Written Public Input

April 5-7, 2000 -Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Comments to NOAA's Science Advisory Board
April 5, 2000
by Amy Mathews-Amos, Program Director
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Good afternoon, thank you for the opportunity to provide input to the Science Advisory Board. I'm Amy Mathews-Amos, Program Director for Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI). MCBI is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the science of marine conservation biology - the multidisciplinary science of protecting, restoring, and sustainably using life in the sea. We believe that increasing our understanding of the marine environment is key to solving the growing list of marine conservation problems in the world today. In past comments to the Science Advisory Board, MCBI's President Elliott Norse and I have discussed how too much needed marine conservation biology research falls through the federal cracks. That is, while NOAA conducts important work on fisheries, endangered species, and other issues, much of this research is narrowly focused. Conversely, the National Science Foundation (NSF) traditionally has supported the vast majority of basic research in a wide range of fields, including many relevant to the marine environment, but has not viewed its mission as supporting research to solve conservation and management problems. Moreover, its traditional focus on single disciplines has not promoted new multidisciplinary fields like marine conservation biology.

But exciting opportunities are now emerging in the arena of federally-funded research, and MCBI believes that NOAA needs to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. Most significantly, fundamental changes are underway at NSF with the release of the National Science Board's report Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation. This report clearly makes environmental research, education, and scientific assessment "one of the highest priorities of the National Science Foundation." It calls for a tripling of the investment in the environmental portfolio at NSF over the next 5 years, with increases in interdisciplinary, disciplinary and long-term research, and enhancing infrastructure for environmental observations, including a suite of environmental research and education hubs. The report identifies greater partnerships and interagency coordination as key to achieving these goals.

NSF is now beginning to implement these (and other) far reaching recommendations, establishing an organizational structure to encourage interdisciplinary environmental research and identifying its role in the environmental arena. MCBI's message to NOAA is: get in on the ground floor. Clearly NOAA has a major role to play in addressing environmental topics in the marine realm. By partnering closely with NSF, NOAA now has an opportunity to fill in those gaps from the past, and leverage NSF's expertise and interest to help NOAA achieve its goals in environmental stewardship. The synergy of a NSF now focusing on interdisciplinary environmental topics combined with NOAA's specialty in this area could significantly enhance the amount of high quality research on marine conservation topics. Indeed, some of the most exciting and valuable environmental research currently done by either NOAA or NSF has occurred through partnerships in which these and other agencies work together, and that take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding a problem. These include ECOHAB which examines physical, biological, and chemical oceanographic questions critical to management of marine life threatened by harmful algal blooms, GLOBEC, which examines how physical factors affect abundances and productivity of key marine animal species, and the Global Climate Change Research Program.

But to be successful this effort will require substantial coordination between NOAA and NSF about research priorities and the appropriate roles of each agency. Currently, NSF has devoted only 1/3 of one person's time to interagency coordination. I fear that with the challenge of getting their own house in order to implement this significant organizational change, outreach to federal partners has not yet become a priority. I urge NOAA not to wait to be approached by NSF, but to work through appropriate channels to begin the process of collaboration as quickly as possible. One key first step might be a joint effort to identify research priorities in marine conservation biology to form the basis for future funding decisions. MCBI is happy to work with NOAA and NSF to organize a workshop to do so, and include some of the best thinkers in the field.

Regardless, this fundamental change at NSF is highly relevant to NOAA's mission of environmental stewardship and provides a tremendous opportunity to advance scientific understanding in marine conservation biology. MCBI urges NOAA to take advantage of it to the fullest and we look forward to helping in any way we can.

Thank you for listening. I'm happy to answer any questions, and have copies of the National Science Board report for anyone who is interested.

April 5-7, 2000 - National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges

Statement to the Science Advisory Board
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. D. Jay Grimes, Chair, Board on Oceans and Atmosphere
The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges
April 2000, Washington, D.C.

The Board on Oceans and Atmosphere (BOA) of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) appreciates this opportunity to provide its views to the NOAA Science Advisory Board. NASULGC, and its Board on Oceans and Atmosphere, is proud to be one of NOAA's key partners, playing a constructive and supportive role when we can. We look forward to a continuing dialogue with NOAA and the SAB.

NASULGC is the nation's oldest higher education association. Currently the association has over 200 member institutions -- including the historically black Land Grant institutions -- located in all fifty states. The Association's overriding mission is to support high quality public education through efforts that enhance the capacity of member institutions to perform their traditional teaching, research, and public service roles. The Board on Oceans and Atmosphere is composed of leading educators and research scholars in the Association's universities. The Board works to ensure that the nation maintains and benefits from a strong and diverse academic capability in the marine (including Great Lakes) and atmospheric sciences.

The Board would like to make a few recommendations to the SAB.

Revise NOAA's Strategic Plan
We recognize that NOAA's effort to develop a Strategic Plan is influenced in part by the mandates in the Government Performance and Results Act. Nevertheless, formal strategic planing is a valuable exercise for the Agency, internally for developing a collective sense of purpose and externally for marshalling constituent understanding and support. NOAA's current Strategic Plan appears to have served the Agency well, and to have contributed some of NOAA's recent budgetary and programmatic successes. However, the plan is now almost 7 years old and it is showing its age. We have been advising NOAA for some time to incorporate a strong, explicit science and technology element in its strategic plan. This element should discuss the purpose and importance of research and development to NOAA, identify major scientific themes, and state how the research and development will be integrated into line office missions. In addition to the establishment of a broad scientific vision for NOAA, strategic planning will lead to a candid assessment of gaps that exist in the current organization that prevent achievement of that vision. Once identified, action can be taken to fill these gaps. The plan should also outline a process for developing new goals and programs. Finally, the strategic plan should discuss in some depth how NOAA would engage the external community to accomplish its scientific goals and future technological needs.

