. "Two Years of Turbulence Leading to a Quarter Century of Cooperation: The Birth of UNOLS." 50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950-2000. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000.
The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
tion, research proposals submitted to NSF and other agencies are not approved in sufficient time to permit the development of an optimum or realistic ship schedule. These difficulties now exist within all oceanographic institutions and could be significantly improved if NOLS provided stable funding. It is, of course, most important that our present difficulties in funding and scheduling not be compounded by the imposition of unworkable outside constraints.
Paul Fye's letter framed the debate.
The directors of Woods Hole, Lamont, and Scripps would meet in August at Woods Hole to consolidate their resistance to the NSF plan for NOLS and would request an audience with McElroy. In the meantime, virtually every oceanography laboratory director responded to McElroy with concern and alternatives to the NSF plan (e.g., not seven regions, but two; an unrestricted directors' fund). The Navy weighed in, too. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Robert A. Frosch, in a letter to McElroy (August 10, 1970), urged that any implementation of the NOLS concept recognize the Navy's research needs and permit flexibility of the oceanographic laboratories to respond to these needs.
But the lab directors felt they needed more clout. They turned to the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography to engage its support. Essentially from its membership, NASCO created a Facilities Utilization Panel to address NSF's NOLS proposal. Not too surprisingly the panel consisted of laboratory directors, former directors, and other leaders.2
The panel indicated that the NOLS plan as formulated by NSF "has substantial merit and that its adoption in the modified form proposed below will result in a significant advance in the U.S. Oceanographic Programs . . . ." The panel laid out guiding principles, the foremost of which was "to improve the level and stability of federal support for academic oceanography."
Other principles included leaving control of ships programs in the hands of working scientists, building on the ship-operating experience of existing laboratories, enhancing the sharing of facilities among qualified investigators, maintaining mutually agreed upon cooperative arrangements rather than establishing centralized control, maintaining freedom for scientists from any laboratory to work in any geographic area, and involving other federal agencies. The panel also proposed that a review committee reporting to NSF be established to assess the effectiveness of all ship and laboratory programs. In addition, an implementation plan was described that called for cooperative planning based not on the geographic location of laboratories but on common interest in areas of operation or major oceanographic problems. There were no surprises, but this report did come from the Academy.
Although the debate was on, and was intense, innovative ideas were surfacing. The laboratory directors argued for stable core funding (at an increased level) but not fettered by federal control or bureaucracy. On the other hand, NSF was concerned about fragmentation, the random distribution of facilities and scientists, the rising costs of ship operations, the decline of ONR support, the need for greater accountability, and the pressure to accommodate scientists from non-ship-operating institutions. NSF believed these factors called for greater centralization of planning, scheduling, and assessment. NSF had the input from the lab directors McElroy had requested. It was time to act.
Mary Johrde had been given responsibility for NOLS within NSF. Her short version of a NOLS Planning Document was issued in January 1971 with the opening caveat from Benjamin Franklin, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." It reflected the tone of concern within NSF. It was vintage Johrde. Her perspective was from Washington; she cared; she was determined. Eight or so lab directors on one side; Mary Johrde on the other— the odds were almost even.
The proposed NOLS plan of January 1971 succinctly defined the NSF position. It described the factors leading to the NSF position and stated firmly NSF's intentions with respect to how the academic oceanographic fleet would be managed and what NSF's role would be.
NOLS (January 1971)
In the "NOLS Planning Document: Short Version," Mary Johrde reviewed the development of federal support of oceanographic vessels (32 vessels operated by 18 institutions), and the factors NSF believed called for a change in management and operation of the facilities (ships, submersibles, aircraft, data acquisition systems, docks, shops, etc.).
The objective, it said, was "to preserve to the maximum extent the independence and integrity of existing oceanographic institutions and concurrently to create a mechanism for cooperative utilization of oceanographic facilities."
Then, "This objective will be achieved by an association of institutions in a national system in which utilization and acquisition of oceanographic facilities will be justified in terms of the facilities requirements of those qualified scientists who can make a contribution to the national oceanographic effort. Individual institutions will continue to operate facilities, but scheduling, assessment and planning with respect to their utilization and acquisition will be handled cooperatively by the System" (emphasis by the authors).
Further, only those institutions electing to participate would receive support for acquisition and operation of ships,
The foxes were in the hen house. Their report was released in December 1970. The NASCO Facilities Utilization Panel included Richard B. Bader (Miami), chair; Wayne V. Burt (Oregon State University); Peter Dehlinger (OSU and ONR); Paul M. Fye (Woods Hole); Jeffrey Frautshchy (Scripps); John Lyman (formerly U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office and NSF); Robert A. Ragotzkie (Wisconsin); and George P. Woolard (Hawaii).