Statement of Task

img_4843The committee for the Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences 2015 (DSOS) will develop a list of the top ocean science priorities for the next decade in the context of the current state of knowledge, ongoing research activities, and resource availability. The DSOS committee’s report will present a compelling research strategy for increased understanding of the oceans over the decade 2015-2025. The report will include the following elements:

1. A review of the current state of knowledge that highlights findings and technologies over the past decade that have advanced our basic understanding of the oceans, driven new discoveries, created new paradigms; or established new societal imperatives. The review should also consider new science and technologies emerging from other disciplines that could be applied to the ocean sciences.

2. A concise set of compelling, high level scientific questions that will be central to the ocean sciences over the coming decade and, if answered, could transform our scientific knowledge of the oceans. Prioritization may be derived from relevance to societal benefits, new technological breakthroughs, emerging or underdeveloped yet vital subjects poised for rapid development, or other drivers. The scientific questions and related priorities need not be all-inclusive and should be limited to ten or fewer. The goal is to identify areas of strategic investment with the highest potential payoff.

3. An analysis of the research infrastructure needed to address the priority research topics or questions. This will include an assessment of the current portfolio of multiuser facilities investments funded by NSF and their operational costs (information to be provided by NSF) as well as proposed new facilities. If new facilities are proposed, the committee will provide a range of estimates for the cost (upper and lower bounds) and include not only construction but also the full life cycle costs for operations and maintenance. The analysis should also consider capacity to respond to unexpected events.

4. An analysis of the current portfolio of investments in ocean science programs at NSF with recommendations for changes necessary, if any, to align resources so as to achieve the priorities established in #2. The current portfolio includes programs within the Division of Ocean Sciences and allied program areas (e.g., Polar Programs, Biodiversity) as well as NSF-wide cross-divisional/cross-directorate initiatives that target highly interdisciplinary themes involving the ocean (e.g., SEES).

5. An identification of opportunities for NSF to complement the capabilities, expertise, and strategic plans of other federal agencies so as to avoid duplication of effort, encourage collaboration and shared use of research assets where appropriate, and maximize the value of NSF investments in the ocean sciences. This will be based on a brief survey of major ocean research programs funded by other Federal agencies.

The final report will recommend a strategy to optimize investments that will advance knowledge in the most critical and/or opportune areas of investigation while also continuing to support core disciplinary science and infrastructure. The recommendations of the committee should include guidance on the most effective portfolio of investments achievable at the current funding level that will support both the research infrastructure (#3) and programmatic science (#4) necessary to address the most significant priorities. This should include assessing trade-offs among options and identifying potential cost saving mechanisms; assessing the impact of new initiatives and /or modification of existing programs on the overall portfolio as well as identifying opportunities for collaboration among the federal agencies that would leverage investments, optimize use of infrastructure assets, and foster multidisciplinary research. The report will include decision rules on how the program could be adjusted if future funding levels increase or decrease relative to the current level.