research community, marine biodiversity

Nicolas Pade, Executive Director at EMBRC-ERIC, looks at the innovation and research community to boost climate efficiency in local and central governments 

A much clearer expectation of the innovation community and research community from local and central governments will catapult efficiency in an already urgent climate crisis, highlights Nicolas Pade, Executive Director at EMBRC-ERIC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre).

As recently highlighted at the European Commission’s One Ocean Summit, which took place in February 2022, it is clear that we have some hugely pressing environmental needs today. Protection of marine biodiversity and resources, fighting marine pollution and tackling declining biodiversity, just to name a few.

But how can the research community efficiently address these needs? EMBRC followed the Summit online, where there were many extremely interesting and inspiring talks, however, this needs to translate into action regarding European policy, the Green Deal, and biodiversity strategies.

What is missing today, especially in the discussions around the Blue Economy and the One Ocean Summit, is regular dialogue between government, decision-makers and the academic sector because we have a lot of intent coming from researchers trying to apply their skills, for example, to monitor marine biodiversity. But, in the absence of central coordination and consistency in time and space, fragmented efforts provide inconsistent information and therefore scientifically it is very difficult to derive useful conclusions.

An ongoing study by the EU is trying to map all this information and it has already found hundreds of marine biodiversity monitoring studies scattered across Europe. There have been discussions for a long time now about the need to have people in industry and science who speak both languages, the exact same logic applies to government and science.

Both government and the research community are responsible for effective communication

This disconnect goes both ways. Researchers are ignorant of the challenges and the reality that our elected representatives live in, and the appropriate forum to interact effectively rarely exists. Similarly, government officials and decision-makers are rarely equipped to understand scientific input.

The scientific world certainly also needs to learn to communicate in a much more inclusive manner, but I think there also needs to be a better understanding of science and what it can really contribute at the government level, particularly biology.

This is part of the reason why we are not necessarily creating the right tools; thus money, time, and momentum are often lost. The research community must better understand the political environment because our outputs do not match their operational reality and we need to have outputs that are matched to those realities.

For example, there is a vast amount of biodiversity data in existence today, but we do not know whether this is helping to inform policymakers in their decisions, or if it is in the correct areas that they require. With a better dialogue and clearer guidance on what our decision-makers want, or need to know, there would be much better utilisation of research and public money, with researchers having clearer targets to work towards.

Local government and marine politics

I am convinced that there is an important part to be played by local government. Monitoring and impact are often felt at the local level and is reported upwards. You can conduct observation at a high level, but it’s always going to vary at the regional level depending on local interests and politics.

For example, the local politics in Brittany are not going to be the same as in a completely different European region – priorities range from fisheries and aquaculture to tourism, or shipping and manufacturing, just to name a few.  You need to match your observation to your local needs.

That is the sort of discussion that needs to be had. If you have targets being set at a high level, it can then be implemented at a regional level, and we can play that connecting part in making those regional and national components link together seamlessly. Furthermore, this way, everything is comparable.

What are the explicit needs that researchers could fulfil?

Most researchers are interested in having a larger impact on policy, rather than using their research simply for company profit. We spend hundreds of millions a year in Europe on observation. A lot of that money is hugely beneficial, for example when spent on meteorology, satellite images are broadly used.

However, marine observation is often not sustainable, and in the area of biodiversity, it is very poorly organised and funded, if at all. If we want to make a change to biodiversity and environmental health, then there needs to be much better monitoring and coordination of activities.

If we take biodiversity, for example, the overarching target is a “healthy system.” But there’s a need to define these targets, what is the baseline for “healthy”, what is considered a success, and what is the timeline? Without those, we can only do what we think is right, which often leads to nothing, because it doesn’t fulfil a stakeholder’s need.

Creating a layered and much more frequent interaction between science and decision making would be ideal, and would ensure that science can accompany decision-makers in a much more structured way than we see today. With today’s challenges around biodiversity and the climate, this is a dialogue that is badly needed, and it’s badly needed quickly.

About the European Marine Biological Resource Centre

The European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC) was established in 2013 to advance fundamental and applied marine biology and ecology research – while promoting the development of blue biotechnologies. This is achieved by enabling access to marine organisms and ecosystems, and the facilities and technological platforms to study them at more than 70 sites across ten European countries.

Research infrastructures (RIs) such as EMBRC are mandated to support fundamental and applied research aimed at societal challenges, whether that is pristine oceans, healthy biodiversity or environmentally friendly aquacul­ture. Thus, RIs can mobilise large amounts of the research community, and many organisations and provide a good medium for that conversation, acting as a bridge between research and governance.

I would be very happy if somebody from a Ministry said, “you are doing something that would be really useful to my policy, and if you could do it this way, it would solve all my problems.” But we are not having those conversations, perhaps also because RIs such as EMBRC fall under the Ministry of Research and Higher Education in one country, yet in another will fall under the Environment or even Investment. The landscape is varied and disjointed but if you had a forum for this dialogue, regionally and nationally, everyone would benefit from it.

The diversity of knowledge about environmental sciences between governments is extremely important

Diversity of expertise in local and national government is also extremely important, as it will act to ensure that there is a fundamental understanding of these topics, in this case, environmental and biological sciences. A uniform understanding across sectors will help to facilitate those conversations.

The goal is to create a solution so that research activities can really make an impact and be fine-tuned to help the government meet targets, make evaluations or in general, just make good science and data-based decisions. That discussion needs to happen, and it needs to happen quickly, especially with the pressing environmental crises that we are facing today.


Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

More About Stakeholder

Contributor Profile

Executive Director
EMBRC-ERIC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre)
Phone: +33 144 278 115
Website: Visit Website


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here