5
Gaps and Follow-On Activities

To identify possible gaps and overlaps between major oceanographic programs, the committee concentrated its efforts on those arising from program design, as well as scientific challenges that at present, may not be adequately addressed. Moreover the committee concentrated on generic gaps such as contingencies, process studies, time series, sustained observations, the research fleet, modeling, data management, and the required infrastructure. Gaps in a program can develop as a result of incomplete planning by the SSC, or more likely, as a result of incomplete funding in the respective areas. Gaps can also arise from a lack of understanding of what other major oceanographic programs have included in their science plans, thus stressing the need for frequent communication among major oceanographic programs.

Gaps Within And Among Programs

The various examples of gaps or overlaps discussed in this chapter are intended to highlight problems that need to be addressed in the future. Through this approach, future programs may be able to maximize their scientific efforts. To identify the most significant gaps among the major oceanographic programs, the committee developed a study approach (Box 5-1) to guide its systematic examination of the variety of science problems addressed by the major programs.

Program Contingency Plans

Conducting any scientific research program requires preparation for unexpected events and results (surprises). Suitable flexibility in the research plan is



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 71
5 Gaps and Follow-On Activities To identify possible gaps and overlaps between major oceanographic programs, the committee concentrated its efforts on those arising from program design, as well as scientific challenges that at present, may not be adequately addressed. Moreover the committee concentrated on generic gaps such as contingencies, process studies, time series, sustained observations, the research fleet, modeling, data management, and the required infrastructure. Gaps in a program can develop as a result of incomplete planning by the SSC, or more likely, as a result of incomplete funding in the respective areas. Gaps can also arise from a lack of understanding of what other major oceanographic programs have included in their science plans, thus stressing the need for frequent communication among major oceanographic programs. Gaps Within And Among Programs The various examples of gaps or overlaps discussed in this chapter are intended to highlight problems that need to be addressed in the future. Through this approach, future programs may be able to maximize their scientific efforts. To identify the most significant gaps among the major oceanographic programs, the committee developed a study approach (Box 5-1) to guide its systematic examination of the variety of science problems addressed by the major programs. Program Contingency Plans Conducting any scientific research program requires preparation for unexpected events and results (surprises). Suitable flexibility in the research plan is

OCR for page 71
Box 5-1 Task Group 3 Study Approach Task 3) The committee will assist federal agencies and the ocean sciences community in identifying gaps and appropriate follow-on activities to existing programs. Question 3a: Are there gaps in the major oceanographic programs included in the study focus group? Data used: 1.   short- and long-term research plans used to identify gaps between the programs; 2.   short- and long-term research plans used to identify gaps in the programs; 3.   brief descriptions of new programs planned; 4.   list of relevant issues in ocean science to be addressed by future programs; and 5.   explanation of program contingency plans (e.g., how to provide reserve funds for core activities needed to address unexpected science questions?). Question 3b: Are there obvious follow-on activities for the mature major oceanographic programs? Data used: 1.   input from ocean science community about possible follow-on activities; 2.   research community input about continuation of long-time series; 3.   description of data collection activities that should be made into sustained observations and operational activities; and 4.   description of modeling and assimilation activities. Questions 3c: Do adequate facilities and infrastructure presently exist for inter-program follow-on activities? Data used: 1.   UNOLS planning documents; 2.   data assimilation (DA) documents for each program; and 3.   description of each program's plans for post-program data management. important to successfully address the unexpected. For example, one criticism of major oceanographic programs has been that they are developed to address the ''known unknowns." These known unknowns are usually important scientific problems; however, important breakthroughs and discoveries often come unexpectedly. In attempting to address today's known unknowns through the formation of major oceanographic programs, researchers should be prepared to meet and respond to surprises, or "unknown unknowns," through contingency plans.

