Executive Summary

The National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) was created nearly 30 years ago and has matured into a state-federal partnership with unique roles and great potential for helping the United States address coastal issues of resource management, academia-industry interactions, environmental quality, and economic competitiveness. Sea Grant combines research, outreach, and education activities to approach these issues of importance to society and provides a great potential resource to its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere requested that the National Research Council examine NSGCP as NOAA prepares for the reauthorization of the National Sea Grant College Program Act in 1995. A committee of diverse expertise was assembled to conduct the requested evaluation which was completed over a three-month period.

The committee agreed that NSGCP has played an important role in U.S. marine science, education, and outreach. The great potential of the program has not been achieved, however, because of fiscal limitations coupled with various organizational and management difficulties. The committee identified many problems and developed possible responses to mitigate these problems. From among these various issues, the committee identified six that it believes are the most important and made recommendations to address them.

ISSUE 1—SEA GRANT'S POSITION WITHIN NOAA

Finding: Sea Grant is not properly positioned within NOAA to fulfill the objective of the National Sea Grant College



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A Review of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program Executive Summary The National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) was created nearly 30 years ago and has matured into a state-federal partnership with unique roles and great potential for helping the United States address coastal issues of resource management, academia-industry interactions, environmental quality, and economic competitiveness. Sea Grant combines research, outreach, and education activities to approach these issues of importance to society and provides a great potential resource to its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere requested that the National Research Council examine NSGCP as NOAA prepares for the reauthorization of the National Sea Grant College Program Act in 1995. A committee of diverse expertise was assembled to conduct the requested evaluation which was completed over a three-month period. The committee agreed that NSGCP has played an important role in U.S. marine science, education, and outreach. The great potential of the program has not been achieved, however, because of fiscal limitations coupled with various organizational and management difficulties. The committee identified many problems and developed possible responses to mitigate these problems. From among these various issues, the committee identified six that it believes are the most important and made recommendations to address them. ISSUE 1—SEA GRANT'S POSITION WITHIN NOAA Finding: Sea Grant is not properly positioned within NOAA to fulfill the objective of the National Sea Grant College

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A Review of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program Program Act1 or to contribute in efficient and effective ways to NOAA's missions. Sea Grant's location within a Line Office focused on research inhibits Sea Grant's non-research activities and makes it difficult for the program to function across Line Office boundaries. Sea Grant is one component of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). Sea Grant's research, outreach, and education activities seem to be isolated from similar activities carried out within other Line Offices and cannot be integrated fully within the present NOAA structure. Sea Grant's strengths in certain subject areas, and its established network for interacting with states, contribute to activities outside OAR and could make a great contribution to all of NOAA, if appropriately located. Recommendation: The Administrator must ensure that NSGCP has appropriate responsibility and capability for research, education, and outreach across NOAA. NSGCP should be relocated within NOAA to report directly to the Office of the Administrator. ISSUE 2—SHARED VISION AND STRATEGIC PLANNING Finding: To date, Sea Grant has not developed a strategic plan to articulate a shared vision of its future and specify how it integrates its programs to achieve a set of appropriate goals. The lack of a shared vision, common to all Sea Grant partners, for what Sea Grant is and should become, may have hindered its operations and decreased its visibility and utility within NOAA. Although different participants in the Sea Grant system are engaged in strategic planning, there was no evidence that these activities would yield a unified product that would integrate state and NOAA endeavors and priorities. New initiatives and ongoing research themes are not presently rationalized into an integrated set of activities for which Sea Grant is uniquely qualified. Recommendation: State Sea Grant directors and the Director of the National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) must cooperate to develop a single strategic plan articulating a shared vision and strategies which must be fully integrated into, and reflective of, NOAA's strategic plan. Unified Sea Grant strategic planning should begin immediately so that its results can be incorporated in the FY1997 NOAA budget. 1   See Appendix 1 for excerpt from the National Sea Grant College Program Act.

