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Bow Watch: Sea Grant is Unique

Carl Richards - headshot

Sea Grant has unique elements that have allowed it to flourish since its inception in 1966. Because the legislation that authorizes the National Sea Grant program is currently being discussed in Congress, I wanted to share some background on Sea Grant and its structure with you.

The Minnesota Sea Grant Program is part of a larger network of Sea Grant Programs across the nation. It is important to understand and recognize the valued aspects of Sea Grant at both the national and local levels at which it operates.

As part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Sea Grant College Program engages the nationís top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources.

Sea Grantís mission is achieved by:

  • Conducting priority-driven and peer-reviewed research to solve environmental problems and create economic opportunities through partnerships with coastal residents, businesses and industry, and local, regional, state and federal agencies;
  • Transferring scientific research results to these audiences through a nationwide extension program;
  • Providing training opportunities for K-12 teachers to bring science into the classroom and for undergraduate and graduate students to be mentored by senior researchers; and
  • Informing the public about marine and coastal issues through communications and education programs.

The 30 university-based Sea Grant programs serve as the core of a dynamic network of more than 300 institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, outreach experts, educators, and students. The Sea Grant network addresses key issues and opportunities in areas such as aquaculture, aquatic nuisance species, biotechnology, seafood safety, fisheries management, coastal business and development, water quality, and coastal hazards. While these topics are not the unique province of Sea Grant, the program has a reputation as a national leader in them.

Sea Grant represents a terrific value for the investment of federal funds. Our programs are required by law to match $1 in non-federal funds for every $2 of federal investment. Actual revenues spent on Sea Grant activities nationwide from all sources totaled $108 million for fiscal year 2001, in contrast to the federal appropriation that year, which was $62.25 million.

All Sea Grant research, outreach, and education efforts are subject to a consistent scientific peer-review process. During 2000-2001, 520 research projects were funded following a rigorous peer-review process at a success rate of 22 percent. The turnover rate in principal investigators was 70 percent from the previous biennium. These are statistics similar to those of the Division of Ocean Sciences within the National Science Foundation. All extension, communication and education programs are proposal-based and peer-reviewed. In 1998, the National Sea Grant College Program implemented a rigorous external review process of each of the 30 Sea Grant programs once every four years. This performance review evaluates each program on its management, peer review procedures, strategic planning processes, the significance of results produced, and how results are received and used by stakeholders.

To be successful in the future, Sea Grant must remain a partnership program among the nationís premier universities and laboratories, federal, state, and local governments, the private sector, and the public. Sea Grantís partnerships make the program stronger, reduce costs, and address real world problems and opportunities.

If you have any questions about the nature of Sea Grant, or the status of ongoing legislation, please contact our offices.

Carl Richards' signature

Carl Richards

Minnesota Sea Grant Director

By Carl Richards
March 2002

Return to March 2002 Seiche

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