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Critical Infrastructure for Ocean Research, Report in Brief

Critical Infrastructure for Ocean Research, Report in Brief

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Published by earthandlife
U.S. ocean research depends on a broad range of ocean infrastructure assets—the national inventory of ships and other platforms, sensors and samplers, computational and data systems, supporting facilities, and trained personnel. In order to ensure that essential infrastructure is available for both fundamental research and issues of social importance in 2030, a coordinated national plan for making future strategic investments is necessary. A growing suite of infrastructure will be needed to address urgent societal issues in coming years, such as climate change, offshore energy production, tsunami detection, and sustainable fisheries. This report identifies major ocean science questions anticipated to be significant in 2030, defines the categories of infrastructure needed to support such research over the next two decades, identifies criteria that could help prioritize infrastructure development or replacement, and suggests ways to maximize investments in ocean infrastructure.
U.S. ocean research depends on a broad range of ocean infrastructure assets—the national inventory of ships and other platforms, sensors and samplers, computational and data systems, supporting facilities, and trained personnel. In order to ensure that essential infrastructure is available for both fundamental research and issues of social importance in 2030, a coordinated national plan for making future strategic investments is necessary. A growing suite of infrastructure will be needed to address urgent societal issues in coming years, such as climate change, offshore energy production, tsunami detection, and sustainable fisheries. This report identifies major ocean science questions anticipated to be significant in 2030, defines the categories of infrastructure needed to support such research over the next two decades, identifies criteria that could help prioritize infrastructure development or replacement, and suggests ways to maximize investments in ocean infrastructure.

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Published by: earthandlife on Apr 22, 2011
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12/01/2011

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T
he United States has jurisdiction over 3.4 million square miles of ocean—anexpanse greater than the land area of all50 states combined. This vast marine area offersmany environmental resources and economicopportunities, but also presents threats, such asdamaging tsunamis and hurricanes, industrialaccidents, and outbreaks of waterborne
U.S. ocean research depends on a broad range of ocean infrastructure assets—the nationalinventory of ships and other platforms, sensors and samplers, computational and data systems,supporting facilities, and trained personnel. In order to ensure that essential infrastructure isavailable for both fundamental research and issues of social importance in 2030, a coordinatednational plan for making future strategic investments is necessary. A growing suite of infra-structure will be needed to address urgent societal issues in coming years, such as climatechange, offshore energy production, tsunami detection, and sustainable sheries. This reportidenties major ocean science questions anticipated to be signicant in 2030, denes thecategories of infrastructure needed to support such research over the next two decades, identi-es criteria that could help prioritize infrastructure development or replacement, and suggestsways to maximize investments in ocean infrastructure.
Critical Infrastructure for OceanResearch and Societal Needs in 2030
 pathogens. The 2010 Gulf of Mexico
 Deepwater  Horizon
oil spill and 2011 Japanese earthquakeand tsunami are vivid reminders that our understanding of the ocean system is stillincomplete.The nation’s portfolio of ocean infrastruc-ture changes over time in response to scienticneeds, investments, and to advances in
 
technology. However, because of lengthy lead times for planning,designing, funding and buildingmajor infrastructure assets, and because of the long service life of many of these assets (often 25–30years or more), federal agencieswith ocean responsibilities need toanticipate the directions that oceanresearch could take in comingdecades. Some critical pieces of ocean infrastructure, for exampleheavy icebreakers and ocean color satellites, are degrading and will bein need of replacement in comingyears. To assist in planning for thenations future ocean infrastructureneeds, the National Science andTechnology Council’sSubcommittee on Ocean Scienceand Technology requested that the National Research Council convenea committee of experts to provideadvice on the types of U.S. oceaninfrastructure that will facilitateresearch in 2030.
Building the OceanInfrastructure Inventory
A comprehensive range of ocean research infrastructure will be needed to meet growingdemands for scientic informationto enable the safe, efcient, andenvironmentally sustainable use of the ocean. Institutional barriershave inhibited collaborative effortsamong federal agencies to plan for the operation and maintenance of high-cost critical infrastructureassets such as ships, satellites, andglobal observing systems.Establishing and maintaining acoordinated national strategic plan for shared oceaninfrastructure investment and maintenance isessential to build the comprehensive range of oceaninfrastructure that will be needed in coming years.Such a plan would focus on trends in scientic needsand advances in technology, while taking intoaccount factors such as costs, efcient use, and thecapacity to cope with unforeseen events.
Overarching Infrastructure Needs
The committee identied overarching infrastruc-ture needs based on trends in ocean infrastructure useover the last two or more decades and on the major research questions anticipated for 2030. It focused oncommon or shared infrastructure, rather than equip-ment generally found in the inventory of an individualscientist. The committee expects that research vesselswill continue to be an essential element of ocean
 Major Ocean Research Questions of 2030
Using input from the worldwide scientic community, a range of recent government plans, task force documents, research planningassessments, and a review of primary literature, the committeeidentied compelling research questions anticipated to be at theforefront of ocean science in 2030. These research questions fallunder four themes:
1. Enabling stewardship of the environment 
Many human activities have impacts on the ocean. With over 12,000 miles of coastline, the U.S. has particular interest in effects onthe coastal ocean. The polar regions, with sensitivity to changes inclimate and sea level, are also a high priority. Increased understandingof the ocean’s physical, chemical, and biological responses to factorssuch as climate change, mineral and energy extraction, shing, waste production, and nutrient pollution could help limit these impacts.
2. Protecting life and property
Recent catastrophic events in the U.S. and worldwide have raisedinterest in predicting and limiting the effects of natural hazards suchas earthquakes, severe storms, and tsunamis. Growing concern aboutthe effects of climate change, for example sea level rise and its effecton coastal infrastructure, is likely to drive interest in this researcharea in coming years and well beyond 2030.
3. Promoting economic vitality
Traditional uses of the ocean, such as oil and gas extraction, sheries,transportation, shipping, and recreation, are large components of theU.S. ocean economy. Other activities such as aquaculture, wind power, and marine hydrokinetic resources, are poised to become moreimportant over the next two decades. The sustainability of theseresources for future generations is of great importance, as is mini-mizing adverse impacts on the marine environment.
4. Increasing fundamental scientic understanding 
Basic research has a long history of producing discoveries thatadvance scientic understanding and that improve economic well- being. Many of these advances eventually lead to an increased abilityto act on societal issues, such as stewardship of the environment, protection of life and property, and promotion of sustainableeconomic vitality.
 
