Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
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[ Overview ] [ Objectives ] [ Spreading Of Excellence ] [ Partners ] [ Associated Partners ] [ Committees ]
[ Project Management ] [ Data Management ] [ Taxonomic Clearing System ] [ Quality Assurance ] [ Training ] [ Outreach ] [ SMEs ]
[ Theme 1 Global Patterns ] [ Theme 2 Ecosystem Functioning ] [ Theme 3 Socio-economics ]

Spreading of Excellence

The objectives of these activities are firstly to promote and develop the aims and priorities of MarBEF, and secondly to ensure the efficient and effective use of the experience within the network to further marine biodiversity research in Europe and worldwide. Achieving these objectives will require the engagement of all levels of the marine biodiversity 'community'. From the general public to senior researchers the outreach programme of MarBEF will address the spreading of excellence through the following series of activities.

Joint Training Programme for Marine Biodiversity 

Centres of excellence function as schools of thought. One key product is trained postdocs and postgraduates who will disseminate the values and ideas (= the ethos) developed in the centre. We will establish joint training programmes, including summer schools, where postgraduates are encouraged to move between national and expertise nodes

A high priority task inside the network will be to facilitate exchanges of students and researchers between partners. Some exchanges will be formal training, e.g. courses and workshops, and some will be under the sabbatical system. There is also considerable demand for individual tutoring for postgraduates, especially at research infrastructure sites.

Strategy In the first 18 months

MarBEF will offer a small suite of existing courses and of workshops of immediate use to the networks objectives. During this period we will also develop our long-term training strategy which assesses demand for further training. We will produce a list of existing courses, assess future demand, identify new training topics and formats. Then we will match this demand with proposals from MarBEF members.

The training concept will be reviewed by the MarBEF Steering Committee in the light of co-programming and planned joint research projects. It will decide on whether to repeat successful courses, change their focus or scope, select new ones relevant to the current and evolving priorities of the MarBEF research programme. Thus the long-term strategy of training for integration and spreading of excellence will evolve as a rolling scheme, with content and format changing in response to feedback and changes in the network's focus.

Training Courses

There is increasing demand for taxonomic work because of the high scientific and political profile of biodiversity issues, but there is a recognised shortage of expertise. This crisis is now referred to as the Taxonomic Impediment and the Global Taxonomy Initiative has been launched by the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) to address the problem of declining taxonomic expertise. One initial priority for the MarBEF programme is to hold courses that will strengthen the taxonomic base. This will be a significant EU contribution to the Global Taxonomy Initiative.

Existing courses that will be presented during the first 18 months include the following: 

  1. Phytoplankton Taxonomy [highly successful existing course on marine phytoplankton taxonomy and systematics] coordinated by SZAD, Naples, Italy. 
  2. Copepod biology and systematics [Highly successful existing one week course on marine copepods] coordinated by NHM, London, UK and held at the University of Bizerta in Tunisia, in collaboration with the World Association of Copepodologists. 
  3. Phylogeny and taxonomy of microorganisms [One week ARB course using a 16S and 23 S rRNA database] co-ordinated by MPI for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany. 
  4. Flow cytometry and marine environmental research [a methods based course] coordinated by SZAD, Naples, Italy.

Every course will be evaluated by its participants and tutors via a feedback questionnaire. The results of these evaluations will form part of the material considered by the training subcommittee when assessing and selecting the future programme.

Training workshops and seminars 

The three strategic research programmes of MarBEF require support from training workshops that have an initial focus on methodology, standardization, experimental protocols, and quality control. In the first 18 months, workshops on these topics will be developed and/or executed. The needs of these three programmes (for joint research planned in the first 18 months) will be taken into account for determining European group members to be trained, and for timing and location of courses. Again participants will come from inside and outside the network.

Scientific workshops and seminars will be held to disseminate products of the network through the key themes and work packages, and also to discuss the broader aims, objectives and priorities in marine biodiversity. In addition to advances in scientific theory emanating from the MarBEF programme, attention will be paid to management and policy priorities. As the training courses mentioned above are limited in size and focused on directed teaching, seminars will be a vital method for exchange knowledge with the marine community outside the network.

Funding and Selection of Participants 

MarBEF training courses and workshops will be supported in part by a grant from the network budget. This funding may be used to meet host institution costs, travel and subsistence costs. A proportion of places on every course will be reserved for participants from outside of MarBEF, including from developing countries. The funding is foreseen to form a stable percentage of the total resources and capacities. In the initial 18 month phase, existing courses will be supported to a maximum of 20,000 €.

The criteria for selection of participants for MarBEF training will be drawn up by the training subcommittee in consultation with the Steering Committee. They will focus around the needs of MarBEF and potential future contribution to the network's objectives. The set of transparent criteria, application forms and course details will be announced on the Network's website with links to/from all member institutions.

Conferences devoted to wider exchange of findings and on the functional role of marine biodiversity

The highly successful series of e-conferences on marine biodiversity started with M@rble and continued in MARBENA as well as the BIOPLATFORM e-conferences, where they touch upon marine biodiversity, will be coordinated with MarBEF and continued after these programmes have ended.

International conferences serve as a major integration and dissemination tool for science. MarBEF will plan one or more major international conference, ideally in conjunction with preparatory or main sessions of important Marine Protection Conventions, when these deal with biodiversity issues, i.e. OSPARCOM, HELCOM, Barcelona and Black Sea and the CBD. Conferences will be planned to have low registration fees to enable wide participation. Substantial network funding together with co-funding and some own resources by members will be necessary.

The conferences will be open, with invited speakers from all relevant sectors. Furthermore information for the public will be provided via the media, newsletter, MarBEF website, and, if adequate a press conference or other form of press briefing. An integrated workshop for small and medium size enterprises as part of a conference will be explored as a further option.

Setting Standards 

Numerous activities dealing with biodiversity information require new practice and quality control. Biodiversity research in Europe should espouse best-practice in terms of survey design and taxonomic discrimination. To promote this goal, software tools will be developed and/or made available to MarBEF members and elsewhere. Training will be provided so that experts within MarBEF will have the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and to develop the next generation of interactive web-based keys. Another task for MarBEF is to ensure the optimal use is made of very expensive field sampling campaigns. Frequently the information collected by taxonomists is of little use for ecologists and vice versa. MarBEF will provide a standard list of the minimal environmental data to be collected at geo-referenced stations, and of modern preservation techniques that preserve molecular information, in order to ensure that samples are of use to both taxonomists and ecologists.

Public outreach 

Promoting both the network of excellence and marine biodiversity and ecosystem function to the European non-scientist will be addressed in numerous ways. One of the aims of the outreach programme is to create a recognisable identity for MarBEF which will be associated with all publications and other material produced through the network. This is described in section 8.

Creating a Platform for European Industries 

A task force will be established to contact representative industrial societies, preferably on the European level when they exist, to sort out with them what interactions are useful and what the information requirements of these industries are. A special discussion forum on the web site where SME's can pose questions will be established and workshops, e.g. on methodology and standardisation, will be publicized and open to participation from SME 's.

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