Regional Consortia: Frameworks for Collaboration
The growth of research institutions throughout the Indo-Pacific region facilitates the potential to develop networks of scientists and administrators that can make the case within their own communities and funding agencies for supporting shared-cost MARV expeditions. Throughout the region there is a new generation of university and government administrators with a willingness to explore innovative approaches to developing science and technology capacity.¹
Successfully mobilizing institutional support and research funding for utilizing MARV vessels by regional scientists will be contingent in part on providing the lowest baseline costs possible and a flexible mobilization process. Global Oceans is developing approaches to lower user costs through a combination of shared ship time, multi-leg or back-to-back cruises that amortize costs over multiple users; and through potential scale economies from longer-term (e.g., 12-month) charter contracts for OSVs that could be mobilized for research and teaching and retained as a regional standing MARV capacity for use by multiple users, for example on a “time-share” basis.
For specific projects, there is also a potential for subsidizing a portion of deployment cost through philanthropic partnerships and corporate in-kind contributions, which Global Oceans is exploring as a nonprofit facilitator of these resources.
Global Oceans’ role in mobilizing MARVs and coordinating multiple expedition suppliers and resources into a single cruise budget facilitates apportioning cost among users based on share of resources utilized and offering variable payment terms consistent with each institution and government agency’s policies.
To begin formalizing these approaches, we have developed two initial frameworks for hosting multiple users on a collaborative and cost-sharing basis across multiple institutions and research projects. These and other frameworks will be developed with regional stakeholders and are designed to be adaptive to regional needs and institutional resource constraints.
Framework 1: Institutional Consortia
This framework will seek to organize groups of collaborating scientists and academic institutions that represent existing research networks, or who share common research agendas or other criteria, for example based on regional proximity or common language, that could facilitate utilization of shared platforms. Consortia can define unique sets of priorities, resource, and training needs, platform configurations, and scheduling. MARV vessels, equipment, and support can be engineered accordingly and opportunities for alignment, cost sharing, and cost amortization with other projects will be developed by Global Oceans.
With this framework, groups of collaborating stakeholders in a research consortium may be more or less formalized and could be dynamically associated and dissociated over time according to specific projects and needs.
Consortia may cluster according to regional proximity; or may align with existing research networks based on other criteria. In Africa, for example, there are distinct networks of collaborating communities represented by institutions in southern Africa; in French-speaking countries in West Africa; in English-speaking countries in East Africa; and in Portuguese-speaking communities in Angola and Mozambique.¹ ² A tendency to take a "path of least resistance" in collaborating with colleagues, by proximity, language, or within formalized regional networks, may influence how this approach will develop.
Collaboration networks may also emerge among colleagues and institutions participating in multinational, interdisciplinary projects such as the ten-year 2nd International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2) and others, and within projects to be proposed under the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
The consortium approach is envisioned as an iterative process among potential stakeholders that will take shape based on sets of existing and aspirational needs; the potential for thinking about new collaborative proposals that would not otherwise be feasible; and by new opportunities for deploying an expanded range of research infrastructure by Global Oceans.
Framework 2: Scheduled Regional Expeditions
With sufficient planning and scheduling visibility, institutions and existing networks and state agencies can consider opportunities to “opt in” to scheduled regional expeditions in advance that Global Oceans will design with transect and ship time flexibility. This would be a dynamic process that establishes basic parameters and costs for particular cruises, then adapts the cruise plan to multiple participants with shared cost. The MARV vessel strategy is highly adaptive in this regard. This approach would likely be initiated and anchored by a specific initial need or request, then could be set up as a shared ship time opportunity, or as multi-leg, or back-to-back scientific cruises.
With this framework, new and existing networks of collaborating institutions and state agencies could opt-in or subscribe to one or more scheduled or proposed expeditions. These could provide routine access for research and training on scheduled expeditions either over geospatially broad transects, or with a sub-regional or local focus. Expeditions might emphasize research along coastal margins or deep-sea systems with advanced vehicles and equipment.
This framework will support a flexible regional effort, where an open proposal solicitation process would be more effective. This approach would also be effective where expedition platforms are funded from outside regional states or institutions, including from foundations or individuals; for example, on an unrestricted basis or to support calls for scientific and educational proposals.
These and other organizational frameworks for collaboration will be explored as flexible, sustainable mechanisms for expanding capacity, including through workshops hosted by Global Oceans.
Coordination with regional membership associations that serve as convening bodies, such as the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS) Resources Forum (IRF) and others can also be instrumental in bringing potential consortium participants together to explore opportunities.
A SIDS-focused component of the Indo-Pacific Collaborative is of particular importance and urgency.³ We will also work to define an alignment strategy to support research and observation expeditions in these often more remote areas; and will help catalyze and engage the institutional and governmental networks, linkages and support that will be needed to utilize MARV assets most effectively by the SIDS community.
1. Ittekkot, Venugopalan. "Oceans, seas and sustainable development: Preparedness of developing countries." Environmental Development 13 (2015):46-49.
2. Adams, J, “Collaborations: The rise of research networks”, Nature 490, 335-336 (18 October 2012) doi:10.1038/490335a
3. “Catalyzing Ocean Finance, Vol. I, Transforming Markets to Restore and Protect the Global Ocean”, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), September 2012.