devised criteria that could be used to help federal agencies and others develop a prioritization scheme. These criteria encompass a wide range of issues, including whether specific infrastructure can help address multiple scientific questions or needs; data quality and continuity; future technology trends; balance between risk and benefit; and national strategic or economic importance. From an economic viewpoint, this type of prioritization needs to acknowledge uncertainties regarding the ability of future ocean science research to produce information relevant to critical ocean-related societal issues.

Recommendation: Development, maintenance, or replacement of ocean research infrastructure assets should be prioritized based on (1) usefulness for addressing important science questions; (2) affordability, efficiency, and longevity; and (3) ability to contribute to other missions or applications. Such prioritization will maximize societal benefit for the nation.

Federal agencies can optimize investments in ocean research infrastructure by following a number of best practices: effectively and efficiently managing existing resources; providing broad access to data, information, and facilities; fostering collaboration at multiple organizational levels; facilitating the successful transition of infrastructure from research to operational use; and ensuring the next generation of ocean science infrastructure. A coordinated, adaptable, long-term strategy for usage of shared, federally funded infrastructure assets, with possibilities to include locally and state-funded infrastructure, and periodic reviews of ocean infrastructure are needed to fully capitalize on investments made by individual agencies.

Recommendation: National shared ocean research infrastructure should be reviewed on a regular basis (every 5-10 years) for responsiveness to evolving scientific needs, cost effectiveness, data accessibility and quality, timely delivery of services, and ease of use in order to ensure optimal federal investment across a full range of ocean science research and societal needs.


The committee identified four major themes that are of compelling interest to society and that will drive scientific research for the next two decades: enabling stewardship of the environment, protecting life and property, promoting economic vitality, and increasing fundamental scientific understanding. Utilizing strategic planning documents, current literature, and community input, the committee converged upon 32 major research questions that they anticipate will be at the forefront of scientific and societal importance in 2030. The scientific questions that will drive research in 2030 are rich and diverse and are of compelling interest to society. The importance of these questions demands continued investment in ocean research infrastructure. In order to address the most important and societally relevant questions, U.S. ocean research infrastructure will be required to serve a broad set of needs. Many of these questions are presently relevant in 2010 but are not simple issues that will result in solutions with a few more years of intensive effort. Instead, they reflect challenging scientific problems that will likely take decades to solve, especially if only limited resources are available. These include the need for a global observational framework with sustained ability to monitor change in the ocean and enhance prediction of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system, a capability to focus on process studies that improve understanding, a focus on environmentally sensitive regions or areas of national security, and the flexibility to deploy infrastructure during events or emergencies.


In this report, U.S. ocean research infrastructure is defined as “the full portfolio of platforms, sensors, data sets and systems, models, supporting personnel, facilities, and enabling organizations that the nation can bring to bear to answer questions about the ocean, and that is (or could be) shared by or accessible to the ocean research community as a whole.” The committee focused on ocean research infrastructure that could be considered community-wide or shared assets, in that they are available to the ocean science community as a whole. The wide array of infrastructure assets currently in use and needed for 2030 include mobile and fixed platforms, in situ sensors and sampling, remote sensing and modeling, and data management and communications. In addition, enabling organizations will be necessary to foster technology innovation and to help train the future ocean science workforce.

An examination of trends revealed that, in the past two decades, the use of floats, gliders, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, and scientific seafloor cables has increased; the use of ships, drifters, moorings, and towed platforms has remained stable; and the use of human occupied vehicles has declined. Based on these trends and on the major science questions for 2030, it is anticipated that utilization and capabilities for floats, gliders, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, submarine scientific cables, and moorings will continue to increase significantly for the next 20 years. Ships will continue to be an essential component of ocean research infrastructure; however, the increasing use of autonomous and unmanned assets will broaden the demands for a wide range of ship capabilities. Many sensor capabilities have increased: longevity, stability, data communications, adaptability, and access to harsh environments. These improvements are mostly dependent on innovations occurring outside the ocean science field, and the oceanographic community will continue

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