. "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
first time, five Presidentially-appointed subordinates—a deputy director and four assistant directors (ADS). He undertook a complete reorganization, bringing in new people to fill the new posts. Assistant directors for Institutional Programs, Education, and Research were named, all with instructions to streamline their respective organizations.
The new Assistant Director for Research (AD/R) decided to unify, at last, the biological and physical sides of ocean sciences. The Biological Oceanography Program was transferred to the Ocean Science Research Section (OSRS) of the Division of Environmental Sciences, joining the existing programs in Physical Oceanography and SG&G. A few years later, Marine Chemistry would be established as a separate program, rounding out the OSRS offerings.
The last of the new AD positions was used to create the Directorate for National and International Programs (AD/NI). A former Chief of Naval Research was appointed to the position and charged with nothing less than revolutionizing NSF's approach to coordinated research and large-scale facilities and centers. The astronomy observatories, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the DSDP were pulled out of their respective research areas and brought together in an Office for National Centers and Facilities (NCF). The Office for Antarctic Programs was transferred from AD/R, as was Sea Grant. The latter, however, would be transferred to NOAA just a few months later.
Responsibilities for oceanographic facilities were also transferred from AD/R, and AD/NI was given the additional duty of Special Project Officer for NOLS—the National Oceanographic Laboratory System—the emerging fleet coordinating entity. A short time later, these functions would be brought together as the Office of Oceanographic Facilities and Support (OFS).
In the late 1960s, the specialized agencies of the United Nations had generated recommendations for a coordinated international research effort in the world's oceans. The idea found strong support among U.S. science advisors. In 1969, the White House announced a special Presidential initiative, the International Decade for Ocean Exploration (IDOE), and assigned responsibility to NSF, along with $15 million in "new money," NSF's favorite currency. The IDOE assignment went to AD/NI.
In many ways, the 1970 reorganization was a major step forward for the ocean sciences. AD/R' s unification of all of the sub-disciplines in the OSRS was an essential and overdue recognition of the comprehensiveness of the field, and enabled NSF to interact more rationally with the community. AD/NI's emphasis on management and accountability brought significant improvements to the Foundation's oversight practices for centers and facilities. For OFS and IDOE, AD/NI proved to be an excellent incubator for the special management attention needed to gear up new programs and create the necessary interagency and international linkages.
On the other hand, the separation of facilities and "big science" from the research project support aspects of their respective disciplines was a controversial move. At a practical level, it created bureaucratic coordination problems for NSF staff and the affected research communities. Perhaps of more concern in the long run, the reorganization underscored the long-standing tensions between "big" and ''small" science by making them direct competitors for NSF resources.
For the ocean sciences, one of the fields most affected by the split between the project research "base" and the larger programs, the reorganization came at a particularly important time. Between the new funding brought into the field by the IDOE and the ongoing reduction in ONR support, NSF had become the lead agency in the support of academic oceanographic research. To some extent, the Foundation's ability to act effectively in that role was weakened by the divided administrative structure for the field.
The International Decade for Ocean Exploration
This paper will offer only brief comments on some of the organizational aspects of IDOE; Feenan Jennings discusses IDOE's scientific legacy later in this volume. As indicated in the prior section, IDOE was created as a Presidential initiative.
The role IDOE set for itself was the sponsorship of a small number of large-scale long-term research projects, drawing on the expertise of specialists from all disciplines, to address scientifically challenging and socially relevant problems in the oceans. Despite its ambitions to support truly inter-disciplinary work, each of IDOE's four major program areas had strong ties to one of the component fields of Ocean Sciences: Seabed Assessment (SG&G); Environmental Forecasting (Physical Oceanography); Environmental Quality (Marine Chemistry); and Living Resources (Biological Oceanography). IDOE made extensive use of planning workshops to achieve the coordination and integration required to meet the program's objectives.
The workshops were also helpful in developing proposals that would consistently meet NSF quality standards. IDOE was committed to the NSF tradition of peer review, using both ad hoc mail and panel reviews. This multi-level review generally ensured excellence in the research core of IDOE projects. However, in the large-scale programs, there were components such as data archival, site surveys, and instrument development that were essential to the overall scientific objectives, but not particularly exciting in their own right. Reviewers more accustomed to looking at stand-alone proposals were sometimes unduly critical of proposals of this type, assigning tepid ratings that made funding hard to justify.
As originally conceived, NSF would pass along as much as half of the IDOE budget to other federal agencies. But the proposals from mission agencies generally farted poorly under peer review. Moreover, mission agencies found it hard to subscribe to the broader goals of IDOE, tending to limit