UNESCO highlights lack of funding for ocean research


Lack of funding is hampering the development and implementation of marine research and its valuable applications, according to a report published by United Nations agency UNESCO.
The Second Global Ocean Science Report, published by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), finds that on average, states devote only 1.7% of their research budgets to sciences of the ocean (0.03% to 11.8%, depending on the country). This is much less than other fields of scientific research, which is “incomprehensible”, the report says, considering the fundamental role of the ocean in regulating the climate and its rich biodiversity.
The report’s publication comes ahead of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.
“Our knowledge of the oceans is a key element for the future of humanity,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “The Global Ocean Science Report 2020 underlines the essential role of ocean research and international cooperation for all key issues of the 21st century.”
The number of ocean science publications is increasing in Asia and, to a lesser extent, in North America and Europe. The most advanced countries are China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Budgets for ocean science vary considerably from country to country and over time. For example, between 2013 and 2017, 14 countries increased their average budget, with the Russian Federation recording the highest annual growth (over 10%), followed by the UK and Bulgaria. Meanwhile nine countries reduced expenditure, in some cases significantly, including Japan, Ecuador, Turkey, Brazil and Italy.
Moreover, while the international community committed to controlling the exploitation of ocean resources by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 14 of Agenda 2030, few have defined strategies to achieve this, the report points out.
The report highlights an increase in international collaboration among oceanographers and calls for the strengthening of South-South and North-South partnerships. Innovation, complemented by technology transfer, must play a fundamental role in helping developing states achieve sustainable marine and fisheries resource exploitation.
The report also highlights the crucial need for training in the various areas of ocean management. It notes the under-representation of women, who account for 39% of all oceanographers, an increase compared to the previous report, and 6 points higher than the percentage of women in the natural sciences overall.
The report also calls for more data sharing in the field of oceanography.


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