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AIBS Comments to JSOST on "Charting the Course for Ocean Science"

October 20, 2006

National Science and Technology Council
Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology
Via e-mail: public-comment@jsost.org

RE: Request for comment on "Charting the Course for Ocean Science"

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the August 2006 draft report, "Charting the Course for Ocean Science in the United States: Research Priorities for the Next Decade." The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is a nonprofit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. AIBS counts among its members roughly 5,000 biologists and 200 professional societies and scientific organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 250,000.

The draft report focuses needed attention on a number of important research topics. For example, a concerted national research effort addressing the stewardship of our natural and cultural ocean resources, better understanding system resilience to natural events, improving ecosystem health, and better understanding the link between ocean, lake and coastal systems and human health are all timely research arenas that warrant a robust and sustained federal investment. However, a number of significant issues do not, at the surface, appear to have been addressed in the report. Thus, these comments are intended to raise these issues for the future consideration of the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST).

A significant concern with the draft report is that it fails to articulate the funding that will be sought to achieve the proposed goals. A number of the research activities proposed are already initiatives at various federal agencies, yet progress has been slow due to what some consider inadequate and unpredictable funding. A realistic budget request and multi-year commitment to federal research program managers would seem to be a central element necessary for the ultimate success of the JSOST research plan.

Another concern with the draft report is the lack of attention given to international collaboration. Effective and high-impact research on deep-ocean systems, the Great Lakes, or coastal ecosystems requires effective and strategic international collaboration. The final report would be greatly improved if it included a framework for supporting international research partnerships and collaborative agreements.

Additionally, significant research questions about ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal ecosystem biodiversity remain unanswered. It is important that the final report fully reflect these research questions and needs. Scientists must be able to access and utilize state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment. In addition to new tools, such as the ocean observing system, the report should ensure that existing components of our research infrastructure are appropriately addressed. Research vessels, marine laboratories and field stations, natural science collections, and the human capital that utilize these facilities are all necessary to address the research agenda proposed in the draft report. In many cases, however, these science facilities require new investments to maintain their physical structures and construct the infrastructure, such as cyber infrastructure, that will make it possible to serve scientific research into the future. In each of the past two years, the research and development priorities memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has articulated the need to prioritize federal object-based scientific collections.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft report and for your continuing efforts to ensure a robust ocean, Great Lakes, and costal ecosystems research action plan. If you have any questions, please contact AIBS director of public policy Dr. Robert Gropp.

Sincerely,
Richard T. O'Grady, Ph.D.
Executive Director

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