. "Keynote Lecture The Emergence of the National Science Foundation as a Supporter of Ocean Sciences in the United States." 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
I am convinced that the spawning of a number of major university oceanographic institutions, each operating one or more large ships and other facilities, has been a major reason for U.S. world leadership in oceanography. Managing a large research vessel can expand one's intellectual horizons. Someone on your staff has an interest in the flux of ions across the air-sea interface, which requires taking your ship to a variety of locations; then comes the question of what happens when these chemical constituents leave the boundary layer; and five years later, as happened to me at the University of Rhode Island, you suddenly find yourself with an atmospheric chemistry program larger than that in any meteorology department in the United States at the time.
It can also add another dimension of experience. Finding ways to repair an engine in a foreign port some 4,000 miles away, or getting a crew member out of jail in the same port, broadens your range of experience and increases your confidence. I expect there was never any doubt in the minds of the directors of Scripps, Woods Hole, Lamont, and the University of Miami (at that time the big four of oceanographic institutions) that they were quite capable of overseeing the work of Global Marine and the conversion and operation of its oil drilling vessel the Glomar Challenger for the Deep Sea Drilling Program. Later, the informal consortium was formalized as the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI), Inc. and participation in the ocean drilling program became international, but major operational responsibility still rests in the different JOI institutions. I know I am not alone when I claim that the Ocean Drilling Program (as it is now called) is one of the most successful, as well as one of the longest-running, singularly focused international oceanographic research programs. The leadership, including the formal direction of the program, has come from the major university oceanographic institutions of the United States.
If somehow the decision to operate major oceanographic facilities had gone the other way—if the responsibility for ship operations had been vested in a central organization, for example, the marine equivalent of NCAR—then I expect buoy arrays, submersibles, and similar facilities would have been housed there also. If this had happened I believe ocean science would be weaker in the United States than it is today.
However, having said this, I believe it is the National Science Foundation, and not the major oceanographic institutions, that deserves much of the credit for ensuring that the academic ship operation program works as well as it does and continues to be acceptable to the ever-growing group of scientists who need to find a way to work at sea. In the beginning, each institution ran its ship program differently. What might be available as ship support or a ship' s scientific equipment at one institution would not necessarily be available at another. One needed to know the details. As a consequence the scientist in charge of a seagoing program generally came from the same institution as the ship. As the family of seagoing oceanographers grew, not all made their careers at ship-operating institutions. The UNOLS program does much to guarantee uniformity of support among the ships of the fleet. The ships are different and some programs can only be accommodated on certain vessels, but the number of unpleasant surprises concerning vessel furnished facilities and support has been significantly reduced, if not entirely eliminated. You no longer need be a part of a ship-operating institution to conduct a major research program requiring a research vessel.17
If the early ship support practices of ONR and NSF that evolved into UNOLS did much to define the early development of academic oceanographic institutions in the United States, the NSF support of multi-institutional, multi-investigator programs through the International Decade of Ocean Exploration did much to define the practice of oceanography in the 1970s. These large programs, each with its own catchy acronym, established a pattern of doing oceanography that continues today. How the IDOE came to be and was organized is described in the paper by Jennings later in this volume.18 I wish to note the contribution of these programs to what might be called the sociology of oceanography. Just as I believe the operation of oceangoing ships did much to define the oceanographic institutions for the first half of NSF's 50 years, so I believe NSF's sponsorship of large multi-investigator programs has done much during the last 25 years to develop a level of cultural sophistication among the oceanographic community found in relatively few others fields of science.
Oceanographic field work is expensive and often frustrating. Many of the most interesting problems are best attacked by a multiprobe program. Those who succeed at sea with their observational and experimental programs soon learn that it can be dangerous to put all of one's effort into a single approach or a single instrument. We also learn that serendipity often plays a larger role than we wish to admit in whatever successes we achieve. By 1970, many of those with extensive seagoing experience were ready to embrace the concept of a multifaceted, multi-investigator approach to oceanographic field work. We believed it was the most cost-effective way to attack problems that were often not as well defined as we liked to suggest in our proposals. Multi-investigator programs followed naturally, and several were in the planning stage at the start of the IDOE: the Geochemical Ocean Sections Study (GEOSECS), the Mid-Ocean Dynamic Study (MODE), and the Climate: Long-Range Inves-
For a discussion of UNOLS and its establishment, see Byrne and Dinsmore, this volume.
Jennings, F.D. and L.R King. 1980. Bureaucracy and science: The IDOE in the National Science Foundation. Oceanus. 23(1): 12-19; see also Jennings, this volume.