IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society History
IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society at 40
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Compiled by Robert D. Colburn, IEEE History Center
Abstract— In conjunction with the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, the history of the society, from 1985 to 2006 is traced, as well as developments in electrical engineering as they pertain to the world’s oceans. This paper continues the history begun in Ivan Coggeshall’s paper in the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, April 1985, and examines the OE Society’s international expansion, the growing public awareness of the oceans’ effect on climate, ocean-atmosphere coupling, ocean currents, the Law of the Sea, security, and the growing research vessel fleet, as well as new technologies for data sampling and processing.
I. Growing Awareness of the Oceans and Importance of Oceanic Engineering
From the early 1980s onwards, a growing awareness of the relationship between the oceans, ocean circulation, and the earth’s climate meant that a major emphasis in oceanic engineering in the coming decades would be on understanding the ocean-atmosphere interaction. The topic of climate change gathered urgency and public attention in those years thanks to some dramatic weather events, and as the role of oceans in these events was more and more clearly understood.
In 1986, researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University successfully predicted that year’s El Niño event months in advance using a computer model of ocean-atmosphere coupling. The dramatic effects of that year’s El Niño worldwide – floods, droughts, diseases – together with scientists’ growing ability to explain the ways in which those effects are related, began to focus public interest and attention on the oceans. People living thousands of miles from any sea began to understand that what happened in the oceans affected them.
Understanding the complicated and interconnected global events which oceanographers and meteorologists -- as well as scientists from other disciplines -- were studying from the mid-1980s onwards required enormous amounts of data, as well as mathematical modeling techniques to manipulate it. Reducing the costs of oceanic data collection was a major consideration behind the technologies developed by oceanic engineers.
According to a paper presented by John J. Carey and Joseph Vadus at the OCEANS’91 conference, the United States’ National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was expected to receive 200 terabytes of data per year by the year 2000.
Oceanic engineers during the 1980s and 1990s would bring their creativity to bear in designing a host of sophisticated, reliable, and prolific instrument buoys, profiling floats, remote-sensing satellites, and real-time data transmitters, as well as in writing the software and graphics to model and visualize the information generated by them. By the end of the twentieth century, thousands of buoys and floats, and scores of satellites, were providing vastly improved and more abundant data to scientists studying the oceans. John J. Carey and Joseph Vadus called environmental observation and data relay satellites “the most significant advance in ocean data collection.”
The discipline of artificial intelligence found applications in controlling autonomous underwater vehicles. Image-processing advances paralleled the improvements in image-generating synthetic aperture sonars. The fields of underwater acoustics and signal processing technology became increasingly prominent, especially for use with the increased sampling power of acoustic Doppler-type measurements and remote-sensing devices which improved upon the capabilities of direct measurement devices using rotor and vane, or propellers. High-frequency radar which could measure and map current, wave, and ice echoes was a major research direction of the mid-1980s. By 1986, surface current measurements of an accuracy of 1-2 cm*s -1 were being attained by these radars, considerably better than the accuracy possible with standard current meters.
Although many of these advances in oceanic engineering took place in laboratories or test platforms beyond the eye of the general public, there were occasionally events which focused public attention on the research, or at least on its products. The explosion of the United States space shuttle Challenger in January 1986, and the quest for answers as to the cause of the disaster, was one such event. Recovery of the debris from the explosion was vital to the investigation, and some of the most important pieces of that debris were underwater at depths which would make it very difficult to find and recover. That February, six unmanned remotely-operated vehicles – the ROVs, Sprint, Recon IV, two Scorpios, Deep Drone, and Gemini -- and two manned submersibles -- the Johnson Sea Link II, and the nuclear-powered NR-1 – succeeded in finding and recovering debris from the Atlantic Ocean floor at depths ranging from sixty-seven to three hundred and sixty-five meters. In particular, the submersibles were able to recover the pieces of the booster rocket, which was crucial in allowing investigators to reconstruct the series of mechanical failures which had caused the shuttle’s explosion.
The enormous increase in telecommunications traffic towards the end of the twentieth century, and the vast amounts of revenue which such traffic was capable of generating, was another important driver of oceanic engineering. Engineering the many complex components – especially the lasers and repeaters -- of an undersea telephone cable so that those would work reliably and continuously in the cold and pressure of the deep ocean floor was a complex task. Moreover, accurate undersea surveys of the projected cable routes needed to be carried out in order to avoid damaging terrain or costly unexpected obstacles which might hinder the laying of such cables. All of these applications used oceanic engineering. The first transatlantic telephone cable had gone into service in 1956, capable of carrying thirty-six telephone channels. Six cables and thirty-six years later, the demand for circuits continued to grow. In 1988, TAT-8 -- the first fiber-optic transatlantic telephone cable – went into service. A joint project of AT&T, British Telecom International, and DGT of France, the cable could transmit as many as 37,500 simultaneous telephone conversations. Its amplifiers were spaced approximately sixty-four miles apart.
