Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Marine Research Infrastructures Experts Group - Final report

Published on: Thu, 24/01/2013 - 17:17
Table of Contents


    The final report of the Expert Group on Marine Research Infrastructure is available

    There is value in a coordinated development and utilisation of MRIs at European or regional seas' levels. Sea-related challenges and processes do not stop at maritime borders; they require a concerted approach at the regional, European and even global scales. There are synergies and savings in the coordinated development and utilisation of MRIs at European or regional seas' levels and in ensuring shared and free access to the data they produce.



     From societal needs to ocean observation

    With an 89,000 km coastline along two oceans and four seas1, together with immense overseas territories, Europe can be characterised as a blue continent. These facts leave a strong mark on its citizens, its economy and its climate.

    Seas and Oceans provide indeed an essential part of our wealth and well-being. But they are also under huge pressure from human activities and climate change.

     Launched in 2007, the EU maritime policy (IMP) pursues the broad objective of an integrated and sustainable development of sea-related activities. The EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research (MMRS)2 was adopted in 2008 to provide a solid science base to the IMP and respond to societal needs such as blue growth, the good environmental status of the seas, the adaptation to climate change and marine

    / coastal safety.

    The  MMRS  considers  the  coordinated  development  of  marine  research infrastructures at European level in relation to these needs as an essential objective to be pursued by the Commission in cooperation with Member States. Marine Research Infrastructures (MRIs) must also be managed at the European scale because marine challenges do not stop at national borders and synergies can be achieved at European level.

    The establishment of the expert group on MRIs, in March 2010, was one of the actions undertaken to pursue the MMRS objective of promoting European marine research infrastructures. The objectives of the expert group were to identify important gaps and needs in European scale MRIs, propose mechanisms to link MRI needs with funding opportunities and advise on governance for European scale MRI.

    The Group focused its work on MRIs, which support directly or indirectly the collection and use of marine data, i.e. marine observation infrastructures, because ocean observation is a key enabling area of activity, which underpins all marine and maritime activities. It also decided to take a strategic approach, looking at the “big picture” in terms of governance and identifies big gaps and strategic issues in qualitative terms.


    Moving towards European ocean observation capability

     The European landscape of MRIs governance initiatives is too complex and fragmented and this is an obstacle to achieving optimal impact of MRIs and responding to increasing societal needs related to our seas.

    A  number  of  projects  launched  to  organise  European  governance  for  some categories of MRIs, organise networks of marine research organisations, and large integrating initiatives (the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security - GMES, EMODNET), have contributed to reinforce cooperation between organisations managing MRIs. They have also contributed to improve the governance and interoperability at European scale within categories of distributed infrastructures. However the multiplication of governance frameworks for specific categories of MRIs, calls for a strategic framework identifying key societal needs and objectives at European level, and providing for a coordinated development of the different initiatives, MRIs, projects and networks.

    The current consultation on marine knowledge launched by the European Commission and the launching of JPI Oceans provide an opportunity to develop a shared vision as well as a strategic framework for ocean observation in Europe. After having analysed contributions from stakeholders, the Commission should propose such a strategic framework ensuring convergence and complementarities between existing infrastructures and initiatives, particularly the marine component of GMES, EMODnet, WISE-marine (the Water Information System for Europe) and the distributed European marine observation infrastructures. EMODnet must be developed as part of this broader European framework for ocean observation.


    JPI Oceans could play an important role in implementing such a strategy, by identifying key marine parameters to be measured at European level to respond to societal needs, and the MRIs which should be sustained in a coordinated manner to measure these parameters. Such a process would provide a baseline for a European Ocean Observation capacity and promote convergence between the different European initiatives, MRIs, networks and projects in that area.


    Investing in marine research infrastructures – value and funding

     MRIs  are  the  means  through  which  we  can  observe  and  understand  ocean processes. They give access to the knowledge necessary to a sustainable development of sea-related activities, as well as to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change impacts. They are essential to deliver the full contribution of seas and oceans to EU 2020’s goal of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

     MRIs are a large range of different infrastructures, dealing with data collection, data management and data assembling. In order to acquire marine data in an effective way, it is necessary to cover all three stages of the data processing chain, with an optimisation of data flows from data collection till the delivery of services to end- users.

     Oceans are broadly under-observed, with spatial, temporal and thematic gaps in marine data collection. There is a need for a sustained effort in data collection, if Europe wants to respond to key societal and scientific ocean related challenges.


    It is also crucial to maximise the value we extract from MRIs. This can be achieved by technological progress, by ensuring that MRIs respond to societal needs and by maximising cross-border synergies between MRIs distributed in different countries.

    There is value in a coordinated development and utilisation of MRIs at European or regional seas' levels. Sea-related challenges and processes do not stop at maritime borders; they require a concerted approach at the regional, European and even global scales. There are synergies and savings in the coordinated development and utilisation of MRIs at European or regional seas' levels and in ensuring shared and free access to the data they produce.


