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USP wins prestigious research grant

The University of the South Pacific researchers are to work with global research partners to tackle global grand challenges. The One Ocean Hub is an ambitious £22 million programme aimed at transforming the global response to the urgent challenges of oceans law, science and governance.

The five-year programme is being funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund and will involve more than 50 partners, including world-leading research centres, development organisations, community representatives, governments and multiple UN agencies.

Led by the University of Strathclyde in the UK, the Hub will bring together researchers, groups and organisations to address the challenges the world now faces with respect to oceans health and management and to realise a vision for an integrated and sustainable approach to conservation and sustainable use.

A key priority will be to ensure the knowledge, experiences and rights of those most reliant upon the oceans, and disproportionately affected by declining ocean health and productivity.
Aspects of the team’s work will address the less tangible values of the ocean and the hidden ‘trade-offs’ in ocean decision-making.

The goal is to support decision-making based on evidence of risks and opportunities among competing ocean uses.

The USP researchers have been awarded an initial £1.6m to lead key areas of the research. The team comprises Associate Professors Gilianne Brodie and Ann Cheryl Armstrong, Professors Jeremy Hills and Matthew Allen, Dr. Morgan Wairiu, Katy Soapi and P-J Bordahandy as well as Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Innovation and International, Professor Derrick Armstrong.

USP will be centrally involved across the 5 core themes of this 5-year project: Global Law for Integrated Ocean Management; Emotionally connecting with the Ocean; Sustainable and Equitable Fisheries in an Ecosystem context; Offshore (non-fisheries) marine resources for a sustainable blue economy; and Transformative Governance for an Inclusive, Innovative and responsible Blue Society.

Professor Armstrong welcomed the success of the One Ocean Hub and noted that out of the 12 global research challenge partnership hubs announced by the UKRI this was the only one focusing on oceans and the only one with a focus on the Pacific region.

“We have an exceptionally strong team of researchers in these areas at USP and this project besides being internationally and regionally significant in its own right will also allow the University to continue to build its capacity to undertake major interdisciplinary research in this field; research that is critical for the sustainable development of Pacific Island Countries.”

Programme lead, Professor Elisa Morgera, Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance with the Law School, said: “Millions of people all over the world are entirely reliant upon the ocean for food, jobs and transport yet over-exploitation, competing uses, pollution and climate change are pushing ocean ecosystems towards a tipping point.

“The One Ocean Hub will bridge the current disconnects across law, science and policy to empower local communities, women and youth

“The aim is to predict, harness and share equitably environmental, socioeconomic and cultural benefits from ocean conservation and sustainable use and within the USP component this will be addressed in a Pacific Island context.

“The Hub will also identify hidden trade-offs between more easily monetized fishing or mining activities and less-understood values of the ocean’s deep cultural role, function in the carbon cycle, and potential in medical innovation.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI Champion for International and Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said: “The sheer scale and ambition of these Hubs is what makes them so exciting. They enable us to deliver a coordinated global response with UK researchers working in partnership with researchers, governments, NGOs, community groups and international agencies across developing countries.

“Each Hub has the potential to transform the quality of life for multitudes throughout the world and safeguard our planet for future generations.”

USP Vice Chancellor welcomed the success of the USP team’s inclusion in the UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub, which provides an opportunity for our researchers to work on one of the Pacific’s ‘Grand Challenges”. “The Pacific is an oceanic region and challenges of oceans law, science and governance are very critical to the region. We are indeed very fortunate to be part of this global programme”.

Professor Ahluwalia further stated that “with this initiative, USP’s research capacity and capability will be further enhanced as we set ourselves to be the leading research institution in the Pacific”.

Within the initial five years of the programme, the team hopes to undertake research that advances an integrated and inclusive approach to ocean management, building on and supporting the important initiatives and leadership at a national level in Fiji, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Namibia, and Ghana.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. The One Ocean Hub will help to support the UK’s international commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.


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