Jon White – From the President’s Office: 1-30-2017

2017-01-30T15:49:15+00:00 January 30, 2017|

Jon White, President of Ocean LeadershipWelcome to all of our new COL-leagues who signed up for Ocean News Weekly at the AGU Fall Meeting. As a subscriber of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL)’s weekly newsletter, you’ll receive policy and science highlights from the previous week, COL news, job listings, grants and funding opportunities, upcoming meetings and conferences, and more, all with an ocean science, research, and technology focus.

After more than 32 years of active duty in the Navy, you can bet I understand the importance of federal agencies being allowed to freely operate and function independently (once upon a time, we actually went to sea without e-mail and Inmarsat). As a scientist, I understand even more the key role science plays at every federal agency for many different and very important reasons. Science underpins regulations, keeps our nation secure (superior science, especially ocean science, has been key to our military success since the earliest days of our nation), and provides countless societal benefits. Basic research improves our understanding of the world we live in, and scientists need to be allowed and encouraged to continue their work, unhindered by political constraints. Wilbur Ross, nominee for Department of Commerce, echoed this sentiment in a letter to Senator Nelson, stating that, barring a national security concern, he sees “no valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public.” So, like many of you, I raised my eyebrows last week as news came out of our new administration. Grants and contracts were frozen at the EPA. Several agencies were put under communications holds, ranging from Twitter accounts to a ban on releasing public-facing documents. It’s certainly cause for concern whenever it seems that science is being politicized or restrained, and that researchers are not being allowed to share their federally funded work.  

Before becoming overly alarmed, I will note that any time there’s a change at the highest levels of an organization (or nation), it’s not unusual to hit the pause button. This allows everyone to get on the same page and lets new leadership communicate directives, avoiding potential confusion.  I by no means advocate for the subversion or dismissal of science and its communication, but I do understand the need for a temporary halt to get affairs in order. As our nation moves forward, we must do so in a way that allows for the advancement of science, by U.S.-born citizens as well as the rising number of scientists living or moving here from abroad (as of 2013, 5.2 million of our 29 million scientists and engineers were not born in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 2003). As always, we’ll be keeping a close watch on all of this and keep you informed on how actions will affect the ocean science and technology community. We will weigh in as necessary to ensure the voice of ocean science is heard and listened to — it is too important to every American and every nation to be ignored or discounted.

Don’t forget – it’s never too early to save the date for COL’s annual public policy forum.  Pencil us in for March 8, 2017, and plan to join us for Feeding the Future: An Ocean of Opportunity.

RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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