Summary of Session C - 14:30 - 18:30, Wednesday 30th August 2000
European marine research facilities: Improving the fabric of European research facilities.
In introducing the Session, Chairman Pierre Papon noted that marine research infrastructures included research vessels, specialist equipment, monitoring systems, modelling facilities and research institutions. He also noted that this Session provided a unique opportunity to input to the EU Conference on Research Infrastructures (Strasbourg, 18th - 20th September 2000).
1. US University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System
Donald Heinrichs (USA) described the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) as a possible model for improving access to the European marine research vessel fleet.
UNOLS is an association of 57 academic institutions with significant marine research and education programmes, which has access to 28 shared-use research ships. Competitive research proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation are peer reviewed and successful applications forwarded to UNOLS. UNOLS then tries to match the shiptime/logistical requirements of some 500 successful proposals, requiring over 5,000 days/annum, with the available 28 shared-use vessels.
2. The UK-France-Germany Tripartite Agreement for the Exchange of Major Marine Facilities.
Gerhard Kortum (Institute of Marine Research, Kiel, Germany) described the current tripartite agreement wherein the UK(NERC), France (IFREMER) and Germany (BMBF) operate a barter system to facilitate the exchange of shiptime (or joint cruises) and access to major marine facilities The agreement includes 15 ships and 18 items of marine equipment (ROVs, Seismic Survey equipment, mobile laboratories, etc.). Ships/facilities are awarded points which can then be traded (e.g. Poseidon = 7 points; submersible Nautile = 9 points; GLORIA = 3 points, etc.). To-date 5 ship swaps have been arranged while the barter balance is that UK owes France 30 points, while Germany owes UK 240 points.
While the agreement is still at an early stage (signed in 1997) it has been described as "a successful but evolving experiment".
3. Improving the fabric of the European marine research infrastructure.
Geoffrey O'Sullivan (Marine Institute, Ireland) argued that while it is clear that Europe, or rather the European Member States, have a wealth and diversity of marine research vessels and research infrastructures, one cannot realistically begin to identify or prioritise European marine research infrastructural needs or improvements in the absence of an agreed vision of what Europe expects from the sea - in other words A European Marine/Ocean Policy and associated European Marine Science Plan.
In the absence of such a Marine Science Plan (A topic to be discussed on Friday) what the Commission can usefully do to "improve the fabric of the European Marine Research Infrastructure" is:
4. European Marine Research Facilities: The Satellite Systems.
Jean-François Minster (IFREMER, France) argued that satellite observation systems have become central to ocean observation and operational oceanography and are therefore essential tools/infrastructures in all disciplines of ocean science.
Since the 1960s we have seen a rapid evolution in satellite system capabilities moving from simple detection to precise measurement. We have moved from experimental to the operational systems.
The challenge facing European marine science is who is going to manage the marine components of these and planned satellite observing systems. This function is filled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA, but there is no European equivalent. The Space Agencies consider this outside their mandate while the Meteorological Services (Eumetsat) has very specific weather forecasting requirements. Eumetsat can be used to operate oceanographic satellites but a funding mechanism must be established to achieve this.
Issues discussed during the discussion session:
Geoffrey O'Sullivan, Rapporteur.