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A Review of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program ISSUE 3—OVERLAPPING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES Finding: Management advice by NSGO is inadequate, NSGO and the state programs duplicate proposal review (Issue 4) and strategic planning (Issue 2), and the Sea Grant Review Panel (SGRP) has initiated activities that should have been undertaken by NSGO. State programs and NSGO conflict in proposal review and incipient strategic planning activities and there does not appear to be a carefully designed division of responsibilities that reflects what each participant in the Sea Grant system might do best. Present roles are more a product of history than of thoughtful design or effective management. More detail on roles in strategic planning and proposal review are given in issue 2 and issue 4, respectively. Sea Grant could capitalize on its strengths and fill an empty niche by making regional activities a major priority. Recommendation: The roles and responsibilities of the state Sea Grant directors, NSGO, and SGRP must be clarified. The resultant roles and responsibilities of NSGO and SGRP should be clarified by the NOAA Administrator prior to the 1995 reauthorization. ISSUE 4—PROPOSAL REVIEW AND PROGRAM EVALUATION Finding: The Sea Grant process for reviewing research proposals and for processing grants is slow compared with other federal agencies and is not standardized at the state level. There is redundancy in proposal review between the state and national levels. The process is further complicated by being coupled to the overall program evaluation process. At present, state programs conduct review processes of their own designs for individual proposals, followed by an additional review carried out by NSGO. The structure of this process slows the review so that it is impossible to complete in a single year. The coupled proposal review-program evaluation is not designed to serve either purpose well and results in high administrative costs for the Sea Grant program. Recommendation: The review process for research proposals should be decoupled from the NSGO evaluation of state programs prior to the 1995 reauthorization. Standard scientific and peer review procedures should be implemented for all state Sea Grant programs. The review process and all

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A Review of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program aspects of program implementation, including administration, should be streamlined prior to FY1996. NSGO should evaluate the success of each state program on a four-year cycle, using, in part, retrospective information on recent achievements, based on measures for each of the three areas of research, education, and outreach. SGRP should evaluate the performance of NSGO on the same timetable. ISSUE 5—INTERACTIONS WITH INDUSTRY Finding: The mutually beneficial opportunities of university-industry cooperation envisioned by Sea Grant program founders have not been realized. State programs and NSGO interact with industry through a variety of mechanisms, including industry advisory groups, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, and a limited number of applied research projects. These interactions are tightly focused, limited primarily to small companies, and are not a significant source of Sea Grant funding. Recommendation: NSGO and the state Sea Grant programs must increase their interactions with marine industry to include program policy guidance, expanded outreach and marine advisory services, joint research projects, and substantial industry financial support of the Sea Grant program. Action to address this recommendation should form part of the examination of the performance of each state program. These actions should be identified in the Sea Grant strategic plan. ISSUE 6—FUNDING Finding: Level funding, growth in the number of participating state programs, inflation, and increased NSGO administrative costs have severely eroded the real purchasing power of NSGCP since its inception and are preventing the program from providing its full potential contribution to the nation. Funding data examined by the committee showed that Sea Grant fiscal resources have decreased in purchasing power over time, yet are still spread over the same broad program areas. The committee concluded that Sea Grant has not been able to capitalize on many opportunities in areas where the program has proven its abilities, because of a lack of fiscal resources.

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A Review of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program Recommendation: The committee agreed that NSGCP needs additional funding to fulfill its potential. In the last decade, the purchasing power of the average research grant has declined by about one-half. A steady increase in funding is necessary if the program's potential contributions to the nation's economic and environmental health are to be realized. Any additional funds appropriated to NSGCP should be split between enhancement of meritorious state programs and support of new initiatives. All six of the recommendations above must be implemented in order to improve Sea Grant's performance. Rapid implementation of these recommendations would help Sea Grant more efficiently manage its responsibilities and more wisely use any additional funds provided by Congress. If necessary improvements are not made, the committee suggests that Congress consider changes in the Sea Grant program and authorizing legislation. Congress might consider an alternate location for the Sea Grant program in order to ensure that the nation 's marine science objectives are met.

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