Craig McLean in Praise of the AORA Coordination and Support Action Group

Craig McLean in Praise of the AORA Coordination and Support Action Group

Written by:
Name: Isa Woulfe
Institution: AORA-CSA / Marine Institute


 Craig McLean, Assistant Administrator for Oceanic & Atmospheric Research and Acting Chief Scientist, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in the United States, reflects on the North Atlantic Research Alliance’s achievements, and what’s next for North-South collaboration.


The  AORA Coordination and Support Action group work was absolutely vital to the success of what we've accomplished in the North Atlantic Research Alliance. Start with the Galway Agreement, people get around a table and decide that we're going to agree to work together. However, working together means that you need to understand each other. You need a translator, even though by all means we're largely speaking English together. But one word means something slightly different to another culture or another organization, and the AORA Coordinate and Support group was absolutely on top of every one of our possible disconnects in order to make sure that we had a solid connection. They were able to convene meetings for us that would have been difficult. They were able to transport and move people throughout the EU community so that they could be part of the meetings that we were holding.



We Canadians and Americans were rather capable and proud of it to just sponsor our own folks. But what we didn't sponsor and what we benefited from greatly was the Coordinate and Support team. So I have to thank Margaret Rae, Peter Heffernan and so many of the people of the Irish Marine Institute who really turned to and gave us all they had to make the success.


I even asked one of my colleagues, who's in the now fledgling microbiome community,


 “How did you deliver so much so fast?”


 Very simply, the answer was the team from the Coordinate and Support unit just delivered for us. It was staggering. It was exciting, and it was really a glue that kept us together.


On top of that, the like-mindedness that we have throughout each of the partners - our EU colleagues, our Canadian colleagues and our American Science colleagues - we just realised this is the right thing to do. When everyone's onboard realising that, it's very easy to do. I think that's why we have come as far as we have with the North Atlantic Research Alliance and implementing the Galway Statement.


I think we realised during several of the discussions that we have at the leadership level between the three trilateral co-leads - myself, John Bell, Aaron McPherson, and Genevieve. We recognise what we could be doing better. One of them is timing. Having our opportunities for the scientists of our national communities. Having the timing of our calls for their engagement to coincide much better than it had, simply because I think the EU was often running under Horizon 2020. And Canada and the United States, we had to catch up with that pattern and that pace and we did.

On the United States side, I have to thank our friends. I'm from NOAA, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, but our friends from NSF, National Science Foundation from NASA, they came in very willingly in order to help this succeed. So timing is key. We can work the timing.


Then also one of the things we discussed was we agree at the leadership level. We have brilliant collaboration of world experts working at the science level - the principal investigators, the scientists who do the work. We need to bring the program managers in alignment - the Canadian program managers with American program managers with EU program managers. So that level of engagement, which turns on the projects and allocates the resources, can be done at a greater level of coordination. To me, that is chapter two and that is where we go now.


Plus being All Atlantic in our outlook, which makes perfect sense, we wanted to get the first round correct. The first round was the North Atlantic. Now we move to the North Atlantic. We don't leave it behind. We moved from the North Atlantic and include the South Atlantic. I think as you know, we, the United States are very involved in the South Atlantic as well with the PIRATA Array, which is a very important weather and climate forecasting tool. We have the great gift of the talent from Brazil and from France in order to help that work and even philanthropy that came from the Vulcan Foundation, that private philanthropy is helping us with some of the deepwater ocean heat measurements in the deep ARGO array. To me, it is a logical extension of what we have been doing in North Atlantic and South Atlantic.


Lastly, I put the chapeau on this to say - this is the model for ocean basin implementation of what has become the UN decade of ocean science for sustainable development. Galway has been the model. We will apply it to the South Atlantic and will take it wherever else it needs to be. Not that we are in charge of it, but because we can point to it as a successful reference and let the communities of other ocean basins pick it up and see how it has worked, and I am sure it will work for them.