Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


AORAC-SA Report Summary

Project ID: 652677

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AORAC-SA (Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Support Action)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action (AORA-CSA) was established through funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement Number 652677.

The AORA-CSA is tasked with supporting the implementation of the Galway Statement which was signed on 24 May 2013. This Statement establishes a formal Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation between Canada, the European Union, its Member States, the United States of America, and partner countries that builds on existing initiatives and programmes to increase coherence and coordination of ocean research cooperation.

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination & Support Action is coordinated by the Marine Institute Ireland with a Project Secretariat based at the Marine Institute Ireland and eight Work Package Leaders spread across European organizations. In addition, a High Level Advisory Board is in place. The work of the AORA-CSA is divided into eleven work packages (WPs) outlined in Table 1:

Table 1 Overview of Work Packages in AORA-CSA

Work Package WP Leader Organisation
Governance & Coordination Peter Heffernan Marine Institute Ireland
Networking & Conferences Peter Heffernan Marine Institute Ireland
Communications and Dissemination Peter Heffernan Marine Institute Ireland
PRIORITY RESEARCH THEMES Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health and Stressors Mark Dickey-Collas ICES
Ocean Observation Joaquín Brito PLOCAN
Marine Biotechnology Sigurður Björnsson RANNÍS
Aquaculture Wojciech Wawrzynski ICES
Ocean Literacy Ana Noronha Ciência Viva
Seabed & Benthic Habitat Mapping Pål Buhl-Mortensen Institute Marine Research
SUPPORT THEMES Shared Access to Marine Research Infrastructures (MRI) Aurélien Carbonnière IFREMER
Knowledge Sharing Platform Neil Holdsworth ICES

The overall objectives of the AORA-CSA are:

• Implementation of the Galway Statement and support Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
• Improvement in the International Cooperation framework of Marine Research Programmes with the aim of creating the foundation for the development of future large-scale joint international marine research programmes.
• Establishment of a long term knowledge sharing platform with easy access to available information and data holdings on international research of significance for Ocean Management.
A hallmark feature of this coordination and support action is that it be flexible and responsive to the needs of the AORA Leadership, as the Alliance develops and evolves the Coordination and Support action evolves the supports it offers to the AORA Leadership.
The AORA-CSA facilities the mapping and connectivity of relevant ongoing research activities and programmes in the Atlantic on the 6 priority research themes (shown above) and will identify common research areas and gaps. We will contribute to the aligning of the planning and programming of future research activities with a view to launching of joint research and innovation initiatives, while building on existing ones. Within these research themes, there are two underpinning or support themes, namely:
• Knowledge Sharing Platform
Establish a knowledge sharing platform as identified in the Galway Statement Priority Areas, to allow for the long term usability of data, information and knowledge thereby ensuring tangible value creation from invested resources. The platform will include a classification system which will allow for easy, focused, quick and reliable use and analysis of information collected and stored. The principle of open access will govern such a platform. Representatives from the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance will be consulted in the design to enhance exploitability of the platform to help in policy making and stakeholder consultations.
• Shared Access to Marine Research Infrastructure (MRI)
The AORA-CSA will facilitate a shared use of Marine Research Infrastructures (MRI), to assist optimal exploitation of project results fostering mobility and networking of researchers from all states of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

