BAS NOC Merger Abandoned

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According to David Willets “The Natural Environment Research Council had decided not to proceed with the protocol.” The protocol in question of course is to do with the merger between the BAS (British Antarctic Survey) and the NOC (National Oceanography Centre – of Southampton), proposed on the grounds of research.

There is widespread relief amongst the scientific community. Concerns had been raised as the protocol was examined by the NERC that this controversial move would damage world leading research on the region. It was thought that the two together would limit the research conducted in the Antarctic, and to even curtail progress on solving the worldwide issue Global Warming.

This is not a case of two heads are better than one, particulary when they would have to had shared the same body. Despite the NERC claiming that the formation of a single body would tackle “polar science challenges”, little was addressed about the structure in meetings with the affected scientists and researchers in Southampton and elsewhere.

The Natural Environment Research Council had decided not to proceed with the merge.

This was only hinted at after the decision was publicly announced through Mr Willets’ comments. In an official statement, he said, “The UK’s commitment to continuing this dual mission in the region remain as strong as ever…the devil will be in the detail – which is not included”. In the statement he alluded that the BAS fleet may not be under BAS control as it has possibly merged with the NOC fleet, thus limiting the vessels and equipment available for research.

With these restrictions, the BAS must continue to have a huge research programme presence in Antarctica, whilst also remaining a policy advisor to the government and “carrying out ranging scientific collaboration”. Certainly a challenge to return to after the weekd of fighting for their survival as a single entity.

Anthony Dubber BAS - image courtesy of the Telegraph

I suspect you are sitting here reading this article, questioning the relevance to students. Well I am here to remind you that this had far-reaching consequences for us, particular those who study Geography, Oceanography, Geophysics, Environmental Sciences, Marine Biology and Geology. And, by extension, the rest of the university.

The resilience of the research from these two institutions will impact our research. If the quality should fall within either body, or even both, the quality of the lecturing and research would surely fall. This would damage Southampton University’s reputation, due to its close ties to both organisations. Later on, this would influence our ability to find work in the big wide world.

So is the failure of this merger a success? The general opinion appears to be a resounding yes in the academic community, less so in financial departments. For the wider public, this is a clear sign that there is more confidence than previously thought in the geo-sciences area, that the funding for the two organisations that are key in this area of study are protected.

Tony Juniper stated the merger would have meant the loss of a globally recognised and highly prestigious British brand – the BAS

This is a reminder for people at large to value the geo-sciences (certianly in Geography, it is not all colouring pencils!). As it was mentioned earlier in the article, the question of Global Warming looms large over us all.

And let us not forget the comments from Tony Juniper (the former executive member of Friends of the Earth) who, upon hearing the news, commented, “It would have meant the loss of a globally recognised and highly prestigious British brand – the BAS.” With many British businesses moving abroad and the omnipresent insurance companies, banks and law companies, it reassures many that the UK still produces something – data; useful, international data, that will solve the biggest environmental problems of the twenty first century.

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I come from the land of cheese and cider, and like Bilbo Baggins I left the Shire to seek adventure. Let’s hope I can outsmart Gollum.

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