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
the growing amount of seismic reflection data at Scripps. The funding to establish the center was raised from the Scripps Industrial Associates, and it opened for business in 1970. State of California funds supported Stu Smith as the curator of the facility. Prior to the establishment of the center, there had been no place to archive geophysical data. Observations collected at sea were considered the property of the principal investigator (PI), and exchanges between PIs were accomplished by a sort of bartering system. In order to convince the PIs that they should place their data in the archive, George Shor came up with the policy of a two-year proprietary hold on the data before distribution to other investigators. Scripps' Geological Data Center and the National Geophysical Data Center, which was established under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsorship at about the same time, changed the way marine geology and geophysics could be accomplished. Data could now be used by a much broader array of researchers to answer questions not yet posed at the time that the data were collected.
Although neither of these two great legacies can be directly attributed to NSF, the Foundation was quick to seize the advantage of geophysical archives and shipboard computers. NSF promoted the archives by insisting that all NSF-funded PIs place their data in an archive facility where it would be in the public domain. NSF funding has allowed both the shipboard computers and the Geological Data Center to continue by allowing some of the costs for these facilities to be included in the day rates for data collection in NSF-funded ship time. And most importantly, NSF provided the funds for countless peer-reviewed grants to use data collected by shipboard computers and archived in the GDC for outstanding science.
Woods Hole was even less centralized than Scripps and had a smaller staff in MG&G, compared with either Lamont or Scripps. Harold Stetson founded the WHOI MG&G group about the same time that Shepard was building the Scripps department. Research at WHOI was not instituted from the top down, although Brackett Hersey, the MG&G department chair immediately after World War II, had a lot of influence. As at Scripps and Lamont, most of the collaborations were forged internally, with liberal use of WHOI adjunct positions as a means of inviting selected outsiders to use WHOI ships. Doc Ewing himself was an example of an outsider who benefited from access to the Atlantis before Lamont purchased the Vema.
In the 1960s, ship time at WHOI was funded apart from individual proposals by ONR and NSF. Department chairs had the ability to assign ship time to staff members, who would then write proposals to cover incidental expenses after ship time was awarded. Charlie Hollister recalls arriving at Woods Hole from Lamont in 1967. The: first thing his department chair urged him to do was to pay a visit to the manager of the new NSF MG&G program in Washington in order to establish a rapport and let him know what sort of NSF support Charlie would need for his science. Charlie recalls how radical this sounded to him at the time. Back at Lamont, Doc Ewing would have considered it high treason for a junior staff member to cultivate his own personal relationships with funding managers.
Despite the advantages to the young PIs of having a very decentralized research system at Woods Hole, there was a downside. No one investigator had the ability to mandate the routine collection of data sets on the Woods Hole ships, and thus Woods Hole did not early on amass the samples and data series that fueled the plate tectonic revolution.
Woods Hole began to step to the forefront sometime later than Lamont and Scripps in the area of MG&G. The development of Alvin gave Woods Hole an asset that was nowhere else duplicated in the academic research community. Project FAMOUS (French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Survey) in the mid-1970s defined a new way of doing marine science (see Ballard paper later in this volume). Whereas much of the work prior to this time had been reconnaissance in nature, FAMOUS concentrated on a small area of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using the submersibles Alvin and Cyana. The data amassed during the FAMOUS expedition led to an examination of the details of accretionary plate boundaries at scales smaller than what the plate tectonic paradigm could predict.
THE TWO REVOLUTIONS
It is interesting to consider how the MG&G community was so uniquely able to capitalize on the ability to make key observations even on non-MG&G cruises and to rapidly store the information in computer-aided archives. Whereas marine bathymetry, magnetics, and gravity could be collected while underway without interfering in whatever other science was to be accomplished on the trip, marine chemists, biologists, and physical oceanographers needed to stop to lower their instruments and collect their samples. Whereas the pertinent information on depth, magnetic field, and gravity field could be reduced to a simple series of numbers, this was not the case for water and biological samples. Even sediment cores collected by oceanographic institutions or by the drilling program were carefully cataloged, subsampled, and archived in a systematic way unduplicated for samples of interest in the other oceanographic disciplines. The ease with which key measurements could be acquired and shared, with help from NSF funding, helped propel U.S. researchers in MG&G to the forefront in two of the most important revolutions in science.