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Lessons for the Future: The Role of the National Science Foundation

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 be expected without the concentrated effort of a variety of specialists directed toward these large and often high profile scientific challenges. Major ocean programs provide a large-scale perspective, new measurement techniques, broader scientific relevance, and some societal relevance to the disciplines. In addition to these contributions, each program 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 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. The large-scale global science will continue to require major ocean programs in the future. Supporting sustainable and efficient research on these processes represents an important and ongoing challenge to the ocean science community. At the same time, encouraging and nurturing individual creativity and scientific diversity is essential if the nation is to meet the unforeseen challenges of the future. Some tools for the federal agencies to use to balance these two often competing needs based on scientific requirements have been presented in this report.

The Role Of The Ocean Sciences Division Of NSF

NSF/OCE supports the majority (both in terms of total dollars and number) of academic ocean scientists funded by federal dollars, regardless of whether or



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7 Lessons for the Future: The Role of the National Science Foundation 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 be expected without the concentrated effort of a variety of specialists directed toward these large and often high profile scientific challenges. Major ocean programs provide a large-scale perspective, new measurement techniques, broader scientific relevance, and some societal relevance to the disciplines. In addition to these contributions, each program 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 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. The large-scale global science will continue to require major ocean programs in the future. Supporting sustainable and efficient research on these processes represents an important and ongoing challenge to the ocean science community. At the same time, encouraging and nurturing individual creativity and scientific diversity is essential if the nation is to meet the unforeseen challenges of the future. Some tools for the federal agencies to use to balance these two often competing needs based on scientific requirements have been presented in this report. The Role Of The Ocean Sciences Division Of NSF NSF/OCE supports the majority (both in terms of total dollars and number) of academic ocean scientists funded by federal dollars, regardless of whether or

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not they participate in major programs. Nearly all existing major programs had initial workshops or other planning activities funded, at least in part, by NSF/OCE. These two facts point out the significant role NSF/OCE plays in funding and nurturing ocean science in this country. There are strong arguments for funding intermediate-size programs and continuing to fund major oceanographic programs. Furthermore, the scientific research conducted by individual investigators in the core oceanographic disciplines must also be healthy for this field to prosper. These two goals need not be mutually exclusive—either one obtained to the detriment of the other. Their pursuit should include complementary activities that strengthen the overall national and international program of ocean science. The pressure to carry out interdisciplinary research through multi-investigator projects will continue to increase as ocean science becomes more complex and as concern for environmental and societal rewards continues to grow. Without major oceanographic programs the ocean science community would lose the ability to address large-scale scientific issues in a systematic manner and a powerful argument for increased funding and infrastructure enhancements, while gaining little in terms of improving the overall proposal success rate within NSF/OCE. In the future, the federal agencies that fund basic ocean research, especially NSF/OCE, need to continue to find ways to support a full spectrum of projects including major oceanographic programs, intermediate-size programs, and small group or single investigator projects, while maintaining a healthy, dynamic balance among them. A key reason why NSF/OCE has been a good home for major oceanographic programs since IDOE is that the agency is able to administer basic research and to ''be flexible in the design and management of oceanographic research aimed at broad social goals" (Jennings and King, 1980). Since the renewal of major ocean programs, NSF/OCE Program Management has had significant flexibility to make decisions about how and when programs should be funded and set priorities for funding programs and proposals. The preceding chapters suggest that there are opportunities for some course corrections. Lessons Learned 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 them, is necessary to set priorities for support of the facilities used by the wider oceanographic committee. The very long lead times needed for fleet and facilities development require that the oceanographic community be developing

