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Energy, environment and sustainable development

EurOCEAN 2000
The European Conference on Marine Science and Ocean Technology

Hamburg, Germany
29 August - 2 September 2000

Summary of Session C - 14:30 - 18:30, Wednesday 30th August 2000

European marine research facilities: Improving the fabric of European research facilities.

Pierre Papon, Paris, FR

Keynote Speakers:
Donald Heinrich, Alexandria, USA
Geoffrey O'Sullivan, Dublin, IE
Gerhard Kortum, Kiel, DE
Jean-François Minster, Paris, FR

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).

Keynote speakers:

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.

  • Project proposals are assessed on their scientific merits.
  • UNOLS matches the logistical requirements of successful projects to available shiptime.
  • Researchers from ship-owning institutions participating in this scheme have no prior priority over researchers from other institutions.
  • The Research Funding Agency (e.g. NSF, NOAA, etc) pays for the shiptime as part of the research grant.
  • The Academic Research Fleet is operated as a service facility for the use of the US Marine Research Community for research, training and education and costs in the region of $52 million per year and a further $9 million for technical support.
  • The US has a separate marine research fleet operated by the Navy, NOAA and other Federal Agencies which does not participate in this scheme.
  • A UNOLS Review procedure facilitates the identification of future research infrastructural needs.
  • A recent review showed that the homogenity of instruments and software and the necessity of more technical support frequently were demanded by users.
  • After 30 years in operation the general consensus is that the system works very well.

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:

  1. Accelerate discussions on the formulation of a European Marine/Ocean Policy (including a Marine Science Plan).
  2. Facilitate better exchange information on current and planned programmes and the establishment/upgrading/closure of marine research facilities in Member States through for example an annual meeting of the directors of European Marine Research Centres.
  3. Explore and support the use of on-line inventories through portal or gateway sites.
  4. Continue to support the development of a "European marine research ethos" through continued financial support for co-operative research, access to facilities, advanced training courses and mobility of researchers in the 6th Framework Programme.
  5. Recognise that' at this point in time' while we aspire to a United Europe, the reality is that, by and large, we are still a union of individual Member States each with its own specific agenda and priorities and that there are regional differences and priorities in the management and development of marine resources.

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:

  1. Community support for research infrastructures in the context of the Framework programme was discussed.
  2. Mechanisms for funding long-tern ocean observation systems.
  3. Industry participation in providing specialist facilities/instrumentation.
  4. Three potential models to improve access /sharing of European research vessel facilities were identified:
    • US University -National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS)
    • EU Access to Large Scale Facilities Programme
    • UK-France-Germany Tripartite Agreement for the exchange of Major Marine Facilities.

Geoffrey O'Sullivan, Rapporteur.


EurOCEAN 2000 | Joint Actions - Environment & Climate / MAST - Events | 31.08.2000

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