facilitate interactions and collaboration with other activities conducted throughout NSF. For example, many oceanic processes are deeply intertwined with non-oceanic processes, as part of an effort to understand and model earth systems. Consequently, TOGA included a meteorological component and NSF's MARGINS1 program will include a significant terrestrial as well as a marine geology component. The interdisciplinary unit of NSF/OCE would address ocean systems and their interaction with each other, and with those of the atmosphere and solid earth. It could coordinate with the Atmospheric Sciences (ATM) and Earth Science (EAR) Divisions of NSF's Geoscience Directorate, and others.

As with any new idea, there are potential limitations in the committee's recommended approach. It is possible that the interdisciplinary section suggested above would be perceived as attracting too much—or too little—funding relative to the disciplinary sections. It is possible that small and intermediate-sized interdisciplinary programs would have difficulty competing with the very large programs within the same unit. It is also possible that the mechanisms developed within the new unit for selecting large programs will not, in the end, solve the problems identified in this report and others. Nevertheless, the present system is not without its critics and the recommendation suggested here offers the potential for significant improvement. An alternate approach would be for OCE to consider reshaping the existing Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Program2 to enable transition to a unit that would incorporate the recommendations presented in this report.

To maximize scientific return, it is necessary to maintain the excellence of core science, while enabling cutting-edge multi-investigator and interdisciplinary science. The new interdisciplinary unit could provide incentives for the discipline-specific program managers and research scientists to participate in interdisciplinary initiatives when appropriate, thus allowing the ocean science community to build for the future on the strong research foundation already supported and managed by NSF/OCE. Ocean sciences must reach a new level of maturity in order to successfully meet the emerging needs for environmental science. Doing so will require more integration and greater emphasis on consensus building. If the challenges can be met, a new interdisciplinary unit would be well positioned to aid in building partnerships among the agencies, and play a leading role in helping to create focused national efforts in future global geosciences initiatives.

1  

http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/margins/, June 6, 1998

2  

The current Ocean Technology Program within NSF/OCE supports multidisciplinary activities that broadly seek to develop, transfer, or apply instrumentation and technology. Two ongoing programs, CoOP and ARCSS, are managed through this program.



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