The design and testing stage of TAT-8’s components provided a somewhat droll reminder of how much humankind has yet to learn about the oceans, and the reasons why designs for ocean use need to take into account often complex interactions. The section of state-of-the-art test cable installed near the Canary Islands attracted sharks, who caused it to fail by biting into its plastic coverings. The electrical fields emitted by the repeaters apparently attracted the sharks (who are accustomed to following the electrical fields of their prey), and who then attacked the cable. Because fiber-optic cables are of smaller diameter than their copper predecessors, the sharks could get their mouths around them and do far more damage than to earlier cables. The story of the unexpected complication provided good copy for the popular press, which in turn made readers -- who had probably never considered that there might be a relationship between telephone calls and sharks – more aware of the oceans’ place in their lives.
In 1991, TAT-9 was laid from North America to Europe and the United Kingdom. It was capable of carrying 80,000 telephone channels, and could transmit data at 565 Mb/s. By 1994, the first marine cables to use all-optical amplifiers were laid between the coast of Florida, United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 1995 saw the installation of a network of fiber-optic cables across the Pacific Ocean.
While these developments were taking place, the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society -- which had evolved into a society on 1 January 1983, from its predecessor organizations, the Oceanography Organizing Committee (OCC) and the later Council on Oceanic Engineering (COE) -- expanded its activities to address the challenges spoken of above, and to include engineers from all the maritime nations of the world. On 6 February 1985, the IEEE Canadian Atlantic Section/Oceanic Engineering Society Chapter was formed. This was the first Oceanic Engineering Society chapter to be formed outside the United States. It was followed two years later by the formation of the Victoria Section Chapter, and the OCEANS’87 conference was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada that year.
1987 also saw the completion of the Marine Pollution Monitoring System, an international project carried out by Japan, the Soviet Union, and the United States to monitor the extent and the effects of marine oil pollution. The data collected by the system would later influence crucial legislation for the protection of the oceans, and oceanic engineers would add pollution monitoring to their repertoire of expertise.
On 24 March 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez deviated from her shipping lane and ran aground, spilling approximately 257,142 barrels (34,971 tonnes) of oil into the ecologically sensitive waters of Alaska, U.S.A.’s Prince William Sound. The oil spill eventually spread to cover 17,820 square kilometers, and the visual impact of the television images of the spill focused public attention on protecting the world’s oceans. With uncharacteristic promptness, the U.S. Congress – sensing the public’s mood – passed the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Among other things, it required the phasing out of single-hulled tankers in favor of double-hulled tankers by the year 2015.
In addition to accidental spills such as the Exxon Valdez accident, oil spills are often caused by ships flushing their tanks with seawater once they are out of sight of land (a practice which is now illegal.) The Coast Guard services of many nations now possess sophisticated equipment capable of tracing the chemical signature of the oil to identify and fine the guilty ship.
II. Increasing Data; Reducing Costs
Despite the increasing public awareness of the importance of oceans, and the increasing complexity of oceanic engineering, these factors did not necessarily translate into larger budgets for oceanic engineering. There is a division of opinion as to whether the end of the Cold War affected spending on oceanic engineering (naval applications had been a major driver of OE research) or whether other factors were the cause. Certainly there was a drive to collect more data at lower cost. Oceanic engineers worked to design self-sufficient, easy-to-deploy monitoring and data-gathering floats which could be launched by nonspecialized personnel aboard volunteer “ships of opportunity.”
The first surface floats had been designed and tested in 1955, and from the 1960s through the 1970s improvements had been made in their tracking ranges. During the 1980s, many developments were made, primarily to make subsurface measurements possible. The new generation of devices, approximately two meters long (antenna included) and thirty-six kilograms in weight, meaning they could be deployed from any ship by one or two people, usually simply by lowering them over the side with a rope. These devices not only saved the costs of having to send research ships to every point where data was needed, they also allowed faster and wider coverage. ENDECO Free-Fall CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth), and ALACE (Autonomous Langrangian Circulation Explorer) are examples of the devices which were being designed at this time. For example, ALACE and PALACE floats were programmed to sink to pre-specified depths (as deep as 2000 meters), where they would drift with the currents, measuring temperature, salinity, pressure, for periods of about seven to ten days, whereupon they would float to the surface, broadcast their data, and submerge again. Some floats, such as PALACE and SOLO were even able to take measurements as they rose to the surface.
