Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships. Beginning in 1990, the NRC's Ocean Studies Board (OSB) began a systematic effort to chart a new direction for ocean science in this country. Through a series of widely attended workshops and the use of questionnaires, OSB attempted to synthesize and vocalize the opinions of the ocean science community. The resulting 1992 NRC report Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships documented important trends in human, physical, and fiscal resources at the time; presented an assessment of the scientific opportunities in the four major ocean science disciplines; and provided "a blue print for more productive partnerships between academic oceanographers and federal agencies."
With the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33), the pressure to hold funding levels constant (or even reduce support) for basic research cannot be expected to dissipate. As discussed before, even during times of overall growth in federal spending on research and development, the ocean sciences have not fared particularly well, with the possible exception of high profile initiatives such as IDOE and the USGCRP. Thus, the commonly articulated expectation is that overall funding for ocean sciences will remain flat. Consequently, new resources that will help relieve the funding pressure on OCE and NSF as a whole cannot be counted on. Simultaneously, many of the major oceanographic programs funded under the USGCRP are winding down. Unless the funds dedicated to supporting major programs remain with NSF/OCE when these programs end, competition for funding can be expected to increase as researchers previously funded through the major programs begin to submit unsolicited proposals.
During this phase in the evolution of ocean science, the pressures on NSF and the research community have resulted in a number of actions undertaken by the NSF/OCE to help ensure the vitality of the field. In addition to conducting community workshops to discuss the important research issues in biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography, NSF/OCE requested that the NRC form the Committee on Major U.S. Oceanographic Research Programs. This invitation is consistent with the traditional role the National Academy of Sciences complex has played in assuring the health of ocean science in the United States and around the world.