. "Keynote Lecture The Emergence of the National Science Foundation as a Supporter of Ocean Sciences in the United States." 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
was the dominant player in academic oceanography at the start of the IGY; it was no longer as we moved into the IDOE. However, it is important to recognize that during this period of transition, and continuing today, NSF and ONR supported parallel and joint programs. It is a measure of the skill and common purpose of the program managers in both agencies that those doing the research could mostly ignore the details of the funding as they went about their research, and it is sometimes difficult to remember today which agency supported which parts of which program.
This transition period when primary support of oceanography passed from ONR to the National Science Foundation coincides with the development of the necessary oceanography infrastructure within NSF. The National Science Foundation has from the beginning been organized mostly along disciplinary lines. That NSF did not recognize oceanography as a separate discipline in 1950 is no surprise. The only Ph.D. granting institution at that time was Scripps. With the active assistance of the Office of Naval Research the number of degree-granting institutions began to grow. By 1960 there were a half dozen.8 But most who called themselves oceanographers during this period had earned their degrees in other disciplines, and many continued to question whether a degree in such an ill-defined field as oceanography was the best training. The organizational structure of NSF reflected this uncertainty. As Sandra Toye writes in her administrative history of ocean science in the National Science Foundation later in this volume, "For oceanography, an inherently interdisciplinary field, NSF's early organizational choices created problems that would not be fully rectified for 25 years." A few marine biologists found a home in one or another section of the Biological and Medical Science Division, and it was relatively easy for marine geology and geophysics to find a home in the Earth Sciences Program, but there was no obvious home for physical and chemical oceanography.9
The International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958 brought new money and new prominence to oceanography and the rest of the Earth sciences, and the National Science Foundation structure slowly changed to meet these challenges. The reconstituted Earth Science Section established in 1962 had four programs, one of which was Oceanography under the direction of John Lyman. The Oceanography Facilities program led by Mary Johrde (primarily ship support) was added in 1967, and a Biological Oceanography program headed by Ed Chin was formed in 1968 in the Biological and Medical Science Division.10 As part of a significant reorganization of NSF in 1970, biological oceanography was transferred to the Ocean Science Research Section to join the rest of the oceanographic disciplines. Ship support, polar programs, the Deep Sea Drilling Program, and the International Decade of Ocean Exploration were made a part of a new Directorate of National and International Programs. 11
By 1970 the National Science Foundation had an administrative structure adequate to the challenge of the rapidly expanding field of oceanography. The timing was excellent; 1970 was also the year of the Mansfield Amendment which forbade the Department of Defense to fund projects in basic science unless they were closely related to a military function or operation. The 20-year-long passing of the torch from ONR to NSF for primary responsibility for the support of oceanography was now complete.
In 1966, while NSF was still grappling with how to integrate oceanography into its organization, Congress created the National Sea Grant College Program and placed it in the National Science Foundation. Senator Pell, who introduced the first Sea Grant legislation, was not certain NSF was the best home. For a time he even considered the Smithsonian Institution. Noting that the Smithsonian had served as the nineteenth century launch pad for both fisheries and the weather service, he thought it might serve a similar role for Sea Grant until such time as a better fit could be found within the administration. However, the Smithsonian did not rise to the challenge during legislative hearings, and Sea Grant went to NSF almost by default.12 Sea Grant was about applied research, and it included research in economics and the other social sciences. It had an educational component, and perhaps most critically, it had a significant public outreach program patterned after the very successful agricultural extension service. Sea Grant was not an easy fit in the National Science Foundation of the 1960s. The 1969 report of the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources (the Stratton Commission) recommended the bringing together of various ocean-oriented agencies within the federal government into a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA was established in 1970 and the Sea Grant program was a part of it.
Patterns of support established by National Science Foundation during this period have done much to shape the development of oceanography in this country and the way it is practiced today. The most obvious, and probably the most important, is peer-reviewed science proposals, which is prac
As reported in the 1962 NSF 10-year projection, reference 6 above, the number of Ph.D. oceanography degrees awarded by these institutions was estimated at no more than about nine a year during the late 1950s.
Some program managers were more sympathetic than others to a field far removed from their own area of interest. I remember claims during this period, claims that I like to believe were apocryphal, that one's chance of gaining NSF support was dependent upon the guy in the mail room since it was his responsibility to decide on which desk to drop an oceanography proposal.
Lambert, reference 7.
I worked closely with Senator Pell on the development of the Sea Grant program and remember his concern about placing Sea Grant in NSF and his search for alternatives.