Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Ground Breaking Ceremony
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, Mass.
Laboratory for Ocean Sensors and Observing Systems (LOSOS)
August 4, 2010
Good morning everybody.
It is a pleasure and a delight to be here and join my colleagues and friends to congratulate you on this moment.
This is a celebration of a beginning. It's a beginning of a construction project, but more than that, it's the construction and laying of the foundations for scientific discovery and achievement that we're most excited about—the new Laboratory for Ocean Sensors and Observing Systems, or LOSOS—I'll borrow your terminologies.
I have a confession to make before I start. It has taken me a long time to get to Woods Hole, but I have finally done it, and I have to confess that as a middle school student, I dreamt of coming to work here. I was a closet oceanographer, which is a strange thing when you think about it. I was growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hundreds of miles away. But I passionately read every Jacques Cousteau book and dreamed of coming here. So, it didn't quite work out the way I wanted, but here I am leading an agency that has the privilege of issuing a grant to you and that marks the occasion of my first visit here.
LOSOS is really exciting. This facility will enable a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to tackle some of the most difficult measurement problems there are. Dr. [Larry] Robinson, who will come after me, is in a much better position than I am to talk to you about the importance of the ocean research projects that LOSOS will support, but NIST is a measurement agency. We support the nation's ability to make accurate measurements. And this facility supports measurement in some of the most difficult and challenging environment that exists—that is the one, of course, in the oceans.
The science and understanding of the world around us it will advance depends in large part on these advances in instrumentation and sensors. The ocean presents one of the most challenging environments for scientific instrumentation that exist—it's powerful, it's corrosive, storm-tossed, and under incredible pressure in the depths. Full of critters, not all of them very helpful to the task of making measurements. It is a frontier for measurement science.
It is interesting to note that NIST and Woods Hole have a record, a small one, but an important record of working together in the past. Back in the early 1960s, NIST worked on developing floating, automated weather stations installed on buoys developed for the Antarctic for the U.S. Navy. The forerunners, I suppose, of today's automated ocean buoy systems like those developed and deployed here at Woods Hole.
We also have a track record of working in areas of research. Researchers from Woods Hole and NIST have co-authored nearly a dozen papers over the years, but these have been very high-impact papers leading to hundreds of citations and spin-off work in more than 200 different universities and hundreds of federal and state government agencies.
I want to say just a few words about the program that funded this. The source of funds for this construction project was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NIST has run a construction grant program for the last four years, but it received a significant increase of $180 million under the Recovery Act funding. The purpose of this funding, of course, was two-fold. It was to stimulate investment in a time when it's difficult to make investments of this type, and we're here, of course, to mark the beginning of that investment in this state-of-the-art facility. But it's also important to note that the Recovery Act was specifically designed to lay the foundation for future achievement and future innovation by the deepening understanding that a facility like this will enable. So there is no better example of these dual purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act than the project we are here to celebrate today.
I should also note that Woods Hole is to be deeply congratulated for their success. This program is peer reviewed. It's run as a competitive process, and it was very competitive. We received 167 proposals. The amount of money requested in those proposals amounted to more than $1.8 billion worth of funding that was being requested. This is a deep need. Of those 167 proposals, we were only able to fund 12 projects, including this one, with a total of $123 million. So you are in a very select group and we congratulate you for that.
The Recovery Act was also the source of the research grant that Susan [Avery] also mentioned, which is to look at new buoy sensor technologies to track the distribution and assimilation of carbon dioxide in marine ecosystems—very critically important work. And again, we congratulate Woods Hole for their success on that.
So, onward with the celebration. We are delighted to be here to join you today, and I want to thank you very much for opportunity to be here, finally, at Woods Hole.