OCR for page 71
The committee asked the scientific steering committees (SSCs) of each of the major oceanographic programs specific questions (Appendix D) about contingency planning. None of the SSCs stated that they specifically set aside funds for contingencies, although all of the programs did state that unexpected events arose that required a modification to the implementation plan. JGOFS and WOCE mentioned that unexpected events arose from changes in ship time, funding, and equipment and satellite deployment delays. RIDGE and TOGA mentioned scientific issues that arose during the lifetime of the program. In the case of RIDGE, one of the unexpected events was the surprise finding of the frequency and nature of eruptive events on the Mid Ocean Ridge (MOR), which can be monitored "real time" with the U.S. Navy's Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). The time scale on which these events unfurl is amazingly fast (days to weeks). This required cooperation on the part of NSF on very short time lines to enable RIDGE scientists to study these events. In the case of TOGA, "No one foresaw the TAO array [a system of moorings designed to observe the oceanic and atmospheric conditions used to predict the occurrence and severity of El Niño] at the beginning of TOGA nor the powerful role prediction would have." In both the RIDGE and TOGA examples, mechanisms were developed to handle the contingencies. In the case of RIDGE, "some scrambling went on,'' but efforts to ensure realization of the most significant scientific goals were successful. In the case of TOGA, money was diverted from other TOGA activities to help establish the TAO array. When queried about whether there was sufficient flexibility in funding to address new scientific questions that appeared only as the program evolved, replies varied substantially among the different programs. At one extreme, JGOFS stated that they had "little or no flexibility to address new scientific questions unless they were extremely low-budget items." They further stated that this was one of the major criticisms of the program, "little 'new' science." At the other extreme, a former SSC chair for TOGA specifically cited three examples of the program's ability to execute a major refocusing. The first example concerned the formation of the TOGA Program on Prediction (T-POP) after it became apparent that the prediction aspect of TOGA was far enough developed. The second example concerned the TAO array mentioned above, while the third example was the formation of TOGA-COARE (Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment—a field program conducted in the western equatorial Pacific). RIDGE suggested that they were "very flexible" and that there was no great difficulty ensuring that new scientific questions were addressed. WOCE also stated that their program evolved, although they attributed this "largely to the development of new instrumentation." It is apparent that the programs exhibit varying degrees of flexibility for contingencies, with TOGA and RIDGE having had the most flexibility. None of the programs specifically set aside contingency funds, although several dealt with new scientific questions as they arose. Indeed the TOGA panel went so far as to

OCR for page 71
specifically recommend "… that the program office have contingency funds that do not have to be peer reviewed." The ability of programs to achieve their scientific goals has sometimes been hampered by lack of funds to address contingencies such as scientific surprises and environmental uncertainties. Funding agencies and the major oceanographic programs should develop additional mechanisms to deal with contingencies. Programs should be encouraged to maintain a planning process that allows for adjustments to be made in investigative strategies to address unforeseen issues and new scientific questions that arise during the course of the major oceanographic program. An option is for funding agencies working together with the programs to consider withholding a small percent of funds (from all major oceanographic programs) to be awarded as necessary. Combined Process Studies Earth system processes can interact through nonlinearities in the system. In this case multiple-process studies will be required to determine how variability of one process modulates another, with the intention of identifying and properly modeling both positive and negative feedback in the system. Combined observational process studies are essentially two or more single-process studies that are co-located and contemporaneous, and can provide a multivariate data set with critical mass for validation of coupled models and satellite products. Such field programs provide a facilitating framework for interdisciplinary studies, and they can provide better context and supporting information than single-process studies. Combined process studies are difficult to fund, organize, and conduct, and they generally require good collaboration among big programs. The TOGA-COARE (Webster and Lukas, 1992) is an example of a combined-process study that was designed to fill several gaps. Such multiple process studies may help in the future to address gaps in our understanding of the Earth system, including those components that include oceanic processes. Continuation of Time Series Long-time series observations are of critical importance to efforts to understand the role of ocean processes in climate variability, the dynamics of world fisheries, and other significant marine issues. Ocean time series (and other sustained observations) are often used by more than one major oceanographic program, and will be used by future major oceanographic programs and individual investigators. Time-series observations that span and extend beyond each major oceanographic program are needed to determine the representativeness of the results of the major oceanographic programs, and provide linkages among programs. Long, multivariate time series are required to test models that contribute to the success of present and future major oceanographic programs.

