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New Year, new leaders

Our four new steering group chairs share their vision for their groups.
Published: 15 January 2021

​​In 2021, we welcome four new steering group chairs - and one new steering group. Joël Vigneau takes over as Chair of the Ecosystem Observation Steering Group, Steven Degraer as Chair of the Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics Steering Group, Debbi Pedreschi as Chair of the Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Steering Group,  and Jens Rasmussen as Chair of the new Data Science and Technology Steering Group.

There are more than 150 expert groups within ICES, all working to further understanding of marine ecosystems and provide the basis of our advice on the state and sustainable use of our seas and oceans. To guide and support our expert groups, we have seven steering groups, each addressing a broad area of science and advice. Collectively, the steering groups oversee a significant proportion of the activity of ICES expert groups, as described in our Science Plan and Advisory Plan

Let's meet the people that have taken on these prominent roles.

Joël Vigneau, Ecosystem Observation Steering Group (EOSG)

Joël Vigneau, a senior fisheries scientist, is currently the scientific coordinator for both the French fisheries monitoring programme and Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer) data preparation team in response of data calls. Recently, he chaired the Planning Group on Data Needs for Assessment and Advice (PGDATA) which worked in bridging the world of data collectors with the end-users and also worked on ICES quality assurance framework.

As Chair of the Ecosystem Observation Steering Group, Vigneau 
will help expert groups to contribute to both the science objectives and advisory needs of ICES. In particular, he notes that he will support the need to move toward integrated ecosystem monitoring (WKREO 2019, de Boois 2019) together with a regional approach; increase collaboration and communication between end users and data collectors and between expert groups inside and outside ICES, continue development of past initiatives, e.g. SISP turning into TIMES for survey protocols, better accessibility to expert groups information (PGDATA), and support the development of ICES Quality Assurance Framework with Quality controlled and cost effective data collection.

Vigneau attaches​ great importance to consistency of approach among the different groups. "I'm used to taking care of considerations emanating from within the groups, so my focus will be on the exchange of views with the chairs and transparency in my actions and interventions."

“The main challenges will be guiding and supporting expert groups that meet immediate data demands and contributing to the running and further development of effectively coordinated, integrated, quality assured, and cost-effective monitoring in the ICES region and beyond. To meet these challenges, we'll have to build, together with the expert group chairs, new ways of communicating, defining collectively common objectives, and addressing emerging issues."

Steven Degraer, Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics Steering Group (EPDSG)

Steven Degraer is a senior scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Marine management, focusing on nature conservation and sustainable use and exploitation of the marine resources, has always been the red line through his work.

Degraer's goal as chair is to tackle the basics of marine ecology. “Aside from the more traditional institutes contributing to ICES Science, like governmental institutes, the Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics expert groups also draw largely from the academic world – and fruitful interactions across this wide spectrum in expertise are key to the success of EPDSG". Degraer comments that to maintain and further strengthen the diversity in membership and scientific work, he will definitely harvest low-hanging (scientific) fruits, such as publishing scientific papers and scientific highlights from ongoing work, as well as maximizing cross-fertilizing interactions among the groups. “Low-hanging fruits may be​​ extremely tasteful".

“Finding new efficient and effective ways of interacting and collaborating should receive all our attention; not only in 2021 but also in the following years". Technically, the community are largely accommodated to this new way of working but as a group of colleagues however Degraer notes that the current pandemic poses other problems. “We face challenges of maintaining momentum, dedication, and – above all – comradery. All three are tightly connected and indispensable for ICES work! The very same challenges will also necessitate increased attention to maintaining the diversity in membership. EPDSG cannot afford to lose diversity. I am however confident that together with the expert group chairs, we will be able to identify ways to successfully face these challenges." 

Debbi Pedreschi, Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Steering Group (IEASG)

Debbi Pedreschi is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Marine Institute, in Galway, Ireland where she progresses the ecosystems approach to fisheries management through developing innovative fisheries management and integrated ecosystem assessment. Her work, which focuses on understanding marine socio-ecological systems and working with stakeholders to learn from their knowledge and experience, is intended to advance understanding and application of integrated ecosystem assessment as a tool for ecosystem-based management and advice. 

