As discussed in Chapter 2, the importance of international cooperation in conducting research on a global scale has been recognized for some time. The NRC report Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships, (NRC, 1992) pointed out that because of the global scale of many environmental problems and the substantial resources (i.e., financial, infrastructure, and human) required, large ocean research programs are often cooperative international efforts. Many of the existing major oceanographic programs discussed in this report are the U.S. components of international programs. These international oceanographic programs are, in turn, part of the World Climate Research Program and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (see Box 2-2) and are jointly supported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
These international programs provide important opportunities for resource and information sharing and technology transfer. The greater access provided to scientists involved in these programs strengthens wider efforts to understand global and regional ocean and climate and environmental processes. Aside from gaining important scientific and economic benefits from collaborative international research, the United States also derives diplomatic benefits from its participation in international programs.
It is unlikely that the same level of international financial support and cooperation will be achieved without the organizational structure and identity provided by major programs. Scientific steering committees and program offices form the points of contact that are often necessary to facilitate collaborative international research on large-scales. As with interagency cooperation in the United States, these international connections enhance the ocean science community's ability to obtain and share information, leverage resources, and disseminate important discoveries.