Perhaps the most appropriate word to describe predictions for our budget in 1998 and 1999 is "stable." But this stability does not make our job easier -- the decisions that we have to make about how to distribute our resources become more difficult as the pressure from outstanding proposals and good ideas for new research directions continues to grow.
From a fiscal point of view here at NSF, 1997 is practically over. Most of the decisions have been made; the majority of the funds are committed. So I find myself relapsing into an end-of-year commentary! The academic research vessel fleet "dodged a bullet" in 1997. While being very happy that funds from NAVOCEANO and other non-traditional sources of support for the UNOLS fleet allowed all the vessels to operate, we wait with significant concern to learn if, with similar good fortune, we can survive 1998 without the requirement for vessel lay-ups. We started a couple of programs in 1997 -- notably LExEn and ECOHAB (for details see elsewhere in this Newsletter) - and continue to discuss with community groups the potential rewards of initiating other new efforts.
This year is presenting a number of high-profile opportunities to spotlight the importance and excitement of basic research in the ocean sciences before the general public. In February, the cores recovered by the Ocean Drilling Program from the Blake Nose off Florida provided such a spectacularly clear and continuous record of the impact event at the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary that the news media instantaneously developed an insatiable appetite for knowledge and information about marine earth sciences. Our Assistant Director for Geosciences, Bob Corell, appeared on TV so often we suggested he get an agent! In May the newest member of the UNOLS research vessel fleet, ATLANTIS, visited Washington DC, and attracted substantial interest and attention. And in July ODP's flagship, JOIDES Resolution, will come alongside in Manhattan, and play host to a number of events designed to highlight the achievements and future potential of ocean drilling.
Activities such as these are sometimes criticized as frivolous and wasteful of resources, but when well-planned and executed, on the contrary, they are an important part of our growing efforts to educate our nation about how much our health and security depends upon the understanding of the earth and its oceans. The United Nations has declared 1998 The Year of the Ocean, so we are looking forward to further appropriate opportunities to highlight the importance of your work in the ocean sciences research community.
I hope you find this second Newsletter informative and useful. Please send us your ideas about what you would like to read in future issues. And please do not forget to keep an eye on our Web Page -- we try to keep that updated with new program announcements and other information that is important for you to receive.
Have a good summer,
G. Michael Purdy