1
Introduction and Background

In the Oceans Act of 2000, Congress called for the establishment of a presidential commission to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. ocean policy. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) was established in September 2001. The Commission’s report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, was released on September 20, 2004, and included more than 200 recommendations directed at the President, the Congress, and executive branch agencies (USCOP, 2004).

As required under the Oceans Act, the President released his official response to the USCOP report on December 17, 2004, titled the U.S. Ocean Action Plan (OAP). The OAP describes a number of current initiatives and planned actions that are consistent with the USCOP recommendations. In addition, the President issued an executive order that created an ocean governance structure led by a new cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy to coordinate ocean-related activities of the federal government. Within that committee’s oversight is the National Science and Technology Council’s Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST).

One of the first assignments of the JSOST was to develop the Ocean Research Priorities Plan (hereafter referred to as the plan or the ORPP) and Implementation Strategy by December 31, 2006. As described in the OAP, the ORPP

will seek enhanced collaboration, coordination, cooperation, and synergies, and will identify gaps and deficiencies along with related infrastructure needs [and] will be prepared in an open and transparent manner with advice from the ocean research community (government, aca-



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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy 1 Introduction and Background In the Oceans Act of 2000, Congress called for the establishment of a presidential commission to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. ocean policy. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) was established in September 2001. The Commission’s report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, was released on September 20, 2004, and included more than 200 recommendations directed at the President, the Congress, and executive branch agencies (USCOP, 2004). As required under the Oceans Act, the President released his official response to the USCOP report on December 17, 2004, titled the U.S. Ocean Action Plan (OAP). The OAP describes a number of current initiatives and planned actions that are consistent with the USCOP recommendations. In addition, the President issued an executive order that created an ocean governance structure led by a new cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy to coordinate ocean-related activities of the federal government. Within that committee’s oversight is the National Science and Technology Council’s Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST). One of the first assignments of the JSOST was to develop the Ocean Research Priorities Plan (hereafter referred to as the plan or the ORPP) and Implementation Strategy by December 31, 2006. As described in the OAP, the ORPP will seek enhanced collaboration, coordination, cooperation, and synergies, and will identify gaps and deficiencies along with related infrastructure needs [and] will be prepared in an open and transparent manner with advice from the ocean research community (government, aca-

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy demic, industry, and other non-government entities). (Bush Administration, 2004) On April 5, 2005, the JSOST issued the Ocean Priorities Framework (OPF), which was intended to guide the development of the draft ORPP. On September 12, 2006, the JSOST announced the release of the draft ORPP entitled Charting the Course for Ocean Science in the United States: Research Priorities for the Next Decade in the Federal Register (Federal Register Volume 71, No. 176, pp. 53685-53686). Details of the development of the ORPP are provided in Chapter 2 of Part I. The draft plan is a multiagency collaborative effort shaped by input from academia, industry, and nongovernmental organizations via a public workshop and public comments. The purpose of the document is to develop and present ocean research priorities that address key interactions between society and the ocean. If acted upon, these priorities will result in considerable strides toward enhancing the quality of life and safeguarding the health of the open ocean, coasts, coastal watersheds, and Great Lakes. (JSOST, 2006b) The draft research plan identifies the following six themes that represent key areas of human interaction with the ocean: Stewardship of Our Natural and Cultural Ocean Resources Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards Enabling Marine Operations The Ocean’s Role in Climate Improving Ecosystem Health Enhancing Human Health Within each of the themes, research priorities are defined using a common set of questions as guides to help identify the most compelling priorities. The draft plan further identifies opportunities for progress, that is, key infrastructure and education needs that are common to many of the themes. It concludes by articulating a path forward.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy ORIGIN OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL STUDY The co-chairs of the JSOST approached the National Research Council (NRC) Division on Earth and Life Studies in August 2005 to assist with the research planning effort for the ORPP through a three-phase process. Prior to the committee’s review, NRC staff provided summaries of recommendations from NRC reports published in the past seven years that related to the themes, pillars, and cross-cuts identified in the OPF. An ad hoc NRC committee was appointed to review the draft ORPP and provide recommendations for improvement. That is the purpose of Part I of this report. The committee was then asked to provide an assessment of the final ORPP within six months of the release of the final plan (Part II of this report). The statement of task for this study is provided in Box S-1. REVIEW OF THE DRAFT OCEAN RESEARCH PRIORITIES PLAN Part I reviews the draft ORPP according to the guidelines provided by the statement of task.1 Chapter 2 assesses the format of the public workshop and evaluates the response of the plan to both the workshop summaries and the public comments received on the planning document (Task 8). Chapter 3 assesses the overall plan to determine whether it is responsive to the nation’s need for ocean research and development (Task 1); whether it effectively links proposed science and technology developments to benefits to the nation with regard to quality of life, safety and security, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and education (Task 2); and whether the time frame for addressing the priorities is realistic (Task 3b). Chapter 4 evaluates the proposed research agenda within each of the six thematic areas for clarity and appropriateness of thematic research priorities (Task 3a); balance among substantive research areas as well as among research activities such as observations, modeling, and communication of results (Tasks 4b and 4c); and degree of success in linking and integrating research activities across the themes. Chapter 5 evaluates how well the draft document articulates and identifies the need for interdisciplinary and multi-mission ocean research (Task 5). Chapter 6 assesses whether the document effectively identifies the highest near-term priorities to address the goals and expected societal 1 See Box S-1 for full statement of task and corresponding task numbers.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy results (Task 6) and the balance between short-term and longer-term priorities (Task 4a). Chapter 7 considers infrastructure and human resource needs, evaluating how well the plan accounts for these needs in terms of physical and information infrastructure and intellectual capital (Task 7).