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Exploration of the Seas: Interim Report water temperature at basin scales. Our relatively limited knowledge of the deep oceanic realm makes it another strong candidate for an ocean exploration program to aid our understanding of the forces that shaped climate changes in the past and may shape them in the future. Exploring the Ocean Through Time Sustained, large-scale, long-term observations are indispensable to all ocean science disciplines and often lead to discoveries of new processes that link the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the ocean. The ocean exploration initiative should be a partner in the establishment and use of ocean observing systems, particularly in previously unexplored priority areas. Exploration-oriented ocean observations can provide information useful for basic and applied research and for real-world applications, such as physical transport processes important to global climate. The benefits of ocean exploration observing systems to various economic sectors and to nations worldwide would add substantially to the value of the program. The opportunity exists for a cooperative effort by all involved countries to work toward the emplacement and operation of multi-national exploration-oriented regional and global observing systems. This goal will require the creation of new partnerships between multinational scientists, federal agencies, industries, and other potential users, including sharing of intellect, experience, data, instruments, facilities, and labor. Ocean observing systems for exploration, shared within a multinational framework, should help provide answers to pressing regional problems in fisheries, pollution, biodiversity, and ocean circulation to worldwide ocean exploration participants. PROPOSED ORGANIZATION OF AN OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM The Program in the United States In proposing a strategy for international ocean exploration, it is prudent to start with a model for a U.S. national program that may encourage the development of similar national programs elsewhere. Once a number of national programs are established, nations can then collaborate in specific areas or along themes of mutual interest. The Committee recommends the creation of a national program for ocean exploration, which will be the principal implementing entity for carrying out the ocean exploration initiative in the United States. The Committee believes that an organization charged with implementing an effective international ocean exploration program should not be part of a government agency where it may be subject to internal budgetary and mission pressures, lack of transparency in budgeting and expenditures, as well as influences on program review not based on merit. The government would provide funding to the national program, offer assistance with respect to public affairs, platforms, and data management, engage in budgetary oversight, and administer a competitive process for the selection of an external national program for ocean exploration project office. The oceanographic community has had successful experiences contracting with not-for-profit corporations to perform similar functions (e.g., the Joint Oceanographic
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Exploration of the Seas: Interim Report Institutions, Inc. which manages ODP). Although an existing institution or for-profit company could also operate the national program office, these arrangements are less likely to achieve broad community support. The Committee is considering a series of administrative structures for the planning, oversight, and management of an ocean exploration program. Upon completing a review of large-scale ocean research programs, an earlier National Research Council (NRC) committee found: there is no one ideal structure that should be used for all programs, and it is important for NSF/OCE [Ocean Sciences Division] and other agencies to maintain flexibility to consider a number of options regarding the design and execution of future programs. Some factors to be considered include the following: The structure of the program should be dictated by the complexity and nature of the scientific challenge it addresses. The nature and support of program administration should reflect the size, complexity, and duration of the program. The structure should encourage continuous refinement of the program. All programs should have well-defined milestones, including a clearly defined end. (National Research Council, 1999) Using these recommendations as a foundation, this Committee is considering the effectiveness of existing research program management structures, and developing a hybrid as an alternative framework. An effective approach may be to combine the benefits of independent operation, federal funding, the use of scientific advisory panels, and federal programmatic support. NOAA, NSF, ONR, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration all have a long tradition of supporting discovery and exploration in the ocean sciences and building upon this capability is essential. A more detailed description of the proposed organizational structure will be included in this Committee’s final report. Funding a U.S. Program An appropriate funding level for ocean exploration will, of course, depend on the breadth of the vision behind this effort. The President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration recommended expenditures of $75 million per year for a U.S. program, excluding capitalization costs (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2000). In FY2002, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration was budgeted at $14 million and this Committee concludes that this level of funding is not adequate to ensure success. While the current NOAA effort has heightened the visibility of ocean exploration, fiscal limitations have posed serious constraints on its ability to carry out a comprehensive program. Critical elements, such as the following, have been compromised due to funding limitations. Data management and dissemination are not funded in the present program, limiting access to the data. Post-cruise scientific activities have not been funded so far. Potential discoveries may be missed if specialized onshore tests and evaluations cannot be performed. Costly, but critical, technology development has not been pursued. For example, new
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Exploration of the Seas: Interim Report sensors that allow for investigation of novel sites or measurement of unique biological, geophysical, and chemical properties of the ocean cannot be developed. Ship time has generally been leveraged through other programs. This limits the program’s ability to select its own priority sites for ocean exploration. Project planning has been short term, due to the nature of government budgeting and agency appropriations. International cooperative efforts are not well supported. Outreach efforts have been made but, due to limited funding, educational collaborations are limited to the time when offshore operations are underway. The scientific community has not viewed the program as a significant resource for funds to undertake sustained programs. Underwater archaeological work has been limited to excavation of the U.S.S. Monitor, only one of many important sites worldwide. The Committee is exploring three possible scenarios for funding and equipping the exploration program. These will be fully analyzed and presented in the final report. The scenarios envision an increasing ability to explore a variety of themes, environments, and locations. The committee feels it is critical that any new effort in ocean exploration must not be funded using funds dedicated to support the premier ocean research currently underway in the United States. Such a reallocation of research dollars would undermine the very synergy between exploration and research that is necessary for the long-term success of both programs. International Structure To ensure broad effectiveness of an ocean exploration program it is desirable to involve scientists and governments from many nations in a truly global effort. Most nations of the world have an ocean frontier and ocean processes affect all nations; the benefits of an ocean exploration program are truly global. Capabilities for ocean exploration are widely distributed internationally, and no single nation can afford the kind of effort that will be of greatest benefit to all. International Implementation Strategy Some nations are already involved in ocean exploration activities and others may form their own national ocean exploration initiatives in the future (Figure 7). As such parallel programs are established, it may be helpful to set up an informal umbrella organization, with the national program for ocean exploration representing the United States, to provide information sharing and coordination between the national programs.