These rugged and dependable devices became crucial in adding to the knowledge of ocean circulation and climate interaction. By the end of the twentieth century, thousands of them would be floating in the ocean, tirelessly transmitting data.
In 1988, reflecting the growing role of computational intelligence in oceanic engineering, the Oceanic Engineering Society was one of the co-sponsoring societies of the IEEE Neural Networks Committee, which became an IEEE Council in 1990, and then a Society in February of 2002. (In June 2004, the IEEE Neural Networks Society changed its name to the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society.)
III. Oceanic Engineering Society Student Activities
The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society was a leader among IEEE societies in involving students in its technical conferences, beginning with the student poster paper session at OCEANS’89, held in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. The OE Administrative Committee financed the travel expenses for selected students. Based on the success of the 1989 student poster session, all OCEANS conferences from 1991 onwards have incorporated student presentations. In 1993, the OE Society began giving even more prominence to its student presenters by publishing the winning student papers from its Oceans conferences in the society newsletter.
As another one of its thrusts to encourage students in their pursuit of oceanic engineering, the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society became a major sponsor of the International Human-Powered Submarine races. The first race was held in 1989, off Riveria Beach, Florida, U.S.A. with seventeen boats competing. The races pitted one- and two-person teams from high schools, colleges and universities, as well as corporate research centers, and even private persons against each other in an attempt to develop a “wet” (i.e. filled with water; the crews wear scuba gear) submarine design to compete against the clock. In 1995, the event was moved indoors to the U.S. Navy’s 3,200 meter Carderock test tank in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A. By 2005, speeds for the human-powered submarines had reached 7.061 knots (Omer 5 from the University of Quebec’s Ecole de Technologie Superieure).
Involving students in society activities was seen as a crucial recruitment tool, and as a means of replacing the retiring Oceanic Engineering members. However, despite the continued efforts of OE, the numbers of students joining as full members has not been able fully to replace the retiring OE members at a rate necessary to keep the membership steady or growing.
IV. Oceanic Engineering in the 1990s
The decade of the 1980s had seen the development of many types of floats; the decade of the 1990s was to see the satellite make huge strides as an oceanic engineering tool. Satellite-based microwave scatterometers had improved greatly since the first one had been launched aboard SeaSAT on 28 June 1978. By the time the Japanese satellite ADEOS was launched in August 1996 carrying a combination of French, Japanese, and United States instruments, the NASCAT (NASA scatterometer) aboard could determine wind speed and direction across ninety percent of the earth’s ice-free water surface in two days. The accuracy of ADEOS’ observations were confirmed by calibrating them against measurements taken by three ships, the RSV Aurora, RSV Knorr, and R/V Thompson, on the surface. Throughout the 1990s and onwards, satellites were to play vital roles, both in data reception and transmission from buoys and floats, as well as acting as powerful data collectors in their own right.
The Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere (TOGA) system, which had begun deployment in the Western Pacific in 1985, came of age in the 1990s. TOGA was a combination of an array of moored buoys in the Pacific, surface drifting buoys, an island and coastal tide gauge network, and a volunteer observing ship network of expendable bathythermograph measurements. These assets were complemented by satellites providing measurements of surface winds, sea surface temperature, and sea level. Its aim was to provide real-time measurements of surface winds, sea surface and subsurface temperatures, sea levels, and ocean velocities. By 1990, TOGA data was contributing to fundamental progress in developing the coupled ocean-atmosphere models so necessary to climate study. One of its major accomplishments was the development of an ocean observing system to support seasonal-to-interannual climate studies.
The year 1990 saw the commencement of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), a twelve-year project to research the role of the oceans in the earth’s climate and to build an extensive physical and chemical data set against which future change could be measured. Approximately thirty nations participated in the program, one of the most ambitious oceanographic studies conducted to date. Ships, moored and drifting instrumentation, and satellites were used. The data collection phase lasted until 1998, and the analysis, interpretation, modeling, and synthesis phase continued officially through 2002.
Reflecting the multi-national participation in such enormous projects, the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society formed its France Chapter in 1990, which was the first of the Oceanic Engineering Society’s non-North-American chapters.
The Marine Technology Society and the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, which had been cosponsoring the Oceans conferences, parted company for a time during the early 1990s. The initial cause of the rift was money. Administrative staff errors on both sides caused USD $4200 from the Oceans ’85 funds which ought to have gone to OE to be sent to MTS headquarters instead. An additional cause of friction was an oral, and undocumented agreement between the presidents of the two organizations to allow MTS to borrow USD $26,494.79 from Oceans’86 funds to use for MTS’ operating expenses. By 1990, relations had soured to the point where the cosponsorship of the conferences had languished. However, both societies worked hard to rebuild the partnership for the good of the ocean technology community, and as described below, the rift was repaired in 1995.