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plans for facilities requirements for 2008 and beyond. Strategic planning for facilities (ship and non-ship) should be coordinated across agencies with long-range science plans and should include input from the ocean sciences community. The preceding chapters included specific recommendations that demonstrate how the management of major programs differs greatly from that appropriate for research conducted by individual scientists or small groups of researchers. These recommendations span the life of a major program, from (1) Program Initiation, (2) Program Implementation, to (3) Program Conclusion. Program Initiation 1.   To enhance communication and coordination in the oceanographic community, NSF/OCE and other sponsor agencies should use various mechanisms for inter-program strategic planning, including workshops and plenary sessions at national and international meetings and greater use of World Wide Web sites and newsletters. 2.   The federal sponsors, especially NSF/OCE, should encourage and support a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research activities, varying in size from a collaboration of a few scientists, to intermediate-size programs, to programs perhaps even larger in scope than the present major oceanographic programs. 3.   Major allocation decisions (for example, funding of major programs) should be based on wide input from the community and the basis for decisions should be set forth clearly to the scientific community. Therefore, NSF/OCE should make a concerted effort to track key metrics regarding the funding for core and major oceanographic programs. 4.   The sponsoring agencies, especially NSF/OCE, should develop a well-defined, open procedure for starting future major ocean programs. 5.   Initial planning workshops for new major oceanographic programs should be administered by an independent group and structured to ensure that a diverse group of scientists, including those from large and small institutions, different disciplines, and minorities are included. 6.   NSF/OCE and other sponsors and organizers of any new oceanographic program should maintain the flexibility to consider a wide range of program structures before choosing one that best addresses the scientific challenge. 7.   During the initial planning and organization of new major oceanographic programs, an effort should be made to ensure agreement between the program's scientific objectives and the motivating hypotheses given for funding. 8.   The structure should encourage continuous refinement of the program. 9.   The overall structure of the program should be dictated by the complexity and nature of the scientific challenges it addresses. Likewise, the nature of the administrative body should reflect the size, complexity, and duration of the program.

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Program Implementation 1.   All programs should have well defined milestones, including a clearly defined end. An iterative assessment and evaluation of scientific objectives and funding should be undertaken in a partnership of major ocean program leadership and agency management. 2.   Modelers and observationalists need to work together during all stages of program design and implementation. 3.   A number of different mechanisms should be implemented to facilitate communication among the ongoing major ocean programs, including (but not limited to) joint annual meetings of SSC chairs and community town meetings. 4.   Nonprogram scientists (i.e., researchers with no history of funding through the major programs) should be recruited to participate as members of the SSCs of major oceanographic programs and in "mid-life" program reviews when appropriate. 5.   When the scale and complexity of the program warrants, an interagency project office should be established. Other mechanisms, such as memoranda of understanding (MOU), should also be used to ensure multi-agency support throughout the program's lifetime. 6.   Funding agencies and the major oceanographic programs should develop mechanisms to deal with contingencies. Program Conclusion 1.   As major ocean programs near conclusion, the program and sponsoring agencies should establish (with input from the community) priorities for moving long-time series and other observations initiated by the program into operational mode. Factors to be considered include data quality, length, number of variables, space and time resolution, accessibility for the wider community, and relevance to established goals. 2.   As major ocean programs near conclusion, federal sponsors and the academic community must collaborate to preserve and ensure timely access to the data sets developed as part of each program's activities. The committee recognizes that many of these recommendations have been put forward previously (NRC, 1979). However, they have not always been implemented or implemented effectively. It is difficult to see how the recommendations put forward in this report can be fully and effectively implemented within a structure that must be answerable for the needs of intermediate-size and major programs as well as individual and small groups of investigators. Furthermore, since most of the ongoing major programs can be characterized as interdisciplinary programs, it does not seem reasonable to expect that these recommendations can be adequately implemented by individual program managers

