Infrastructure and Intellectual Capital
This chapter considers whether the draft ORPP adequately addresses the three broad categories of resources—physical infrastructure, information infrastructure, and intellectual capital—needed to ensure that the priorities delineated under the six themes of the ORPP are achieved.
In general, the draft plan successfully lists most of the types of physical infrastructure that will be required to achieve the ORPP priorities: vessels, earth-sensing satellites, buoys, unmanned vehicles, new sensors (particularly aimed at biological and chemical ocean variables), and more. It also mentions, correctly, various needs for more widespread deployment of many of these tools and integration of their measurements. However, as it stands, the draft does not go beyond the stages of listing and mentioning. It does not provide goals and objectives that are connected to the stated priorities nor does it delve substantially into implementation-related specifics such as numbers of sensors or vehicles, deployment patterns, and spatial and temporal sampling coverage with respect to the six themes and priorities. Consequently, it is not possible, at this stage, to answer the question of whether the plan adequately considers these tools (Task 7).
To define the adequacy of the physical infrastructure requires that the ORPP provide the following information or state the need for incorporation of the following information within the implementation plan that would be aligned with the ORPP.
Delineate the specific objectives to be accomplished for each ocean research priority, to include targeted spatial and temporal scales and acceptable margins of error for each objective.
Define the state of the science associated with each objective. This is needed to serve as a baseline and the springboard for planning and prioritizing ocean research directions and the subsequent need for physical infrastructure, whether existing or nonexisting, to address each direction.
Specify the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary purposes for physical infrastructure across and within research objectives. This determination is warranted to avoid overlap and redundancy of physical infrastructure within and across the ocean priorities and to make judicious and cost-effective use of existing and planned data and information inventories.
Inventory existing physical infrastructure, its adequacy, condition, and long-term viability for the purpose of accomplishing the ocean research priorities and objectives. Existing surveys should be used to facilitate the development of this inventory.
Unless this information is made available within the ORPP or its implementation strategy, it will not be possible to accurately determine the adequacy of the existing physical infrastructure.
Research needed to address the recommended ocean research priorities will require infrastructure to model, assimilate, analyze, and broadly exchange data and information at levels that currently do not exist. This information infrastructure includes the requisite hardware; software, including models and visualization tools; and personnel to ensure that massive amounts of disciplinary and interdisciplinary ocean sciences data are available for purposes of research, decision and policy making, and public use. To ensure the capability to store massive amounts of data for long periods of time, decadal and beyond, the required information infrastructure will have to be expandable in architecture.
The discussion here essentially parallels that given above regarding physical infrastructure. Plans exist that address needed information infrastructure for ocean sciences, including state-of-the-science computational resources and an ocean observing system designed to meet the
current needs of the nation (e.g., NRC, 2000c; OITI Steering Committee, 2002); however, these plans were not written in the context of the ocean research priorities outlined here. While a discussion of the infrastructure recommended in these and other reports may be informative, it cannot address the committee’s specific task (Task 7) regarding the adequacy. Therefore, the existing plans can only serve as guidance in defining information infrastructure and not as the basis for determining the adequacy of the information infrastructure cited in the ORPP, for reasons discussed in the previous section.
Education was highlighted as an important and necessary component of a visionary ocean plan by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century (USCOP, 2004). The cover letter of An Ocean Blueprint addressed to the President of the United States, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, states that “formal and informal ocean education should be strengthened to better engage the general public, cultivate a broad stewardship ethic, and prepare a new generation of leaders to meet future ocean policy challenges.” While the objective of educating the people of this nation regarding the ocean is widely acknowledged and accepted and is mentioned under each of the six ORPP themes, the draft ORPP is less than clear on the intellectual capital required to understand, manage, steward, and sustain the oceans and to benefit from them. It is clear, however, that substantial scientific, technological, and workforce development, and educational expertise aimed at each theme, will be needed once specific goals, objectives, and time lines are established.
As in the preceding two sections, the draft plan contains mention, but scant quantitative assessment, of the need for intellectual capital or the future workforce that will be required to carry out the research and related work envisioned in the plan. Short shrift also is given to the social science workforce needs that are integral to the plan. The needs run from Ph.D. researchers to electronics technicians to science managers to experts in formal and informal education and outreach, social science, and economics, and the overall adequacy or inadequacy of existing preparation for these needs is surely different from type to type.
Much larger national and international issues regarding the enhancement and competitiveness of the science and technology enterprise, well beyond the ORPP, intersect here. Global competitiveness, reviewed in
the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm (NRC, 2006b), involves the technical sophistication of the U.S. workforce, and the ocean sector of that workforce is no exception. The ocean-related work-force draws on, but is a small fraction of, the national workforce that will need substantial scientific and technological capabilities.
Although a discussion of the myriad existing reports regarding the need for intellectual capital in this nation may be informative, it cannot address the specific question regarding the adequacy of the intellectual capital infrastructure for reasons discussed in the previous sections. It is known, however, that the existence and expansion of the U.S. H1-B1 visa program is an indicator of this nation’s present need for additional intellectual capital, capital that currently does not exist in this country. Therefore, additional statements and recommendations regarding intellectual capital await the development of the implementation strategy, including its goals, objectives, timetable, and budget.
ADDRESSING THE STATEMENT OF TASK AND RECOMMENDATIONS
For Task 7, the committee was asked to assess whether the plan adequately considers the following resources: physical infrastructure, information infrastructure, and intellectual capital. Because a definitive statement regarding the adequacy of infrastructure and intellectual capital cannot be made without an examination of the implementation strategy, the ORPP does not adequately consider physical infrastructure, information infrastructure, and intellectual capital. An implementation plan typically includes goals, objectives, needs assessments, and budget— elements that are essential for evaluating whether resources are adequate to address the research priorities.
To provide the information needed to determine adequacy, a clear and focused delineation of goals and objectives as aligned with the themes, priorities, and near-term priorities is needed. In addition to the statement of objectives, further information is required to detail the specific requirements of each objective, to include spatial and temporal scales of data and information and their “acceptable” margins of error,
and the time period during which the objectives are to be accomplished. This level of information was not provided in the draft ORPP.
RECOMMENDATION: The final plan should move toward greater specificity in the area of infrastructure in order to command serious attention from its intended audiences. The plan, to be credible, needs to move beyond mere lists of types of infrastructure required. Many prior thoughtful and more detailed plans and reports on important aspects (e.g., fleet renewal, earth-sensing satellites, national and global ocean observing systems, computational or information technology requirements, intellectual capital) exist that should be taken into account for current status, trends, and needs or requirements. This should be done notwithstanding the fact that improving the plan in this manner necessarily involves matters of implementation that currently lie outside the draft plan.
RECOMMENDATION: The ORPP should take heed of broader workforce issues and information sources in revising, clarifying, and improving its projections of needs in this area. Relevant prior work and reports pertaining to physical and information infrastructure exist largely within the ocean or earth science communities. The same is now true for information on the status and trends of the broad national technological, scientific, and social scientific workforce from which the varieties of intellectual capital implicitly required under the ORPP will have to be drawn (e.g., NRC, 2006b).
RECOMMENDATION: The ORPP should place greater emphasis on education as one of its cross-cutting themes. The committee has previously recommended (see Chapter 3) that the concept of cross-cuts be reintroduced in the ORPP and feels that education should be included as one of these cross-cuts. Education is fundamental to the development of the intellectual capital required to meet the needs of the ORPP and underpins the overarching ability to successfully achieve the ocean research priorities. Without the examination of