Strengthen the NOAA Joint and Cooperative Institutes
There are currently eleven cooperative institutes operated jointly by universities and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at NOAA. There are similar and equally as important arrangements for cooperative institutes operated jointly by universities and the National Weather Service or the National Ocean Service. These cooperative institutes are geographically dispersed. Most are co-located with OAR laboratories or other NOAA facilities. All serve as formal links between NOAA and university programs, and provide NOAA its greatest opportunities to leverage university resources. These institutes work closely together, sharing expertise and developing common agendas for NOAA related research. They provide NOAA a broad range of services and professional, technical, and administrative support. In addition, scientists, engineers, and technicians within some of these institutes carry out a significant fraction of all NOAA-supported research and development.

NASULGC recommends that the SAB regularly and routinely hear from the directors from these institutes. It should be noted that a FACA-approved committee under the SAB now reviews cooperative institutes.

Recently some cooperative institutes have been tasked by NOAA to serve in a new role as regional centers. Conceivably, using cooperative institutes for this purpose could reduce the administrative burden on smaller institutions while broadening the NOAA research base in the region. With adequate staffing, the Institutes could provide expert guidance in the development of proposals and would provide regional contacts for researchers and administrators.

However, while this new role may have merit, it should not be done simply to pass an administrative burden from NOAA headquarters to the cooperative institutes, nor should it interfere with or detract from the institutes as centers for research and development. If NOAA desires for the institutes to serve as hubs for regional NOAA-funded activities, then the institutes must be provided the additional funding needed to hire appropriate administrative staff. Further, the cooperative institutes must be charged with and given the administrative freedom to ensure adequate scientific oversight, consistent with the requirement that all NOAA-sponsored research, regardless of who performs it, is subject to periodic peer review and that the work is consistent with the strategic or operational needs of NOAA Strategic Plan.

Improved Relations With Universities
We continue to believe that, in general, NOAA underutilizes its university partners in developing a more focused delivery system for the dissemination of information. Land-Grant schools and Sea Grant institutions have outreach systems that represent opportunities for NOAA to connect not only with local and regional non-government entities, but also with State and local governments.

The co-location of facilities has been particularly advantageous to both the universities and the agency. Weather service offices located on campuses have direct access to ongoing meteorological research and teaching programs that ensures that operational forecasters maintain or improve their skills. Students can gain work experience, which leads to graduate studies in NOAA-related research programs, ensuring a pool of highly motivated students for employment in the environmental sciences. These types of arrangements should be expanded. In fact we would suggest that any campus that has an NWS office should also have a cooperative institute arrangement dealing with teaching, research, and outreach elements.

In many cases, NOAA is not using to full advantage research conducted outside the agency, research that could significantly aid in accomplishing its many missions. Indeed, some researchers in the university community perceive a "not invented here" attitude in much of NOAA. Cumbersome bureaucratic management practices continue to impede the rapid transfer of new understanding and state-of-the-art technology to operational use. Much more research on behalf of NOAA could and should be conducted outside the agency, always subject to scrutiny and safeguards that ensures that such research is of the highest quality and improves NOAA's mission performance.

We note that some universities have sought support for research of lower quality or questionable relevance to NOAA through Congressional earmarks in the NOAA budget. NASULGC strongly discourages its members from pursuing such earmarks and will continue to do so. NOAA should see many of these efforts as symptoms indicative of problems in the ways in which NOAA deals with universities in regard to research and development activities.

We recommend that the Science Advisory Board ascertain how many arrangements NOAA has with universities, across the five line offices. We have made an initial attempt to determine the numbers and found them elusive. The problem is that, in our superficial review of these arrangements, it appears that the Line Offices have been engaging in these ventures in an ad hoc, piecemeal fashion with little oversight or accountability to the NOAA mission. We think it would useful for NOAA to have a detailed picture of these relationships. Once this is available, NOAA would be able to better assess how these arrangements help it attain its strategic objectives.

We also continue to find it difficult for the university community to impact NOAA in any collective way. While NOAA communicates well with universities on an individual basis, there is substantial benefit for the Agency in hearing from a "community" of universities. Such an endeavor was once carried out by the Office of the Chief Scientist, and then OAR. Two major conferences were conducted between NOAA and universities with tangible results and benefits for both. Now, we have been told that the mechanism for university input is the SAB.

We appreciate that it is not the purpose of, nor is it feasible for, the public input sessions of the SAB's regular meetings to serve as a venue for a comprehensive dialogue. We urge that the SAB's Issue Group on Education to explore options and then identify and implement an approach that would bring NOAA and the nation's research universities together at a forum where open exchange and dialogue can be executed. NOAA is encouraged to design a format that would allow universities to again engage in a dialogue directly with NOAA senior management and the SAB. We believe this would help NOAA identify areas where NOAA's current research may be wanting, better define the major emerging research themes, , and explore potential resources beneficial to the Agency that universities bring to the table.

