Diving Scientists

Diving at work in support of science is regulated at national levels in many different ways across Europe. In accordance with  Directive for the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2013/55/EU, former 2005/36/EC4), there is a requirement for an established methodology to facilitate the recognition of original professional qualifications by all member states. Simultaneously, European Scientific Diving Panel (ESDP) has identified a gap in training at the majority of member states: the absence of a nationally recognized system for the certification of scientific divers. Consequently, it was expressed the wish for a network of scientific diver training. According to ESDP, the recognition of competencies for scientific diving in different member states can be translated easily and effectively in order to facilitate greater participation by scientists in diving-based pan-European research programmes.

According to the Consultation Document: “The delivery of science through diving”, provided by ESDP (2011), European countries can be divided into three categories: the first and the most common situation is that there is no nationally recognized system for certification of professional scientific divers; the second category includes countries without a specific Scientific Diving (SD) certification system, but the diving scientists are considered commercial divers; the third category countries have a national licensing system for SD which is not uniform, though. ESDP in the Consultation Document: “European Competency Levels for Scientific Diving at Work” has defined the minimum standards for this purpose; basic and advanced European Scientific Diver (ESD and AESD)”. So far, the general rule is that university institutions are providing the academic background whilst diving organizations are responsible for the certification of divers.

The lack of a common training framework in SD results in a fragmented landscape in the field of underwater science. Although several academic institutions, research centers and national organizations are providing diving and non-diving courses related to the underwater science, so far, there was no attempt to publicize this field to the society and moreover the directly link scientific diving with the market.

Diving is a highly-productive, cost-effective research tool that supports underwater science and archaeology through recording, sampling, quantitative surveys or observations, in situ measurements, impact studies, ecological analyses, application of new techniques, mapping of underwater areas, profiling sub-tidal geology/geochemistry, evaluation of risk assessment, preservation and accurate deployment/retrieval of underwater apparatus. Training in such kind of topics is addressed to students and scientists, which are going to participate in on-going or future diving-based research projects.

The need for greater automatic recognition of qualifications was expressed in the Briefing Note of the European Universities Association (in January 2014). With respect to the Modernization Agenda for Higher Education (EU, 2011) it is proposed the development and the delivery of the right mix of skills and a curriculum for solid understanding of the underwater science.

The provided specialized training is linked to the European Qualifications Framework, through the adoption of informal and non-formal learning procedures, such e-learning and diving are, aside with academic education. Divers with experience gained outside formal education and training are using new technologies and digital content in order to develop the theoretical background on scientific topics. Students and researchers from academic organizations are introduced in the application of scientific methodologies and advanced techniques to the underwater field. Both of them are consequently qualified to participate in research projects for the underwater science or the development of new services and products for the diving industry.