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Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships
an increase in the quality and the volume of data collected. Accompanying this change is a significant increase in each oceanographer's capacity to study ocean phenomena, an increase that raises the costs for each oceanographer's science. As the cost per oceanographer for scientific equipment and facilities has increased, the field has responded with increased sharing of facilities, such as ships and submersibles, and equipment, such as the new accelerator mass spectrometer for carbon-14 measurements. The development and shared use of expensive facilities are likely to continue in the future. Yet even with shared facilities, inflation-adjusted research funding for the ocean sciences has remained nearly constant over the past decade, while the number of Ph.D.-level academic oceanographers has increased by about 50 percent and societal pressures to predict man's effect on the ocean have also increased. The growth in the scientific capacity of each investigator and the number of qualified investigators, coupled with nearly constant funding, has resulted in partial funding for some ocean researchers.
Third, the resolution requirements of oceanographic models and the complexity of model physics have always outstripped the largest computational capability anywhere. As understanding of the ocean becomes more sophisticated, more sophisticated models are required. The nurture of computational capability is reflected across the disciplines.
Fourth, the understanding of the ocean and of the problems of oceanographers has progressed so much in the past several decades that all disciplines are now capable of new accomplishments in a seemingly endless number of areas. The problem is that the potential far exceeds the resources likely to be available, and the difficult task of setting priorities within and across disciplines will be amplified.
The foundation of knowledge about the ocean that is now used in policy decisions was gained largely through Office of Naval Research (ONR) and NSF investments in basic research over the past several decades. Yet the demand for quick answers to purely practical questions sometimes obscures the need for investing in basic science, which remains the key to long-term practical applications. Under pressure to provide immediate solutions, mission agencies may be tempted to focus only on the short term. One example of the importance of basic research is a 1961 study that is now contributing to the debate about climate change—the question of whether ocean circulation has two stable states. Both the geological record and numerical models suggest that, at some times