Division of Ocean Sciences - Fall 2002 Newsletter
NSF 03-014
(Replaces NSF 02-055)

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Rita Colwell Addresses U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy

As Chair of the National Ocean Research Leadership Council (NORLC), NSF Director Rita Colwell testified before the Commission on Ocean Policy on July 23, 2002, regarding the future role of the NORLC and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). The full text of the speech is available at http://www.nopp.org.

Dr. Rita Colwell, NSF DirectorDr. Colwell identified three primary roles in which NOPP can effect leadership.

First, NOPP provides a valuable forum for addressing shared needs of importance to the ocean science community, including oceanographic facilities and ocean education. Since Dr. Margaret Leinen previously had spoken to the Commission about oceanographic facilities, including renewal of the academic fleet, Dr. Colwell focused on the importance of ocean science education and ocean literacy. In particular, she noted that the pending revision of the National Science Education Standards offers an opportunity to ensure that ocean science will be represented in those standards and, ultimately, in textbooks. The Ocean Research Advisory Panel, NORLC’s advisory body, is in the process of preparing recommendations for a NOPP education strategy.

The second role articulated for NOPP is in facilitating and coordinating the transfer of research results into applications that meet societal needs. Dr. Colwell indicated that the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is the first major test for this new approach, and the NORLC must ensure its success. NOPP’s Ocean.US Office recently convened a workshop that resulted in a summary plan providing recommendations for phased implementation of IOOS (see http://www.oceanus.gov). NOPP is presently considering a number of interagency and international models in evaluating options for budgeting and management.

The final role Dr. Colwell sees for NOPP is in providing a mechanism for identifying and developing oceanographic research directions that cut across agency missions. Just as the astronomy community has identified a few overarching questions to provide scientific direction for the entire field of astronomy, Dr. Colwell suggested the need for a mechanism in ocean science to focus on comparable questions that set a long-term direction for oceanographic research. Dr. Colwell anticipates that the oceanographic community will have no shortage of ideas on the subject. Knowledge gained as a result will facilitate rational approaches for addressing societal problems such as global change, fisheries management, toxic blooms, emerging diseases, and marine pollution.

Dr. Colwell concluded by indicating that the roles outlined are all essential elements of a National Science and Technology Strategy for the Oceans. A long-range strategy would provide a broad view of investments and how knowledge coupled with technological innovation can address societal challenges and needs.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, chaired by Admiral James Watkins, has recently issued a Mid-Term Report on its findings based on public hearings held over the past year. The Report and additional information on the Commission and its activities are available at http://www.oceancommission.gov.