This Coordination and Support Action has provided excellent high quality scientific, technical and logistical support to the European Commission Directorate General Research & Innovation (EC) in developing and implementing trans-Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation. Recognising the evolving nature of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, the key characteristics of this coordination and support action is that the partnership is flexible, responsive, inclusive, efficient, innovative, value-adding and supportive to the EC. As a result, the timelines indicated in the grant agreement may be brought forward or pushed back in line with the requirements of the EC and the Trilateral Galway Statement Implementation Committee. The Trilateral Galway Statement Implementation Committee to date has used a staggered approach to push forward with the agreed research cooperation areas. Consequently, in the AORA-CSA the six (6) identified research theme priorities and the two (2) underpinning themes or support actions are also staggered.
The research themes which have seen the most significant activity/focus in the first twelve (18) months of the AORA-CSA (ordered alphabetically) are:
• Aquaculture - our Aquaculture Work Package Leader Wojciech Wawrzynski, worked extensively with the Working Group (WG) trilateral co-chairs Jay Parsons (CA), Jacques Fuchs (EU and David O’Brien (US). Wojciech’s unit organised and hosted workshops and meetings for the WG, and supported participation of invited experts at these. Wojciech participated in and synopsised the outputs from the meeting compiling reports and bringing together the roadmap for Aquaculture WG. This strategic document will identify joint research priorities and present suggested actions to help enable and develop sustainable aquaculture industry in the EU, Canada, and USA. An extensive inventory of Aquaculture initiatives across Canada, the EU and was compiled and is available for consultation.
• Ocean Literacy - our Ocean Literacy Work Package Leader Ana Noronha, worked intensely with the Working Group (WG) trilateral co-chairs Paula Keener (US), Anne Stewart (CA) and Ivan Alcolea (EU). Ana organised the first trans-Atlantic Ocean Literacy workshop held in Lisbon in June 2015 and has also worked to coordinate the work undertaken by the Horizon 2020 Ocean Literacy projects Sea Change and ResponSEAble. Ana updated (according to inputs received at the Copenhagen TransAtlantic Ocean Literacy Workshop) and finalized the Transatlantic Ocean Literacy Implementation Plan.
• Seabed Mapping - The Secretariat catalysed the proof-of-concept Seabed Mapping Transects in concert with AORA Trilateral Leads and the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG). The historical first transect on the Celtic Explorer Research Vessel was also filmed and major communications and outreach success was achieved through the coordinated efforts of the CSA, Trilateral Leads and the ASMIWG. In addition, the Secretariat provided administrative, logistical and travel supports to the ASMIWG. In the first 18 months of the AORA-CSA, five Atlantic mapping transects have been carried out identifying and mapping previously undiscovered mountains and volcanoes.
• Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health & Stressors – the first baseline workshop, the AORA-CSA FAO Workshop “Making the ecosystem approach operational” in January 2016 was organized by AORA-CSA Work Package Leader Mark Dickey-Collas in Copenhagen, Denmark. Separately Mark organized a scoping meeting alongside the workshop with Canadian, EU, and US AORA participants. This was followed up at the beginning of June 2016 with another Scoping Meeting in Brest, France alongside the MSEA 2016 meeting. These scoping meetings helped identify a clear focus on the elements that the AORA Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health & Stressors Working Group would use to better elucidate and understand how an ecosystem approach can be undertaken, and what data, information and research needs are required. Following on from the June meeting, a meeting was planned for September 2016.

In addition to the above, the Ocean Observation Work Package (WP) Leader met with Canadian experts Doug Wallace (MEOPAR, Dalhousie University) and Pierre Pepin as well as Terry Schaefer NOAA in October 2015. Discussion took place back-to-back with the Trilateral Galway Statement Implementation Committee meeting and the Ocean Innovation 2015 Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada at the end of October 2015
The Marine Microbial Ecology/Marine Biotechnology Work Package concentrated on drafting a bibliography of marine microbial ecology/marine biotechnology research activities in Europe and also drafted some concept notes for discussion within the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

As the Shared Access to Marine Research Infrastructures theme is cross-cutting, our WP Leader Aurélien Carbonnière attended several of the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG) meetings and also some international conferences during this time: i) 2nd ERA-CAN+ International Symposium on Arctic and Marine Research Infrastructure, Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada 24-25 September 2015 and ii) Ocean Innovation 2015- Mapping Our Oceans, St. John’s, NL, Canada. In addition, Aurélien began the process of organizing a Workshop on the Shared Access to Marine Research Infrastructures for a Sea Mapping campaign to be held at the International Research Ship Operators (IRSO) Meeting in order to engage with the Research Ship Operators and get their feedback. This workshop is to take place alongside the IRSO meeting at the National Research Council of Italy’s International Centre for Culture and Higher Education for Scientific Research, Anacapri, Italy in October2016.