Competitive, peer-reviewed extramural research is fundamental to developing the technologies which ensure safe food and water supplies, a healthy environment, sufficient energy sources, better medical care, improved communications and transportation systems, a stronger national defense and strategies and tools to mitigate natural hazards. Information from such research leads to better management of natural resources and maintenance of conditions that contribute to a desired quality of life. Some of the advantages of university research include:

  • the high degree of quality control, through peer review and other review processes;
  • the state and private investment in university infrastructure;
  • the contribution of university research to education of future scientists and engineers through the involvement of students in the research enterprise;
  • the flexibility of the university investment, since funds can be reallocated to new needs and new talent once goals are met, rather than to subsidizing federal facilities and personnel dedicated to prior needs;
  • the decentralized nature of universities which can lead to new directions in research long before the federal administrative structure recognized potential opportunities

There continues to be a strong relationship between universities and OAR laboratories, which ensures that university research can be rapidly assimilated into NOAA operational activities. The success of this enterprise depends on a healthy level of support for both extramural research and for NOAA internal applied research.

Grants Management
One of the important ongoing issues between NOAA and the university community has been the extramural grants process. Streamlining the grants process and reducing paperwork have been concerns that were raised in both of the earlier BOA White Papers dealing with NOAA issues and have been extensively covered in the two NOAA/University Partnership Meetings in 1994 and 1996--as well as in the follow-up implementation meetings that were generated after those gatherings. We continue to receive reports that the situation has not really changed, or may have gotten worse. We are aware that recent grants have taken five months to process, or roughly 150 days. By contrast, 70% of the grants from ONR are processed in less than 30 days, and only 10% take more than two months. For NSF, 90% are processed in less than 60 days. At the same time, NOAA is requiring that all of its competitions be published in the Federal Register. This is a time-consuming process that uses up staff time, ensures delay, and almost always results in serious problems, since too much of the effort comes from the NOAA General Counsel's office rather than from the more knowledgeable program offices. Such cumbersome procedures have the effect of engendering frustration in NOAA's extramural research community and undermining the trust that NOAA leaders have painstakingly worked to cultivate. We would urge that the SAB review the grants process and make recommendations based on experience with other granting agencies. 

Research Budget
An overarching issue for all research managers, federal and university, is to ensure that long-term research capabilities are not eroded by inflation and reallocations to administrative costs . We again note and express great concern that the budget proposed for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research continues to lag behind the requests for the other line offices. While the request for OAR is not as bleak this year as in past years and contains some important elements, it does little to make up for more than a decade of austere budgets that have not kept up with inflation and which have been severely eroded by reallocations. Similarly, we understand that the real growth in NOS has been in the regular management accounts, while scientific and technology development are being left behind.

We believe the situation in the OAR Research Laboratories is particularly crucial and merits the immediate attention of NOAA senior management. These Labs own the research capital (in terms of equipment, facilities, and scientific intellect) that allows NOAA to undertake long-term programs (including implementation and fielding) that carry some risk. In addition, the Labs work closely with university researchers, often through Joint Institutes, drawing on and integrating results from shorter-term projects. Research in the Labs is distinct and complementary to that carried out via shorter term, peer-reviewed proposals in universities. Erosion of the Labs' base funding is thus erosion in the longer-term health of environmental research.

The OAR Labs have not had an increase in base budgets in over 10 years and during that time the purchasing power of the Labs has decreased by over half. The request for FY 01 contains enhancements to base, but not enough to cover > pay costs and some of the base shortfall. The Labs, in many instances, work closely with our universities to perform some of the critical research we have described above. The erosion in the Labs' base budgets must be arrested if NOAA is to retain a sound research base and avoid further reductions in funding for > federal and university staff.

We recommend that NOAA continually monitor and document the status of science in all line offices. This would likely underscore the need for a strong science and technology component in the strategic plan.

NOAA needs to retain a strong, active, and separate research office. The mission Line Offices simply cannot devote the necessary resources to research when faced with daily mission needs, such as daily forecasts or fish regulation. Research, especially innovative (high risk) and long term research, invariably gets marginalized in the effort to meet today's immediate operational needs. Yet such research efforts are the key to NOAA's future. NOAA's improvement in managing its environmental stewardship and environmental prediction portfolios will hinge to a large extent on maintaining a vibrant research capability. NASULGC continues to believe that NOAA would be better served by an institutional arrangement that features three line offices: one for monitoring, analysis, and prediction of the marine and atmospheric environments; one for managing living marine resources and undertaking regulatory functions; and one for research and development.

Minority Serving Initiative
NASULGC strongly supports NOAA's Minority Serving Institutions Initiative. The 35 NASULGC historically Black institutions are served by the Association's Office for the Advancement of Public Black Colleges. OAPBC is an information and advocacy office of NASULGC in cooperation with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. In addition, NASULGC members include a number of Hispanic-serving universities and 29 tribally controlled institutions. The underrepresentation of minorities in the earth science disciplines continues to plague this nation. The NOAA plan contains important elements that will expand and strengthen NOAA's partnership with MSI's and, we believe, constitutes a good faith effort. The plan's Cooperative Science Centers have the potential to make a valuable contribution to the development of science excellence in MSI's. However, the Centers could be enhanced with an explicit capacity-building component, perhaps along the lines of the $9 million Capacity Building Program at USDA. In addition, more centers or a more focused capacity building program will increase the potential for success. Capacity building addresses a fundamental need and is aimed at enabling MSI's to develop the infrastructure and institutional capability to successfully compete for Federal grants and private funding. We believe that the proposed Graduate Scientist Program will broaden the pipeline in the sciences and ultimately create a more diverse workforce in NOAA and the nation's scientific enterprise. Similarly, the proposed Student Fellowship Program will give minority students the institutional experience they need to complement their educational successes. We think the Environmental Entrepreneurship Program is dedicated ostensibly to supporting the Department of Commerce mission. We are not familiar with such a model, but are willing to keep an open mind. We suggest that, should others have a similar reaction, NOAA might wish to re-work this program element or dedicate additional resources to the Centers and capacity building.

