IMPORTANCE OF THE OCEAN TO SOCIETY
The ocean dominates Earth's surface and greatly affects our daily lives. It regulates Earth's climate, plays a critical role in the hydrological cycle, sustains a large portion of Earth's biodiversity, supplies food and mineral resources, constitutes an important medium of national defense, provides an inexpensive means of transportation, is the final destination of many waste products, is a major location of human recreation, and inspires our aesthetic nature.
Today's sense of urgency about ocean studies is precipitated by human impacts on oceanic systems and the need for a better understanding of the ocean's role in controlling global chemical, hydrological, and climate processes. The nation is faced with pressing marine research problems whose timely solution will require increased cooperation between federal agencies and academic scientists. Many of these problems arise from the need to accommodate multiple uses of the ocean and from the ever-increasing concentration of the U.S. population near its coasts. Oceanographic research is important to many of the nation's social concerns, including the following:
Global Change. The ocean plays a predominant role in regulating both natural and human-induced changes in our planet. The role of ocean circulation and the coupling of the ocean and
the atmosphere are basic to understanding Earth's changing climate. Regional events such as El Niño and ocean margin and equatorial upwelling influence climate on both seasonal and longer time scales. The world's population is now large enough to alter the chemical composition of the ocean and atmosphere and to impact the biological composition of Earth.
Biodiversity. The oceans comprise a large portion of Earth's biosphere and support a vast diversity of flora and fauna that are critical to Earth's biogeochemical cycles and serve as an important source of food and pharmaceuticals. In addition to the exciting discoveries of previously unknown biota near hydrothermal vents, many deep-ocean organisms have evolved under relatively stable conditions. Their unique physiologies and biochemistries have not yet been explored adequately, and methods for sampling the more fragile of these species have been developed only in the past decade. Human influence on marine biota has increased dramatically, threatening the stability of coastal ecosystems. Some species have been overharvested; others have been transported inadvertently to areas where they are not indigenous, sometimes resulting in deleterious effects on native species. Still other species are being cultivated commercially, and aquaculture facilities along coastlines are becoming commonplace in some countries. A better understanding of the ecology of marine organisms is urgently needed to prevent irreversible damage to this living resource.
Environmental Quality. Waste disposed in coastal areas has reached the open ocean, with broad ramifications for living resources. This problem is compounded because many marine species harvested for commercial and recreational purposes spend a portion of their lives in coastal waters and estuaries. Thus, local pollution can have far-reaching effects.
Economic Competitiveness. Economic prosperity in a global marketplace depends increasingly on technical and scientific applications. There is concern about the ability of the United States to compete with Europe and Asia. Basic and applied research in marine science and engineering is necessary to achieve and maintain a competitive position in a host of fields, including marine biotechnology, aquaculture, hydrocarbon and mineral exploration and production, maritime transportation, fisheries, treatment and disposal of waste, and freshwater extraction.
National Security. Unprecedented world political changes are redefining national defense interests and altering research and development priorities. Knowledge of the ocean, especially the
acoustic properties of marginal seas and coastal areas, is critical to national defense. Experience gained in 1991 during the war in the Persian Gulf highlights the need for better information related to oceanic and coastal processes and to maritime operations and transportation.
Energy. The ocean's energy resources are essential to the national economy and national security. After a decade of relative neglect, energy issues are reemerging. With oil supplies continually threatened by instability in the Middle East and with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide viewed as a possible trigger of global warming, there is a need to look carefully at a full range of energy sources, from oil and gas in our Exclusive Economic Zone to wave and tidal power and ocean thermal energy conversion. Better knowledge of the ocean and seabed is necessary to exploit responsibly the ocean's untapped petroleum and natural gas resources.
Coastal Hazards. This nation must improve its prediction of and response to coastal hazards, both natural and human induced. Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, two of the strongest hurricanes of the century, devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast. Their impact reinforced the need for better predictive capabilities and a better understanding of coastal storm surges, flooding, erosion, and winds. The exploration for, and production of, petroleum and the transportation of petroleum and chemical products pose risks to the environment when spillage occurs. The movement, effects, and ultimate fates of spilled products must be understood for effective public response. The available information is woefully inadequate, particularly for fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs.
Increasing our knowledge about the ocean is a matter of urgency. Human-induced changes to the planet's oceans and atmosphere will increasingly affect the global cycles that ultimately control the number of people our planet can support. To predict the results of environmental disturbances and prescribe possible remedies, a better understanding of Earth's systems, including the ocean, must be acquired. For example, an important scientific and policy question today is whether Earth will warm in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, if so, how quickly. We know that the concentrations of these gases are increasing and that the most advanced climate models indicate that warming should occur. The ocean plays a key but poorly understood role in moderating both greenhouse gases and temperature change.
The coast of the United States is one of the nation's most
valuable geographic features. It is at the junction of land and sea that most of the nation's trade and industry take place. The effectiveness with which the resources of the coastal zone are used is a matter of national importance. The multiple uses of valuable coastal areas generate intense state and local interest. From 1950 to 1984 the population in coastal counties grew more than 80 percent. By 1995, more than three-fourths of the U.S. population will live within 50 miles of the coastline.
