The major oceanographic programs have had an important impact on ocean science. Many breakthroughs and discoveries regarding ocean processes that operate on large spatial scales and over a range of time frames have been achieved by major oceanographic programs that could not have been expected without the concentrated effort of a variety of specialists directed toward these large and often high profile scientific challenges. In addition to these contributions, each program has left (or can be expected to leave) behind a legacy of high-quality, high-resolution, multiparameter data sets; new and improved facilities and techniques; and a large number of trained technicians and young scientists. The discoveries, data, and facilities will continue to be used to increase the understanding of fundamental earth system processes well after the current generation of programs have ended.
Scientific advances in several high profile areas have been brought about by research conducted through the major oceanographic programs. Examples include increased understanding of the causes of mass extinction, the role of ocean circulation in climate (e.g., El Niño) and in the decline in fisheries, and the ability of the ocean and marine organisms to buffer changes in the concentrations of the so-called greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide). Also of importance is the wide use of program discoveries and data in the classroom, the availability of program facilities for general community and educational purposes, and the training of graduate students. As discoveries and advances attributable to these programs continue to influence research conducted throughout the ocean science community, the significance of these programs will become even more apparent.
The usually high-quality, global, multiparameter data sets and time series developed by major oceanographic programs will be some of their most important and enduring legacies. It is essential to preserve and ensure timely access to these data sets. Every effort must be made to facilitate data exchange and prepare for an ever-increasing demand for access to these large data sets.
Major programs have affected the size and composition of the research fleet, and provided impetus for the development of technology and facilities used by the wider oceanographic community. The programs have contributed to a range of technological developments, facilities, and standardization of sampling techniques. Similar to what is done periodically for the research fleet, a thorough review of the other facilities, including procedures for establishing and maintaining