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oceanographic programs. Examples include increased understanding of the causes of mass extinction, the role of ocean circulation in climate (e.g., El Niño) and in the decline in fisheries, and the ability of the ocean and marine organisms to buffer changes in the concentrations of the so-called greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide). Also of importance is the wide use of program discoveries and data in the classroom, the availability of program facilities for general community and educational purposes, and the training of graduate students. As discoveries and advances attributable to these programs continue to influence research conducted throughout the ocean science community, the significance of these programs will become even more apparent.

The usually high-quality, global, multiparameter data sets and time series developed by major oceanographic programs will be some of their most important and enduring legacies. It is essential to preserve and ensure timely access to these data sets. Every effort must be made to facilitate data exchange and prepare for an ever-increasing demand for access to these large data sets.

Technology and Facilities

Major programs have affected the size and composition of the research fleet, and provided impetus for the development of technology and facilities used by the wider oceanographic community. The programs have contributed to a range of technological developments, facilities, and standardization of sampling techniques. Similar to what is done periodically for the research fleet, a thorough review of the other facilities, including procedures for establishing and maintaining them, is necessary to set priorities for support of the facilities used by the wider oceanographic committee. The very long lead times needed for fleet and facilities development require that the oceanographic community be developing plans for facilities requirements for 2008 and beyond. Strategic planning for facilities (ship and non-ship) should be coordinated across agencies with long-range science plans and should include input from the ocean sciences community.


Major oceanographic programs account for a significant proportion of the funding resources available to ocean science. As a consequence of these programs, more money has been made available for ocean science research in general. However, the proportion of funds consumed by these programs has tended to heighten concerns about the effect these programs have had on collegiality within the research community. Nevertheless, many scientists recognize positive impacts of major programs on the way ocean scientists work together toward an objective, including greater willingness to share data.

In the future, allocation decisions should be based on wide input from the research community and the basis for decisions should be set forth clearly to the scientific community. By providing the research community with timely access to information regarding these decisions, miss-perceptions can be avoided and the impact of funding pressures minimized.


Given the extensive involvement of the academic community in recent activities undertaken by NSF/OCE to develop a research strategy for ocean science, the committee determined that attempting to specifically identify scientific gaps would be redundant and unnecessary. Yet, a number of mechanisms can help the ocean science community's planning process by identifying scientific and generic gaps in and among existing programs. Some scientific gaps can be addressed by enhancing communication and coordination. The sponsoring agencies, especially NSF/OCE, 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 ever greater use of World Wide Web sites and newsletters.

Generic gaps that were identified in and among programs are as follows:

  • the need for funding agencies and the major oceanographic programs to develop mechanisms to deal with contingencies;

  • the need to establish (with broad input from the ocean science community) priorities for moving long time-series and other observations initiated by various programs into an operational mode, in consideration of their quality, length, number of variables, space and time resolution, accessibility for the wider community, and relevance toward meeting established goals;

  • the need for modelers and observationalists to work together during all stages of program design and implementation;

  • the need to enhance modeling, data assimilation, data synthesis capabilities, and funding of dedicated computers for ocean modeling and data assimilation with facilities distributed as appropriate; and

  • the need for federal agencies in partnership with the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) to take steps to prepare for a supporting role in data synthesis activities (including, but not limited to, data assimilation).


The present NSF/OCE structure has made it difficult to get intermediate-size projects funded (as distinguished from

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