, most of the money is coming through the programme or people’s own institutions or organisations.

Q138Graham Stringer: If you are going to go to a major international conference on ocean acidification, do you take the initiative, or is there some national coordination of that?

Dr Williamson: Most of the time it is individuals who want to go, and, if it is for scientific purposes, they would apply through the programme to have a supplement of £1,000, or whatever, to go to some international meeting in order not just to present a paper but have discussions and follow through. There are about five different things that we expect them to do while they are there. For the governmental meetings, if it is a UN climate change conference or a convention on biological diversity, individuals express interest that they would like to go there. Sometimes, DEFRA has some money to assist that process, but on the whole it is, "Well, we’ve got a national programme. Therefore, the expectation is that that should be able to support it for the time being."

Q139Graham Stringer: That sounds a bit anarchic. Is that fair? Is there anybody within Government who co-ordinates our response and work internationally?

Dr Williamson: The Marine Science Coordinating Committee does have an international subgroup that has addressed the question. There is a whole range of different bodies, and we spend an awful lot of time going to them. For the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, NERC has the lead role in the responsible delegation; for others, DEFRA or DECC has the lead role in Government representation, and there is the option of whether or not scientists can participate and assist in that process in a nongovernmental role as either advisers at these meetings or organisers of side events or exhibitions. The ocean acidification programme has got involved in that. It has had support from DEFRA and DECC to some degree, for which we are grateful, but it is still a little bit separate from the main process.

Q140Graham Stringer: It feels unstructured. Is it fair to say it is a bit chaotic? How do the international policy developments feed back? There seem to be a lot of different people taking a large number of decisions about how to be involved in the international science. How does it come the other way? How does it feed back?

Dr Williamson: For the ones that feed back into the science, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has got most interest in supporting or nurturing scientific activities in the countries. For the others, it is more a matter of energy policy or biodiversity policy, and there tend to be general overall statements of position. Clearly, it depends on the sectors and groups, and there are considerable differences between them.

Q141Chair: Thinking ahead, what effect will climate change predominantly have on marine protected areas, both proposed and existing ones, elsewhere around the world?

Professor Sharples: I suppose it is a little bit of crystal ball-gazing. All these marine protected areas are within our coastal waters. On the basic physics of how the coast and shelf seas respond to the warming climate, they are responding very quickly. A typical rate of change of temperature in our shallow seas at the moment is about 0.4º or 0.5º C per decade as a warming trend.

Q142Graham Stringer: Can you say that again?

Professor Sharples: If you look at 30 or 40-year time scales for the temperature of shelf seas, the situation is very different from the deep ocean. A constrained water column that may be 100 metres or 200 metres deep tends to respond in our latitudes very quickly to what the atmosphere is doing above it. You tend to have a very strong link between air temperature and how the system reaches a stable temperature in winter. The rates at which temperature increases in shelf seas tend to be a lot higher than in the open ocean. In the open ocean you have 3 or 4 kilometres of water that can redistribute any heat change, so a surface temperature increase is not necessarily what you would-

Q143Graham Stringer: Is the temperature record for the oceans around the United Kingdom better than our record of pH?

Professor Sharples: Yes.

Q144Graham Stringer: How good is the record of ocean temperature around the coast?

Professor Sharples: A lot of this is based on fisheries surveys. There is a station on the Isle of Man, stations in the western English channel run by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and stations off the west of Scotland where individual sites are being measured. A lot of the data I use comes from fisheries trawl surveys. They have a temperature recorder on the net when they are doing the survey. Typically, you would be looking for at least 30 years of data to start trying to pull out any climate signals.

Dr Dye: In terms of sea surface temperature, we have a lot of data and good climatologies and trends for the waters around the UK. There are also some good time series stations and good gridded data. For sub-surface temperatures, there is a lot less data. We are not so sure about what is going on in the regions of our seas that stratify in summer time or are permanently stratified. For sea surface temperature there is a much better picture of what is going on at the moment than in those places where it is not well mixed.

Dr Williamson: If I could respond to MPAs and climate change, within the marine environment it is very rare that a particular very narrowly defined single site is for the conservation of a single species; it is for the habitat and ecosystem. Under climate change, that will alter. Is your area large enough? Is there some sort of network of different protected areas so different species can inhabit different places? That is within the UK shelf seas. Some of our largest MPAs, as I am sure the Committee knows, are in the overseas territories. There is one very large MPA in the middle of the Indian Ocean around the British Indian Ocean Territory. I think it is still the largest MPA in the world, and that is based on coral reefs. They are particularly sensitive to rising temperature and sea level and ocean acidification, but the facilities and opportunities for carrying out research there are relatively limited. It is difficult to get to, but no one is quite responsible for carrying out research there. The FCO provides the facilities of a fisheries protection vessel; there is some money from DEFRA under the Darwin initiative, and from NERC there are competitive grants, but there is no coordinated effort to carry out a research programme for this marine protected area that is a UK responsibility.

Q145Chair: We have seen, at least from BBC filming over the years, what appears to be a strong correlation between a very small rise in temperature and coral reef die-back. Are we going to see the same impacts in UK continental shelf areas? Are there going to be problems in maintaining species?

Dr Williamson: There will be problems. Species are moving in the ocean, and they have moved several hundred kilometres. Because planktonic organisms are not fastened to a particular part of the sea floor, as temperature rises, those communities move north, and the fish are moving north as well.

Q146Chair: That raises an obvious question. If we establish marine conservation zones, do they need to be flexible beasts that move as temperatures change?

Dr Williamson: One needs to have an ecologically based fishery policy, some of which is stock-related, where there are places for fish to spawn and breed around the whole latitudinal range that the UK has responsibility for.

Q147Chair: So simply setting fixed lines on the map now does not provide a long-term solution, assuming we cannot slow down the processes of change.

Dr Williamson: It has protection for the benthic organisms that live on the seabed. If they are not getting trawled over each year, they can build up. It might be modified, but there is a semi-natural ecosystem that has some recovery and restoration if an area is closed off from fishing or has minimal disturbance.

Professor Sharples: If you set up a geographically fixed marine protected area the question is: why is that protected area there? Are there particular species in the water column that you want to preserve-that might change as warming increases and so those species might move further north-or is there something intrinsic about that area of the seabed that you want to keep, in which case a geographically fixed area is fine?

Q148Chair: But both could change.

Professor Sharples: Yes. The real challenge, which probably goes back to some of the points made in the previous session, is how you monitor what is happening in one of these marine protected areas. I know DEFRA is very interested in the emerging use of autonomous underwater vehicles. The glider is an autonomous underwater vehicle. They carry instruments to measure a very small subset of the total amount of things that you might be interested in measuring, but they can at least keep an eye on the basic parameters within a marine protected area at relatively low cost.

Q149Chair: What you are setting out there is another reason for having long-term data collection because, even if you establish marine conservation zones, their effectiveness and the need perhaps to modify the boundaries will be a constant challenge for whoever is responsible.

Professor Sharples: Just to see how effective setting up that zone has been, certainly.

Dr Dye: MCZs or SACs are set very strongly around geographic habitat features, so a type of rock, sediment or reef bed. Within those designations, not very much account is taken of what is going on in the water column above it. There is not necessarily a need to think about stratification, temperature or salinity of the water on top of these things within the main processes, partly because, in the MCZ process at least, we do not really know what is on our seabed. It is about finding out what is there in the first place and then you would have to start to think about processes on top of that. If you were thinking about marine protected areas in a wider sense in terms of closure, or limited closure, of areas for fisheries, already some of those areas, in some years, are not effective because the temperature is too warm to protect the species that it is put in place for.

Dr Williamson: I would like to reiterate the need mentioned earlier for high-resolution mapping. Only 25% of the UK EEZ area has been properly mapped. That does cost a lot of money, but that is the first base for a whole lot of other things to know what is on the sea floor and whether there are any particular features. That high-resolution mapping ought to extend all round the overseas territories as well, as that is the basic starting point to know what is there at present. Then you can start measuring areas of particular interest and see this is where the change is happening, and this is where industry can develop and exploit resources.

Q150Chair: At a scientific level, is there a fair degree of openness and transparency among the community across the world in data sharing?

Professor Sharples: Yes. Ultimately, we are all interested in doing what we are doing, and, if we can help each other out, we do so.

Dr Williamson: Some of the fisheries data are considered to be commercial and in confidence nationally, but scientific information gets exposed pre-publication at science meetings and conferences, and most of the global community, most of the time, are pretty well connected.

Dr Dye: In terms of fisheries data, this week the setting-up of the fisheries DAC data archive centre, or the central portal for fisheries data under the MEDIN process, was announced, so that also falls into this. I have talked to people in other fields-glaciologists-and they are always surprised by how open the oceanographic and marine community is to getting its data used, available and shared.

Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for a very informative session.

[1] The witness later clarified that, this is the FASTNEt shelf edge physics programme, also supported by NERC and Defra.

Prepared 9th April 2013