The project Eurofleets (European fleets) funded by the European Commission in the 7th Framework program was recently launched with a meeting of about 100 scientists and fleet operators in Paris.
24 partners from 16 member states of the European Union or associated countries participated to further advance the networking of the European research fleets. The European Commission finances Eurofleets during the coming four years with 7.2 million Euros.
The project is coordinated by the French research institute Ifremer. The Alfred Wegner Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association coordinates a subproject which is meant to enable researchers to gain unique and simplified access to a place on a European research vessel.
Despite the development of satellites and autonomous buoys, oceanographic vessels and underwater vehicles remain essential means to acquire scientific data essential for the progress of ocean knowledge. These infrastructures represent 40 to 50 % of the cost of research in marine sciences. Eurofleet's 24 project partners develop, among other things, a mutual strategy for future investment needs, guidelines for environmentally friendly research and better interoperability of the infrastructure.
The Alfred Wegener Institute leads a work package in which uniform application and evaluation procedures enabling European researchers to work on various research vessels will be developed. It is mainly directed at researchers from nations without own research vessels and at junior researchers. "We will use our long-standing experience in the evaluation of national and international applications for ship time, for example from the Senate Commission of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the research vessel Polarstern which we are operating for more than 25 years," explains Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte, director of the Alfred Wegener Institute.
The Alfred Wegener Institute furthermore provides own ship time in the framework of Eurofleets. Ship time is offered for Polarstern on its journey through the Atlantic into Antarctica or from Antarctica to Bremerhaven and also on RV Heincke, which is operating in the North Sea and the Northeast Atlantic. The expedition members on board of the German research vessels benefit from the direct collaboration and bring in their own specialist knowledge. This way, the project Eurofleets is meant to have a positive effect on the knowledge transfer between different research groups and on future collaborations.
The Alfred Wegener Institute carries out research in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as in the high and mid latitude oceans. The institute coordinates German polar research and provides international science with important infrastructure, e.g. the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of 16 research centres within the Helmholtz Association, Germany's largest scientific organization.
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