The Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community (MBPC) and the BlueMed coordination and Support Action (Research and innovation for blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean Area) in collaboration with IOC-UNESCO and the MSPGlobal Initiative organised an online training course on “Science-Policy-Society interactions in ecosystem-based marine resources management and planning”, the second session from the whole course.

The training was held during three mornings, on 22/24/26 March, 2021. The online training course was supported by the Marine Institute (Croatia), the National Research Council - Institute of Marine Sciences (CNR-ISMAR, Italy), the European Topic Centre of the University of Malaga (Spain), and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) (France) and communication support from MedCities (Spain) and Latte Creative (Italy). The course has been endorsed as an Action contributing to the UN Ocean Decade initiative. 

The participation to the training course was closed for 33 pre-selected trainees and a few more who participated as attendees, i.e. without live interactions with trainers. Pre-selected candidates already attended a 2-hour mandatory webinar on 17 September 2020, which is available online, and will benefit from a physical workshop - if the sanitary situation allows it – in Autumn 2021. 

The aim of the training course was to help participants to improve their knowledge and understanding of science-policy-society interactions and their capacity to connect science with policy and industry, in particular through the use of ecosystem-based management in marine spatial planning. As stated by Dania Abdul Malak, ETC-UMA in the opening:

This course is an important opportunity, especially during this Ocean Decade initiative to strengthen our efforts, to provide science but also tools to reconcile the coexistence between nature, humans and their needs.

Alejandro Iglesias Campos, IOC-UNESCO, underlined "Ocean Sciences for sustainable development mobilizes the ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support society in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; a more coordinated and consolidated observations and research will definitely contribute to the UN processes for protecting the ocean".

The first day of the training course was more of a theoretical one, setting the background for the interactive sessions on Day 2 and 3. An introduction to the interface of science, policy and practice in marine systems was given, along with the main concepts of ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning.  Dr. Chris Cvitanovic (Australian National University) introduced the possible connections between politics, policy and practices, defining traits of usable science, credibility and legitimacy. As stated by Dr Chris Cvitanovic, “Accepting that the relationship between science policy and practice is not linear is a first step. Different opportunities exist for scientists to influence policy, and this is where honesty and trust are essential. Scientists need to be able to foster trust between science and policymakers”.

Dr. Elena Gissi (CNR-ISMAR / Stanford University) presented the marine/nature ecosystems and the role of Maritime Spatial Planning.

The very core message of ecosystem-based management (EBM) is about the interactions. Key principles are to try to understand the benefits and also the beneficiaries, understanding the cumulative impact and learning the adaptation process. Maritime Spatial Planning can be considered as a tool to develop EBM. It pursues a vision to managing multiple sectors, at different scales, and applies an adaptive approach.

The concept of Marine Functional Connectivity was given by the COST Action, SEA-UNICORN Project Representatives, Audrey Darnaude, Maria Beger and Rigers Bakiu. The session underlined how important it is to think about connection between species. “Connectivity is difficult to standardise and make it easy to understand for decision-makers. It is important that scientists and policymakers spend time to understand their terminology.” Also, trainees were given the opportunity to briefly introduce themselves. 

The second day of the training course was the most interactive. The main topic of day 2 was the Marine Science-Policy-Practice Interface in the EU focusing on the Mediterranean. Dr. Dania Abdul Malak (ETC-UMA) spoke about transboundary marine conservation governance model for the Mediterranean and presented three main key challenges, Biodiversity is the foundation of human well-being, current policies and planning tools do not reflect the transboundary nature of sea life, and Marine conservation needs a spirit of compromise.

Dr. Andrea Barbanti (CNR · Institute of Marine Science ISMAR) followed up with the state of the art of marine policies in the Mediterranean and how science and knowledge are informing their implementation towards sustainable Blue Growth. He underlined the following main challenges, structuring the network and  coordination among institutions and organisations, the need for guidelines, capacity building and pilot projects that promote joint efforts towards harmonised policy implementation, and the large differences and unbalance between countries, with support needed for research mobility and capacity building, through dedicated funds to build cohesion and foster data sharing. 

Concrete case studies were introduced to the trainees in the Interactive Session on the topic of "The use of EBM approaches as an interface between science, policy & practice in MSP", during which there were short interventions of several panelists (i.e. representatives of IOC-UNESCO, WWF Mediterranean, ACCOBAMS, etc.) on their experience. The panelists were Alejandro Iglesias-Campos (IOC-UNESCO), Ingela Isaksson (Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management), Susana Salvador (ACCOBAMS), Gaetano Leone (UNEP MAP), Elena Gissi CNR-ISMAR / Stanford University), Mauro Randone (WWF Mediterranean), Olivier Larouissinie (Cerema’s technical directorate for Risks Water and Sea) and Francesco de Franco (Marine Protected Area and Natural reserve of Torre Guaceto). After this session, the trainees were split into breakout rooms where they discussed the three most important key enablers towards effective knowledge-based use of EBM in MSP processes. 

Jean-Baptiste Jouffray (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University) opened the third day with the topics on partnerships between science and industry, specifically the work with the world’s ten largest seafood companies´, after which followed the discussion with trainees on barriers and challenges when working with industry. Science and Industry collaboration can be an obvious opportunity as there is still knowledge to acquire due to the complexity of the Ocean, however there are disciplinaries boundaries and cultural differences, and a risk of failure, greenwashing or no translation into concrete changes.

Relationships must be founded on trust and mutual respect, based on interdisciplinary teams, and developing shared goals; responsibilities have to be clarified and ensure regular and transparent communication and engagement, be mindful  not to tarnish your scientific integrity

The last session of the day was of the COST Action, SEA-UNICORN Project, and it was designed around the results of the questionnaire given to the trainees on the topic of the barriers to implementing Marine Functional Connectivity (MFC) studies to national/international policies. 

Andrea Barbanti, Dania Abdul Malak and Peter Mackelworth thanked all the trainees, trainers and attendees on participation in the online training course and showed their hopes for the in-person training in Fall in Venice, when specific topics from this online training course would be discussed more in detail.


In total, 57 participants attended the online training school, including the trainers, trainees, attendees and technical staff. The edited videos of the lectures will be soon available for larger audiences on MBPC Youtube Channel.