    There will be opportunities to finance marine research infrastructures in the (2014-

    2020) period with structural funds, as the new structural funds regulations put an even higher focus on research and innovation, with more than 25% of a total

    amount of ~ € 330 billion to be dedicated to research and innovation-related

    actions. Efforts will be needed to raise awareness among research organisations of these opportunities and to convey to structural funds managers at regional level the

    socio-economic value of MRIs. This could be done by using and improving the

    framework for valuing socio-economic value MRIs attached in annex. Building on the


    constructive experience undertaken with the European Marine Biological resource Centre (EMBRC), more "brokerage events" should be organised to bridge gaps between marine research institutes involved in European scale MRIs and regional authorities managing structural funds.

    1. Public-private partnerships with industry related to data collection and management infrastructures should be explored, notwithstanding the difficulties of such undertakings. There are mutual benefits to be drawn from such partnerships as all stakeholders could in this way access to more data than they own, which helps them reduce uncertainty and costs. Partnership models should be developed to maximise incentives for marine industries to engage into joint financing of data collection and management infrastructures, taking into account the differences and different interests   between   well-established  marine  industries   and   emerging  marine industries. The incoming consultation on "Marine knowledge" should be used to explore the opportunities for public-private partnerships to finance European scale MRIs.



    Giving access to marine data at European level


    There is a high value in an integrated approach to managing marine data in Europe, based on the principle of “collecting data once and using it as many times as possible”.

    The SeaDataNet project has developed a common lexicon for marine data across disciplines and applications and an open structure that can, with time, give access to an increasingly bigger number of data centres across sectors and countries, increasingly meeting the standards needed for INSPIRE compliance. As a European platform building upon SeaDataNet, the European Marine Observation Data Network

    - EMODnet could provide a solid framework for the structured development of a network of distributed data centres using a common lexicon and ensuring broad accessibility for users from scientists to policy makers, as well as user-friendly assembling  tools.  EMODnet  must  be  developed  from  the  pilot  stage  to  the operational stage, by ensuring that it fits end-users’ needs. The pilot sea-basin checkpoints for the Mediterranean and the North Sea currently tested under the integrated maritime policy, can guide the identification of gaps and assessment of future priorities and lessons learned from this exercise could feed into a more permanent process.


    Member States are in the process of setting up national processes for a proper stewardship of data that ensures not only safe archiving but also cataloguing using standards and technology allowing retrieval of data through automated processes. These national systems are the foundations of the distributed processes that are being built up at an EU-level. They must ensure that the cost of archiving and managing data is properly budgeted for. They must also seek to ensure that marine data collected with public funds are made available to all potential users, including marine industries that can deliver blue growth and jobs.

    A monitoring process to follow and steer the coordinated development of these national marine data management systems could be put in place, in cooperation between the European Commission and JPI Oceans. This could help remove progressively obstacles to access to marine data.


    This development of a European framework for marine data management should ensure  compatibility  with  INSPIRE  and  coherence  with  the  global  framework provided by the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE)


    Boosting innovation and filling gaps in ocean observation


    Ocean observation underpins all marine research and activities and, for this reason, it is of strategic importance. The pace of innovation in ocean observation technologies has been very high in the past two decades and it will continue to be so, both as regards sensors and fixed or mobile platforms that carry them. For this reason, continuous investment in ocean observation research and technologies should be considered as a priority deserving a strategic programming and investments in "Horizon 2020".


    In-situ  sensing  of  oceans  is  much  less  developed  than  remote  sensing  from satellites, done in the framework of GMES. Particular attention should be paid to develop a broad and cost-effective in-situ monitoring of the seas.

    In general, for the marine environment, biochemical sensors are less developed than physical sensors. In order to address challenges related to pressures and variations on marine biodiversity, pollution of the marine environment, we need to fill gaps in this area by supporting development and deployment of new biochemical sensors and devices. The potential of new methods and technologies like genomics and marine acoustics to assess (pressures on) biodiversity should be explored. Mainstreaming of genomics into Earth observation should be advanced.

    Oceanographic  vessels  will  continue  to  be  an  essential  component  of  marine research infrastructures. However, the development of sensors and the increasing use of autonomous and unmanned platforms may change how ships are used. Many oceanographic vessels of the European regional fleet will need to be renewed in the coming years. There is a need for strategic reassessment and coordination at European level of oceanographic vessels as part of a broader assessment and coordination of European marine research infrastructures. JPI Oceans could provide an opportunity to make such an assessment, coordinated with member countries and the European Commission, and building upon the work done by the Eurofleets research project.


    The mapping of seabed with topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems is of high value for marine industries, protection of the marine environment and science. There are still important gaps in the mapping of European sea beds, as only a few countries have undertaken this task and the completion of this mapping in a systematic way. A seamless multi-resolution digital seabed map of European waters of the highest resolution possible, covering topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems, to be completed by 2020, would represent a major flagship project with a high societal and scientific value for Europe.

    The Mediterranean (in particular its Southern border) and even more the Black sea are generally under-observed seas. Moving towards Good Environmental Status at sub-regional seas' level will necessitate developing strategies for better coverage by marine data infrastructures of these seas, in cooperation with third countries. A coordination of European countries’ bilateral scientific cooperation with neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea could strengthen capacity building in these countries and the ability to tackle common challenges.