OCR for page 71
There is an apparent gap in the knowledge of temporal and spatial variability of many ocean parameters. One of the most effective mechanisms to address this gap is the collection of long-time series and other sustained observational data. Long-time series and other sustained observational data play a significant role in detecting and understanding the causes of global change, and in enhancing our ability to distinguish local and short-time variability from significant and regional variability. Discussions among programs and various sponsoring agencies regarding the cost and probable usefulness of the resulting data sets to the wider community should lead to a coordinated effort to fund and maintain the most critical time series and other sustained observational data. Efforts to improve the efficiency of long-time series and other sustained observational data collection should be encouraged, including support of the development and application of new technologies. The Transition of Data Collection into Sustained Observations The growing urgency for observation systems that operate for a decade and more, and which, in most cases, are global or at least basin-wide in scope, dates back to at least IDOE. These needs will likely go unaddressed unless the burden for their long-term execution is shifted from the academic community. Academic scientists usually don't carry out such operations as they are incompatible with the traditional value placed on original and innovative research during funding and promotion reviews. Much of what is required to maintain long-time series and other global observations can generally be thought of as "operational." Conversely, government agencies generally decline to invest in new instrument systems due to the long lead times required (sometimes 10-20 years) to go from new idea to widely available instrument. These factors combine to make obtaining long-time series observations one of the most difficult challenges facing the ocean science community. Yet the key to maintaining long-time series is to make them routine and operational. These observations can serve a valuable role to decision makers long after they have ceased to be important components of research programs. In response to this need, the international community developed the concept of a global ocean observing system (GOOS). GOOS was envisioned as a means to facilitate the "operationalization" of long-term ocean observations (IOC, 1996). Two NRC committees have reviewed plans for GOOS and its potential benefits. Implementation of GOOS is expected to be carried out by national organizations, which will make observations and produce derived products, and by national and international bodies, which will archive and distribute the data and derived products (NRC, 1997). However, few of the recommendations of these reports have been implemented and, with the notable exception of NOAA putting the TOGA TOA array into operational mode, few, if any, long-time series initiated by major programs have been taken up. As major ocean programs near conclusion, the

OCR for page 71
program and sponsoring agencies should establish (with input from the community) priorities for moving long-time series and other observations initiated by the program into operational mode. Factors to be considered include data quality, length, number of variables, space and time resolution, accessibility for the wider community, and relevance to established goals. Infrastructure Related Gaps The vast majority of the scientific capabilities represented by the major oceanographic programs are centered around observational platforms, laboratory facilities, and computers. Gaps in this infrastructure can translate into limitations in each program's ability to achieve the greatest possible scientific return on the substantial investment made in these efforts. The Research Fleet The capabilities of the fleet need to be matched to the scientific needs of the oceanographic community. UNOLS, in concert with the ocean science community and funding agencies, has developed and continues to update plans to maintain this fleet (UNOLS, 1990; UNOLS, 1995; Betzer et al., 1995). Over the past 20 years, the number of ships in the UNOLS fleet has declined slightly, with 31 ships in 1978 and 28 ships in 1997. The useful life of a research vessel is about 30 years, and older vessels have been replaced whenever possible. This is reflected in the present UNOLS fleet, which contains only 12 vessels that were in the fleet in 1978 and only one vessel that was constructed prior to 1970. An example of this planning process is the development in the 1980s of plans to construct three large research vessels to replace aging large ships to be retired in the 1990s (R/V Thompson, Washington, and Atlantis II). The planned new vessels were to be available for the present generation of U.S. major oceanographic programs and were designed to meet those needs. The gestation period for an oceanographic vessel is 6 to 10 years; thus, the vessels that were initiated in the mid-1980s have come on-line in the past few years. The construction of these vessels was underwritten by the Office of Naval Research, consistent with plans to pursue "blue water" oceanography in the 1990s. The first of this AGOR-23 class of vessel, R/V Thompson, became available for scientific research in 1991. The other two, R/V Revelle and R/V Atlantis, became available in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The R/V Ron Brown also came on-line and, although operated by NOAA, is considered part of the UNOLS fleet. At present, the major oceanographic programs are in the midst of a period of declining need for ships (see Table 5-1). The trend illustrates the problem of the planning for resources that require very long lead times and that have relatively long lives in comparison with the activities of the science community and its funding. As recently as the early 1990s, it was projected that there would be a

