immediate societal application and in which the financial stakes are potentially immense, for example, the economic impact of a reliable forecast of a sea-level rise. Because the societal implications of the science are readily apparent to policy makers, they may demand answers to purely practical questions in the short term. This pressure can distort the investment in basic science, undermining the quest for basic understanding that remains key to the long-term solution of practical problems. Thus the functioning of oceanography in the United States should focus both on sustenance of the underlying basic science and on specific answers to practical questions of short-term urgency.

This chapter summarizes the concerns of basic scientists, with some focus on the interaction of basic science with more practical problems. Several themes are common throughout the discussion, which is divided by classical disciplines. First is the growing sense that the basic science now encompasses the global ocean scale. This capability and the need to conduct global-scale studies have led to the planning of large-scale, long-term cooperative experiments. Primarily planned and executed with National Science Foundation (NSF) support, they focus the work of many scientists on global ocean research. These large programs are usually managed through national or international consortia that involve many scientists, agencies, and often countries. Such programs will explore new questions and test new mechanisms for working together in the next decade. Global uncertainties are rapidly moving much of oceanography from the capabilities and interests of single or small groups of investigators for a limited time to the involvement of many individuals, institutions, and governments for decades. Mechanisms must be developed for these new large-scale efforts to be sustained in a scientifically and technically sound manner, by coordinating the plans of other nations, federal agencies, academic institutions, and individual scientists.

Second, all sections of this chapter emphasize the dependence of the subject as a whole continued technical developments. The ocean is remarkably difficult to study, given its size, opacity to electromagnetic waves, and general hostility (e.g, its corrosiveness, high pressures, and turbulence). The health of all disciplines depends directly on the continued development of new tools designed to solve their fundamental sampling problems. In the past decade, oceanographic sampling improved through incorporation of new technologies from other fields, such as remote sensing, material science, electronics, and computer science. A fundamental change arising from the use of these new technologies is

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