Taking an integrated approach to marine and maritime research will help boost our knowledge of the oceans and our ability to manage sea-related activities in a sustainable way. This is the thrust of the European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research* adopted on September 3 2008 by the European Commission. The strategy aims to overcome fragmentation of research across different sectors and themes in this complex area by promoting integration of knowledge and by moving towards a concerted definition of marine and maritime research needs and priorities.
The strategy proposes how Europe can set about meeting the need for a stronger knowledge and innovation base regarding the oceans and seas. Despite advances over the years, significant scientific and technological challenges remain. For one thing, the marine environment still remains largely unknown: we still have only a relatively poor understanding of the complexities of the ocean system and of the role of the oceans in climate change. Another key challenge is to manage the maritime economy and the increasing amount of human activity in and around the sea in a way that respects the marine environment.
An integrated approach to research can help face these challenges by mobilising and expanding scientific expertise and by supporting ecosystem-based management of human activities as well as existing and emerging markets capable of providing innovative and sustainable maritime activities and jobs. An integrated approach can also enhance our understanding of the potential of marine resources and help make policy-making more coherent, the strategy underlines.
To address the "oceans and seas" complex system, the strategy proposes three lines of action: the development of capacity-building in terms of new infrastructures - such as ocean observatories or specialised research vessels - the integration of knowledge across marine and maritime research disciplines and the establishment of synergies between Member States, regions and industry. Combined funding schemes, better access to research infrastructures and international cooperation are also encouraged.
To facilitate these steps, the strategy also proposes new forms of governance. This includes creating a stable partnership of all stakeholders – scientists, policy-makers, industry and civil society – to agree on research priorities and to improve research cooperation, with the Commission as facilitator.
The proposed Marine and Maritime Research Strategy is consistent with and forms part of the wider European Research Area (ERA) policy development. It has a fundamental role to play in European research policy because it represents one of the first attempts to fully establish ERA within a research sector.
* Communication on A European strategy for marine and maritime research - a coherent European Research Area framework in support of a sustainable use of oceans and seas, COM(2008)534final, 03.09.2008.