The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) recently released a report on the current status of ocean research in Canada. The report said that due to its geography and historical capacity, Canada not only has remarkable opportunities in ocean science, but a necessity to seize these opportunities to use and protect the ocean.
The report was initiated by the Canadian Consortium of Ocean Research Universities (CCORU), a consortium of nine universities who play an active role in ocean research across the country. This assessment of ocean science in Canada is part of an ongoing strategy to increase awareness of the importance of oceans and ocean-related research to Canada’s future.
Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research), represents Memorial as a member of CCORU and supports the findings of the report. He said Newfoundland and Labrador, and Memorial University, have an important role to play in the future of ocean research.
“From the very founding of this province – first the cod fishery and then shrimp and crab, to navigation, ocean technology and the safe and sustainable development of our offshore petroleum resources – the lives and livelihoods of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been shaped by the sea,” he said.
“Memorial University has been an important part of that development. We will continue to work with CCORU, industry, government and community groups to ensure the responsible stewardship of our ocean resources and Canada’s sovereignty in the North.”
Dr. Marceau called the CCA report a critical first step in understanding the “seascape” of ocean science in Canada.
The study found that Canada has world-class ocean research enterprises from coast to coast to coast, and strong regional networks. While Canada ranks among the top countries in output and impact of ocean science papers, this position is at risk. Ocean science in Canada is growing at a slower pace than other fields of science in the country. The study also identified three gaps in the co-ordination and alignment of ocean science in Canada:
- The vision gap – no comprehensive national strategy or vision currently exists for ocean science in Canada making it difficult to prioritize needs and plan investments for ocean science
- The co-ordination gap – coordination in key areas, such as ocean observation, is lacking in Canada and support for research networks has often been constrained by temporary funding
- The information gap – limitations in access to, and availability and comparability of, information made it difficult to assess several categories of ocean science capacity, e.g., the number of active researchers, comprehensive data on research spending or inventories of large instruments relevant to ocean science
The report noted that Canada’s proximity to three of the world’s ocean basins provides unlimited opportunities for ocean science research. Dr. Marceau said the opportunities afforded by this proximity are well recognized at Memorial University.
“During the consultation process for Memorial’s Research Strategy Framework, the importance of oceans, fisheries and aquaculture as an area of existing strength and emerging opportunity was well documented,” he said. “This is an important priority area for Memorial, and we are committed to enhancing the abilities of our students, faculty and staff to engage in oceans research through improved infrastructure and support for innovative collaborations and initiatives.”
He noted the expansion of the Ocean Sciences Centre and the creation of the Suncor Energy Offshore Research & Development Centre in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science as examples of infrastructure projects that will significantly enhance ocean science research.
Dr. Marceau also recognized Memorial researchers who are leading national and international projects, such as Canada Research Chair Dr. Paul Snelgrove, who is leading the NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe). There are approximately 150 researchers from university and government labs across Canada carrying out CHONe projects that are focused on biodiversity science for the sustainability of Canada’s three oceans. Canada Research Chair Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee is leading an international research network and knowledge mobilization partnership, Too Big to Ignore. This SSHRC-funded initiative is comprised of 62 researchers from 27 countries who are conducting activities around the world to promote and revitalize small-scale fisheries worldwide.
“Funders and partners have recognized our strong capacity in a wide array of ocean sciences,” he said. “Their support is an endorsement of the work we have been doing and will continue to do with partners like CCORU to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s three oceans.”
Memorial University plans to remain closely engaged with CCORU as the consortium works towards a more co-ordinated and collaborative approach to ocean research.
“I’d also like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Barbara Neis, Department of Sociology and co-director of the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research, who was a member of the expert panel that prepared this report, and Dr. Snelgrove, who served as a reviewer to assess the objectivity and quality of the report,” said Dr. Marceau.
A free copy of the report can be downloaded at www.scienceadvice.ca.