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Exploration of the Seas: Interim Report Figure 7. SHINKAI 6500 is rated to 6500 meters, deepest active sub in the world. There are several strategies for implementation of a coordinated global ocean exploration program. For example, the Committee looked at two possible existing models: ODP and the Inter-RIDGE program. ODP developed a robust international component by establishing a formal structure for centralized funding through a series of bilateral agreements. At present some 22 nations participate effectively in that program. A second possible model is the U.S. RIDGE program along with its counterparts in other nations for interdisciplinary study of mid-ocean ridges. Inter-RIDGE acts as the international umbrella organization to coordinate these national efforts. To initiate a coordinated international effort in ocean exploration, the Committee recommends the establishment of an International Global Ocean Exploration (IGOE) Committee, with initial membership drawn from the member countries of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR). The IGOE Committee should initially be supported by the national program, but should evolve over time into an independent, non-governmental organization with financial support from participating nations. Appropriate ties to SCOR, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO), and other international ocean organizations should be established to combine the best features of non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations. Membership should be adjusted as new international participants emerge. The IGOE Committee could play several useful roles: advancing the establishment of an international ocean exploration program; developing a broad plan for international collaboration in ocean exploration; initiating multilateral cooperative efforts in areas of mutual interest by establishing subcommittees to develop specific coordinated exploration plans; providing input to the national program’s Scientific Advisory Committee and other
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Exploration of the Seas: Interim Report national ocean exploration committees, as appropriate; facilitating information exchange and capacity building among participating nations; and working with participating nations to coordinate access to exploration platforms, tools, and technologies. The Committee has chosen not to be overly prescriptive in recommending a structure for the international effort. A variety of different, viable institutional arrangements may arise, based on geography, the ships and other equipment required, and the traditions of the communities involved. It is likely that not all countries will participate in IGOE. However, as subcommittees are set up to develop detailed plans for specific exploration targets, representatives from any interested nation should be able to participate and serve on the subcommittees. In addition to the above, the Committee recommends that individual cooperative agreements for identified pilot programs be pursued, a strategy that was very successful for ODP. Cooperative agreements allow progress on mutual goals without the need for priority setting among many nations. They result in less overhead for program management and eliminate the need to pool funds internationally or develop new treaties. Individual cooperative agreements may serve as the foundation for a more extensive program. Ocean Exploration within the United Nations System To call attention to the importance of ocean exploration internationally, the Committee recommends that an additional ocean resolution be introduced at the next annual United Nations General Assembly, stressing the importance of global cooperation in ocean exploration (Box 2). Box 2 Proposed United Nations General Assembly Ocean Resolution Whereas basic knowledge about Earth’s ocean is in the overall interest of humankind; Recognizing there are large areas of the ocean in which we lack such basic knowledge; and Convinced that cooperation in ocean exploration (seeking basic knowledge about the ocean and ocean processes) holds promise to enhance understanding of our planet. The General Assembly: Urges nations to seek to enhance basic understanding about the ocean through programs and activities of ocean exploration, and to cooperate together to that end; Calls upon IOC to consider establishing a voluntary information sharing program for the cooperative sharing of information about ocean exploration, including planned programs and proposals, institutional and national interests, scientific and technical expertise, capacity building capabilities, available oceanographic ships, and other national or institutional resources available for such exploration; and Nothing in this resolution is intended to affect the legal regime for the ocean as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
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