Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

mission recommendations. At the Department of Interior, organization was initiated to incorporate the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the department. (Later circumstances resulted in NOAA becoming part of the Department of Commerce.) NSF saw a role for itself with regard to the University-National Laboratory recommendation, and convened a meeting of representatives of the major oceanographic laboratories in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 1970. At the meeting, NSF proposed a National Oceanographic Laboratory System (NOLS), and on May 25 it followed with a memorandum from William D. McElroy, Director of NSF, with details. Labeled a "discussion paper," the NSF proposal called for mechanisms to enhance the coordination and operation of oceanographic research vessels on a regional basis, with the vessels available to all users on an equal basis. (It had been rumored that during prior years, vessels from several laboratories had sailed to the Mediterranean unbeknownst to each other. The lack of coordination had resulted in the loss of an opportunity to conduct synoptic research and, furthermore, led to expenses that might have been reduced had the operational plans been coordinated.)

The major features of the proposal called for "block funding" of "key capabilities" of NOLS labs; multiple-year funding or some "alternative form" of long-term commitment, the sharing or coordinated use of specialized facilities, and "coordination in the planning and the conduct of research to effect national specialization within a balanced program." Several alternative management structures were proposed, but a grouping in seven regions was favored by NSF. There was an implication in the wording of the discussion paper that Woods Hole and Scripps would be the operators for "worldwide cruises of well-defined and well-reviewed programs of national interest.''

The directors of the medium-sized but aspiring laboratories (e.g., Rhode Island, Oregon State, Washington) were concerned. The directors of Woods Hole and Scripps were pleased at the thought of stable long-term support, but were dismayed by the possibility of centralized federal control of their ship operations. One can only imagine the thoughts of those at Lamont—mentioned by Stratton, but omitted by NSF. McElroy called for "frank and informal" responses to the NSF proposal. He would receive them.

To the laboratory directors, who were focused on the possibility of stable financial support, it looked like an attempt by NSF to take over the control—if not the actual operation—of the oceanographic fleet. The suggestion that the fleet be regionalized was an added threat, particularly to the larger laboratories, which sent their vessels to all oceans of the world.

Woods Hole took the lead in reacting. In a graciously worded letter (July 16, 1970), the Director of Woods Hole, Paul Fye "Paul," wrote to William D. McElroy, Director of NSF "Dear Bill". Fye responded to the NSF proposal for a regionalized NOLS. The letter included an addendum as to how Woods Hole would operate within NOLS, should NOLS in the proposed form be adopted.

Woods Hole "enthusiastically supports the efforts you are undertaking to explore new ways to meet the growing problems of oceanographic research" (emphasis by the authors). Fye pointed out that the key factors in the NOLS concept of cooperative planning and cooperative use of facilities were already happening, particularly at Woods Hole. Mention was made of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES), the International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE), the Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP), the Geochemical Ocean Sections Study (GEOSECS), and so forth. "These illustrations point out that a great deal of cooperative planning and operation already exist . . .. Perhaps more significant to the NOLS plan is the extensive use of Woods Hole ships by non-Woods Hole staff members . . . we contend that we have an excellent record in making facilities available to oceanographers from outside our Institution."

Fye then went on to indicate that any strategy should ensure that good science would have top priority, that ships would be used efficiently, and that cruises would be planned to achieve optimum scientific results; duplication should be avoided and seagoing opportunities should be provided to competent scientists from laboratories not operating ships. Then, "In order to achieve these objectives, we feel the following conditions are essential. First, adequate funding must be available on a long-term and flexible basis. Next, organization and coordination must be such that they involve minimum bureaucratic procedures. Further, the scheduling of ships must be in the hands of the operating institution which has the responsibility to ensure these are managed properly. " (emphasis Fye's). Essentially the labs wanted more and stable funding, few constraints, and autonomy to continue scheduling and operating their vessels.

With regard to regional coordination. Fye recommended that Scripps, Woods Hole, and Lamont form an interinstitutional committee to review scientific programs and ship scheduling for worldwide ship operations, and that similar groups be established for operations for the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lake s regions. In the remainder of his four-page letter, he made a strong plea for stable core support for the oceanographic laboratories and that the laboratories be free to manage themselves. He would also take a shot at the funding agencies.

". . . each oceanographic laboratory has problems facing it today which the implementation of the continuing core support aspect of NOLS could alleviate. There is a general crisis in ship funding; currently no one has assurances as to whether or not they will be able to operate research ships, submersibles, or aircraft in the next calendar year. Since this involves expenditure of many millions of dollars (3.5 million for Woods Hole next year) any mistake in estimating the available funding could prove to be extremely damaging to the financial status of the operating laboratory. In addi-

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement