The White House’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) recently released a report outlining an interagency consensus on U.S. goals for ocean science and technology through 2028. Top priority is given to modernizing research infrastructure and improving coupled ocean-coastal-hydrology models.
Designed to update the “decadal visions” released by the Bush Administration in 2007 and the Obama Administration in 2013, the NSTC plan was also influenced by the National Academies 2015 “Sea Change” survey on ocean science research priorities.
The NSTC report outlines five broad goals:
- understanding the ocean in the Earth system
- promoting economic prosperity
- ensuring maritime security
- safeguarding human health
- developing resilient coastal communities
Each goal is broken down into supporting goals. The “paramount” goal of understanding the ocean’s role in the Earth system includes a funding emphasis on modernizing R&D infrastructure, application of big data tools and techniques, and predictive modeling of Earth systems. The economic prosperity goal includes a focus on development of potential energy sources and access to critical minerals. The Maritime security goal encompasses maritime situational awareness and marine transportation.
Other goals include preventing and reducing plastic pollution, combating harmful algal blooms, and promoting the “Blue Workforce” of marine scientists and technologists.
The report identifies five areas of ocean research and technology as immediate opportunities:
- Fully integrate Big Data approaches in Earth system science (including adoption of cloud computing infrastructure, improved data analysis tools, and “scalable workflow frameworks”
- Advance monitoring and predictive modeling capabilities
- Improve data integration in decision-support tools
- Support ocean exploration and characterization
- Support ongoing research and technology partnerships
While not addressing the climate change debate, the report does spotlight climate-related issues, from rising sea levels and extreme weather events to changes in the Arctic environment, as well as areas of direct human impact, such as plastic pollution and human-produced noise in the marine environment.
Like its predecessors, the new NSTC report does not recommend federal funding levels or agency allocations. According to the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a consortium of the leading ocean science and technology institutions from academia, aquaria, and industry, the federal government is currently spending approximately $360M annually on ocean science and engineering, split roughly equally between research and infrastructure.
A June 2018 report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) highlighting specific agency ocean science and technology programs noted that the “Oceans support our Nation’s workforce and economy, providing over 3.2 million jobs and contributing $320 billion to the national GDP.”
For more information, see “Science and Technology for America’s Oceans: A Decadal Vision,” available online at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Science-and-Technology-for-Americas-Oceans-A-Decadal-Vision.pdf