Major Research Initiatives
We believe that NOAA needs to support several research initiatives for the Agency to successfully accomplish its environmental stewardship and environmental prediction missions. We have discussed some of these below.

  • US Weather Research Program (USWRP) -- USWRP is in a critical start-up stage. This initiative offers NOAA a unique opportunity for quick return on modest research investments, as the USWRP will exploit the infrastructure put in place by the modernization of the National Weather Service. This applied research program will lead directly to new observational, analysis, and prediction tools for all forms of severe weather, ranging from hurricane landfall to severe thunderstorms to wintertime heavy snow and blizzard events. Preliminary experiments and careful planning of the USWRP by both NOAA and university researchers over the last three years almost certainly guarantee a rapid return on the investment. However, the NOAA investment has been embarrassingly low, with the direct result that this initiative remains in a continual "start-up phase". The USWRP is a major opportunity to take advantage of the capabilities of our universities and the NOAA labs to provide rapid operational improvements in forecasting and also to provide opportunities for the value-added private sector. While independent initiatives by individual NOAA Labs may address some small fraction of the research challenges identified in the planning for the USWRP, to obtain the full range of benefits that are within our grasp requires a major national effort involving all of NOAA, other federal agencies, and the universities. This is an area where NOAA as a whole should lead. Although NOAA has pledged to increase its contribution to $2 million for FY 2001, we feel NOAA should commit to at least $10 million
  • Coastal Hazards - Parallel with the USWRP, coastal hazards should be a major undertaking for NOAA. Such a focused initiative is fully warranted by the risks resulting from the migration of a significant fraction of the population to coastal areas in the last three decades. A coastal hazards initiative would also make extensive use of university-based facilities and further exploit the observing systems deployed under the NWS modernization program. A coastal hazards initiative will benefit greatly from an integrated ocean observing system. 
  • Marine Biotechnology - Biotechnology research is important to understanding such crucial NOAA concerns as fisheries stock structure; aquaculture and stock restoration; the understanding and amelioration of shellfish diseases; and bio-remediation of contaminated sediments, both in ocean and estuarine waters and in shoreline areas. It can also provide the underpinning for future industrial development, including the development of biosensors, bio-processors, food products, and pharmaceuticals. Industry will ultimately be responsible for product development, but NOAA and its university partners can provide the knowledge base that is necessary for development to begin. Advances in marine biotechnology will enhance NOAA's broad marine resource management agenda and the interests of NOAA and the Department of Commerce in sustainable economic development.
  • Marine Bio-diversity - The key to effective management of fisheries is understanding the ecosystems of which the fish are part. Yet we do yet not understand what is in the ecosystem, much less how its components are interrelated. We know very little about mid-level sea life and have only begun to gain insights into deep ocean and sub-seafloor life. The total biomass in both instances is enormous, and may well exceed the entire terrestrial biomass. NOAA is uniquely positioned to begin to understand what is there so that we can begin to responsibly assume stewardship for this vast domain. A better understanding of oceanic bio-diversity, as in the rainforest, will undoubtedly yield substantial economic benefits in the future. But bio-diversity is important in its own right, and it needs to be part of both the research and management agendas of NOAA.
  • Aquaculture - Expansion of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry is constrained by its complex technology, diversity of species, multiple conflicts among production practices, environmental concerns, demand by coastal residents for high aesthetic quality in coastal regions, and fragmented institutional and regulatory systems. Given adequate government incentives and improved research, the U.S. aquaculture has the potential to supply up to 25 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. during the next 20 years. NOAA through Sea Grant and other activities, can supply the full range of services to advance marine aquaculture from the research to delivery (extension).

We appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation and offer our continued assistance and good offices in helping NOAA fulfill its vital mission.

July 7-9, 1999 - Marine Conservation Biology Institute

 

July 7-9, 1999 - National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges

Comments presented to the Science Advisory Board
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
by
Dr. James J. O'Brien, Chair, Board on Oceans and Atmosphere
on behalf of
The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges
July 1999, Seattle, Washington

 

Over the last five years NOAA has undergone profound change. The NOAA of 1999 is vastly different from the NOAA of 1994. The Agency has completed the modernization of the National Weather Service and put in place technologies which have enabled it to greatly improve its ability to warn the people of the U.S. of severe weather, to forecast major climate events such as El Nino and to help mitigate the potential impacts. Vastly improved tornado forecasting is also a result of the modernization program. NOAA has made fundamental strides in managing coastal and marine environments through research and innovative strategies. The Agency must be credited with greatly expanding its outreach efforts and willingness to build partnerships to implement its programs. In fact it is this aspect - working with its partners - that has to a great extent made NOAA's tremendous achievements possible. NASULGC and its Board on Oceans and Atmosphere is honored to be one of NOAA's key partners, playing a constructive and supportive role where our expertise allows. We have worked exceedingly well with NOAA Administrator Baker and many others inside the agency. Today we want to continue in that tradition and provide a few suggestions regarding how NOAA might more ably continue to fulfill its environmental stewardship and prediction mandates in the 21st Century.

