. "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.
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50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
and for this agreement to participate, NSF "will, in so far as possible, express its intent two years in advance to commit NOLS support for operation of ships and other shared facilities" and will urge ONR to do likewise. No promises would be made with regard to facilities added to the mix after the establishment of NOLS.
A description of the NOLS organization then followed. There would be two regions: an Eastern Region and a Western Region; the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes might be subdivisions of the Eastern Region; Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Territories, part of the Western Region. There would be operating committees for each region to schedule the facilities within the region and to assess needs for additional or replacement facilities. In addition, there would be a Central Committee for Planning and Assessment for the entire system.
The NOLS office within NSF would be designed to provide management functions matching those of the academic sector. NSF and ONR would establish joint panels to consider ship operation requirements and ship construction and conversion. NSF would select two "host institutions" to take the lead for organizing meetings, and so forth in the Eastern and the Western Regions; NSF would provide funding for meetings and would approve the nominations by the institutions for the Regional Organizing Committees. The document then went on the describe how NOLS would actually function.
The reactions of the laboratory directors ranged from concern to outrage. In their eyes the NOLS plan was a proposal to take over a significant portion of their management responsibility and authority, the portion that determined where, when, and how they would conduct research in any part of the ocean. Their resistance stiffened.
Again, Paul Fye wrote to Bill McElroy (March 22, 1971): "Dear Bill; I know some of your staff have been puzzled at the strong opposition found within the oceanographic laboratories over the last form of the NOLS plan . . . Our concern with the NSF (January, 1971) statement of the NOLS operational plan is as much with the philosophy on which it is based as with the operational mechanics themselves."
He then went on to review the intent of the Stratton Commission in recommending UNLs, discussed the importance of the relationship "between the creative scientist and the tools of his research," and wrote of the concern about and resistance to the plan on the part of senior scientists at Woods Hole.
Why is this so when admittedly its [the NOLS plan] purpose is good, its goals are desirable and overall it isn't a bad plan? The fundamental error is that it removes the operational control of research tools further from the creative scientist. Is this necessary to achieve these goals and this purpose? We think not.
We are pleased that NSF has consulted the oceanographers who use the research ships about this plan. We recognize the sincere attempt by members of your staff to understand our objections. I understand that a continuing committee cosponsored by the Academy and the Foundation will explore ways for further improvement of the NOLS plan.
In his response (April 7, 1971), McElroy stressed the need for "participatory management of oceanographic facilities by the academic community in conjunction with the Foundation" (emphasis ours). The groundwork for collaboration was reinforced. McElroy then referred to a joint meeting in April of representatives of oceanographic laboratories and NSF staff to consider changes and possible improvements to the NOLS planning document.
To the credit of Mary Johrde and her NSF colleagues, some type of compromise seemed appropriate. The group of laboratory and NSF representatives met on April 23 and 24, 1971, and drafted a compromise plan. It met again in July and August to refine the compromise proposal and to prepare it for presentation to the academic community.
On August 4, 1971, "A Proposal to Establish a University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System" (UNOLS) was completed and then distributed to the academic oceanographic laboratories. The proposal acknowledged the development of a strong U.S. oceanographic program and of the importance of the academic oceanographic laboratories in this development, but it also recognized factors that could have an effect on the long-term viability of U.S. leadership in oceanography.
The academic community is also acutely aware that the continued health of the programs depends heavily on its assuming greater responsibility to assist the funding agencies in an appropriate manner in monitoring the utilization of these resources to insure: that there is a proper balance between research and facility support, that available facilities are used efficiently, that scientists from both ship-operating and non-ship-operating laboratories have access to the sea, that needs for new facilities or the phasing out of old or excess ones are assessed and priorities established accordingly. that long-term support becomes an integral part of planning, and that consideration be given to the encouragement of new operating elements only to the extent that a demonstrable need for such exists and sufficient continuing support is available.
In order to provide a mechanism whereby the academic community can assist the Federal agencies in meeting the responsibilities noted above and at the same time continue the high standards of research that have been exhibited in the past as well as to provide a flexibility of operation allowing for a coordinated approach to some of the future challenges—it is proposed that the academic laboratories organize a system in which they can work cooperatively together and with the funding agencies for the effective use, assess