Ron Woodward’s address to the Oceans ’93 conference theme was Engineering in Harmony with the Oceans. “We have historically viewed our oceans as a perpetual resource for food, minerals, and oil, with much more just waiting to be discovered, conquered, and exploited,” Woodward said, and challenged his audience instead to “enable the biodiversity of our oceans to be retained and ensure that we use the marine environment in a sustainable manner.”
Significantly, in light of the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society’s longstanding efforts to involve students in the field, thirty selected high-school students were given a tour of the OCEANS’93 exhibit area to give them an introduction to the technologies used in oceanic engineering.
V. The Oceanic Engineering Society, Finances, and Responses to International Growth
The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, in order to reflect changes in the structure of the IEEE (in particular the IEEE’s international growth), changes in the profession of oceanic engineering, and changes in the technology, took the first steps in revising its constitution and by-laws during this period. The original officer structure had had a vice president for the east coast of the United States and a vice president for the west coast. The new structure -- which reflected the structure which a number of other IEEE societies had chosen -- consisted of a Vice President for Professional Activities, a Vice President for Technical Activities, and a Vice President for International Activities. A new committee was authorized as part of the reorganization, the Student Activities Committee. Changes to the OE Society constitution and by-laws also allowed the OE Administrative Committee to “meet” via electronic means, rather than requiring face-to-face meetings.
During the period from 1993 to 1996, the financial health of the Oceanic Engineering Society was stable. The continued strength of Offshore Technology Conference and OCEANS conferences, together with income from sales of the IEEE All Periodicals Package, provided sufficient surpluses to stabilize dues while supporting a gradually expanding page count in the Journal of Oceanic Engineering. However, the realization of the financial reliance of the Oceanic Engineering Society on the All Periodicals Package revenue led to the beginning of a draft strategic plan, which was completed under the administration of Oceanic Engineering Society President Thomas Weiner, and to the process of examining the financial foundations of the society.
One of the clouds on the financial horizon was the risk to the Oceanic Engineering Society’s revenue which loomed as a result of the Technical Activities Board’s plan to unbundle the journal subscription plan known as the All-Periodicals Package. In brief, the APP was a subscription package consisting of all of the IEEE’s technical journals and magazines, sold together, with the revenues from the sales to libraries and corporations being shared out to the societies according to a formula based on the number of published pages. The plan to sell the package as a number of smaller packages (grouped by topic) rather than as one package meant that the Oceanic Engineering Society would obtain less revenue because the majority of the oceanic engineering audience was already receiving the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. The subsequent impact of the unbundling on Oceanic Engineering Society finances was ameliorated somewhat by increased collection of the page charges assessed to the institutions of authors publishing in the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering.
In 1994, concern over lack of chapter leaders and chapter activities in some parts of the United States led the Oceanic Engineering Society to establish a U.S. $3000 fund which the chapters could draw on – up to an $800 maximum per chapter – to re-establish themselves, to bring in guest speakers, or for chapter promotion in general.
Also in 1994, the first OCEANS conference to be held outside the North American continent was held in Brest, France. Seventy percent of the authors and seventy-five percent of the attendees were European, in contrast to the ten percent attendance by Europeans of those OCEANS conferences which had been held in North America.
The holding of the first OCEANS conference outside of North America was a significant event, and its genesis occurred in June 1991, in Paris at the Undersea Defence Technology Conference and exhibition. J. L. Lambda, the UDT General Chairman was contacted by Dr Ferial El Hawary, then the Vice President International of IEEE/OES. After that discussion and additional ones by phone during the following weeks, Lambda prepared a proposal for an OCEANS conference to be in 1993 in France or Monaco. Four cities -- Monaco, Nice, Cannes and Brest – made the short list, with Nice and Brest ending up as the two finalists. Brest was eventually selected for cost reasons, and the date was shifted to 1994 because OSATES had already been planned for Brest in 1993. The holding of the conference spurred the formation of an OES chapter in France.
Seeing that holding a conference in a region tended to foster local activities and even to generate the formation of chapters, the Oceanic Engineering Society in 2005 revised its conference procedures and settled on a two-OCEANS conferences per year schedule, (one to be held every year in North America; one to be held every other odd year in Europe, and one to be held every other even year in the Asia-Pacific region.)
1994 was an important year in oceanic engineering because it was the year that the treaty resulting from the third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force on 14 November, one year after the sixtieth nation (Ghana) had ratified it. First opened for signature in 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provided new global legal controls for the management of marine natural resources and the control of pollution. Continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, exclusive economic zones (to halt clashes over fishing rights as well as oil extraction), the banning of nuclear weapons on the seabed, protection of the marine environment, archipelagic status, and scientific research were covered in the treaty.