I. Strategic Planning

NOAA should be commended for conducting Strategic Planning workshops, which have been highly successful in bringing together NOAA's diverse constituent base for a meaningful and substantive dialogue. We believe that one reason why NOAA has experienced budget increases during years of no-growth government is that NOAA has successfully used the Strategic Planning process to build programs based on input from stakeholders and creating a working constituency to support these activities. The Strategic Planning process has been effective in dealing with short-term, year-to-year, small, specific programs and activities. It has not been as effective in fully engaging NOAA's constituency in long-range, fundamental issues. For example, it may be time to initiate an evaluation on whether or not the Agency's seven strategic elements should continue to guide the agency into the 21st Century. Will these strategic elements continue to give NOAA the tools to address the most serious environmental problems of the next decade? What are the key environmental challenges facing the nation over the next ten to fifteen years? What actions at the national, state, and local level will be necessary and appropriate to solve these problems? What role should science and technology play in characterizing and solving these problems? What kind of capabilities and products and research programs must NOAA develop to effectively respond to these future challenges? What are the critical science and technology information needs for NOAA's stakeholders and what role should NOAA play in helping those stakeholders in meeting them? What are the major advances in science and technology that are likely to occur over the next ten to fifteen years and what new capabilities will NOAA's R&D program need to take advantage of these trends? Engaging NOAA's constituency in these fundamental questions may help provide NOAA the long-term perspective upon which a sound strategic plan continues to guide NOAA. Such questions could also underscore the importance of establishing a clear research portfolio in its strategic document and demonstrating how research will serve as a foundation for its products.

II. Peer Review

NOAA's extramural research and development programs for the most part use peer review in determining research awards. However, not all of NOAA's internal science activity is subject to such scrutiny. We agree with the recent Senate Appropriations report on NOAA's funding bill which stated, "the Committee encourages NOAA to take steps to ensure that all NOAA research, regardless of who performs it, is subject to periodic peer review." Saying that, we want to emphasize that in general the activities of the NOAA labs are of very high quality and contribute immensely to the nation's composite government/university capabilities in atmospheric and oceanic research and service.

III. Computing Capability

In recent testimony before the House Science Committee during a hearing on tornado modeling and forecasting, a witness from the National Center for Atmospheric research noted that modelers outside the U.S. can access computers with ten times the processing speed available to U.S. researchers, and that the U.S. will require improvements of 10 to 100 times to enhance the nationwide modeling ability and improve forecasts. We totally agree with this assessment and believe it should be one of NOAA's highest priorities to dedicate additional resources above the $13 million for high performance computing. Access to the most powerful computing systems is essential to meet NOAA's core mission - improving prediction and forecasting to protect lives and the nation's economic viability.

The problem goes far beyond computing power, however. NOAA does not have the staff to integrate model improvements into operations effectively. More computing power will not solve this problem. The modernization program in the weather service has left NOAA severely understaffed in critical areas (NCEP is the prime example), which should be redressed as increased numerical power is sought. Many in the university community and in the agency are working towards improved assimilation of in situ and remote sensing data. That effort would be greatly enhanced by NOAA's leadership and active support.

IV. Chief Scientists Office

We believe that the Chief Scientists Office (CSO) should be the principal advisor to the NOAA Administrator on core scientific issues. Other major agencies have active CSOs. In the past, NASULGC and the university community have had good input into NOAA's R&D process through the CSO and together have worked to improve NOAA's management of its R&D portfolio. Currently the CSO seems to be in somewhat of a limbo. While the Science Advisory Board can give critical guidance to the Agency and help ensure the credibility of its scientific undertakings, NOAA needs to maintain an active CSO for day-to-day management and oversight of its science enterprise. The CSO was the chief coordinator of the NOAA-University Partnership. The CSO should be given a budget and other resources necessary to be effective in continuing to promote the NOAA-University Partnership.

V. Improved Relations With Universities

NOAA and the nation's universities have both benefited for many years from a diverse array of working relationships. These vary substantially in scope and structure, including formal joint institute agreements and co-location of facilities; personnel exchanges and student internships; and major joint programs. Over several years in the past, NASULGC and other universities met semi-annually with NOAA Administrator Baker, the Line Office heads and other important NOAA players to engage in a dialogue and facilitate a cooperative relationship on issues important to both communities. Universities benefited enormously from these discussions and we believe that we were able to help support the Agency in critical budget battles in Congress. The Science Advisory Board was a product of this partnership, as was a recent symposium on reducing America's vulnerability to coastal disasters. However, these discussions have been discontinued because of what we believe to be erroneous charges that such meetings were in violation of FACA. We are very disappointed that an effective communicative channel between NOAA and its university partners has been abandoned. We truly and sincerely hope NOAA will brave the FACA clatter and once again extend the hand of partnership to its university constituency.

The co-location of facilities has been particularly advantageous to both the universities and the agency. Weather service offices located on campuses have direct access to ongoing meteorological research and teaching programs that ensures that operational forecasters maintain or improve their skills. Students can gain work experience, which leads to graduate studies in NOAA related research programs, ensuring a pool of highly motivated students for employment in the environmental sciences. These types of arrangements should be expanded.

In general NOAA underutilizes its university partners in developing a more focused delivery system for the dissemination of information. Land-Grant schools and Sea Grant institutions have outreach systems which represent opportunities for NOAA to connect not only with local and regional non-government entities, but also with State and local governments.

