Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

Efforts should be made in the research and survey programs to use larger numbers of assistants at the Bachelor's and Master's level to utilize more efficiently the limited number of persons available at the doctoral level.

The third, and arguably most influential report on oceanography, was published in 1969. It is often referred to as the Stratton Report but its full title is Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National Action (CMSER, 1969). However, this report is as weak as the Lillie Report in its recognition of the role and responsibilities of education on oceanography. It makes just two recommendations in relation to education:

NOAA [should] be assigned responsibility to help assure that the Nation's marine manpower needs are satisfied and to help devise uniform standards for nomenclature of marine occupations. (Note NOAA wisely, or by default, did not achieve this!)

NSF should expand its support for undergraduate and graduate education in the basic marine-related disciplines and plan post-doctoral programs in consultation with academic and industrial marine communities.

Hence, forty years after the Lillie Report, education in ocean sciences was largely ignored at the federal level and the individual institutions devised their own responses to local educational needs as well as the perceived national research agenda. The growth of graduate programs in the 1950s and 1960s was in large measure a response to the lack of trained staff, so that both master' s and doctoral programs were created. NAS (1959) made many recommendations about increasing support for students and suggesting stronger ties between oceanographic labs and academic institutions. These recommendations focused almost exclusively on the graduate level.


As the NAS reports did not provide any insight into the role and goals of education in oceanography in the first years of the development of our field, it is now appropriate to ask a series of questions. These questions are not new. Since 1979, a group of deans and directors of academic programs in the United States have met biennially to share information and discuss shared issues related to graduate education. Called the "Deans' Retreat," these meetings were catalyzed by Charley Hollister and Jake Peirson of Woods Hole, and I worked with the group for 17 years ensuring the development of a database for our discussions (Nowell and Hollister, 1988, 1990). The data are now available through the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education ( and the biennial meetings are called the "Ocean Sciences Educators Retreat"

Is Our Role Simply to Produce Professionals? If you attend a meeting of oceanographers you will almost always hear the clarion call that we are producing too many Ph.D.s— new competition who are sometimes out-competing the established scientists. And, if you ever ask in a group why we have doctoral programs, you will hear a uniform response. We want excellent students who are creative and imaginative to assist in transforming the field, and we want the field to expand to absorb these new scientists. But is that the role of academic departments at universities, or is that just one of many responsibilities? In some fields, such as dentistry, the objective of achieving the professional qualification is to practice the art and skills learned. I can think of no other reason for obtaining a DDS degree than to practice dentistry. In the case of a medical degree the objective is overwhelmingly to produce practicing physicians. Does obtaining a law degree mean you will practice law? I would say overwhelmingly yes, unless you choose to enter politics! (Maybe that explains the difference in regard for learning between 1860 and 1999.) But, does an advanced degree in physics mean you are going to become an academic physicist, or does an advanced degree in oceanography mean you can only become a faculty member undertaking research? Table 1 indicates that the answers to these last two questions show a surprising variance. More physicists than oceanographers enter industry than become academics by a factor of three and almost 50 percent more oceanographers enter research in oceanography than engage in research in physics. Is this a consequence of the structure of our field, in which the overwhelming majority of students are supported on research assistantships versus being supported on teaching assistantships or fellowships? Today, a more eclectic vision is emerging among faculty that recognizes and even encourages students to consider careers besides becoming a federally supported researcher. Faculty are recognizing that the relationship of educator to the student is more than the relationship of crafts-person to apprentice.

TABLE 1 Employment of Ph.D. Degree Recipients


Ocean Sciences (%)

Physics (%)










Other (FFRDC)






NOTE: FFRDC = Federally Funded Research and Development Center.

Is Our Role to Produce Scientifically Literate and Numerically Adept Graduates Who Enter a Wide Range of Professions ? One way to answer this question is to look at the employment patterns from our field and compare them with another field such as physics. Tables 2 and 3 compare master's and bachelor's degree employment, respectively, for oceanography and physics.

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