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Note from the Principal Investigator

Published: 08 August 2017

With a little less than a year to go for most of the major elements of the Marine Ecosystems Research Programme (MERP), we should be making progress towards our scientific goals on all fronts. We are planning our Annual Science Meeting for October in Sheffield, and I look forward to seeing how all the elements of the programme are developing and delivering their findings by that time.

This has been a busy period, both within MERP and in terms of presenting the programme within wider contexts. In June I attended the final meeting for MERP’s sister programme, the Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry (SSB) programme, which was held in Winchester. Several members of MERP consortia were present, as they also had roles in that programme. Over a couple of days an impressive array of presentations demonstrated the wealth of new data that SSB had gathered, and outlined how the data had been, or would be, used to generate scientific outputs. In a discussion session towards the end of the meeting the programme PIs discussed the legacy of SSB, asking whether there are pathways through which they could access additional funding to develop products and engage with the policy community. While some highly ambitious activities to engage with the public were being funded within some of the work packages, the way in which the programme had been structured from the outset meant that there was a perceived gap to be filled on behalf of the programme as a whole in terms of developing impact.

It struck me that within MERP we should be in a different position. We have nearly a year left to run for the majority of activities, we are (hopefully) working in an integrated fashion, and we have some central organisation and funding to develop our impact. Some of us are thinking about, or indeed working on, how best to do this in terms of products and activities to be delivered by the end of the programme and PIs have held a teleconference to discuss impact. In addition to this the Programme Office have regular discussions with Matt Frost, the chair of our Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), and a new Defra briefing is being planned.

Paul Somerfield presenting at an AMEMR 2017 workshopAt the recent conference Advances in Marine Ecosystem Modelling Research (AMEMR 2017), held in Plymouth, MERP research was well represented and many of the conference participants stayed in Plymouth for a European Marine Board expert workshop entitled “Towards end-to-end (E2E) marine ecosystem models: R&D needs for ecosystem-based management”. The workshop was co-chaired by Sheila Heymans, who will work with the EMB to develop a Policy Brief on the subject. I may be biased, but I got a strong impression that the philosophy and activities within MERP came across well and strongly, and I am hopeful that the programme will achieve its overarching goal of demonstrating how we can bring existing and targeted new data together with a range of models to answer big questions.

We are thinking about how to engage stakeholders effectively over the remaining course of the programme. At the Programme Office we are happy to hear and discuss ideas for developing our impact further. With all this in mind, I am hopeful that we can demonstrate real impact by the time the programme finishes, built on some seriously good and novel integrative science.

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