VI. Research Budget

NASULGC believes that the FY 2000 budget request for NOAA insufficiently funds the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and many of the Agency's most important extramural research programs. OAR is the main research arm of NOAA and contributes to all other Line Offices and Strategic Plan goals and provides the scientific basis for national policy decisions in key areas. It supports a world-class network of scientists and environmental research laboratories and partnerships with academia and the private sector. An overarching issue for research is to ensure that cost increases due to inflation do not erode the long-term research capabilities. While the proposed budget increases funding for the Ocean Service by about 30%, and the Fisheries Service by 15% from the FY 1999 appropriated level, OAR's budget suffers a cut. In fact, FY 2000 continues a disturbing pattern for OAR where research is under funded to make way for operational programs, and Congress is left to restore the balance among research and other activities. The Senate Appropriations Committee has done just that, by increasing OAR's budget to $319,910,000 for FY 2000, instead of $282,570,000 as requested.

The under funding of OAR seems to be symptomatic of the trend in federal support for R&D. The President's budget is proposing to reduce total R&D spending by $1 billion in FY2000, or 1 percent, to $78.24 billion. Moreover, Federal support for basic research has decreased from an annual growth rate of 22.9 percent in the 1950s to 2 percent in the current decade. Competitive, peer-reviewed extramural research is fundamental to developing the technologies which ensure safe food and water supplies, a healthy environment, sufficient energy sources, better medical care, improved communications and transportation systems, a stronger national defense and strategies and tools to mitigate natural hazards. Information from such research leads to improved management of natural resources and maintenance of conditions that contribute to a desired quality of life. Some of the advantages of university research include:

n the high degree of quality control, through peer review and other review processes;
n the state and private investment in university infrastructure; 
n the contribution of university research to education of future scientists and engineers through the involvement of students in the research enterprise; 
n the flexibility of the university investment, since funds can be reallocated to new needs and new talent once goals are met, rather than to subsidizing federal facilities and personnel dedicated to prior needs; 
n the decentralized nature of universities which can lead to new directions in research long before the federal administrative structure recognized potential opportunities

There continues to be a strong relationship between universities and OAR laboratories, which ensures that university research can be rapidly assimilated into NOAA operational activities. The success of this enterprise depends on a healthy level of support for both extramural research and for NOAA internal applied research.

VII. Role of the Science Advisory Board

We believe one of the most important functions of the Science Advisory Board is to keep the communication lines open to the research community, both within and outside the agency. We would urge that a Subcommittee, or some other mechanism, be established so there could be a continual process of dialogue. It is important for the SAB to receive input throughout the year, not just at the designated meeting times. Such input will help the SAB establish a clear agenda and priorities, and help them serve as a vehicle to bring together external and internal expertise. The SAB should ask the type of questions discussed in item I and help the agency develop a long-term plan. 
VIII. Major Research Initiatives

A. The Natural Disaster Reduction Initiative (NDRI) - NDRI offers many opportunities for NOAA to exhibit leadership and greatly strengthen both its internal research base and the agency's connections to universities. NOAA needs a well-grounded research plan to ensure its proper role in this multi-agency initiative. 
1. US Weather Research Program (USWRP) USWRP is in a critical start-up stage. This initiative offers NOAA a unique opportunity for quick return on modest research investments as the USWRP will exploit the infrastructure put in place by the modernization of the National Weather Service (NWS). This applied research program will lead directly to new observational, analysis, and prediction tools for all forms of severe weather, ranging from hurricane landfall to severe thunderstorms to wintertime heavy snow and blizzard events. Preliminary experiments and careful planning of the USWRP by both NOAA and university researchers over the last three years almost certainly guarantee a rapid return on the investment. However, the NOAA investment has been much too low. Although NOAA has pledged a contribution of $1.5 million for FY 2000, we feel NOAA should commit to at least $10 million. The USWRP is a major opportunity to take advantage of the meteorological capabilities of our universities, and the NOAA labs to provide rapid operational improvements in forecasting and also to provide opportunities for the value-added private sector
2. Coastal Hazards - Parallel with the USWRP, Coastal Hazards should be a major 
undertaking for NOAA. Such a focused initiative is fully warranted by the risks resulting from the migration of a significant fraction of the population to coastal areas in the last three decades. A coastal hazards initiative would also make extensive use of university-based facilities and further exploit the observing systems deployed under the NWS modernization program. A coastal hazards initiative will benefit greatly from an integrated ocean observing system (see below).

B. Marine Biotechnology. Biotechnology research is important to understanding such crucial NOAA concerns as fisheries stock structure; aquaculture and stock restoration; the understanding and amelioration of shellfish diseases; and bio-remediation of contaminated sediments, both in ocean and estuarine waters and in shoreline areas. It can also provide the underpinning for future industrial development, including the development of biosensors, bio-processors, food products, and pharmaceuticals. Industry will ultimately be responsible for product development, but NOAA and its university partners can provide the knowledge base that is necessary for development to begin. Advances in marine biotechnology will enhance NOAA's broad marine resource management agenda and the interests of NOAA and the Department of Commerce in sustainable economic development.

C. Marine Bio-diversity. The scientific community is beginning to learn that in order to manage fisheries one must in turn manage ecosystems. Unfortunately, in many cases we do yet not understand what is in the ecosystem, much less how its components are interrelated. We know very little about mid-level sea life and have only begun to gain insights into deep ocean and sub-seafloor life. The total biomass in both instances is enormous, and may well exceed the entire terrestrial biomass. NOAA is uniquely positioned to begin to understand what is there so that we can begin to responsibly assume stewardship for this vast domain. A better understanding of oceanic bio-diversity, as in the rainforest, will undoubtedly yield substantial economic benefits in the future. But bio-diversity is important in its own right, and it needs to be part of both the research and management agendas of NOAA.

