Ocean sciences are running by a small number of manufacturing countries although collecting data and taking the measure of the ocean’s health is a global importance considering the economic and environmental stakes involved, according to the Global Ocean Science Report, assembled by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The Report advocates increased investment into research and calls for greater international scientific cooperation.

Global Ocean Science Report, assembled by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Science report regarding global ocean: The Present Status of Ocean Science around the World, will be presented by the United Nations.

“The journal marks a turning point that it is the first such tool established to help and inform countries’ and stakeholders’ decisions and investments in favour of the ocean. It will also play a major role in measuring development towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14, adopted by the United Nations to protect the key resource that the ocean represents for humanity as a whole,” declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Unequal investments

First observation of the report is that ocean sciences are high-priced since seeming the seas requires costly ships and equipment, satellite imaging, underwater robots or remotely controlled vehicles. The collection and processing of data by thousands of scientists is also costly. Only manufacturing countries can have enough money to such investments and the largest ocean research finances today are to be found in Australia, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, and the United States of America.

In general, countries’ commitment differs considerably according to their size, the length of their coastline and the economic benefits they draw from their marine resources. According to data in the Report, the share of national scientific budgets assigned to the ocean varies from 0.1% (Russian Federation) to 21.4% (Argentina). The share of research and development budgets devoted to ocean sciences also varies a great deal, ranging from 0.04% (Ecuador) to 4.7% (Croatia). The other leaders in this area are Norway, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago.

National public funding is very important to ocean sciences, which on average accounts for more than 70% of funding. This is subject to variations: from 2009 to 2013, countries like Italy, Norway and Turkey increased their funding while Australia and Spain made significant cuts.

This Report argue that assuring stable funding is mainly important considering financial incomes gained from the ocean. In 2010 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projected the ocean to yield an added value of 1.5 trillion dollars. Hence the need to expand funding.

The private sector’s contribution to ocean research has indeed produced with a number of dealer ships collecting data for scientific projects. Also, non-governmental organizations such as the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation are funding ocean science or conservation programs.

Hardware holds the key

Specified foundations and laboratories are playing foremost role in the study of subjects such as marine biodiversity and ecosystems, water acidification or the impact of human activity on coastal environments. Most of these foundations are located in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

These research centers tend to specify in their particular countries’ priority areas. Thus, Finland, India and Norway have many institutions that specialize in fishing, while Argentina, France, Italy, Kuwait and the Russian Federation tend to focus on ocean observation.

Research ships are an important element in marine research in as far as they give scientists access both to coastal areas and to the high seas. A total of 371 such ships reinvest the world’s seas. Fifty-one of them fly the U.S. flag, 29 are Japanese, 28 German, 27 Turkish, 26 Korean (Republic of Korea), 20 Canada, 20 Italian and 18 French.

Many female researchers

Differences are also substantial when it comes to human resources. China has the largest contingent of people employed in marine sciences totalling 38,000 scientists and experts. It is shadowed by the United States of America (4,000 researchers), Germany (3,300), France (3,000), Republic of Korea (2,400) and Italy (2,100). It is worth observing that Norway has the highest number of researchers per million inhabitants (364), followed by Belgium (74).

Women researchers are more various in the marine sciences than in the sciences as a whole. In 2013, women accounted for 38% of ocean scientists, 10% more than in other areas of scientific research. In Angola, Argentina, Croatia, Ecuador and Suriname, more than half the marine researchers are women.

The Report also includes information about the number of scientific publications dedicated to the ocean, as a gauge of this sector’s importance. Between 2010 and 2014, 372,852 such works were published. With 33% of publications, Europe leads the pack, followed by Asia, 28%, and North America 26%. The single country with the most publications is the U.S. It is followed by Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. China, however, registers the greatest growth in the number of publications and significant progress is also noted in Brazil, India, Iran and the Republic of Korea.

The report too contains a series of suggestions to the attention of policy-makers. It advocates reinforced cooperation among countries and different ocean-centered institutions to enable as many countries as possible to carry out research and maximize its impact. It also recommends boosting the collection and treatment of data, as well as the development of alternative financing models.

While taking stock of the status of ocean science in the world, the Report is proposed to help classify the strengths and weaknesses of this science, which has a direct influence both on the economy and on the environment. To be published every five years, the inaugural Report also serves as an instrument to assess progress in the accomplishment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No.14for 2030: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.”