. "Ocean Sciences at the National Sciences Foundation: An Administrative History." 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
a single large project so much as an aggregation of complementary projects, offering opportunities for involvement to scientists in many fields.
The IGY also had administrative features that made it easy for NSF to accommodate. First, it was time-limited: theoretically, at least, it created no long-term commitments for NSF. Even more important, the IGY budget was funded entirely by "new money"—appropriations over and above those for ongoing NSF programs.
THE 1960S: NSF OCEAN RESEARCH IN THE WAKE OF THE IGY
The impact of the IGY experience extended into NSF's traditional research support structure for "small science." Despite the finite limits of the IGY itself, its field programs produced new ideas and generated data that resulted in research proposals long afterward. NSF's role in the IGY made it the natural recipient of proposals of this sort. Furthermore, IGY scientists had enjoyed both the intellectual enrichment and the logistical and financial feasibility offered by coordinated programs. They continued to propose cooperative field programs and other forms of collaborative research that NSF's disciplinary program structure was not equipped to handle.
The IGY greatly increased the visibility and reputation of environmental research. It became apparent that these fields often had research objectives and requirements that were fundamentally different from those of the larger disciplines in which they were intellectually based. As we have seen, MPE's basic structure made it possible for an emerging discipline to argue for a program of its own. By 1959, the Atmospheric Sciences enjoyed separate program status in the MPE division.
Outside NSF, in the aftermath of the IGY, oceanography was widely recognized as a legitimate academic discipline with its own set of research imperatives. The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography (NASCO) and the Interagency Committee on Oceanography (ICO), part of the new Federal Council on Science and Technology, were actively engaged in policy recommendations to expand ocean research and education.
Within NSF, however, oceanography was still not a recognized discipline, and ocean research was still dispersed across the agency. Throughout the early 1960s, NSF created a succession of internal coordinating groups to respond to the growing external requirements of NASCO and ICO as well as to deal with the unique operational and logistic needs of the growing cadre of NSF-supported oceanographers. In 1963, NSF expenditures for oceanography totaled $26.8 million, a sum that exceeded the budgets of many established NSF programs. The agency's inability to deal with ocean research and policy in a coherent way made for difficulties in dealing with the Academy, other federal agencies, and the science community itself.
1960s Reorganizations Bring a Degree of Unity to NSF Ocean Sciences Program
The early 1960s were a period of expansiveness and optimism about government programs in general and science and technology in particular. It was the era of the space program and intense competition with the Soviet Union for scientific dominance. NSF was the recipient of responsibility for many of the new programs. By 1962, the Office of the NSF Director was crowded with a plethora of special offices that had been created as ad hoc responses to new program responsibilities.
The time had come to fold these programs into NSF's line organizations, which had been largely unchanged from its establishment in 1950. As part of the agency-wide consolidation, the formerly independent BMS and MPE Divisions, along with several other research support programs, were brought together under a new organization, headed by an Associate Director for Research (AD/R).
MPE, now a Division of AD/R, took advantage of the new situation to restructure its portfolio. Because of its disciplinary substructure, MPE was able to react to the emerging identity of the environmental sciences as fields in their own right. The former Earth Sciences Program was elevated to the status of a section, putting it on an organizational par with Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering and Atmospheric Sciences. The new Earth Science Section established four component programs: Geology, Geophysics, Geochemistry, and Oceanography . For the first time, the field could point to a "home" in NSF, but it was not comprehensive, covering only submarine geology and geophysics (SG&G) and physical oceanography.
Over the next five years, the evolution and elevation of the environmental sciences accelerated. In 1965, AD/R created a Division of Environmental Sciences. The new division subsumed the Atmospheric Sciences Section and also assumed responsibility for the Office of Polar Programs, which had been shifted among several organizational settings in its short lifespan. In 1967, the Division of Environmental Sciences created a fourth section—Oceanography. The section included physical oceanography, SG&G, and in a significant departure from previous structures, an oceanographic facilities program.
BMS did not use the 1962 reorganization as an opportunity to rethink its structure. At that point, BMS had nine major program areas, and oceanography proposals were handled in several of them. In 1965, the B MS programs were reorganized into a more hierarchical structure, with sections having responsibility for several related programs. This eased coordination problems somewhat, but biological oceanography proposals still straddled too many organizational lines. Finally, in 1968, a Biological Oceanography Program was established in the Environmental and Systematic Biology Section.