NERC will scope three new areas for potential large-scale strategic research investments over spring 2016:
- fundamental ecological research for sustainable resource exploitation in the deep ocean
- Southern Ocean’s role in the Earth system
- subsurface-surface coupled processes associated with UK unconventional hydrocarbon extraction.
These potential ‘strategic programme areas’ (SPAs) have emerged from the ideas process for strategic research, where NERC captures and builds on ideas for excellent strategic science coming directly from the environmental science community. 2015 saw the second cut-offs for ideas for strategic research, with 21 ideas received for SPAs.
NERC’s Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) reviewed the ideas and used a number of them to generate the proposals for SPAs that were considered by NERC’s Science Board. NERC will shortly publish open calls for community members to join the SPA scoping groups, which will develop full cases for assessment and funding decisions in summer 2016.
They do not expect to be able to fund all three potential SPAs, and any potential SPA must meet NERC’s criteria for a strategic programme, so it is possible that none of these three potential SPAs will result in funded programmes. Open announcements of opportunity for research proposals will follow, for any strategic programme that is approved.