D. Integrated Ocean Observing System -- The recently-issued report "Toward a U.S. Plan for an Integrated, Sustained Ocean Observing System" lays out a compelling case for a vastly improved ocean observing system. This system will provide the observational basis for many NOAA operational and research activities. The sustained ocean observing system should support better coastal weather forecasting, improve navigation to avoid environmental disasters, and help mitigate health hazards. Monitoring of both open ocean and inshore coastal waters is essential for long-term prediction supporting oceanic and coastal resource management practices. It may also stimulate economic growth by providing the necessary environmental information to sustain aquaculture, increase the efficiency of marine transportation systems and boater safety, for example. NOAA leadership is essential to make this a success. Here NOAA could make great use of its university partners to foster stronger ties with coastal states and communities.

E. Aquaculture -- In 1998, U.S. imports of edible seafood products totaled $7.4 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $5.3.billion. As wild fish stocks decline, aquaculture has become one of the world's fastest growing food-producing sectors. By 1997, aquaculture supplied 23 percent of the world demand for finfish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Despite this growing dependence on aquaculture, the U.S. produces about 2 percent of the value of global aquaculture production. Expansion of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry is constrained by its complex technology, diversity of species, multiple conflicts among production practices, environmental concerns, demand by coastal residents for high aesthetic quality in coastal regions, and fragmented institutional and regulatory system. Given adequate government incentives and improved research, the U.S. aquaculture has the potential to supply up to 25 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. during the next 20 years. NOAA through Sea Grant and other activities, can supply the full range of services to advance marine aquaculture from the research to delivery (extension).

We appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation and offer our continued assistance and good offices in helping NOAA fulfill its vital mission.

January 28, 1999 - Marine Conservation Biology Institute

NOAA Science Advisory Board Meeting
January 28, 1999
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Comments to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Science Advisory Board
January, 1999

NOAA's Strategic Plan: Environmental Stewardship Goals and Scientific Research

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on NOAA's Strategic Plan and scientific Research at NOAA. Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI) is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to advancing the science of marine conservation biology to conserve marine species and ecosystems. We do this by holding multi-disciplinary scientific workshops on emerging marine conservation issues and by organizing the first Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology, held at the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in June, 1997. While MCBI welcomes the opportunities provided by NOAA at its annual constituent meetings to provide input into the Strategic Plan, a fundamental concern remains year after year: as currently structured, NOAA's Strategic Plan for Environmental Stewardship does not reflect the inherent cross-cutting nature of its goals, thereby ensuring that NOAA does not achieve any of them.

NOAA's Strategic Plan is divided into 2 broad missions: (1) Environmental Assessment & Prediction and (2) Environmental Stewardship. The Environmental Stewardship mission is further divided into 3 goals: (a) Build Sustainable Fisheries; (b) Recover Protected Species; and (c) Sustain Healthy Coasts. Each of these areas is addressed separately in the Plan and in (concurrent) constituent meetings. Yet each of these Environmental Stewardship goals is intimately related to the others. Ecologists, conservation biologists, and most lay people recognize that intact functioning healthy marine ecosystems include the commercially important fish species targeted in goal (a), the endangered and threatened species addressed in goal (b), and NOAA's myriad other resource management mandates wrapped up in goal (c). Strategies for achieving these goals cannot be discussed in isolation from one another. A holistic approach is needed that integrates the strategies, so that the overall plan is mutually reinforcing. Regrettably, there continues to be virtually no evidence of integration in NOAA's Strategic Plan.

One way to improve integration is to link management goals through the common scientific foundation necessary to achieve them. An overaching research program in marine conservation biology, designed to understand marine species and ecosystems in a comprehensive fashion across a broad span of geographic and temporal scales that examines how to protect, restore, and sustainably use them, would be a vital link among all of NOAA's Environmental Stewardship goals. Approaching these goals from an integrated, multidisciplinary research program would help reveal the interrelations among them and provide a more comprehensive basis for management decisions.

For example, fisheries research on stock assessments to improve predictions of allowable catch should not occur in isolation from research on the needs of resident endangered species or from coastal management activities. Such a situation can lead to dismaying results like those revealed by Dr. James Estes and colleagues at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the journal Science in October, 1998. Dr. Estes traced a dramatic decline in sea otters off the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to increased predation by killer whales. Killer whales normally eat endangered Steller sea lions and harbor seals, but populations of these animals have declined significantly in recent years as well. A primary cause of their decline is believed to be heavy fishing of their preferred prey, such as ocean perch and herring. While these prey species may not have been overfished according to fisheries population models, they apparently were for the marine mammal community (which these models do not take into account). The ripple effects continued towards the shore: with a dramatic decline in sea otters - a keystone species - the sea urchin population skyrocketed from decreased predation. The unchecked sea urchins, in turn, demolished kelp forests along the coast. Dr. Estes anticipates that the loss of kelp forest will result in a decline in populations of fishes dependent on this habitat, and also coastal birds such as the bald eagle that rely on these fish for food. Hence fishery management activities, believed to be consistent with the Build Sustainable Fisheries goal, can, and do, undermine Recovering Protected Species and Sustaining Healthy Coasts goal when managers do not understand the ecological connections within ecosystems. The comprehensive marine conservation biology research we are proposing can generate information for this needed integration.