Our Integrated Ecosystem Assessments groups deliver IEAs for regional seas (the Arctic, Baltic, Barents, Celtic, North, Oceanic Northeast Atlantic, Northwest Atlantic, Norwegian, and Greenland seas), carrying out comparative analyses of marine ecosystems, ecosystem modelling, methods development, trends analysis, indicator and risk assessment. The groups working towards linking ecological, economic, and social models to understand interactions and trade-offs between management objectives, define data needs to support IEAs, and assists in the development of integrated advice to support ecosystem-based management.

Pedreschi, who also co-chairs Working Group on Ecosystem Assessment of Western European Shelf Seas​ (WGEAWESS) sees the IEASG groups as a melting pot of talent and ambition that have already achieved a massive amount with very little resources. “I want to find ways to help our IEASG groups to work together, but also to collaborate more closely with the other Steering Groups, so that we can learn from one another and build on each other's strengths to become more efficient and be even more ambitious in the science and advice we can deliver and support."

“In particular, I look forward to working with the IEA groups to progress our integrated ecosystem assessment work into more operational outputs that provide the best ecosystem science to underpin ecosystem-based management. This includes advancing and harmonizing our methods through joint workshops, but also moving from integrated ecosystem assessments to integrated socio-ecological system assessments, where we work to incorporate and adapt to our social and economic systems and include the full diversity of sectors that act on and benefit from our oceans." 

Integrating and understanding the diversity of knowledge, perspectives, and methods that are required to achieve the goals of ecosystem-based management are what she sees as the biggest challenges ahead. “ICES has made rapid progress in this area in recent years, but we have much still to do, and in order to deliver operational advice from IEA methodologies, more resources and capacity are likely to be required as the networks capacity is currently limited in this regard. I hope that my work to better integrate efforts across ICES network will help to mitigate some of these issues in the near-term."​

Jens Rasmussen, Data Science and Technology Steering Group (DSTSG)

Jens Rasmussen is Scientific Data Manager at Marine Scotland, Aberdeen, Scotland. His role is to help safeguard, integrate, and make use of data from research, monitoring and advice both nationally and internationally. His work focusses on making data flow efficiently from field collection to publication.

"The formation of DSTSG is a recognition that with increasing volumes and complexities of data, you need to devote time and resources to these processes so they can make a solid foundation for the science and advice being developed by ICES community as a whole", Rasmussen comments, I see the new DSTSG as amplification of intent already present in ICES. Our commitment is to ensure that the science and advice we develop is as open and transparent as possible while embracing innovation. That also means assuring that​ the quality and flow of the underlying evidence is well governed, and processes for methods and data management can be located and used by the community."

The groups in DSTSG are experts in either developing or structuring data, information, and methods. They combine best scientific practice with best practice for structuring the data information so it becomes useful and applicable. 

There are two main challenges for DSTSG according to Rasmussen - one of managing change, and one of expectation. "As ICES is working towards more integrated, and quality assured advice and data handling, there is going to be things that change. However, it is crucial that we don't just add more layers to processes, making them increasingly complex and cumbersome. We need to look at what is essential for improving the workflows – in part to make them more robust, but in part also to make them as easy as possible for submitters and users of data, science, and advice.  So managing such changes will be a challenge that will require attention."

The other challenge is more aligned with the discovery and exploration of new tools and methods. "There is often an initial surge of interest and expectation surrounding new methods or technology,  which is of course positive. ICES is after all a community that embraces the exploration of new science! But it takes time to work through the implications of bringing in new technologies or methods into data collection programmes, analysis, and advice. Thus being clear and honest about how quickly we can implement changes and what it means for existing approaches in an important part of managing expectation."

Outgoing chairs

A special thank you is extended to the outgoing chairs for their excellent work and untiring efforts: Sven Kupschus, Ecosystem Observation Steering Group, Silvana Birchenough, Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics Steering Group and Mette Skern-Mauritzen, Integrated Ecosystem Assessments Steering Group​.​​

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New ICES Steering Group chairs: ​​Debbi Pedreschi (IEASG),
Jens Rasmussen (DSTSG), Steven Degraer (EPDSG),
and Joel Vigneau (EOSG).

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New Year, new leaders

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