Following on the experience of the IGY, scientists pushed for large-scale coordinated field projects, often in the world's oceans. In the 1960s, such projects were generally handled on an ad hoc basis. In 1970, with support from the United Nations and the White House, the International Decade of Ocean Exploration provided a long-term administrative home in NSF for large-scale coordinated research. Much of the administrative history of the ocean sciences in the 1980s and 1990s dealt with the integration of the IDOE into the regular ocean science research structure and the development of a balanced approach to both large-and small-scale project research.
Support for research ships and other large-scale instrumentation and equipment became part of NSF's portfolio very early on. Indeed, the need to coordinate ship operations support was the driving force in NSF's early attempts, in the 1950s and 1960s, to deal coherently with the diffuse structure of research project support in oceanography. By the 1970s, NSF was the lead agency for federal support of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. Oceanographic facilities support and research project support were separately administered in NSF until the Division of Ocean Sciences was established in 1975.
Today' s unified Division of Ocean Sciences, encompassing all fields of project research, large and small, facilities programs, and the Ocean Drilling Program, is thus the product of a long and sometimes difficult administrative evolution. Similarly, the co-location of the environmental sciences in the Geosciences Directorate was a long time in coming. These arrangements have now been in place for more than a decade. NSF's administrative history is characterized by change, growth, and experimentation: what might lie ahead for the ocean sciences in the decade to come?