The marine realm, and the services that it can provide, is under increasing human pressure. For a proper answer and management to the occurring issues at stake a profound knowledge base is needed. An important element in European marine research to increase the knowledge base is formed by the marine stations. With a long history that in many cases dates back from the 19th century, these stations are very well suited places for research, study and education of the marine realm along the European seashore.
In the last decades we have witnessed an exponential growth in marine research and subsequently a tremendous increase in marine expertise, knowledge and data. This has resulted in an inevitable specialisation and maybe even a fragmentation of the marine community. Moreover, nowadays the pressure on, and competition for, resources is increasing, whereby the position of marine stations is more and more at stake, and survival of stations may even be an issue. To overcome this fragmentation and threatening pressure on resources, an adequate marine research strategy with a far broader scope and vision than adopted so far is required. This calls for a strong large scale pan European network of marine research institutes and stations, that is able to deal with, and to direct, the cooperation between marine stations towards the major issues in marine sciences. For almost two decades MARS provides the platform for such a co operation between directors and heads of marine research stations and institutes. They have been able to develop a successful strategy and policy in marine sciences leading to funding of several major programmes and projects, and facilitated many important new breakthroughs.
To be able to continue and develop as an important factor at the overarching level of science strategy and policy in marine sciences in the future too, it is needed to increase the visibility of MARS, to maintain the independent position of MARS, and to strengthen the communication on the present and future role and products of MARS. To this end, the prime role of MARS is to be a meeting place for the heads of marine institutes and stations, to identify together the long-term strategy and policy in marine research, to contact with managers of European research, and to call more attention for the unique function and location of marine research institutions. To facilitate this role MARS will remain easy accessible by being open and inclusive for larger and smaller institutions from all disciplines, all with equal vote.
In more detail the roles of the MARS network encompass:
- Create awareness of marine stations as an important part of Europe’s scientific patrimony
- Contact, and lobby, with the managers of European research (e.g. EC, UNESCO, ESF)
- Identify relevant science priorities and strategic themes in science policy, and stimulate international interdisciplinary marine science programmes
- Create a critical mass and focus for European and Global marine activities
- Promote collaboration in spin-off projects
- Communicate the products with stakeholders
- Support the organisation of symposia, workshops, capacity building and training
The MARS marine research stations are able to fulfill these roles, because they do offer:
- Easy access to (sample, monitor, observe) marine ecosystems and marine (model) organisms, with a large geographic coverage all over the coastline provided by the many members in 25 European countries
- Facilities to study organisms in their natural habitat
- Support bases for research vessels, boats, OOS, buoys, cabled arrays, submersibles, ROV’s, diving
- Laboratories and experimental facilities
- Valuable (historical) long term data series, often stretching back more than 100 years
- Home to experts in taxonomy, ecology, oceanography, biology etc., yielding expertise and a broad view on the status of European coastal ecosystems
- Facilities for hosting, catering and accommodation for individual researchers, research groups, students, university courses etc, often in all seasons (classes, field trips, tours, internships)
President of MARS