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Saving our seas with social science

06 September 2018
Calella De Palalgrugell  Spain Jan Traid 375105 Unsplash

A new network which puts social sciences at the heart of efforts to protect the world’s ocean has been launched today at the international Society and the Sea 2018 conference.

Human activities are increasingly putting a massive strain on the oceans, whether this be through pollution, fishing, dredging, oil and gas exploration and coastal development. Understanding public perceptions and interactions with the world’s oceans is key to developing effective measures to tackle many of these pressing issues.

The Marine Social Sciences Network has been set up to increase awareness and understanding of the role that social sciences can play in deciding the future of our seas.

The network will bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners from across the marine and coastal sector with a view to influencing policy development and increasing public engagement in marine issues.

Most importantly, the work will be done in conjunction with scientists working in the natural sciences, specifically in demonstrating the social value of marine systems and helping to support the communication of complex messages relating to marine and coastal issues, both in the UK and abroad.

The network is being launched at the Greenwich Maritime Centre’s Society and the Sea 2018 conference at the University of Greenwich on Thursday 6 September.

The chair of the network, Dr Emma McKinley, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, will deliver a keynote speech at the conference, telling delegates that the launch of the Network represents a signal of change, with a real opportunity for the wider marine and coastal science community to capitalise on the current levels of public interest in marine issues by better understanding societal interactions with the global seas.   

Speaking about the Network, Dr McKinley emphasised the importance of creating this community, ‘There has been a feeling that the role of marine social sciences has been poorly understood and undervalued.  The formation of this international Network lends itself to the creation of an active, collaborative community of researchers and practitioners seeking to utilise their expertise and experience to help address global marine issues”.

The network has been working closely with a number of international organisations, including UNEP-WCMC, the Royal Geographical Society, Marine Conservation Society, Maritime Charities Group, Seafarers, MARE and The Gulbenkian Foundation.

Holly Griffin, who leads the marine social science work at UNEP-WCMC said: “At UNEP-WCMC we’re keen to support the integration of social science into ocean governance – it is critical to achieving well-rounded strategies for ocean management and conservation. As an organisation we’re committed to driving this area of work forward and so are delighted to be working in this partnership.”