valuation, and investment analysis under uncertainty. It is expected that this could be done both within the agencies and collectively, through interagency coordination such as the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology’s (SOST’s) Interagency Working Group on Ocean Partnerships. Engaging both the broad ocean research community and stakeholders advocating for societal needs could provide valuable insight into the planning process.
Effective resource management for infrastructure requires long-term planning that takes into consideration the cost of support over its full life cycle. Beyond the initial cost of developing and deploying infrastructure assets, maintenance, operations, and upgrades can be significant cost factors. Yet, to sustain the required level of data quality from infrastructure, sufficient maintenance (including routine calibration) needs to be done on a regular basis. In addition, full life-cycle costs need to include support for training technical personnel to sustain infrastructure assets, for the user community to access them, and for student education to provide future scientists and technicians able to continue to utilize the assets. Full life-cycle planning would also need to take into consideration any interdependencies between ocean infrastructure assets, and how to best support and exploit those connections.
It is important to periodically evaluate federally funded ocean research infrastructure in order to best decide where future investments should be made and where obsolete or underutilized assets could be discontinued. As a current example, the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) consortium regularly assesses its users, engages in internal plans for fleet improvement, and responds to external reviews. Another example is NASA’s use of decadal surveys1 (NRC, 2007b) to prioritize future space science needs. In a similar fashion, community-based reviews of major infrastructure assets are periodically needed to account for changing societal needs, new or different facilities, technology developments, and development, maintenance, and replacement costs. Timing of these reviews should be based on capabilities specific to different types of assets, including projected lifespan.
As part of the research proposal process, principal investigators could be required to justify that they are making efficient use of national infrastructure (if relevant to their project). This justification could be added as a criterion to be reviewed (for example, including “Efficient Use of Infrastructure” to “Intellectual Merit” and “Broader Impacts” during the National Science Foundation [NSF] proposal process) and could include a brief consideration of existing infrastructure; emerging technologies that could be effectively used; and/or justification for developing alternative assets that could potentially yield greater benefit than more traditional infrastructure capabilities.
Finally, current planning for ocean infrastructure does not reflect sufficient consideration of surge capacity in order to respond to unanticipated ocean incidents. As the ocean is increasingly used for large-scale human activity, major incidents and disasters will happen. This was evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in repurposing academic and federal research vessels, individual investigator assets like gliders, and private commodities such as charter boats for incident response and cleanup. The federal investment could be maximized by ensuring that there are comprehensive plans in place to anticipate such events, with both adequate facilities and strategies to quickly deploy personnel and assets when needed. There are also opportunities to involve industries in planning, possibly during their permitting processes.
Recommendation: Federal ocean agencies should establish and maintain a coordinated national strategic plan for critical shared ocean infrastructure investment, maintenance, and retirement. Such a plan should focus on trends in scientific needs and advances in technology, while taking into consideration life-cycle costs, efficient use, surge capacity for unforeseen events, and new opportunities or national needs. The plan should be based upon a set of known priorities and updated through periodic reviews.
Recommendation: National shared ocean research infrastructure should be reviewed on a regular basis (every 5-10 years) for responsiveness to evolving scientific needs, cost effectiveness, data accessibility and quality, timely delivery of services, and ease of use in order to ensure optimal federal investment across a full range of ocean science research and societal needs.
Efficient access to raw data, to information (data that have been processed and interpreted), and to capable facilities is critically important to the scientific enterprise and maximizes the return on investment in oceanographic data collection (Wright et al., 2005; Baker and Chandler, 2008; Mascarelli, 2009). Such access supports published literature,