In 1995, the possibility was raised of the Oceanic Engineering Society changing its name to reflect the growing appreciation that the oceans are a subsystem in a very complex distributed global system which includes land and atmospheric subsystems. The suggested new name, “Oceanic and Global System Engineering Society” was mooted, but in light of lack of enthusiasm for the change, the society’s name remained as it had been.
The Marine Technology Society and IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society renewed their co-operation in that year, and a memorandum of understanding was signed by Ed Clausner, President of MTS and Joseph Czika, President of OES in July 1995 to formalize the joint sponsorship of the OCEANS conferences. Among other stipulations contained in the memorandum was the agreement that the conference copyright would alternate between the two societies
Also in 1995, the IEEE OES Tokyo Chapter was formed as a local focus for the Underwater Technology conferences, the planning for the first of which began at this time, and led, in 1998, to the holding of the First IEEE Underwater Technology Symposium in Tokyo, Japan. The meeting was extremely successful, drawing two hundred attendees from fifteen countries.
In 1996, the TAO (Tropical Ocean Atmosphere) array, a system of seventy moored buoys gathering ocean surface data, meteorological data, and ocean temperatures down to a depth of five hundred meters, provided information crucial to the early detection of the formation of the 1997-1998 El Niño. The early forecast caught the attention of the public, especially as the effects of that particular year’s El Niño were especially severe. The floods, droughts, and storms – and the resulting deaths and economic displacement -- fueled the growing public discussion of global warming.
In addition to the El Niño prediction, 1996 witnessed another very public demonstration of oceanic engineering in use. Bottom-piercing sonar was used to find debris from the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800. Careful and complete recovery of the debris from the destroyed Boeing 747, which had exploded from unknown causes twelve minutes after takeoff from New York on its way to Paris, was vital to finding the cause of the explosion. It took almost a year, and the recovery and reconstruction of more than ninety-five percent of the aircraft, to establish that electrical arcing from a wire with faulty insulation inside the fuel tank had ignited vapors.
The year 1997 saw the completion of one of the largest engineering projects of the 20th Century. FLAG (Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe) was a 27,300 kilometer fiber-optic system running from Porthcurno, Great Britain, south along Europe’s Atlantic coast, through the Mediterranean and Red Seas, across the Indian Ocean, then north through the Pacific Ocean to Miura, Japan. Dubbed “the glass necklace” by IEEE Spectrum, FLAG was the longest human-made structure, and cost $1.5 billion U.S. dollars. The detailed survey of geological and oceanographic conditions along the route alone cost $10 million U.S. dollars. When completed, FLAG carried 120,000 circuits, providing a vast increase in capacity over the 20,000 fiber optic circuits which otherwise would have been available between those regions.
Despite such high-profile engineering projects, the Oceanic Engineering Society continued to be concerned about the strength of its local activities. In 1997, it was observed that new chapters in Europe and Japan were more active than the long-standing chapters in the United States.
In 1998, the reconciliation between the Marine Technology Society and the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society which had seemed so fruitful in 1994, collapsed again. In 1994, MTS and OE had agreed to joint sponsorship of the OCEANS conferences, with copyright to the conference proceedings to be held alternately by the two societies. OCEANS’97, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, had been a jointly sponsored conference. OCEANS’98 was scheduled to be held in Nice, France. However, the Marine Technology Society decided that it did not want to go outside North America with their OCEANS conference. The president of the Marine Technology Society, Wayne Ingram, advised the Oceanic Engineering Society that MTS was going to hold its 1998 OCEANS conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and that MTS was going to call it “OCEANS’98 MTS.”
In response, the president of the Marine Technology Society was advised that the name “OCEANS’XX” was the property of the IEEE, and that MTS was not allowed to use the name without OES participation. Many meetings were held with the IEEE legal department. Subsequent meetings were held with Marine Technology Society management. At first, MTS would not change its position. Many months before the conferences, MTS was presented with an ultimatum: The “OCEANS’XX” name was the legal property of the IEEE/OES, and MTS was not authorized to use the name. If MTS did so, the IEEE would take legal action. MTS finally backed down. MTS substituted the name Oceans Community Conference (OCC’98 MTS). A huge amount of effort was expended over protection of the name. If the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society had lost ownership of the OCEANS name, OES would have lost part of their identity.
Despite the rupture, relations between the two societies began to improve again. With some initiatives from the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society and the cooperation of the Marine Technology Society, relations became quite cordial. As the MTS and OE societies dealt with issues associated with improving OCEANS Conferences, relations between the Oceanic Engineering Society and the Marine Technology Society resumed their former collegiality.
