Preface | 2006 Achievements | Serving a Changing Society | Supporting the Knowledge Economy | Protecting our Environment | Mapping our Earth Resources | Engaging with Society | Co-operating Abroad | Providing a Stimulating Work Environment | Using GSI Services
2006 was the year when the Government published its Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI), an overarching policy designed to achieve its vision for the knowledge economy in the period up to 2013. At its heart lies a challenging vision:
“Ireland by 2013 will be internationally renowned for the excellence of its research, and will be to the forefront in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress, within an innovation driven culture.”
An Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, TD, in launching the strategy acknowledged recent progress but said it was essential that we continue the drive to build a truly knowledge-based society, and, among other issues, requiring the scientific community to build and expand a “fourth level” of postgraduate and post doctoral research and education.
Geoscience is explicitly part of this development and Section 6.6 of the SSTI document (Geoscience Strategy) states:
“Work is underway to develop a coordinated national geoscience strategy. This envisages a more structured multi-disciplinary approach to national geoscience activities carried out in the higher education institutes, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and other state organisations. Geoscience research and monitoring programmes contribute directly to the environmental, energy, marine and infrastructure sectors and significant synergies are already being developed. There is obvious potential for greater all-island collaboration in the geosciences”.
Government was close to finalising its National Development Plan (2007-2013) by the end of 2006 and this plan will integrate strategic development plans for all regions and rural communities, for all-island cooperation and for protection of the environment with common economic and social goals. With very significant levels of investment, it will establish a blueprint for socio-economic development for future generations, providing remarkable opportunities to address issues such as spatial planning, support for infrastructure, environmental sustainability and economic growth. These are all areas in which geoscience – and GSI – can make significant contributions.
The geoscience sector during 2006 set about completing a comprehensive National Geoscience Programme for 2007-2013. Based on considerable consultation with key stakeholders in the geoscience sector, this programme is being prepared jointly by GSI and the Royal Irish Academy. It is intended to set out a focused series of research priorities, as well as proposals for geoscience education, services and outreach to the public. At a time when the Higher Education Authority is reporting a significant fall in student numbers taking science degrees, this is designed as a significant support for the geoscience sector in participating in the National Development Plan and ensuring that geoscience makes the maximum contribution to national objectives.
GSI, as part of its contribution, has sought to make its data accessible in user-friendly modes and to expand the range of information services available. A significant activity during 2006 was a study of the feasibility of creating digital links between GSI and the third level sector to facilitate the greater use of GSI data in the national research agenda and the greater embedding of research results in GSI’s methodologies and strategies. It is intended that such links would be made available to the third level geoscience sector on an island-wide basis.
In delivering on its information management goals GSI, in collaboration with the Information Systems Division of the Department, has continued in 2006 to improve its digital support services. For example, the Document Management System (DMS), containing an impressive 1.4 terabytes of data, was upgraded with new software to facilitate quicker access to its records. It contains a wide range of datasets (bedrock, subsoils, exploration, mining, groundwater, marine and boreholes) in high-resolution digital format and the public can access it through the Intranet in the GSI Customer Centre. It is planned to integrate it in a GIS (Geographic Information System) application so that its data can be spatially queried and used. In the CONOR Project, in collaboration with the British Geological Survey, a similar range of datasets have been made available in a re-engineered database, using a newly developed data model. A web-based application in Cold Fusion is now being developed to facilitate the remote querying and use of the database. In addition, the multi-partner Irish Spatial Data Exchange System, building on an earlier Marine Institute-GSI project, has created a shared website which facilitates the exchange of marine data, thus ensuring that organisations are aware of the available datasets and do not duplicate them. Importantly, GSI has a policy of facilitating access to all digital datasets through its licensing system, with access being free for educational and research purposes (see www.gsi.ie/).
Research on GSI datasets continued to be supported at several institutes (see Appendices). One example of such research is that on seabed classification, based on multibeam and LIDAR techniques, which is designed to automate the production of customised maps for maritime customers, including fishermen. Promotion of participation by Irish universities in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) remains important (see “understanding our coral ecosystems” later). “New Directions” reports progress during 2006 in seeking new users for the skills and knowledge developed recently in the seabed area, in this case jointly with other seabed partners.
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The provision of training and education is a central element in the knowledge economy. An important part of the GSI mission is to ensure that the appropriate geoscience skills are available to drive Ireland’s knowledge economy. This requires inputs to both the educational and professional sectors.
In the educational sector, attention was directed at the primary level through support for a publication of the Sherkin Island Marine Station. At second level GSI sponsored a Leaving Certificate module prepared by AG Education Services Ltd., which linked the physics syllabus to the work of the Irish National Seabed Survey. GSI also supported the provision of in-service training for geography teachers on the Leaving Certificate Geography syllabus
There was increased demand for training on on-site waste-water treatment under the FÁS Course, supported by GSI and the Environmental Protection Agency. A total of 180 staff from local authorities, health boards and consultancies were trained during 2006. In addition, a workshop on seabed classification, important for maritime customers, was organised by GSI in March 2006.
Despite the significant scale of current global seabed surveying activity, estimated at €10 billion over 2005-91, there are no indications of significant growth opportunities for new trans-Atlantic enterprises in the established markets, which are already well served by existing competitors. Irish companies and their counterparts in Newfoundland and Labrador must look to emerging ocean management opportunities if they are to take advantage of the capabilities built up during the Irish National Seabed Survey (1999-2006). This is a major conclusion of an interim report2 completed on behalf of the Atlantic Partners Initiative3 by consultants.
The interim report goes on to identify the seafloor mapping sector as a potential springboard for the provision of future ocean management services. For example there is an established pattern of transnational funding of large marine programmes which will support future marine resource assessments and environmental studies. These are based on marine ecosystems, marine electronic highways and similar projects.
This interim report went on to consider various models for forming consortia to exploit the market opportunities which have been identified. A successful model is likely to be based on a private sector initiative which has governmental support as this combination is likely to have appropriate competitive advantage to capture emerging international opportunities. The final report of this consultancy is expected early in 2007.
1. Marine Sector Global Analysis. Report prepared for the Marine Institute. Douglas Westwood Ltd., March 2005.
2. International seabed mapping services in the marine and geoscience sectors by an Ireland-Newfoundland/Labrador consortium:
Market Study, Interim Report. CSA and Canning & Pitt, May 2006.
3. The members of the Atlantic Partners Initiative are Enterprise Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland, the Marine Institute, the
Ireland-Newfoundland Partnership (all from Ireland), the Ireland Business Partnership, Canadian Centre for Marine Communications (all from Newfoundland and Labrador).
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