Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The size of "Marine" Science in the USA


Great stories are told through budget data:  (re)prioritizations of social values, the rise of new problems, and the fall of old problems.    

This post began with a question I had last week, "How big are the marine sciences?" 

A colleague at UNCW suggested that perhaps, while atmospheric studies are concentrated at large federal type institutions, marine science is scattered around.

In studying the earth, it is difficult to pull apart geophysical systems.  For instance, the climate is as much a product of the atmosphere as it is the ocean.  The study of fisheries is similar.  Perhaps the ocean- atmosphere is better considered a gradient then two separate entities.

A human attribute is that we like to categorize: food/drink, man/woman, white/black, despite what the best of our scientific knowledge tells us about the difficulties of doing so.

Budgets seem to be exemplar of categorization.  In asking about the size of marine science it is useful to start with public financing of the activity. 

First things, there is remarkable Federal support for research and there has been for some time.  This is ought no longer be astonishing news.  See for example Frontiers of Illusion


US budget data for this graph and the next are from the White House here

Clearly, most research money goes to defense.  But, since the end of the cold war, Defense and non-defense R&D has seen a rough 50/50 to 60/40 split.

NSF funding, the provider of much academic research, has maintained a small but constant and slightly increasing share of US non-defense funding.  The 1954-2016 average is 5%.

US social value priorities is evidenced by comparing NSF funding to that of NIH.

By comparison, NSF is very small.  The 1960-2016 average is 30%.  Though since reaching that 30% benchmark in the late 1980's NIH funding has grown to a 50% of non-defense R&D spending.


The NSF GEO division 
supports research spanning the Atmospheric, Earth, Ocean and Polar sciences. As the primary U.S. supporter of fundamental research in the polar regions, GEO provides interagency leadership for U.S. polar activities.
In 2014, GEO's budget was $1.3 Billion.  The 2015 estimated and 2016 requested is somewhat similar give or take several million (these numbers may not be adjusted for inflation??).  So, GEO funding is about 1/4 of NSF's budget (NSF in 2014 = $5.198B)
  
Particularly interesting,
GEO provides about 64 percent of the federal funding for basic research at academic institutions in the geosciences.
This means that geophysical research at universities are particularly sensitive to NSF budget fluctuations.

Of GEO's funding, about 30% goes to their Ocean Science division (i.e. ~$356.3 million).  I have not been able to come up for historical data on this.  Perhaps, I'll ask around.

The Ocean Science Division covers such wonders as, Biological/Physical Oceanography, Ocean Drilling, and Marine Geology.

This of course does not include the outlays for NOAA.  Historical data would be handy here but I couldn't turn it up in a readily accessible manner.  

In 2015, NOAA operated about a $5.5 billion budget.  This is about about 40% of the Department of Commerce budget (see budget data link above)

Based on their 2016 budget request, we can note a couple of activities very marine science-y:
  • National Oceanic Service: $574 million
  • National Marine fisheries Service: $990 million
If you put in some other works that fall into that gradient of ocean-atmosphere:
  • Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR): $507million
Then there is NOAA's big ticket programs
  • National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services (NESDIS): $2,380 million
  • National Weather Service (NWS), which now does all sorts of marine like forecasts such as rip tides: $1,099 million
These programs are more complicated because they are neither simply marine nor atmosphere.  So, I'll just leave it at that.

So let's say the size of "marine" science based on Federal funding is somewhere around...

$1.92 billion if you consider things that are explicitly marine or ocean; and 
$2.43 billion, if you include NOAA's OAR but exclude their big ticket NESDIS and NWS

This is about 0.01% of US GDP.

Of course this doesn't include any state funding.  For instance, in 2014-2015 North Carolina contributed about $10 million to Marine Fisheries Research and Management.  Nor does it include private funding or NIST.

This doesn't clarify my colleague's point (perhaps marine science is scattered about).  Nor do these estimates show any comparison (is marine science a greater or lesser US priority).

It does however, answer the general question I started off with,  How big is marine science?

It is about $2 billion give or take.  It is about 7% of NSF's budget and about 0.01% of US GDP.

That is of course, if you accept my characterization of marine science.

Google does not. It quickly routes me to Oceanography.  Wikipedia routes me to a vague explanation of things relating to the sea or ocean.

Where does marine science end and studying the rest of the geophysical system begin?  

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