And, what better medium can we find than the oceans: (1) for kids to be motivated to learn something about all scientific disciplines, and (2) for ocean researchers to actively help out in the national educational reform effort underway today. This education reform is desperately needed to convert a scientifically illiterate society to one that can better understand the changing world around them. Decisions of the Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP) related to education have been made as a forethought, not an after-thought, and adopted as an integrating concept with all our ocean partnership programs.
In 1997, the NRC's Governing Board approved a project proposed by the Ocean Studies Board (OSB), in cooperation with the Institute of Medicine's Division of Health Science Policy entitled "The Ocean's Role in Human Health," which included a workshop in 1998. This workshop was sponsored jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) of National Institutes of Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and was tasked to examine a variety of ways in which the oceans play a role in human health. Specifically, the invited speakers addressed the following topics:
Marine natural disasters and public health: Can we better model and predict marine natural disasters? Can we better anticipate effects on public health?
Climate and the incidence of infectious diseases: Are waterborne diseases detectable and predictable? How do changes in climate—both regional and global—impact disease vectors?
Hazards associated with toxic algal blooms: What causes toxic algae to bloom? Can their outbreak be predicted, mitigated, and prevented? Why has the incidence of these blooms been increasing?
The therapeutic potential of marine natural products: What are the implications of the discovery of life a thousand meters below the seafloor? Have we adequately examined marine biotechnology for medically important products?
Marine organisms as models for biomedical research: Are there marine species that could serve as useful medical models? Can marine species offer new understanding of human development or physiology?
In relation to the report, I can say this:
This has been the first time that a panel has been organized to address this subject at such a high level; and the breadth of opportunity was surprising to all participants. Initiation of a dialogue between the medical and ocean science communities has been a most valuable outcome of this exercise.
The committee was able to identify specific areas of cooperation—with high potential payoff—that the ocean and medical research communities should pursue jointly. For a range of applications, from mitigating natural disasters to minimizing the outbreak and spread of epidemics, from keeping our recreational beaches and seafood safe to extracting life-saving products from the sea, there is an exciting spectrum of interdisciplinary and doable research that is either unfunded or undersupported.
The NRC has identified these research opportunities. We marine policy-makers must make them happen.
R&D is a business with a $75 billion bottom line in the federal government alone. But society seems to be demanding more identifiable products for its continued investment. One product can be understanding, but we need to sell that product better. Like any business, the science community needs a business plan, a market analysis, and a sales department if it is moving from the product of understanding toward potentially valuable and more conventional long-range product objectives, which often demand enhanced resources to move from research into application. The Frank Press Report (NRC, 1995) lays out a proposed approach for allocating federal R&D funds in a manner consistent with this thinking about science, technology, and product delivery.
Fortunately, from a salability standpoint, ocean science is one broad area that is inherently product-oriented. We have recently recognized the sales potential in sectors such as coastal zone management, hazard mitigation, agriculture, and public health. Let's design a stronger plan for product delivery of our ocean research and not get too heavily bogged down arguing the merits of basic research versus application. As in so many instances, the mission agencies, for example, already do this. Obviously, when products cannot be foreseen, such as in the case of the Superconducting Super Collider and its search for new discoveries regarding the make-up of matter, it's a much harder "sell" to assert that product objectives are all clear and relevant to societal needs.
Scientists and those who develop and manage scientific programs must think globally and act globally. We cannot afford, either financially or intellectually, to maintain policies of isolation in the research arena.
Ocean science is inherently international in nature. We have seen the effectiveness of this approach in the Ocean Drilling Program, a model for defining mutually beneficial research objectives among many nations. The current NAS