OCEANS’98 itself – whose theme was “Engineering for a Sustainable Use of the Oceans -- was an enormous success, and fully confirmed the wisdom of sponsoring conferences in locations not limited to North America. Five hundred and fifty abstracts were received, coming from thirty-four countries.
On the local activity side, the Ottawa Section Joint Chapter (of the Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Oceanic Engineering, and Signal Processing Societies) formed in 1998.
VI. Structure and Finances of the Oceanic Engineering Society at Beginning of the Twenty-first Century
During the late 1990s and into the year 2000, the Oceanic Engineering Society pursued a number of initiatives to study its membership and to boost recruitment and retention. One-year, half-year free, or half-price society memberships were offered to conference attendees, and the levels of retention monitored. Disappointingly, only about one third of the new members recruited via these incentives renewed their memberships the following year. The Oceanic Engineering Society also devoted energy to its student members, pursuing incentives to persuade student members to convert to full membership when their student membership period ended. In 2000, the society paid the conference registration fees for Oceanic Engineering Society student members who wished to attend OCEANS 2000.
The year 2001 began with the determination to re-energize the Administrative Committee and to involve more of the Oceanic Engineering Society’s membership in the volunteer activities of the Society. At the time, the major problems facing the OE Society were: a) the financial impact of the IEEE budget, b) the need to improve relations with the Marine Technology Society, c) the threat that the rival Oceanology (sic) International Americas exhibitions would siphon off exhibitors from OCEANS conferences, d) planning for multiple conferences each year, and improving their management, and e) electronic publishing.
The financial problems of the OES arose from a change in the way the IEEE funded itself. In order to keep membership dues down, and to keep them affordable – especially in the developing world from which much of IEEE’s membership growth was coming in the latter part of the twentieth century -- the IEEE had, for the past decade, been funding initiatives and some operations using income from reserves. As the stock market lost value in the late 1990s, the reserves assigned to the Corporate IEEE dwindled and became insufficient to cover the costs being incurred. As a result, IEEE societies, which held most of the reserves in their accounts, were beginning to pay for IEEE corporate activities. This payment was strongly resisted by many societies. The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society had been fortunate in that it was a participant in the Offshore Technology Conference. This participation, over the years, had been the cause of the OE Society’s net surpluses. As a result, during the years of the IEEE’s financial difficulties -- which had pretty much ended by 2004, thanks to the recovery of the stock market -- the Oceanic Engineering Society was able to pay the charges attributable to Institute and Society overhead and still maintain a comfortable reserve.
The perceived competitive threat from the Oceanology International Americas exhibitions never really materialized. Some societies declined to participate in the OI Americas exhibit held in Miami, and the 2003 OI Americas exhibition in New Orleans did not siphon off as many exhibitors from OCEANS as had been feared.
To address the problems posed by holding multiple conferences each year, and to ensure that there were enough papers submitted to provide conferences to meet the high technical standards the OE Society wished to maintain, OE Society President Weiner appointed a Committee on Conference Policy (CoCoPo). CoCoPo was charged with considering all the conferences which the OE Society presents, and proposing a coherent policy for deciding on sponsorship, scope, frequency, attracting of local organizing committees, and the technical and financial goals of the conference. The outcome of the CoCoPo’s deliberations was the formation of the Joint OCEANS Advisory Board and the establishment of a permanent adjunct to the OCEANS Conference Technical Program Committee. An additional result of this activity was the formation of the RECON Committee. With the leadership of Joseph Vadus, 2003-2004 Vice President for International Activities, this committee accepted the responsibility for finding suitable venues for IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society conferences and workshops. Both of these committees, while formed primarily for IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society purposes, have involved the participation of the Marine Technology Society. The result has been improved operation of the OCEANS Conferences and a warmer relationship with the Marine Technology Society.
In a major initiative to make its publications more easily available, the Oceanic Engineering Society released its OES Digital Archive on CD-ROMS. The digital archive included OES-sponsored conference proceedings from 1970 to 2000, and the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering from 1974 to 2000 for a total of 9600 papers on six CD-ROMs with a search engine by AstaWare® providing full-text search. The OES was grappling with the problem of how to articulate to corporations – especially to the corporations employing electrical engineers -- the value of having their employees be members of, and participate in the activities of, the society.
OE Society finances began to be affected around this time by the decline of the IEEE’s revenues. The OE Society, along with other IEEE societies, was required to make up IEEE shortfalls out of its reserves. In 2001, each society and technical council provided 31.4% of its reserves to balance the IEEE’s budget. In 2000, the Oceanic Engineering Society’s share was U.S. $96,000. In 2001, the OE share was approximately U.S. $266,000.
