Reasons to set sail

Laboratories and computer-models can produce a lot of information for scientists but they don’t always provide the type of data required.  Satellites use microwaves that like most other electro-magnetic waves, including light, can only penetrate the sea surface a few metres.  Therefore sound and physical tools remain the only viable way to reach the depths beyond.  Research vessels and, increasingly, unmanned vehicles are used to carry out investigations.  An expedition is a complex and expensive exercise so it is not one that is undertaken lightly.  Scientists have to undergo a rigorous process to justify the need for their research and why it needs the use of a research vessel and/or other specialised equipment.

  • Purpose of an expedition

    Research is the way we gain knowledge and understanding; outputs are the way we share this.  A scientist’s ability to generate peer-reviewed outputs, from their time spent onboard a research ship, defines the quality of their work.  While increasingly it is the societal and environmental impacts of this work which ultimately defines how successful it has been.  The ‘life-cycle’ of an expedition is one that covers several years; from the gestation of an idea right through to the ultimate reporting of scientific results.

    Read more about the purpose of going to sea

  • Choosing a proposal

    A proposal is a detailed explanation of what a scientist wants to study, why they want to study it and how they plan to do so.  To turn the ideas of a proposal into reality of an expedition resources are required.  NERC gives access to its ships and equipment 'free at the point of use' for science that is of an international quality.  But other project expenses still need funding.  With so many potential expeditions who decides what ones to support and how is the decision reached?

    Read more about choosing a proposal

  • International Working

    International collaborations are an incredibly important component of supporting modern science at sea. Many issues facing marine science are global in nature and so require international solutions, such as the bartering or exchange of ships and equipment. In addition, when compared to other ship operators, research vessels form a niche area of activity in the shipping industry, so sharing of knowledge and best practice is vital.

    Read more about international collaborations

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Information for…


The outputs of research generate new knowledge about the oceans. Transferring scientific knowledge to support business and industry is an important part of our NOC remit.



Our research is intended to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. Research priorities will include the oceans' role in climate change, sea level change and the future of the Arctic Ocean.



The University of Southampton and the University of Liverpool both offer a range of highly regarded undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Ocean and Earth Science.



For any media or press enquiries to the National Oceanography Centre follow the more link below. Please note the centre's press office is staffed from 0830 to 1730, Monday to Friday.



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Delivery Partners

Delivery Partners helping to provide marine science national capability.


Marine Science Community

The creation of a wider association of Universities and research institutions to support wider engagement of the NOC with the marine science community is now underway.



The National Oceanographic Library is a national resource for the UK marine science community.


Principal scientists

All updated information for cruise participants can be found using the Marine Facilities Planning website: