Brussels, 09 Sep 2003
Europe is moving closer to an overall strategy for protecting its marine resources, but more needs to be done to steer future research policy out of potential rough seas, maintains a new report.
At the behest of the European Commission, over 20 eminent figures in the marine sciences have been meeting for the past 18 months at different locations throughout the Union to hammer out a future strategy for marine research infrastructures in Europe. One of the main goals of the ad hoc Working Group on Marine Research Infrastructures was to identify the 'hot topics' in the field so as to improve the level of co-operation, while providing the basis for more coherent, strategy-led policy-making and initiatives in this area.
The Working Group recommends the establishment of a Marine Infrastructures Strategy Group composed of members mandated by Member States and Associated States active in marine research, according to the report. Creating such a Strategy Group, the report continues, would make a vast contribution to the much broader vision embodied in the European Research Area (ERA).
Kaisa Konen, chair of the Working Group, explains that marine research is badly in need of better co-operation and cohesion. "Marine research, in particular, was highlighted as a field that is highly fragmented and where the maintenance of the infrastructure accounts for as much as half the research funds," he is quoted as saying.
At the helm
Under Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin's stewardship, the ERA has been striving to sweep away the fragmentation of Europe's research efforts by better coordinating national and EU activities and policy. Acknowledging that the ERA's overall success will be built upon a foundation of smaller achievements, the report introduces the concept of a 'European Marine Research Area' for harmonising marine research activities in particular.
"[This]… would lead to more effective and cost-efficient use of Member States' and Associated States' marine research infrastructures… facilitat[ing] decisions on future research infrastructure requirements and investments… and better inform[ing] the evolving EU Marine/Ocean Research Policy," maintains the report, aptly titled 'European Strategy on Marine Research Infrastructure'.
Published in April by the Academy of Finland, the report outlines that the material conditions required for European scientists to advance marine science to its fullest in the coming decade can be captured in four strategic visions. Priority areas which need to be addressed include research vessels and other mobile infrastructures (e.g. submersibles), marine monitoring and observing systems, emerging technologies/infrastructures, and marine data centres and databases.