At the same time, the leadership of the Oceanic Engineering Society was reviewing the member dues structure. The cost of services to members, most notably the printing and mailing of journals, was about U.S. $54 per annum. However, member dues – only U.S. $12 per annum -- were deliberately set to be less than the cost, the difference being more than made up by the revenue from conferences and from sales of the journal to institutional subscribers. In 2001, the Administrative Committee of the OE Society voted to approve a category of permanent membership in the society, wherein a member had the option of paying a one-time membership fee and to retain membership in the society without further payment of dues so long as the member retained his or her membership in the IEEE (This was later rescinded as not being in the best interests of the society). For the 2003 membership year, the Oceanic Engineering Society raised its dues to $19 as a means of recouping a higher percentage of the true cost of membership.
The horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. on 11 September of 2001 drew attention to the terrorist threat to coastlines and harbors, especially the threat of explosive, radioactive, or biological or chemical weapons. The need to protect against such an attack gave a particular urgency to the branches of oceanic engineering which have to do with monitoring maritime traffic and cargoes. The Oceanic Engineering Society began planning and sponsoring an annual series – the first was held in Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.A. in December 2003 -- of two-day Homeland Security and Technology Workshops, with such topics as protecting ports, waterways, and coastlines, mine countermeasures, screening cargoes and personnel, and also law of the sea ramifications. The scope was international. In addition to the U.S. participants, speakers presented global issues concerning the European Community members, while Pacific Rim concerns were presented by delegates from Japan. The first HSTW drew almost four hundred participants and three dozen exhibitors. In the coming years, participation would expand to include additional eastern European and Asian countries.
The year 2002 saw the Oceanic Engineering Society continuing the expansion of its presence in Asia, with the formation of its Singapore Chapter and its Taipei Section Chapter. The society closed the year with a surplus, thanks primarily to the success of its conferences.
In 2003, Oceanic Engineering members were given the option of receiving their technical periodicals online via the IEEE’s Web-accessible database IEEE Xplore, a delivery method which was considerably less expensive than paper. Members who wished to continue to receive paper copies would be charged the incremental costs of printing and mailing the paper copies (approximately U.S. $30). Also in 2003, the Oceanic Engineering Society began a long hard look at its organizational structure and considering constitutional and by-law changes.
As part of the Oceanic Engineering Society’s efforts to provide value to the profession, to governments, and for the public at large, the leadership concluded that the OE Society needed to become better known and its activities made more visible. The goal as voiced by OE President Thomas Wiener was to “make IEEE OES the source of choice whenever someone needs information about marine electro-technology,” and he coined the watchword, “Let’s Get Famous” to reflect this goal. As part of the effort, the Oceanic Engineering Society proposed revising its Field of Interest statement in its Constitution to reflect that the field of oceanic engineering had grown to include computers, biomedicine, chemistry, and physics, among others. (The changes actually took effect in 2004.) Revisions to the by-laws and constitution (which the membership approved in 2005) were made to make those documents more reflective of the structure of the organization as it had evolved, (to add the editor of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering as a member of the Executive Committee) and to add an additional vice president so that the vice president handling conferences could divide the task into the handling of conference development (venues) and the handling of conference operations.
The possibilities of renewable energy from the sea took a giant step forward in terms of feasibility with the inauguration of a 300 kW tidal turbine of the coast of Devon, England. It was the first such permanent installation to generate electricity without the use of barriers or impoundments, and as such offered a design which would spare coastlines the environmental tradeoffs between clean energy and the harm to the ecological balances of marine environments which the building of barriers inevitably cause.
IEEE OES’s Participation in the Global Earth Observing System
At the IEEE Technical Activities Board meeting in Seattle, Washington in November 2003, the subject of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) was discussed in a dinner meeting with officers of the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS), Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society (AESS), and the Oceanic Engineering Society (OES). The consensus of the group was that the IEEE needed to be involved in this global effort. The three societies championed the IEEE Committee on Earth Observations (ICEO) as a topic for the New Technologies Initiative of the Technical Activities Board.
GEOSS -- as proposed by a consortium of 60 nations and 40 NGOs -- was a virtual system that will assemble, analyze, process and display information for the well being of the earth community. Information to do with climate variability and change, improving water resource management, improving the management and protection of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, and sustainable agriculture and combating desertification.
The technology of GEOSS included sensors, communication devices, storage systems, as well as computational and other hardware elements. These entities are proposed to be used in concert to improve the monitoring of the state of the Earth, to increase the understanding of Earth processes, and to enhance predictions of the behavior of the Earth system. GEOSS linked millions of national, regional and international sources and datasets into a single network capable of tracking environmental changes in the atmosphere, ocean, land, and ecosystems around the world. This system is expected to yield advances in knowledge in many areas of benefit to humankind, including disaster reduction, health, energy, climate, weather, water and agriculture.