Coastal waters and estuaries provide food and are the shelter and spawning grounds for almost two-thirds of the nation's commercial fish stocks. Oil, gas, and mineral resources in the coastal waters are essential to our national economy and security. Since the first offshore oil well was drilled off California in 1896, numerous oil and gas pools have been discovered near our coasts.
Recent reports of increased pollution of estuarine and coastal waters are cause for serious concern and action. Waste disposal, especially from pipelines, runoff, and dumping at sea, jeopardizes our ocean and coastal waters. The toll that waste takes on the ocean is persistent and growing. The continuing damage to estuarine and nearshore resources from pollution, development, and natural forces raises serious doubts about the survival of these systems. Better understanding of these systems is essential for good policy decisions.
Policy decisions concerning these and many other interactions of the ocean with everyday life rest upon a sound scientific understanding of the ocean. To the extent that such policy decisions are to be useful, they must be consistent with the best available information about how the system works: its physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. Both the government and the scientific community as a whole must ensure that what is known about the ocean is made available to policy makers, that what is not known is clearly stated, and that progress in furthering our basic understanding continues.
Our nation excels in oceanography. Since World War II, the United States has been a world leader in essentially every area of oceanography. To maintain this excellence will require a talented population of scientists, an informed and educated public, a society that is interested in and appreciative of new discoveries, open lines of communication between oceanographers and the scientific community at large, and economic resources for conducting
oceanographic research on the frontiers of knowledge. Excellence in oceanography also requires harmony between its basic scientific aims and the pressing needs of society.
We cannot take for granted the continued excellence of oceanography in the United States because the foundation of facilities and human resources developed in the past must be renewed constantly. Continued excellence in oceanography is essential to the national interests of the United States. Agencies that fund oceanography can help maintain the competence of the field as problem areas change. Flexibility and variety in scientific approaches can be maintained by an extramural funding strategy that both responds to changing problems and needs and maintains a strong overall base of scientific activities in the field as a whole. It is more difficult for agencies to respond quickly to change through their own laboratories.
Vannevar Bush's Science: The Endless Frontier is still the classic statement of the essential ingredients of scientific excellence. He noted that ''without scientific progress no amount of achievement in other directions can insure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation in the modern world. This essential new knowledge can only be obtained through basic scientific research." He further stated that "basic research is performed without thought of practical ends . . . leads to new knowledge, provides scientific capital, creates the funds from which the practical applications of knowledge must be drawn." Finally, he stated that "government must fund science in accordance to certain fundamental principles" including the essentiality of quality, improved efficiency of research expenditures, and increased cooperation in setting goals and priorities.
U.S. OCEANOGRAPHY SINCE WORLD WAR II
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States constructed a scientific research mechanism of outstanding success, which for years dominated scientific progress. Many studies described the nature of this research enterprise. A wide consensus exists that much of its success has been due to the partnership between the federal agencies that became the patrons of science and technology and the major research universities, both public and private. Marine science shared in the general outstanding progress, although its history is exceptional in several ways.
The war thrust the United States into global affairs, and its many sea campaigns not only drew public interest to the ocean
but also highlighted our ignorance of it. Most members of the small marine science community turned to military-oriented work in uniform, in the civil service, or at universities and related institutions. Academic ships, as well as those of the federal government, were put to work on Navy research and surveying tasks. The Navy needed and received oceanographic help in everything from submarine warfare to amphibious landings. Although this assistance contributed to the war effort, of even more importance, it impressed on the nation the fact that marine science was not an abstract endeavor but could contribute to the public good in many fields.
The plan of Vannevar Bush at the end of World War II for government support of university science led to the formation of the Office of Naval Research (ONR). It was charged with ensuring the development of strong academic research programs in scientific fields of interest to the Navy. The growing Cold War and the threat from both surface and, particularly, submarine vessels led ONR to conclude that expanding and generally strengthening the basic science of the ocean were in the national interest. With ONR's financial backing, existing marine research centers were expanded and new ones created. Initially, ONR was more concerned with institutional support than with program definition. There was generally only one contract per institution, proposals of work were often loosely defined, and the director of the institution had considerable discretion in transferring funds from one investigator to another. In 1950, the National Science Foundation (NSF), dedicated primarily to the support of peer-reviewed single-investigator research in the academic community, was created.
