Committee co-chairs Shirley Pomponi and David Titley will discuss the report’s findings and recommendations during a 90-minute public webinar on March 11.  Advance registration is required.


Date: Jan. 23, 2015


Sea-Level Rise, Climate Change Impacts on Marine Ecosystems, and Geohazards Are Among Priorities for Ocean Science Over Next Decade


WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council identifies priority areas for ocean science research in the next decade, including the rate and impacts of sea-level rise, the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, greater understanding of marine food webs, and better approaches for forecasting hazards such as mega-earthquakes and tsunamis. The report also recommends that the National Science Foundation rebalance its funding for ocean science research, which in recent years has shifted toward research infrastructure at the expense of core science programs.


“The next decade and beyond should be a time of opportunity and progress in ocean science, with advances that benefit the societal and economic goals not only of our nation but also the world,” said Shirley Pomponi, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and research professor and executive director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute-Florida Atlantic University. “We hope this report, which incorporates broad input from the community of ocean scientists, will provide NSF and other agencies with a vision and strategic direction for ocean science research.”


The decadal survey was undertaken at the request of the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) at the National Science Foundation, the main funder of basic research in the ocean sciences.  In identifying priority research areas, the study committee collected input from the ocean sciences community through in-person and virtual town hall meetings, literature reviews, presentations by academic and government scientists, and discussions with colleagues. To select top priorities among the many topics gathered, the committee applied four criteria: transformative research potential, societal impact, readiness, and partnership potential.


The eight priority science questions that emerged from this process are:


Because achieving many of these decadal priorities will require research across the disciplines of ocean science, it is important that the ocean science community not encounter barriers to obtaining funding for interdisciplinary research, the report says.  And because these questions have broad relevance to societal issues, other federal agencies may also be interested in devoting resources to these questions; collaboration among agencies could hasten advances.


Rebalancing Funding


From 2000 to 2014, OCE’s annual budgets have not kept pace with the rising costs of operating and maintaining research infrastructure, including the fleet of academic research vessels, scientific ocean drilling facilities, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative. As a consequence, the increase in infrastructure costs has led to a substantial decline in funding for core research programs and therefore less support for investigators.


Without a budget increase, the only way to restore funding for core science is to reduce the amount of money spent on infrastructure, the report says. If budgets remain flat or have only inflationary increases, OCE should adjust its major infrastructure programs to comprise no more than 40 percent to 50 percent of its total annual program budget, the report says. To implement this, OCE should initiate an immediate 10 percent reduction in major infrastructure costs in their next budget, followed by an additional 10 percent to 20 percent decrease over the following five years.


Cost savings should be applied directly to strengthening core science programs, investing in technology development, and funding partnerships to address the decadal science priorities, the report says. “Reductions in infrastructure support are never easy and will cause disruptions for parts of the ocean science community,” said committee co-chair David Titley, professor of practice in meteorology and director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. “But restoring a balance between the core science budget and infrastructure and then investing prudently in new technology will enable a diverse community of scientists to undertake research and pursue discoveries that will advance ocean science.”  


The report urges continued involvement of the scientific community in setting goals and objectives moving forward. And it encourages OCE to expand its partnerships with other agencies, international programs, and other sectors since these partnerships can maximize the value of research and infrastructure investments.


The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted in 1863.  For more information, visit  A committee roster follows.




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Pre-publication copies of  Sea Change: 2015-2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).



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Division on Earth and Life Studies

Ocean Studies Board


Committee on Guidance for NSF on National Ocean Science Research Priorities:

Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences


Shirley A. Pomponi (co-chair)

Professor of Marine Biotechnology

Wageninen University

Netherlands, and

Research Professor and Executive Director

NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute

Florida Atlantic University

Fort Pierce


David W. Titley (co-chair)

Professor of Practice in Meteorology, and Director

Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk

Department of Meteorology

Pennsylvania State University

University Park


Edward A. Boyle1

Professor of Ocean Geochemistry

Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and

MIT Director

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography



Melbourne G. Briscoe


OceanGeeks LLC

Alexandria, Va.


Russ E. Davis1

Research Professor of Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

La Jolla


Margo H. Edwards

Senior Research Scientist, and

Former Director

National Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environment Security

University of Hawaii at Manoa



Mary H. Feeley

Chief Geoscientist

ExxonMobile Exploration Co. (retired)

Greater Manchester


Donald W. Forsyth1

James L. Manning Professor of Geological Sciences

Department of Geological Sciences

Brown University

Providence, R.I.


Peter Liss

Professor Fellow

School of Environmental Sciences

University of East Anglia


United Kingdom


Susan Lozier

Ronie-Richele Garcia-Johnson Professor of Physical Oceanography, and

Bass Fellow

Nicholas School of the Environment

Duke University

Durham, N.C.


Roberta Marinelli

Executive Director

Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

University of Southern California

Los Angeles


James J. McCarthy

Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, and

Acting Curator of the Malacology Department

Museum of Comparative Zoology

Harvard University

Cambridge, Mass.


Alan Mix

Professor of Oceanography

Ocean Ecology and Biogeochemistry Division

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Oregon State University



Steven A. Murawski

Professor, and

Peter R. Betzer Endowed Chair of Biological Oceanography

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

St. Petersburg


Robert T. Paine1

Professor Emeritus

Department of Biology

University of Washington



Charles Paull

Senior Scientist

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Moss Landing, Calif.


Don Walsh2


International Maritime Inc.

Myrtle Point, Ore.


Bess B. Ward

William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences, and


Department of Geosciences

Princeton University

Princeton, N.J.


James A. Yoder

Vice President for Academic Programs, and


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole, Mass.


William R. Young1

Professor of Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

La Jolla




Deborah Glickson

Study Director



1Member, National Academy of Sciences

2Member, National Academy of Engineering