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Staff Spotlight: Dr Matt Frost - Head of the PML International Office

7 May 2023

Dr Matt Frost has recently taken up the position of Head of the PML International Office, to help drive forward PML’s vision for a sustainable ocean future and further enhance its reputation for world-leading marine science.
In this Staff Spotlight, we find out more about Matt's marine science journey and aspriations for the future.

How did your interest for the ocean and marine science start and who were your ocean role models?

"I would love to have a deep inspirational story of how I became interested in marine biology but it was actually watching Jaws as a kid that first peaked my interest. I thought the Marine Biologist character (called Matt!) was so cool and I couldn’t believe that was an actual job. After that it was frequent beach holidays and learning to dive. In terms of role models, in additional to (the entirely fictional) Matt Hooper I would say its been so many people I have worked with day-to-day over the years rather than any single ‘celebrity’ type person in the marine world."
How did your interest in marine governance develop?

"My first marine biology job was for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and before that I was at the British Geological Survey so I actually came from a government agency background. Later on, after completing my PhD, I was asked to take on a policy-focused role working with Defra and other government departments and bodies and I realised this was what I wanted to do – take the science and see how it could inform change through influencing policy and legislation and through appropriate governance. At the end of every science talk all I could think was “so what” – how can this inform change?"
How do you think the international marine science landscape has changed, for better and worse, during your career?

"I think it has changed for the better in the sense that there is a bigger emphasis on using science for solutions and on coming together to address global challenges. Working in the ‘science-policy’ interface is now both more common and more acceptable, rather than being looked down on by ‘pure scientists’. I think it has changed for the worse in the sense that everything is now so much more urgent because the world has been too slow in dealing with major issues, such as climate change, the biodiversity crisis and the rapidly expanded ability to exploit deep ocean resources. It can sometimes feel like environmental science, in particular, is playing catch up behind commercial and other interests."
If you could improve anything in marine science / policy what would it be?

"I would emphasise quality of outcome over quantity of output. We live in the information age where we have access to a constant stream of scientific papers and policy reports but we need to find more time to ask what actually is needed if we are going to meet the sustainable development goals, for example. We need to ask questions like "what was the outcome last time we reported this way and do we need to do it differently this time to achieve better outcomes?". I don’t want to chair committees, write reports and produce policy briefs to try and make me or my organization look good – I want them to at least play a part in achieving real change."

Dr Matt Frost Chairing a reasearch programme Stakeholder Symposium at the Royal Society.
What are your thoughts on Plymouth’s marine science sector?

"I have now worked for three different marine-focused organizations in Plymouth so I think I am qualified to say that the quality of the marine science sector, as well as its depth and breadth, is simply extraordinary. I do hope very much that closer collaboration amongst the Plymouth marine organisations continues to bear fruit in demonstrating Plymouth’s global role in marine science."
What are your aspirations as the new Head of the International Office?

"PML has an amazing impact globally but there is a need to formalise that and empower and support more people to engage at the international level. I hope the International Office plays its part in addressing some of the key global ocean challenges and that is does that by mobilizing capacity internally, at PML, but also externally, by building networks and working collaboratively with partners across the globe."
Click here to read more about Matt's appointment and the work of PML's International Office.