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50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
TABLE 2 Employment of Master's Degree Recipients
Ocean Sciences (%)
TABLE 3 Employment of Bachelor's Degree Recipients
Ocean Sciences (%)
What is evident is the strong role that industry plays in employment in physics all the way from bachelor's (55 percent) to master's (40 percent) to doctoral degree (35 percent) holders. Another surprising difference is the very small numbers of bachelor's degree holders in oceanography that enter high school teaching. Is it possible that the paucity of students interested in the Earth sciences is due to the low number of high school teachers who have a formal education in the Earth sciences?
I conclude from these data that oceanography has yet to capitalize on the value of a master's degree. Too often, a master's student is regarded as a failed doctoral student: but economic data show that a master's degree is the most economically advantageous degree. Bachelor's degrees in oceanography are exceptionally rare: very few academic institutions offer such degrees because the usual argument is made that you can't be an oceanographer with just a bachelor's degree and that a grounding in basic science is crucial for entering graduate school. Such arguments ignore the fact that fewer than 20 percent of undergraduates proceed to graduate school and those faculties at universities have a responsibility to educate undergraduates. Oceanography as a field has missed out on the chance to lead the burgeoning interest in interdisciplinary education even though oceanography is inherently interdisciplinary. It is a problem that could be addressed readily at the local level.
Is Our Role to Provide an Intelligent Basis for Public Decision-making About Marine and Coastal Issues as Well as the Larger Context of Global Environmental Issues and Issues of Science in Public Policy ? A survey of public understanding of science by NSF three years ago (NSB, 1996) found that only 2 percent of respondents understand science as the development and testing of theory. About 13 percent understand that science involves careful measurement and comparison of data and 21 percent understand the concept that an experiment may involve the use of a control group. Approximately 64 percent do not understand science at any of these levels.
A survey of public understanding of environmental concepts is slightly more encouraging. While only 7 percent can list the cause of acid rain, over 17 percent can identify the location of the ozone hole and 32 percent can list harms that result from the ozone hole. I would suggest that oceanographers, whether they be faculty or students, whether they be aquaria employees or research institution staff, have a shared responsibility to ensure the public can make informed choices when environmental issues reach the ballot. Apportionment of water in the U.S. West and the threat of salmon species extinction are part of this suite of issues for which we, as scientists, have a public responsibility.
WHAT ARE OUR VALUES? THE PURPOSES OF EDUCATION IN OCEAN SCIENCES
The responsibility of scientists in the arena of public education cannot be underestimated but a question closer to the hearts of academics is what are the purposes of education in oceanography? I would list specific purposes. They apply equally to undergraduate as well as post-graduate education.
We strive to teach students the language of ocean sciences and some things of the disciplines that are its underpinnings.
We introduce students to the ways of science that imply familiarity with the tools and methodologies of inquiry and with the conceptual as well as practical problems of ocean sciences.
We help students learn critical thinking skills including the methods of reasoning logically, deductively, inductively, of accuracy and precision and the limitations of data and of models.
We help students become effective communicators and strive to persuade students to teach others.
We inculcate a personal love of learning that will last a lifetime so that internal scholarly standards and a continuing curiosity become the basis for living.
I would challenge each academic department in ocean sciences to evaluate its curricula and its educational programs and ask how many of these goals are achieved. Although this challenge is partly being addressed as more and more university departments evaluate their responsibility to undergraduate teaching, it is still far from universal that faculty in the ocean sciences perceive their role as educators, and not just master crafts-persons.