SSDAG's response to the peer review summary


Scotland’s Seas Data and Assessment Group (SSDAG) very much welcomes the conclusions of the Peer Review. As with any project of this size, timescales have stretched and SSDAG appreciates the flexibility and patience of both Dr Stephen Malcolm and Dr Jo Foden.

The Peer Review provided very detailed comments for each of the assessments and the other Topics in Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020 (SMA2020). These were reviewed by the authors and, where appropriate, amendments made. A record has been maintained of both the amendments and the reasons where changes were not made, if this was the case.

The Peer Review highlighted the need for greater cross-over between the various Topics. The post Peer Review revisions provide greater inter-connectivity between the various Topics with many links now permitting navigation through SMA2020 and rapid connectivity to the source assessment. In addition, the Introduction has been modified to provide what amounts to a contents list with links to the Topics, Assessments, Case studies and chapters. SMA2020 contains a search function which will permit rapid access to topics based on a search of the SMA2020 portal. In finalising the portal, a key to the assessment summaries has been added. This also includes details of the confidence assessment. Again, this is intended to provide information ‘to hand’ and reduce the need for navigation through the portal.

The Peer Review highlighted a number of gaps. For example, food webs and sandeels. SSDAG responded with the help of colleagues expert in these topics by delivering Case studies to fill these gaps.

SSDAG very much welcomes the Peer Review outcomes with respect to the Pressures from activities Topic. The bespoke process was developed specifically for this assessment, but potentially has a broad application in ranking pressures from human activities to allow informed action to be taken.

Where the Peer Review commented about the technical nature of the language or the quality of the text, modifications have been made although in places it was not possible to avoid the use of some technical / scientific terms. SSDAG intend that SMA2020 is widely accessible and hope that the post Peer Review modifications ensure that this is the case.

The importance of climate change as a Topic in SMA2020 was recognised at an early stage by SSDAG. The links between the range of assessments in the Climate change Topic and the relevant indicator assessments has been strengthened to make them more robust, as suggested by the Peer Review.

SSDAG very much embraced the comments provided by the Peer Review in respect of the, originally named, Ecosystem services Topic. In responding to the Peer Review, greater consideration was given to the connection between natural capital, ecosystem services and the Blue Economy. This Topic was greatly expanded relative to the Scotland’s Marine Atlas due to the acceptance of the importance of the marine environment not only to the economy, but to wellbeing and as a source of protein, essential fatty acids and new pharmaceuticals, amongst others.

Finally, SSDAG have taken on-board the comments in respect of the Headlines and Next Steps. Boiling down SMA2020 to a few headlines and next steps was a challenge and a half. However, SSDAG felt it important to provide a small number of clear ‘take away’ messages. In doing this, the messages are inevitably high level. However, SSDAG believe that they provide a set of ‘pegs’ on which to hang a number of actions. The fact that the Peer Review commented that ‘the emphasis in the text is more on the challenges than the good news represented by the information and knowledge presented in the assessment’ is indicative of the clear need for action. However, SSDAG agree with the Peer Review ‘that the success of much of the work should receive greater attention as this is a significant piece of work that meets the need it was set up to deliver’. This has been taken account of in some of the edits.

SMA2020 is the evidence base to inform a review of Scotland’s National Marine Plan. SSDAG are pleased to note that the Peer Review found that SMA2020 met the objectives of writing the assessment as presented in the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

Finally, SSDAG would again like to thank the Peer Reviewers. There is no doubting that the peer review process has made a significant contribution to the delivery of a robust assessment of the state of the seas around Scotland.