And now for something completely different ? I am attending the Ocean Observatories Initiative Science Workshop in Baltimore. Today was the first day and there’s a half day tomorrow. OOI is big science in its purest form. It’s multi-decade, multi-hundred million dollar facility for studying the ocean. In Europe, they have ESONET and in Japan, they have lots of similar projects, but DONET is probably the most similar. Canada has NEPTUNE.
There are several parts to this thing: regional scale nodes (RSN), global scale nodes (GSN), coastal nodes, cyberinfrastructure (CI), and education/public engagement (EPE). The next 5 years are about building the infrastructure, and then the implementing organizations will operate and maintain the system for 2 years after that. The system is expected to be in service for 25-30 years. Some data might start coming out in 2012 or 2013, but the actual commissioning dates are later. All the data will be freely available in real time or as soon as possible. The implementing organizations are all selected with the exception of EPE. There will be an intent to intend to intend to intend something or other in December, and then a bidders’ conference, and then an award next spring.
The workshop has been pretty cool so far. They started with some program overviews, info about the NSF, and program management stuff. You’d think the program management stuff would be boring, but holy cow look at all of the moving parts! The science requirements for this thing have been developed over the past 10 years and then there are regular programmatic requirements as well as special ones since they applied recovery act money. So it’s a big deal to make sure the design and build all meet the requirements and that they get done on time and on budget.
Next, they talked about research opportunities (in very general terms) and education/public engagement. Since the EPE thing hasn’t been awarded yet, and at this stage it’s infrastructure, not specific education programs that was somewhat short. Interestingly, the audiences they’ve identified are not the typical “k to gray” but only post-secondary and what the speaker called “free choice learning.” I guess that’s because of the types of data that will be coming out.
The sessions the rest of the day were even neater. They were on “science drivers and design” – one on coastal, one on regional, one on high latitude, and then the final on linking global to local science. Of course some of these were better than others – the best were like the best NOVA or Discovery channel show, but with more meat! The regional scale node is up off of Washington state on the Juan de Fuca plate. It will be cabled, so there will be lots of power and lots of bandwidth lots of kilometers from the shore and maybe as deep as a few thousand meters at the end. The speakers mentioned some things that can be done there with that.
Coastal was also kind of cool. They’ll have these moored buoys that can make their own power at the top using wind and solar as well as communicate via satellite and acoustically to AUVs and to gliders. The speaker spent some time talking about the coastal shelf and why it’s a neat place to study. Fascinating.
High latitude (someone in the audience complained that it’s not really all that high and that there’s a program issue at NSF with handoffs between Polar programs and Ocean programs – but anyway) gave a lot of really good reasons these spots were selected. I had wondered because I didn’t know what Irminger Sea and the Argentinean Basin had in common. Now’s the time when I should tell you some really good science. Alas, I’ve probably forgotten most of it. Sediment deposits. Wild currents. Um….
One of the PIs made a big deal about how their field was all expeditionary, then satellite was accepted gradually, but that this is a whole new way of doing this type of science. Interesting.
Tomorrow there’s more on the cyber bit. If you’re thinking about asking for money it seems like their answer was to do workshops first. So do workshops.