OCR for page 71
TABLE 5.1 Recent Trends in Ship Support at the National Science Foundation (In Current Dollars) NSF Budget 1987 1996 Percent Change (1987-96) Ocean science research $66.4Ma $104.9Ma 58 Ship operations $26.0M (25 ships) $31.1M (28 ships) 20 Operational days 3444 2745 -20 Ship Operations/Research × 100 39.2 29.6   SOURCE: UNOL.S aThe numbers provided by UNOLS in this table differ slightly from those reported by NSF/OCE in Appendix F ($66.5 M and $106.5 M, respectively). NOTE: The intent of this table is not to single out NSF, which has been one of the most consistent supporters of seagoing science, but rather to illustrate a significant trend, that is, the fraction of at-sea operations in the ocean sciences is much smaller today than it was just 10 years ago and accounts for a much smaller fraction of the budget. Only the addition of new fleet users, such as NAVO, has kept fleet operations at constant levels. shortage of research vessel time by the mid-1990s. The problem is more a change of emphasis than a shortage. The increase in coastal programs by NSF, ONR, and NOAA may require new vessels capable of berthing multi-investigator teams of researchers to work in shallow coastal waters. If the strategic planning for science and facilities, including ships, is coordinated (as recommended in Chapter 4), then as the ships are retired and replaced, the capabilities of the fleet can change in response to the scientific needs of the oceanographic community. Modeling, Synthesis and Data Assimilation There may be indications that a gap exists in a major oceanographic program when the modeling and data collection components appear disjointed. Data assimilation, whereby data and models are used together to improve the understanding of a particular ocean system or process, can naturally bridge gaps between the modeling and data collection components of a major ocean program. In addition, as data collected in the framework of one program are likely to be useful to other programs, data assimilation and data exchange can also act to bridge gaps between programs. TOGA dealt with the issue of follow-on activities in modeling and data assimilation through its culmination in the formation of NOAA's Climate Diagnostics and Experimental Prediction Centers and the International Research Institute (IRI). These facilities were established after a basic understanding of interannual variability

OCR for page 71
in the tropical Pacific was achieved. They provide a concrete example of trying to turn basic science into deliverable products (seasonal forecasts) through the knowledge gained from a major oceanographic program. A consistent complaint of the modeling community has been an inability to access sufficient computing resources. In addition, the WOCE SSC pointed out that "resources for model development and improvement are extremely difficult to obtain." Computer technology has dramatically improved over the past few years so that desktop workstations today are as computationally powerful as early supercomputers. Supercomputers are designed for use on the most computationally expensive model applications. They are best utilized by having relatively few users running long integrations (e.g., climate model integrations or eddy-resolving ocean studies). If more distributed computing were made available, the load on the nation's supercomputing facilities would decrease, thereby making them more available for the applications for which they were designed. Synthesis and assimilation of the large amount of data produced by the major oceanographic programs depend initially on timely data processing and convenient availability for users. Assuming that these mechanical aspects are successfully achieved, expansion of knowledge will occur slowly as individuals dig into the data and gradually develop new insights and viewpoints. In order to meet the needs of the ocean science community and make use of the data sets from the major oceanographic programs, the nation's modeling and ocean data assimilation capabilities should be enhanced. Future efforts directed toward meeting this goal should incorporate existing facilities (data repositories) when possible and appropriate. Systems that are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain and do not require major infrastructure support should be made more accessible in order to meet the needs of most of the ocean modeling community. It is envisioned that modeling teams at various research institutions would band together to develop greater capabilities than individual institutions or teams could bring to bear on the problem. In addition, with the existence of high-speed communication links among the nation's institutions, it would be relatively simple for inter-institution proposals to be put together. Federal agencies should continue to strive for improvement of high-speed communication links among the various research institutions. Federal agencies are encouraged to move toward the funding of dedicated computers for ocean modeling and data assimilation, with distributed facilities. Data Management As major oceanographic programs make the transition into their synthesis phases, there will be a compelling need for enhanced data assembly for use in synthesis and assimilation exercises. While facilities (e.g., the National Oceanographic Data Center [NODC]) exist for data archiving, they are not presently