The committee concluded that the followingactions would help ensure that the U.S. has thecapacity in 2030 to undertake and benet fromknowledge and innovations possible with oceano-graphic research:
Implement a comprehensive, long-termresearch eet plan to retain access to the sea
Recover U.S. capability to access full andpartially ice-covered seas
Expand abilities for autonomous monitoringat a wide range of spatial and temporal scaleswith greater sensor and platform capabilities
Enable sustained, continuous timeseriesmeasurements
Maintain continuity of satellite remotesensing and communication capabilities foroceanographic data and sustain plans for newsatellite platforms, sensors, and communica-tion systems
Support continued innovation in oceaninfrastructure development. Of particularnote is the need to develop in situ sensors,especially biogeochemical sensors
Engage allied disciplines and diverse elds toleverage technological developments outsideoceanography
Increase the number and capabilities of broadly accessible computing and modelingfacilities with exascale or petascale capabilitythat are dedicated to future oceanographicneeds
Establish broadly accessible virtual (distrib-uted) data centers that have seamless integra-tion of federally, state, and locally helddatabases, accompanying metadata compliantwith proven standards, and intuitivearchiving and synthesizing tools
Examine and adopt proven data managementpractices from allied disciplines
Facilitate broad community access to infra-structure assets, including mobile and xedplatforms and costly analytical equipment
Expand interdisciplinary education andpromote a technically-skilled workforce
Setting Priorities and MaximizingInvestments
Prioritizing investments in ocean infrastructureinvolves choosing optimal combinations of assetsresearch infrastructure. Ships serve as platforms for sample collection, for deployment of remotelyoperated and autonomous vehicles, and as tendersfor instrument maintenance. Shore-based laboratoryfacilities will also continue to be required as anatural extension to ship-based sampling, for analytical work, and for coastal observations.Satellite observations will be increasinglyimportant for the ocean sciences, providing data onvector sea surface wind, sea surface temperature andsalinity, sea ice distribution and thickness, and oceancarbon and ecosystem dynamics.Another critical component is the global array of Argo proling oats, which measure ocean tempera-ture and salinity at varying depths. Expansion of thecurrent network of 3000 oats by addition of novelsensors would further enable study of the ocean’s physical, biological, and chemical processes. Newsensors for oxygen, nitrate, chlorophyll,zooplankton, pH, and carbon dioxide measurementsare currently available or in development.The committee noted the increasing use of autonomous platforms, such as gliders and autono-mous underwater vehicles, with a wider range of sensors. The capabilities of both sensors and plat-forms will continue to improve in such areas aslongevity, stability, data communications, adapt-ability, and access to harsh environments.Continued developments in ocean infrastructureincreasingly depend on innovations in other elds,including engineering and computer science. This isin part due to decreases in funding for high risk,high reward research and for development of novelocean research technologies. To foster innovationand technological advancements in the oceansciences, federal agencies will need to encourage arisk-taking environment for the development of newinfrastructure, which is difcult under the currentsystems of research funding.
In situ sensors and samplingtools
allow researchers to collectdirect observations of the ocean’s physical, chemical, biological,geophysical, and geological properties. Relatively small andinexpensive versions of biologicalsensors that can replicate today’scomplicated laboratory techniqueswill be essential in coastal andnear-shore environments. New biogeochemical sensors thatenable better observations of thecarbon system, including pH, andmicronutrients will also be centralto ocean science in the future.

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