Sep 15
Steering the scientific ship

A spectrum of colours streaked through the damp coastal sky in the form of a rainbow this morning. This set the tone nicely for the ASC's opening talk, during which Science committee head Yvonne Walther presented the six steering group chairs - each heading a group dealing with differently-tinted but similarly and adjacently directed scientific themes. Harmony, just as with the rainbow.

The steering groups chairs are exactly that. Structural captains who help drive ICES scientific ship towards land. They're responsible for pooling the expertise of a number of working groups under one blanket subject key to The organization - from pressures on ecosystems like fishing and climate change to what are known as 'integrated ecosystem assessments'. A concept that is all the rage in marine science, these integrated assessments are basically (although there's nothing really basic about them) analyses of physical, chemical, biological and ecological processes in relation to objectives (like taking fish from the sea). Though that definition is putting it lightly. It might be a mouthful to pronounce, but it's a wide-rangingly crucial field of study.

IEAs, as they're more manageably known, underpin much, but the notion of 'integration' for the public was something touched on by Yvonne during her presentation. One day she was chatting to her neighbour and he began asking questions that, run through a scientific translator, would have been labelled 'integrated'. What effect did the ferry he took recently have on its environment? It seems a simple query, but to answer it through science entails stitching together multiple actions and disciplines. The question triggers a domino effect of research. It's the tip of an iceberg.

She also explored the idea of trade-offs, the ones between different policy options on the back of IEAs, through the analogy of a restaurant. You can't run an eatery and expect one size to fit all. How big's the party? Do you want a secluded area? Is someone gluten-free? 

You can read more about the steering groups and their respective fields of study​ and the integrated assessments​.

Meanwhile, here's Yvonne with a bit more:​


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