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responsible for the vitality of the four major disciplines (i.e., physical, chemical, and biological oceanography and marine geology and geophysics). A re-examination of the present structure and procedures within NSF/OCE is called for. The changes suggested below are intended to improve the management of large programs and allow for intermediate-size programs, while also addressing the concerns of core scientists to the greatest degree possible. Management Of Major Programs There is a natural tendency for some scientists to favor individual research efforts and some to favor team efforts. However, the present procedures used at NSF/OCE seem to have produced a regrettable polarizing effect in the community between major program and nonprogram scientists. Under current conditions of declining or flat budgets, funding pressure on NSF/OCE and the resulting concerns about whether the best science is being pursued (Purdy, in press) will not go away. There is a perception in some segments of the ocean science community that major oceanographic programs have grown at the expense of the core programs, with a net loss to the science. This perception is difficult to either confirm or dispel. Information regarding total funding, proposal success rates, and the number and size of awards in each category is difficult to obtain. Drawing a clearer distinction between funds provided to support major programs and those directed toward unsolicited core proposals could help. NSF/OCE should make a concerted effort to track metrics for core and major oceanographic programs in order to provide objective data for this discussion. However, better tracking alone, while important, will not address larger questions about the inclusion of intermediate-size programs and the management of major programs within NSF/OCE. The committee believes that new approaches are needed within NSF/OCE to foster the development of a range of interdisciplinary efforts. This is reinforced by the needs of the science for more integration (studies of whole systems as opposed to mainly studying isolated elements and processes) and will require coordinated interactions between the research programs funded by NSF/OCE and other NSF Divisions and Directorates, as well as other federal agencies. Creation of an Interdisciplinary Unit The committee's recommended approach for achieving the goals described above would be to create a new interdisciplinary unit within the Research Section of NSF/OCE, charged with managing a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary projects. The large-scale global and integrative nature of some of the present scientific challenges, such as environmental and climate issues, will require greater coordination, as will the need for shared use of expensive platforms and facilities. The creation of such a unit could alleviate many of the real and perceived problems identified throughout this report related to coordination,

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collegiality, and planning, and thus help maximize the scientific return on the considerable investment this nation makes in ocean-related research. The new unit would serve as a home for the spectrum of interdisciplinary scientific efforts that includes the efforts of a few principal investigators, intermediate-size programs, and major oceanographic programs similar to or even larger than the programs discussed in this report. Formation of an interdisciplinary unit would demonstrate a clear commitment by the NSF to fund interdisciplinary science in addition to traditional disciplinary science. Creation of an interdisciplinary unit could reduce the potential conflict between program managers as they attempt to maintain funding for their specific discipline while trying, at the same time and from the same budget, to foster interdisciplinary research. These benefits can be most fully realized if the interdisciplinary unit has its own program manager(s), review panel(s), and budget. Intermediate-size (ca. 5-10 principal investigators) groups of investigators working on interdisciplinary problems may particularly benefit from the formation of this new unit. By definition, such a unit would encourage and facilitate the funding of multi-investigator, interdisciplinary projects that can be difficult to advance within the current NSF process. These intermediate-size programs differ from major programs as they can typically be carried through from concept to completion by a smaller group of principal investigators using a mechanism similar to an unsolicited core proposal. Intermediate-size programs will tend to have a shorter duration and aspire to achieve more short-term goals, thus encouraging a turnover of new ideas and opportunities for different investigators while still leaving room for large programs. The interdisciplinary unit should manage grants over the entire spectrum of size and duration. The new unit could help ensure that mechanisms for developing future interdisciplinary efforts of all sizes are clearly defined, foster interagency coordination so that there is a realistic attainment of program goals, and take into consideration international programs. For example, the new interdisciplinary unit could ensure that the broader ocean science community is involved in the planning for new major programs. Once program objectives have been developed, it may become apparent that it is largely a single discipline based effort, and does not require coordination outside OCE. Programs fitting this description could then be managed by the appropriate discipline-specific program. The new interdisciplinary unit could foster coordination among traditional major oceanographic programs by ensuring that the recommendations suggested earlier in this report are carried out. The program manager(s) of the new unit would be well placed to encourage joint program announcements of opportunity to foster future interdisciplinary research. For example, a natural outgrowth of some of the ongoing major programs would be a physical/biological/chemical synthesis program—the proposed new unit would make it easier to fund and manage this important use of major ocean program data. Furthermore, by helping put a "face" on OCE's interdisciplinary programs, the new unit would help

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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.