The ICEO is positioned to track developments in systems engineering and integration, architecture, and standards related to sensor systems, communications, data processing, data archiving and cataloging, data searching and access, data portrayal and decision support systems. The ICEO will interface with the other OES technical committees, IEEE Technical Councils and Societies, and select international scientific and technical organizations to recommend solutions to difficult issues related to the GEOSS mission.
At the time of writing, OES has representation on the ICEO executive board, Tsunami warning system, standards development, science and technology and architecture and data committees at the GEO level. The society is actively involved in a series of one-day workshops to expose the concept to the overall IEEE as well as to other technical audiences in various venues around the globe e.g. Africa, Australia, United Kingdom. These workshops detail the planning process for the system of systems and the progress achieved to date.
During 2004, the Oceanic Engineering Society continued its international reach. The OE Spain Chapter was formed, as well as the UKRI Section Joint Chapter (OES and IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society). The Baltic Symposium on Marine Environmental Research was also initiated.
On 26 December of that year, massive tsunamis triggered by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake on the sea floor off of Indonesia killed 229,000 people and devastated thousands of coastal communities on the edges of the Indian Ocean. The disaster focused attention on the importance of monitoring and measuring the oceans. The extensive loss of life could have been avoided if a warning and communications network had been in place. The Royal Navy hydrographic ship HMS Scott was in the Indian Ocean at the time of quake, and was re-routed to map the sea floor at the earthquake’s epicenter
In 2005, the Quebec Section Joint Chapter (Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society, Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, Oceanic Engineering Society) was formed. The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society was one of six IEEE Societies (the others were: Dialectrics and Electrical Insulation Society, Industry Applications Society, Power Electronics Society, Power Engineering Society, and Vehicular Technology Society) which co-sponsored a fast-track initiative of the IEEE Technical Activities Board (with participation from the American Society of Naval Engineers and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science, and Technology) to foster the design of an all-electric ship.
The Oceanic Engineering Society inaugurated Web tools for online abstract handling, and registration for OCEANS ’05 and OCEANS ’06, all of which helped streamline the operations of its most vital conferences.
In September of that year, the first component of the Global Ocean Observing System was completed. The 1250th drifting buoy was deployed off of Halifax, Nova Scotia, completing the network of drifting data-collection buoys. GOOS was a network of drifting and moored buoys, profiling floats, tide gauge stations, ship-based systems, and satellites designed to provide meteorologists and oceanographers around the world with powerful tools. By combining data from the atmosphere and the oceans, meteorologists would be able to improve predictions of storm surges and weather patterns, thus improving safety in coastal areas. The devastation wrought only weeks before by Hurricane Katrina, was a somber reminder of how desperately needed such predictions could be.
The Oceanic Engineering Society’s 2006 Offshore Technology Conference was particularly successful, perhaps because of an emphasis on offshore oil drilling driven by sharply rising petroleum prices. Attendance reached almost 60,000, the highest since 1982.
The world’s fleet of research vessels was growing too. By 2006, there were more than eight hundred research vessels in operation worldwide. Significantly, more and more of these ships were designed specifically as research vessels, in contrast to the earlier decades of the twentieth century when nearly all research vessels had been converted from surplus naval vessels. (For example, Jacques Cousteau’s famous Calypso had been, in her previous life, a minesweeper.) In designing the new generation of research vessels, much care was taken to ensure that the ships would not themselves alter the environment they were studying, and that their operation would be as clean, quiet, and as unobtrusive as possible. The University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp, christened in 2005 and delivered in January 2006, is an example of the new type of vessel. Designed to be quieter in certain operational modes than the ambient noise of the ocean, the ship meets the standards of the International Convention for the Exploration of the Seas, standards which were adopted to avoid influencing the behavior of fish being studied.
The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society is growing from a Society based in North America to one that realizes the global span of the ocean and of those who work and live in and on it. Building on the OCEANS Conferences held in France and Japan, it is beginning to develop vibrant communities of oceanic engineers and scientists all over the world. In the coming decade, we should see the demographics of the Society and of the Administrative Committee match the demographics of the world-wide Oceans community. We should see our workshops, such as the Current Measurement Workshop and the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Workshop, grow, and perhaps become annual events with venues all over the world.
This increased activity should lead to greater membership focused in Society Chapters at centers of ocean science wherever they may exist. These Chapters will become the focus of important local projects, thus providing service to our community and to the cause of global prosperity.
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