Marine facilities – policy and guidance - NERC

Using NERC marine facilities

If you have secured funding from NERC

Scientists who have secured science funding from NERC can apply to NERC for access to its research ships and marine equipment. Under these arrangements the only cost that is payable by the scientist is the cost of all technician and equipment support.

Such access to NERC’s marine facilities will only be provided to science that is of international quality (science that has been graded seven or higher). For more information on including use of marine facilities in a NERC funding application, please see the Grants Handbook.

If you have secured funding from a non-NERC peer-reviewed source

Scientists who have secured science funding from a non-NERC peer-reviewed source (such as the EU or National Science Foundation) or from commissioned research, can also apply to NERC for access to its research ships and marine equipment. The costs associated with such requests should in the first instance be discussed with NERC Marine Planning.

Ask a question about Marine Planning


If you have secured funding from a non-peer reviewed source

A two-page science case should be submitted to NERC so that arrangements can be made for it to be reviewed by the most appropriate members of NERC’s Peer Review College to ensure that the proposed science is of international quality.

Application for ship time and marine equipment

All scientists bidding for free at the point of use access to any of NERC’s marine facilities are required to submit an online Ship-time and Marine Equipment (SME) application form to NERC by creating a cruise profile on the Marine Facilities Planning website.

Find out more about applying to use NERC’s marine facilities.

The chief scientists’ role

The chief scientist on the SME can be different from the principal investigator on any associated grant application, recognising the importance of the chief scientist role.

Guidelines have been developed to provide a clear indication of the expectations that NERC has of anyone undertaking the role of the chief scientist.

View guidance notes and guidelines for chief scientists.

Marine facilities budget

The NERC marine facilities programmes are developed within the limits of affordability.

For National Marine Facilities, the infrastructure allocation from NERC will allow it to support the NERC marine facilities programmes. But National Marine Facilities will only be able to support a limited number of high load activities in any one year. These high load activities include, for example seismic and giant piston coring cruises.

The RV Prince Madog, operated by Prince Madog Offshore Services, is run on a pay as you go basis as a recognised NERC facility, whereby all costs are covered by funding secured by the researcher.

Use of mooring equipment

NERC’s moorings policy

In order to provide optimal service from the National Marine Equipment Pool and ensure the equipment is put to best use, NERC’s moorings policy has been put in place.

Read documents about the moorings policy, best practice and risk management, along with the risk assessment form.

Application and risk assessment

  1. In the first instance you are strongly advised to contact the programme manager at National Marine Facilities to discuss your mooring equipment requirements.
  2. The chief scientist is then required to complete the moorings risk assessment form. This must be emailed to Marine Planning Support so that the risk assessment process can be initiated. The deadline for receipt of the moorings risk assessment form is two months prior to the closing date of the discovery science grants round, or the research programme closing date.
  3. The level of risk will initially be assessed by National Marine Facilities. If the risk is considered to be greater than a low level, the application will be sent for review by experts in the scientific community – the NERC Expert Scientific Moorings Assessment Group.

Read about the Moorings Assessment Group.

Ask a question about Marine Planning

Nicola Lewis, Marine Planning Support

Telephone: 07738 121187

Natalie Powney, Marine Planning Officer

Telephone: 07703 380220

Eleanor Darlington, Programme Manager

National Marine Facilities, National Oceanographic Centre
Telephone: 07513 485330

Prioritisation criteria for programming marine facilities bids

A number of criteria are used to prioritise bids. This is to ensure that NERC marine facilities are programmed in a fair and transparent manner, and to avoid discriminating between cruise bids by having to reassess science quality or consider NERC funding type. In using these criteria, NERC will also seek to use the specialist capabilities of its ships in the most effective way to support the NERC science programmes.

Read the prioritisation criteria.

Chief scientists workshop

By providing a chief scientist with ship time, NERC is investing a large amount of funds in a research project above and beyond that announced in the grant award. Therefore, to ensure that the most effective use is made of this investment, NERC holds the chief scientists workshop each year, for scientists with a funded bid for a cruise in the following year.

The workshop provides important additional information to chief scientists. It is also an important opportunity for chief scientists to share information and ask questions of marine facilities staff.

The chief scientist of a cruise, or a delegated substitute, is required to attend in order for their cruise to be included in the cruise programme.

Information from a previous workshop

The 2018 chief scientists workshop, for chief scientists with a funded bid for consideration in the 2019 to 2020 NERC Marine Facilities programme, was held on 19 June 2018.

Read about the chief scientist workshop 2018 – slides.

Diplomatic clearance

International relationships at sea are defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Among the issues with which UNCLOS is concerned is the conduct of marine scientific research. In practice, this means permission must be gained from the country that owns the relevant area at least six months before research is scheduled to take place in the area.

Read further information about  diplomatic clearance is available in the chief scientist guidance notes.

Marine environmental policy

NERC aims to be conscious of how the research it supports and promotes, interacts with the environment in which it is undertaken, so that its impact may be minimised. Embedded in this goal, NERC also aims to be a world leader in understanding environmental interaction and the driver of best appraisal and mitigation practice globally.

The objective of NERC’s Marine Environment Interaction Policy (MEIP) is to assess the consequences for the environment of all marine research undertaken. This includes research from its own vessels (regardless of funding stream within, or external to, NERC), and by any research NERC funds, on any vessel of opportunity or barter delivery. In parallel, NERC aims to promote and enable mitigation measures to minimise any environmental impact or interaction. Consequently, this MEIP is applicable to all research activities contained within the ship time programme, and includes the usage of equipment from the National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP) provided as part of loan agreements. The primary goal of this MEIP is to ensure that a uniform and standard approach to the appraisal of environmental impact, or interaction, is applied to all NERC-funded or facilitated marine research.

Read the marine environment interaction policy.

Media activities aboard NERC ships

Media engagement is an excellent way to showcase the scientific research that occurs on the NERC ships. The purpose of this policy is to outline procedures concerning management of media and set guidelines for the production and publication of film and images taken on NERC ships. It covers film crews, photography and data images taken aboard NERC ships. It provides advice to principal investigators and their science parties during a research cruise. It also provides advice to staff aboard a NERC ship where media activities are taking place.

Read the media activities aboard NERC ships policy.

Cruise postponement policy

NERC’s cruise postponement policy has been put in place to deal with the occurrence of exceptional issues that may potentially affect the ability of a ship to carry out a scientific cruise and where the time required to resolve such issues may result in a change to the programme.

Read the cruise postponement policy.

Post-cruise assessment

So that NERC can evaluate the service provided during each cruise, the chief scientist is required to fill in a Post-Cruise Assessment (PCA) form.

NERC is interested in feedback and comment about each cruise, so that it can ensure that the science community continues to be provided with high quality support whilst at sea.

The Cruise Programme Review Group will review all forms. In addition to the PCA form, chief scientists must also submit both summary and comprehensive cruise reports, detailed below.

Cruise report

Chief scientists will be required to submit a summary report form to the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) within seven days of the end of their cruise.

Chief scientists will also be expected to provide a comprehensive cruise report within six months of completion of the cruise. These reports will become available to view via the inventory of cruises on the BODC website.

Acknowledgement of support

All users of data and samples collected during a cruise are requested to acknowledge both direct and indirect ship support in publications by quoting the cruise number. (Indirect ship support is when the individual does not participate in the cruise but benefits from data collected.) This acknowledgement facilitates citation searches and monitoring of outputs from services provided by NERC.

Last updated: 23 June 2022

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