The possible BAS / NOC merger

The British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre are two world leading research centres that are component institutes of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Currently due to NERC budget cuts from Central Government they have proposed to merge the two centres.


  1. Today (31 / 10 / 12) The House of commons Science and Technology committee conducted a session to investigate the merger. This is my attempt at live tweeting the session, with a bit of background information where I see fit. I do, of course, have a personal view about whether the merger would be a "good thing" or "bad", and, as a polar scientist who has worked at both BAS and NOC, in a way I am conflicted. For that reason I try here to stick to facts. And from tweets I made at the time. Disclosure: I used to work for NERC as I was an employee of BAS and NOC, NERC funded my doctorate, I have received research grant funding from NERC and am currently a member of the NERC Peer Review College. All this is of course, my own personal view. 

    Where I have used quote marks they are I believe actual quotes - but remember I am not a journalist. When not quotes my impressions of what was said. If you want exact quotes I strongly suggest you use Hansard when published - or the recorded session link below.

    Please bear in mind I am not a science policy person - so my interpretation may be naive. So First who are the science and technology committee?

  2. From the WWW site "The Committee has a broad remit and can examine the activities of departments where they have implications for, or made use of, science, engineering, technology and research." It actually looks really interesting and the membership with bio's of members is here: 
  3. The story (for me) really starts with an Article in the Observer a couple of weeks ago.

  4. I have to say I found that a really depressing take on what was happening in UK polar science.  
  5. I didn't recognize some of the things in that article. It led to a petition and strong public interest in the outcome. Here is the NERC consultation document that was on the table about a possible merger.
  6. A few days later the fact checking climate science blog Climate Brief came up with a rather more nuanced take on what was happening. 
  7. This was followed a couple of days later by an article by David Shukman at the BBC which contained rather similar information. Rather than me rehash their arguments here, I recommend both articles as being worth a read. 
  8. NERC were to take the results of their consultation to their Council next month, but this was brought forward to 1 November 2012 because they were concerned about the effect on staff morale of the continuing media pressure. An example was in the Independent last Sunday. 
  9. If you read that headline then you would get one impression of the outcome, but there are some very interesting passages where quotes are used and not used. e.g. 
    NERC said last night: “Council will be considering the case on the basis of its scientific benefits to UK marine and polar research excellence,” and that it was working on alternative options from the merger.
    I recommend reading the last paragraph but one for a very interesting quote from Professor Klaus Dodds about the geopolitical implications. As a person who has written books on Britain in Antarctica, his comments are worth reading.
  10. So onto the parliamentary committee session

    If you follow the link then you can watch a recording.
  11. Stephen Mosley is one of the members and he tweeted after the session
  12. It started at about 0920 with frustratingly no introductions, and no captions of who is speaking. Sure it is unreasonable to expect them to do that, but given that someone controls the cameras and sound I don't see how it would be a big overhead. What it means is I was guessing about who I thought was speaking from the committee.

    First up was the Science Minister David Willetts. He has "two brains". Apparently.