Why doesn't science put more money and time into researching the ocean?

I just watched a TED talk about ocean life, and the speaker said that only 3% of what’s going on down in oceans has been discovered. Why the lack of interest?

I knew a guy who did research on how to grow food like scallops but it never really worked out. I think the main source of research is the Navy but I don’t know how much they do. Also the weather service researches the oceans to predict weather.

Probably because it’s hard as hell to really watch what’s going on under water. We’ve mapped the ocean floor pretty well, but how can you watch all the different types of life underwater when it’s dark, cold, and the only way to stay down is in a sub and that’s not all that great for lots of windows.

NOAA does a lot of work with the oceans, they have a ton of ships out all the time, but it’s incredibly hard and expensive to stay down for long. Hell we still discover new life on land all the time so it’s no wonder that we don’t know that much about life under the water.

Where could the 3% figure possibly come from? If they don’t know what is going on, then how could they possibly come up with how much they don’t know. It’s there are large portions of the sea floor that are not well explored, but I suspect that this is largely because there is no motive to do so. As far as I know, there is nothing down there that we can’t get up here much cheaper.

I am sure there are lots of scientists, and would-be-scientists, who would love to do more oceanic research. The question is, who is going to pay for it, and why? That sort of research is expensive. Given the general esteem in which science is held, “it’s interesting,” can get the field a little bit of money, but for big money someone would need to see an opportunity for big profits, or military advantages, or something like that.

Quite a bit of $ is spent on oceanography. Naturally the oceanographers (I am one) would like to spend more, but lots of good (and a fair bit of bad) research gets done.

My favorite factoid about how much is there to learn in the ocean is that the second most common (largest number of individuals) form of multicellular life was discovered in 1999-the most common lifeform on the planet was discovered in 2001. :slight_smile:

Both are microplankton that slips through regular plankton nets.

I was thinking the same thing. :stuck_out_tongue:

Who says there’s a lack of interest?

Ocean volume is HUGE and not conducive to thorough exploration. Limitations of time, money, and workable equipment are significant. It may be quite remarkable that we know 3%, given how difficult (read: damn nigh impossible) it can be to get some types of data from that environment. It may be that even if virtually all the resources of every nation were directed to ocean research, we’d only be able to know 4%. So, it is known to be a lack of interest, or could it be a lack of feasibility?

Regarding the comments above about the weather service and the Navy, let’s not forget about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which has both ships and commissioned officers.

Science isn’t an entity that has money to put into anything. Government leaders, businesses directors, private organizations , and private individuals give money to people to use in scientific pursuits. Apparently their interests are in other goals.

The big funder of research is the federal government. Like space, there is not a strong interest in them or a ton of surplus money to warrant exploration.

Average depth of the ocean is 3 miles. It is expensive and hard to do. You really want to do it badly and have a lot of money. Submersibles don’t grow on trees and you have to cart them out in a big boat with a large crew.

What Harmonious Discord said. “Science” does not put money in anything. People/entities who have money and want to know something put money in science to find out, and the scientists have to do the work and produce the information products that they are paid to produce. Sometimes tenured professors and govt. scientists can have tiny pots of money they use to produce information that they think is important and they hope that others think it is important too. And sometimes you can state your case and convince someone with money that they really need to know the answers to some set of questions and get them to fund you. In fact the more you become a “leading scientist” the more of this you do and the less time you have to do the actual science. You end up hiring other people that actually do the data gathering and a lot of the interpretation. But in any case, no matter how good you are at stating your case, you still have to have a problem that someone needs the answer to or you will not be funded.

There’s lots of interest, but the ocean is BIG.

As other posters have mentioned, the US government is the biggest single source of research money, and it’s government policy which sets research priorities. NOAA is responsible for most of ocean research, and its budget was $440 million in 2009. That’s a relatively small share of the total $147 billion spent by the federal government on research. To give you an idea of the priorities in US spending, the biggest research spending is in the DOD ($82 billion), NIH ($29 billion), NASA ($12 billion), DOE ($9 billion), NSF ($4 billion), with numerous other smaller programs in other agencies. See this AAAS chart for more details.

So, yeah, ocean research is a pretty small part of the total. Is it too small? Hard to say. There’s certainly a lot to learn from ocean research, but it’s less directly beneficial than many of the other research priorities.

I think the OP can answer his own question by answering these two:

When was the last time you wrote your senator and asked for an increase in ocean research funding?

When was the last time you donated to a university or charity supporting ocean research?

They could cash in all the pop and beer cans and bottles in the Trash island.

If you calculate the number of discoveries each year and figure that the rate of discovery will shrink exponentially, then you can predict where you will plateau.

Hey, I watch Deadliest Catch for the fun, excitement, danger and personalities. Who would ever know I would end up being educated by the late Captain Phil about crab fishing by learning about crab farts?

Speaking of captain Phil, I saw an early episode of Deadliest Catch and they were researching different baits for crab pots. I think it was done by the Univ. of Alaska. Can’t recall if they just did it on one boat or more than one.