A story of success and collaboration highlighted by the European Commission

Posted on 28th April 2021

The Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe project SOPHIE has been chosen and highlighted by the European Commission as one of it’s Success Stories.

The article outlines the legacy the team have created since 2017 and the work that the project has done in, “the creation of a network of people and organisations interested in the links between oceans and human health.”

The commentary describes how “This will facilitate further collaborative research into understanding the complex and critical relationship between humans and the ocean.”

“Furthermore, a great deal of project information is now readily available online, which can help to inspire experts and citizens alike. This includes the results of the citizen survey, as well as various interactive maps. For example, the project mapped innovation activities that combine marine conservation with human health and wellbeing across Europe and beyond.”

“Key project findings were brought together in a Strategic Research Agenda for Oceans and Human Health for Europe. This lays out a roadmap for the work ahead and will likely be a key tool to help direct future research endeavours.”

Commenting for the article, Director of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health and coordinator of the EU-funded SOPHIE project, Lora Fleming notes,

“We humans have direct negative impacts on our global ocean through pollution, development and industry, yet at the same time our health and wellbeing depend on a healthy ocean”

“We do not yet fully understand all of these complex links. However, it is critical that we expand our understanding if we want to improve how we coexist sustainably with our marine world.”

The SOPHIE project brought marine and environmental scientists together with medical and social scientists, public health and other experts to tackle these complicated issues in a unique forum.

SOPHIE nurtured a network of people and organisations interested in the links between oceans and human health, and explored how marine tourism and citizen science can contribute to this exciting area of research.

The article recognises that “From the outset, the project highlighted three critical issues: the need for sustainable seafood; the benefits to physical and mental health through interactions with healthy blue spaces that are sustainably managed; and the importance of marine biodiversity to medical and biotech research.”

Adding to the narrative, Lora Fleming explains, “To encourage more work in these areas, we need transdisciplinary collaborations between researchers and stakeholders, including affected communities. Transdisciplinary training will also be necessary to create the next generation of engaged and involved researchers.”

“We also piloted training with blue tourism operators to combine citizen science and awareness of health and wellbeing, as part of a new blue tourism approach,”

“We managed to speak to over 14 000 stakeholders from across Europe and beyond, to help us better understand how they see the links between ocean and human health.”

The article goes on to recognise the impact legacy of SOPHIE and notes that “a great deal of project information is now readily available online, which can help to inspire experts and citizens alike. This includes the results of the citizen survey, as well as various interactive maps. For example, the project mapped innovation activities that combine marine conservation with human health and wellbeing across Europe and beyond.”

A Strategic Research Agenda for Oceans and Human Health for Europe brings together key strategic findings.

“This roadmap is SOPHIE’s legacy and will advance this field across Europe and the world,” says Professor Fleming, adding “We hope that the groundwork we have laid will be used to inspire future research funding opportunities,” adds Fleming. “We also hope that our collaborations across diverse disciplines will inspire people from different backgrounds to take action.”

The SOPHIE project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

By stimulating research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is producing world-class science that enables Europe’s public and private sectors to work together in delivering solutions to 21st century challenges.

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