OCR for page 71
handling and coordinating the real-time collection of environmental variables necessary for sustained data assimilation. Data management for major ocean programs represents a challenge to traditional methods of archiving, managing, and distributing derived products including model output. The emergence of new data distribution media, such as inexpensive CDs and the World Wide Web, have radically altered current capabilities. The NODC has evolved and is working with the major ocean programs to incorporate new types of data, new tools, and distributed personnel and data bases into its approach. Federal agencies in partnership with NODC should take steps to prepare for this supporting role as the ocean sciences community focuses more effort on data assimilation. Other Infrastructure Components As discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, major oceanographic research programs depend heavily on research facilities and technological infrastructure (e.g., research vessels and computer systems). Experience suggests that existing programs are occasionally limited by a lack of adequate infrastructure. The committee therefore considered whether, based on current circumstances or future trends, adequate infrastructure could be expected to support any new initiatives designed to address gaps. To understand the broader aspects of infrastructure requirements and identify potential limitations that may jeopardize investments in ocean science research, the broader community was invited to comment on two separate questionnaires (Appendix D and E). Apart from fleet and computing infrastructure, which have already been addressed, there appear to be technological limitations that can be attributed to shortfalls in funding. That is, the respondents suggest that gaps in funding make it difficult for researchers to take full advantage of technological progress, rather than gaps in technology limiting scientific progress. Issues concerning the lack of time and inability to hire expertise are indirectly funding issues. There is also a concern that experimental groups that have grown under major ocean programs will not be sustained and may disappear when the programs finish (a sustained funding issue). There may be reason to be concerned about the impact that a loss of core competency may have if some sustainable level of research activity is not achieved and maintained. The problem of sustained employment of technicians and engineers needed to support basic ocean research is related to the "softness" of oceanographic research. The recommendation in Chapter 4 under Facilities is a step in this direction. Potential Follow-On Activities The committee identified a number of areas that could be considered as gaps among existing programs. However, since existing programs were not designed

OCR for page 71
to represent a coherent set of research initiatives, the fact that the committee identified gaps is not unexpected. These gaps can be considered opportunities for future research, though some may not require a specific follow-on program. The committee considered many sources in assessing gaps and follow-on activities. These included input from SSC questionnaires, the World Wide Web questionnaire, and input from a number of groups presently considering the initiation of large programs or the future of ocean science research in general. A considerable effort is being undertaken presently by the ocean science community to identify scientific challenges that may be pursued in the future. NSF/OCE has convened a series of discipline workshops1 to help chart the future of research in the ocean sciences, including FUMAGES2 (The Future of Marine Geology and Geophysics), OEUVRE3 (Ocean Ecology: Understanding and Vision for Research), APROPOS4 (Advance and Primary Opportunities in Physical Oceanography Studies), and FOCUS5 (Future of Ocean Chemistry in the United States. NSF/OCE presently has a group of scientists synthesizing the results from these four workshops. Given the extensive community involvement in these workshops, the committee determined it unnecessary to attempt to replicate or anticipate the outcome of these efforts. The reports of these workshops form a comprehensive view of the scientific challenges that may shape ocean research in the coming decades. Of particular interest is the degree of collaboration with other disciplines called for in each of the reports. The following should be considered as a list of general scientific opportunities that may warrant a number of organized research efforts on a variety of scales. (For another recent assessment of future challenges by the Ocean Studies Board see Opportunities in Ocean Sciences: Challenges on the Horizon. [NRC, 1998]). The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, rather it was designed to highlight those activities that had some potential for near future activities, that would involve coordination across disciplines, and that represent scientific challenges of sufficient scale: The ocean's role in the hydrological cycle including freshwater fluxes, polar ice dynamics, and groundwater input, and effects of these exchanges on the circulation and heat flux, chemical species, and marine ecosystems. Cycling of nutrients and dissolved organic matter within the oceans including their chemical associations, sources (primary production, rivers, groundwater, aerosols, sediment pore waters), and sinks (photooxidative processes, and biological utilization). 1   http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1998/nsf989/nsf989.htm, May 20, 1998 2   http://www.joi-odp.org/FUMAGES/FUMAGES.html, May 20, 1998 3   http://www.joss.ucar.edu/joss_psg/project/oce_workshop/oeuvre/help.html, May 20, 1998 4   http://www.joss.ucar.edu/joss_psg/project/oce_workshop/apropos/logistics.html, May 20, 1998 5   http://www.joss.ucar.edu/joss_psg/project/oce_workshop/focus/; August 13, 1998

OCR for page 71
The role of the ocean in decadal to centennial climate variability including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and its relationship with El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) modulation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, seasonal variability of monsoons, and adaptation of the circulation, seawater chemistry, and organisms to these changes. The ocean's response to anthropogenic climate change including radiatively important gases—their production in the atmosphere and fate and transport in the oceans; seawater properties, circulation, and genetic mixing of biological populations and nutrient inputs from groundwater and the atmosphere and their role in coastal eutrophication. The importance of 3-D and 4-D6 reflection seismic data to better image a number of geologic phenomena including the structure and evolution of divergent and convergent margins, sedimentology, and stratigraphy of continental shelf and shoreface settings. On-axis and off-axis mid-ocean ridge process effects on the geology, biology, and alteration of seawater chemistry. Multidisciplinary observing of deep-sea processes, for example the relationship between primary productivity and the flux to the deep-sea, high-resolution climate signals in the deep-sea, genetic make up, and effect on the geological record of the microbiology of the deep seafloor. Development of technology for modeling and data assimilation for forecasting and integrating the physical climate system, biogeochemical fluxes, and population biology. Addressing Gaps There are several ways to address gaps within a program and between programs. One way is to strengthen links between the major oceanographic programs. This can be achieved through joint workshops, forums, and plenary sessions at annual meetings. These would be attended by members of the major oceanographic program steering committees and principal investigators, with the goal of fostering coordination. These workshops could be held as a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Institutes, Gordon Conferences, Chapman Conferences, or Dahlem Conferences, or they could be organized through the National Research Council. Communication could also be strengthened through World Wide Web sites and newsletters. All of the major oceanographic program representatives responding to the questionnaires (Appendix D) emphasized the need to foster communication among major oceanographic programs. 6   4D reflection data refer to 3D data collected over time (the fourth dimension) to show how reflector geometries may change through time.

OCR for page 71
There was not a strong feeling that communication within their own major oceanographic programs was lacking, however. A number of mechanisms can help the planning process by identifying scientific gaps among existing programs. Although implementing a number of steps discussed in Chapter 3 should reduce or eliminate gaps resulting from lack of coordination among existing major programs, some gaps will undoubtedly remain (i.e., some scientific gaps cannot be adequately addressed simply by improving coordination). To enhance communication and coordination in the oceanographic community, NSF/OCE and other sponsor agencies should continue to develop and expand the use of various mechanisms for inter-program strategic planning, including workshops and plenary sessions at national and international meetings and greater use of World Wide Web sites and newsletters.