There are likely many organization factors inhibiting communication and integrated management throughout NOAA that need to be addressed. Regardless of other organizational weaknesses, however, the underlying foundation for resource management decisions - research - must also be integrated. Marine conservation biology is a multidisciplinary science involving oceanographers, fisheries biologists, marine mammalogists, ichthyologists, ecologists, geneticists, social scientists, and others that focuses on questions of protecting, restoring, and sustainably using marine biological diversity. This new science provides an integrated approach to marine conservation questions. MCBI urges NOAA to establish an extramural research program in marine conservation biology that can provide more thorough information on managing marine ecosystems, as we outlined in previous comments to the Science Advisory Board (July, 1998).

A successful approach to establishing such a program could involve partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF is the premier agency for scientific research, but traditionally has not viewed its mission as supporting applied research to solve conservation problems. Moreover, its focus on longstanding single disciplines does not promote new, multidisciplinary sciences such as marine conservation biology. However, NSF has been a successful partner with NOAA on several important conservation and management research endeavors, including ECOHAB (to study the causes and consequences of harmful algal blooms) and GLOBEC (to study how physical factors influence fisheries). These programs can help guide the establishment of a general program in marine conservation biology in partnership with NSF.

As the 20th Century draws to a close the world's marine species and ecosystems are declining at an unprecedented rate. Clearly NOAA's current approaches aren't working. As the participation of more than 1,000 scientists at the first Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology demonstrates, the wave of the future in understanding and conserving marine life is multidisciplinary research to examine complex questions that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines. NOAA should provide this new science the support it needs to address growing problems into the new millennium. MCBI is ready to work with NOAA and the Science Advisory Board of effective and creative ways to make that happen.

Thank you,
Amy Mathews-Amos
Program Director

January 28, 1999 - Estuarine Research Federation

NOAA Science Advisory Board Meeting
January 28, 1999
Estuarine Research Federation

January 14, 1999

To: Members, NOAA Science Advisory Board
Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Executive Director

From: Nancy Rabalais, President
Estuarine Research Federation

Re: Invitation to the Ocean Sciences Subcommittee to attend the Estuarine Research Federation's Conference in New Orleans, September 26-30, 1999.

Dear Dr. Crosby and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the members of the Federation's Governing Board I am pleased to invite you to join us in New Orleans this September to attend and participate in our biennial conference. Our organization is the nation's premier research society for estuarine and coastal research and we would welcome the chance to share the excitement of our work with you.

We expect approximately 1000 scientists and resource managers from around America and other countries. Their latest research findings will be presented and discussed in formal and informal settings. One of the interesting and unique things about the Federation is that it's membership, while predominately academics, comprises a significant minority of resource agency scientists and managers also. Their presence keeps our science grounded in practical considerations and peppers our debates with references to problems where science, policy and management intersect.

We invite you to attend the full week of our conference. We would like to create an opportunity for you to meet with the members of the Federation's Governing Board so that we can discuss topics of mutual interest. One option for this would be for the Governing Board to host a lunch for your members. We welcome your ideas for other avenues of interaction between our organizations. If your subcommittee would like to hold a meeting during the conference, we can provide a conference room for you at our hotel. Our executive director, Joy Bartholomew, will contact Dr. Crosby in early February to discuss arrangements or feel free to call me at 504-851-2880 (or nrabalais@lumcon.edu) to discuss this invitation.

July 23-24, 1998 - Marine Conservation Biology Institute

 

July 23-24, 1998 - Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society

10 July 1998

Dr. Michael Crosby
Executive Director
Science Advisory Board
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
HCHB Room 5128
14th & Constitution Ave
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Dr. Crosby:

I am responding to a notice in the July issue of the Federal Register that gives notice to the meeting that will be held in the Commerce Building on 23-24 July. Since I have a prior commitment to participate in a scientific meeting in New York, I will be unable to attend. However, in lieu of my not being able to attend, I am enclosing a brief scientific statement of concern about the lack of interest and support for a diving research program by NOAA.

I am hopeful that you will read and then possibly discuss the pressing need to support diving research.

Respectfully submitted,

Leon J. Greenbaum, Jr., Ph.D.
Executive Director
Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society

The Requirement by NOAA to Support Diving Research

The President's recent speech in Monterey, California alerted the American public about the slow deterioration of our oceans and the immediate need to initiate an oceans research program to better understand our marine environment with the goal to slow and even reverse the deterioration. He "proposed to intensify our efforts with a $224 million initiative to enhance the health of our oceans while expanding ocean opportunities in responsible ways for the environment."

In all probability a portion of future oceans research will be carried out by marine biologists, marine chemists, oceanographers and fisheries scientists whose initial training was in the sciences but who are also scientific divers. To make the diving safe and efficient, basic physiological research is needed and at present NOAA does not have a funded diving research program. Even though the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act has directed Congress and NOAA to support a diving research program, neither has seen fit to annually budget funds for a well-rounded support program at the NOAA headquarters.

If any funds are set aside for diving research in NOAA, it would be a serious mistake to allocate these funds to the various NURP centers because their review panels do not included any diving physiologists. There would be a strong tendency to commit those funds to programs in marine biology, fisheries, oceanography, etc. I would suggest therefore that a fraction of the $224 million dollars, viz., two million dollars be assigned to the diving research office in NOAA headquarters.