The postwar and post-Sputnik periods from 1960 to 1980 were marked by a national awareness of the rest of the world and an intense interest in science. These encouraged international cooperation in research, tempered strongly by a U.S. desire to achieve world leadership in science and technology. In marine science, interest grew from our coastlines to the globe, leading to such major ocean-related programs as the International Geophysical Year, the Deep Sea Drilling Project, and the International Decade of Ocean Exploration. Through both its small science programs and large coordinated programs, NSF rapidly became a significant supporter of oceanography and is now the dominant supporter of academic ocean research. The Navy, which almost single handedly provided impetus and financial support for the postwar academic expansion in oceanography, has progressively concentrated its support in a relatively limited number of Navy-relevant areas and in pro
viding major oceanographic research vessels. NSF has increasingly borne the costs of both research and ship operations.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), established in 1970, has developed several mechanisms for working with the academic community. NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program added a new dimension to university marine science programs by concentrating primarily on applied coastal research and developing extension and public information networks. In particular, Sea Grant supported areas of marine science not emphasized by ONR and NSF—the study of estuaries, fisheries, and pollution and the transition of such research to practical applications. The proximity of NOAA oceanographic and fisheries laboratories to academic institutions leads to opportunities for joint educational and research programs, of benefit to both the academic and the federal laboratories. NOAA provides comparatively modest extramural research funds as part of its Climate and Global Change Program and its Coastal Ocean Program and through the National Marine Fisheries Service. Other federal agencies support academic scientists, notably the Departments of Interior and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In the past decade, oceanography has incorporated new technologies from other fields, for example, space research, electronics, and computer science. A fundamental change arising from the use of new technologies has been an increase in both the quality and the quantity of data collected. Thus each oceanographer's capacity to study ocean phenomena has increased dramatically. This increase has also increased the cost of each oceanographer's scientific research.
Another significant change is the planning, primarily with NSF support, of large-scale, long-term global research programs that focus the work of many scientists on global ocean questions. These large programs are part of the overall scientific quest. They are usually managed by international consortia that involve many scientists, multiple agencies, and often a number of countries. The experience of working in these programs will lead us to ask different questions and to explore different mechanisms of working together in the next decade.
U.S. STYLE OF LARGE PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
Since the 1970s, U.S. marine scientists and the federal government have shown remarkable ingenuity in developing mechanisms
to meet the challenges of large new programs. Instead of developing large permanent organizations with new facilities as in some other countries, U.S. programs, such as the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment, Geochemical Ocean Sections, Coastal Upwelling Ecosystem Analysis, and the Climate: Long-Range Investigation, Mapping, and Prediction projects, have evolved differently. Large programs typically developed within the academic community through workshops. The community formed scientific steering groups, which were accepted and funded by NSF and other federal agencies, and set up program offices. These offices are located at academic institutions, and program staff is hired for the project duration. The program office may move as the leadership of the program changes. Upon completion of the research program, the staff assumes other duties and the facilities are used for other purposes, so there is no long-term drain on agency resources.
OCEANOGRAPHIC RESEARCH, NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL
Oceanographic research involves studies of the motion of the water, the distribution of marine life, and the interaction of sea-water with ocean boundaries. Knowledge of the exchanges of energy, heat, and mass at the ocean-atmosphere interface is important to climate and weather prediction. Oceanographic research has advanced from the past era of exploration to one of observation and description of ocean systems and of processes within the ocean and among the ocean, atmosphere, and ocean basins and boundaries. Because of the advances in satellite observation, computer modeling, and technology (e.g., global positioning systems and acoustic tomography), the coming decade of research holds much promise.
The ocean science community has developed several multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research programs that should significantly improve our knowledge of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes occurring in the ocean. One important goal of these programs is to understand ocean processes in sufficient detail to allow predictions to be made of the impact of human activities on the environment. Because of the global scale of many environmental problems and the substantial resources (i.e., financial, infrastructure, and human) required, large ocean research programs are often cooperative international efforts.
The nation's academic capability in ocean science is robust. It is reflected in strong academic departments at many public and
private universities, mixed with a few large oceanographic centers. U.S. academic oceanographers are internationally recognized leaders who are key to international scientific activity. Although the United States funds perhaps half of the global total of oceanographic research in many of its disciplines, international cooperation is vital for achievement of the goals of most large global research programs. The academic community could contribute significantly to the study of the ocean and to solutions to the spectrum of ocean-related environmental problems now facing the nation and the world.
This report has three major objectives. The first is to document and discuss important trends in the human, physical, and fiscal resources available to oceanographers, especially academic oceanographers, over the last decade. Its second goal is to present the board's best assessment of the scientific opportunities in physical oceanography, marine geochemistry, marine geology and geophysics, biological oceanography, and coastal oceanography during the upcoming decade. The third and principal objective is to provide a blueprint for more productive partnerships between academic oceanographers and federal agencies. The board attempts to do this by developing a set of general principles that should provide the basis for building improved partnerships and by discussing critical aspects of the specific partnerships for each federal agency with a significant marine program.
Chapter 1 introduces the importance of the ocean to society and the need for maintaining excellence in marine-related research and education. The growth of U.S. academic oceanography since World War II and the structure of both national and international research are discussed.
Chapter 2 discusses partnerships in ocean science. A general partnership theme is presented, followed by specific partnership possibilities with agencies of the federal government. This report does not discuss partnerships with states and industry, which may be explored by the board at a later time.
Chapter 3 details some of the scientific opportunities of the
next decade and some of the most important ongoing research programs. It describes opportunities and programs for each of the four major subdisciplines of oceanography: physical, chemical, geological, and biological, as well as for the interdisciplinary area of coastal oceanography.
Chapter 4 presents information about the infrastructure of oceanography. Included is a discussion of the human, physical, and fiscal resources. This initial overview of the field's resources raises many questions that should be examined at a later date. In-depth analysis and synthesis remain to be carried out.