Equally, the Knowledge Sharing Platform Work Package is also a cross-cutting support theme and efforts were made to hold meetings with Canadian and US counterparts during the first year. An initial brief meeting was held with Terry Schaefer NOAA in January, alongside WP4 the Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health & Stressors Workshop and Scoping Meeting. A meeting with the identified Canadian counterparts was realised at the beginning of the second year of the project. A meeting with Jennifer Jencks NOAA was planned alongside the ASMIWG meeting in Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany. To date, Neil Holdsworth the KSP Work Package Leader has concentrated on bringing together a short bibliography that maps the different initiatives/platforms existing and planned in Europe (including international endeavours such e.g. IOC, ICES), a form of a “catalogue of catalogues” and clearly defining what each seeks to address. This bibliography will focus initially on data in databases/knowledge sharing platforms relevant to the six research priorities and which have a geographical focus on the North Atlantic. To the extent covered in the existing catalogues, the bibliography will address ownership, architecture, scope, content, etc., and complementarities between the platforms to form a preliminary assessment of benefit to the AORA.
The AORA objectives and the supports provided by the AORA-CSA are now available for public viewing on the AORA-CSA website. The Secretariat developed the branding for the AORA and AORA-CSA resulting in the website and also presentation templates for both AORA and AORA-CSA. In the first year, these templates were used by the AORA at the Ocean Sciences 2016 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and also within the second year of activity at the Washington D.C. networking events. The templates are readily available to the Trilateral Leads, the AORA Working Groups and the AORA-CSA Work Package Leaders. Responding to the needs articulated by the European Commission lead, the Secretariat put in place a shared workspace area and housed this material as well as a Calendar of Events – in addition the templates were circulated to the Trilateral Leads teams. As indicated above the Secretariat engaged in a major networking exercise in Washington D.C. during March 2016 bringing together the leaders of NASA, NOAA, NSF and the US Consortium of Ocean Leadership as well as Business Leaders. In addition, two High Level Advisory Board meetings were held in the first 18 months with the Terms of Reference for the Board agreed at the last meeting in June 2016. Apart from the High Level Advisory Boards meetings, the Secretariat has also supported brainstorming and scoping meetings for a potential Atlantic Researcher Mobility Programme.
We are delivering the full suite of deliverables and providing the flexible and responsive services requested by AORA as acknowledged by the Trilateral Leads in their plenary meetings. We are operating in tandem with the stages of maturity in the AORA Theme Areas and will evolve a suite of support services in the next phase commensurate with the AORA implementation programme.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The AORA-CSA worked to provide a major catalysis of the trans-Atlantic transects, stimulating a gathering momentum amongst Galway Statement signatories as well as the AORA- CSA consortium as a prelude towards a coordinated Atlantic Seabed Mapping campaign. Within the first four months of the AORA-CSA, the AORA-CSA catalysed the first trans-Atlantic seabed mapping survey undertaken by the RV Celtic Explorer. Within the following 12 months, the AORA-CSA supported four more surveys by working with the Research Vessel owners and teams to secure the transits and publicise the transits for the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group. The AORA-CSA filmed the first transit and developed a short video ( on the Atlantic Seabed Mapping Initiative for the AORA. The AORA-CSA coordinated a media presence, press releases, a blog and ensured a major communications and outreach success for the ASMIWG to create an awareness of the goals of the ASMIWG.
The Secretariat organized a major networking event in Washington D.C (14-16 March 2016) bringing together the leaders of NASA, NOAA, NSF and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and engaging with them about the goals and early achievements of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

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