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Quality Assurance

UKAS-Testing logosEvery year Marine Scotland Science (MSS) devotes significant resources to taking measurements in the marine environment. These measurements are used as a basis for protecting our seas, assuring the quality and safety of the fish and shellfish that we eat, for providing reliable information on the distribution and changes in the levels of harmful chemicals, and on the nature and distribution of fish diseases. Fish farms are also regularly inspected in order to maintain the status of Great Britain as an approved zone for various diseases of fish and shellfish.

A systematic approach to quality assurance of these measurements and inspections is essential to maintain confidence in the data obtained and to provide the necessary Quality Assurance to our customers who use this information.

MSS operates an extensive formal internal quality assurance system, and is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) for a range of inspections and tests under the ISO 17020 and 17025 accreditation standards respectively. MSS has also implemented the Joint Code of Practice for Research for all its research activities.

How is Quality Managed at MSS?

In support of this commitment, the Director has appointed a Quality Manager, Data Manager and Technical Management team within MSS.

The Quality Manager advises on all MSS quality matters and has overall responsibility for ensuring that scientific work carried out under the Quality System at MSS is conducted in compliance with international standards.

The Technical Management team is responsible for:

  • Implementing the quality system at MSS
  • Monitoring its effectiveness
  • Implementing improvements
  • Ensuring that all technical operations at MSS are carried out in compliance with the quality standards
  • The Data Manager is responsible for ensuring that data policies are implemented across MSS and are continuously updated

MSS also contributes advice, data and information to the UK Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (CSEMP) under the auspices of Marine Assessment and Reporting Group (MARG). The Green Book is the interactive manual of the current CSEMP that provides details on the aims, objectives and operational information. There are three main analytical quality control sub-groups underpinning the work of the CSEMP:

Nutrient, contaminant and biological effects data collected for the CSEMP (and other monitoring programmes) are submitted annually (by 1st June) to the UK MERMAN database; this data is subsequently submitted to ICES (September of the same year). Data entering the MERMAN database must be of a specified quality. The quality of the data (nutrients, contaminant and effects) submitted to CSEMP is judged by means of a data filter. The data filter requires laboratories to demonstrate the use of appropriate internal and external Quality Control procedures to show that their data is fit for purpose. Data is excluded where QC performance does not meet the required standard.

Each year new methods are added to extend the scope of accreditation, and others may be removed as they become disused or out of date. The process includes formalising and documenting the methods and associated procedures, training staff, calibrating equipment and fully-validating the methods as fit for purpose. The method is then assessed in depth by UKAS prior to accreditation being granted.

The Quality System is audited on a regular basis by a team of internal auditors to ensure that the accreditation requirements are met throughout the year:

Details of the scope of accreditation:

The MSS Quality System is a dynamic process and has developed since 1998, when MSS first gained accreditation, to its current scope.

Joint Code of Practice for Research

The Joint Code of Practice for Research is endorsed by the main UK research funding bodies and sets out standards for the quality of science and research processes that research bodies should follow. Following the code ensures that the aims and approaches of the research are robust, and gives confidence that the processes used to gather and interpret the results of research are appropriate, rigorous, repeatable and auditable.

MSS has introduced a range of systems across the organisation to ensure that the requirements of the Code are met.