Division of Ocean Sciences
Ocean Observatories Initiative: Project Office to Coordinate Ocean Observing Activities
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The processes that actively shape the earth and ultimately impact society must be investigated over the spatial and temporal scales at which they occur. To characterize the temporal processes occurring in the ocean, new types of infrastructure are needed that are capable of providing long-term, high-resolution observations of critical environmental parameters. Such infrastructure will provide a long-term ocean presence that will make available novel platforms for oceanographic discovery and facilitate cutting-edge oceanographic investigations. Emerging technological capabilities are enabling the investigation of complex earth and ocean processes and the inter-linkages among them with a new intellectual approach: adaptive "observatory" science for sustained time-series measurements. This approach will allow the study of multiple inter-related properties, variables, and processes over a range of time scales.
With funding from the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account, the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) plans to initiate construction of an integrated observatory network that will provide the oceanographic research and education communities with a new mode of access to the ocean. The OOI has three elements: 1) a regional cabled network consisting of interconnected sites on the seafloor spanning several geological and oceanographic features and processes, 2) relocatable deep-sea buoys that could also be deployed in harsh environments such as the Southern Ocean, and 3) new construction or enhancements to existing facilities leading to an expanded network of coastal observatories. The scientific problems driving the need for the OOI are broad in scope and encompass nearly every area of ocean science. Once established, the observatories constructed as part of this initiative will provide earth and ocean scientists with unique opportunities to study multiple, interrelated processes over timescales ranging from seconds to decades; to conduct comparative studies of regional processes and spatial characteristics; and to map whole-earth and basin scale structures.
The Division of Ocean Sciences requests proposals from interested groups for the establishment of a Project Office to coordinate and assist with activities related to ocean observing systems leading to the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). Proposals will be accepted from U.S. universities and colleges, U.S. non-profit, non-academic organizations, and for-profit organizations. The Ocean Observatories Project Office will be expected to successfully complete the following tasks:
Identify and facilitate committees for continued refinement of the OOI network design: An advisory structure must be established that provides the scientific leadership required by the community to define user needs for a research observing system that includes global, regional, and coastal systems. This advisory structure will also have committees targeted to address technical and engineering issues related to the implementation of this research observing system.
Develop a consensus vision for the OOI organizational structure, governance, and operating plans: The Project Office will develop a Science Plan for the OOI based on input and recommendations from the advisory structure and then use this Science Plan to develop the various component of a Project Execution Plan for the construction phase of the OOI as outlined in NSF's "Facilities Management and Oversight Guide" (http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/lfp/).
Identify and engage all constituencies of the ocean science research community in consensus-building activities: The Project Office will lead, coordinate and serve as the community focal point for research observatories in the ocean sciences and will report to NSF regarding these activities. Activities should include those that promote the development of integrated experimentation, computation, theory, and model-based simulation.
Operate an interactive web site for communicating with the ocean science community in regards to OOI activities and planning: The Project Office will develop an interactive website that will serve as the definitive source of information about the OOI for not only the ocean science community but also for operational oceanographers, the wider scientific community, and the public.
The operation of the Ocean Observatories Project Office will require a small team whose credentials must demonstrate expertise and past accomplishments in ocean science, development of organizations, committee organization and management, and interactive web site development, usage, and maintenance. Expertise must also be provided for technical report editing and web-based publications. A Principal Investigator (PI) must be designated that will have day-to-day involvement with this effort. Office and meeting facilities must be available for the project, including Internet communications capabilities and institutional meeting space necessary to conduct planned activities.
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