. "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
ticed throughout NSF. Elsewhere in this volume one can find examples and discussion of oceanographic achievements resulting from such support. In the remainder of this paper I wish to concentrate on two NSF policies that I believe have done much to shape in a very positive way the structure of oceanography within our universities. The two are ship operations and the large, multi-investigator, multi-institutional program. The first was set in motion by ONR and later bought into by the National Science Foundation. It is now the UNOLS (University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System) (see Byrne and Dinsmore paper later in this volume). The second began in 1970 with NSF's International Decade of Ocean Exploration. There were multiship, multi-investigator, multi-institutional programs before the IDOE (e.g., Operation Cabot, the multiship study of the Gulf Stream in 1950 and the International Indian Ocean Expedition that began a dozen years later), but I expect most would agree that this type of program gained full expression with the IDOE. These multi-investigator programs have long outlasted the original source of funding. The IDOE folded its administrative tent in 1981, but IDOE-like programs continue to constitute a significant share of the NSF oceanography budget.13
Nowhere is cooperation between the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research better seen than in the construction and support of research ships. And nowhere, I suspect, have the two agencies had to work harder to bring in line their differing modes of operation. Prior to World War II, only Woods Hole had a research vessel, the Atlantis, that could venture far from shore for any length of time. After the war the mark of an academic oceanographic research program was an oceangoing ship. Many were surplus World War II vessels, modified with varying degrees of success to perform oceanographic research. Their names are familiar to all of this period: first Crawford, Horizon, Vema, Spencer F. Baird; later Chain, Argo, Trident, Pillsbury, Yaquina, Alaminos, and others.14 It was not until the Navy made available to Lamont one its first AGOR vessels, the Robert D. Conrad, in 1962, and NSF built the Atlantis II for Woods Hole in 1963, that the academic research fleet began to acquire ships designed for the task.15
I firmly believe the ship support practices that evolved in the United States after World War II were critically important to the development of oceanography in this country. The system that has developed, whereby the oceangoing research fleet is operated by the university research establishment is unique. I have sometimes wondered how this decision was made. How did it come about that each of the major oceanographic institutions operated one or more research vessels capable of operating far from home port? Was it a conscious decision, the pros and cons carefully weighed and thoroughly thought through, or did it just happen? I believe it was the latter. Woods Hole had a ship, the Atlantis , built and supported before World War II with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation. If Scripps was going to carry out the Marine Life Research Program designed by Sverdrup before he returned to Norway at the end of World War II, it would need some vessels to conduct the monthly surveys. Among its first acquisitions was the 143-foot, 900-ton seagoing tug Horizon, capable of working in the open ocean for weeks at a time. One reason Maurice Ewing left Woods Hole to found the Lamont Geological Observatory was that the Woods Hole director, Columbus Islen, could not guarantee the ship time Ewing wanted for his worldwide geological and geophysical surveys. He got it with Vema, a former 700-ton, 200-foot yacht built in 1923.16 These early decisions at Scripps and Lamont were made before there was an NSF. Perhaps this is all it took; once Lamont, Scripps, and Woods Hole had their vessels, the pattern was established. If you were going to be an oceanographic research institution, you needed a research ship.
As ONR began the practice of supporting a growing number of oceanographic research institutions, it also did its part in providing these institutions with supporting research vessels. In time, the Universities of Hawaii, Miami, Rhode Island, and Washington, along with Texas A&M University and Oregon State University, all had major oceangoing facilities. NSF bought into the practice and slowly became the dominant player in terms of determining how these vessels were to be used and supported.
It did not have to be this way. One could imagine NSF and ONR following the route NSF established in the support of the meteorology departments of this country. It could have established the ocean equivalent of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado which, in the beginning at least, supported the airplanes and other large field equipment required by academic meteorologists. For many years the U.S. practice of having its major academic oceanographic institutions operate an oceangoing research fleet was unique. Even today, the practice is rare.
Lambert reference 7. Purdy, G.M., M.R. Reeve, D.F. Heinrichs, and M.A. Booth. 1998. A question of balance: Funding basic research in the ocean sciences. Marine Technological Society Journal 32(3):91-93 . During the IDOE decade of 1971-1981 the total IDOE budget was comparable to the funds provided individual investigators (Figure 1 in Lambert). Although the ratio of total support for IDOE-like programs to individual investigator projects has fluctuated significantly between the IDOE and the present, the ratio is once again approaching unity.
Nelson, S.B. 1971. Oceanographic Ships, Fore and Aft. Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.