As the context in which oceanography is conducted changes, how can partnerships between federal agencies and oceanographers in academic and private institutions be strengthened and improved? In general, the partnerships must extend beyond financial relationships to include the sharing of intellect, data, instrument development, facilities, and labor. Key elements in such partnerships are encouraging individual scientists to take intellectual risks in advancing basic knowledge, providing support that is tied to solving existing problems, and encouraging scientists to cooperate in the development of large shared research endeavors.


Many mission agencies and academic scientists have little experience interacting with one another, but both groups would benefit from doing so. The board recommends that each agency with an ocean mission and without existing strong links to the nongovernment community establish permanent mechanisms for ensuring outside scientific advice, review, and interaction. The obvious advantage of external consultation is that it provides an objective evaluation of agency needs and poses possible solutions from a new perspective. The National Research Council (NRC) is but one possible source of external advice. These advisory groups should report to a level sufficiently high that their views are presented directly to agency policy makers and the relationships are eventually institutionalized to establish a collective memory.

The board recognizes that the existence of multiple marine agencies with differing mandates brings a vigor and diversity to the field. However, the lack of coordination and cooperation among agencies that conduct or sponsor marine research detracts from this advantage. Informal attempts at coordination have been largely unsuccessful; a formal mechanism is necessary. The board recommends that, because no single agency is charged with and able to oversee the total national marine science agenda, an effective means be found for the agencies to interact at the policy level and formulate action plans.

One model for such interaction is the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology. Regardless of the coordinating mechanism chosen, it must permit the agencies to develop a synergistic approach to addressing national problems and to coordinating programs and infrastructure. High-priority tasks for such a group would be examination of the appropriate balance

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement