Understanding and Predicting Changes in the Workforce for Ocean Sciences, Technology, and Operations

Lead PI: Dr. Deidre Sullivan, Marine Advanced Technology Education Center

We propose to conduct an initial two-year research project designed to: (1) produce a more complete description of the present state of the ocean science, technology, and operations (OSTO) workforce; (2) anticipate future developments in this workforce; and (3) characterize the educational programs that will be needed to respond to those developments. The project will focus on the workforce required to support current and future ocean observing systems (OOS), but will also examine related sectors of the ocean economy that require similar knowledge and skill sets (KSS), such as the oil and gas industry, telecommunications, navigation, hydrographic surveying, ocean engineering, and basic and applied ocean research. We will use existing workforce studies and collect new workforce information when adequate data does not currently exist. Methods for collecting new information will include: (a) online workforce surveys; (b) focus groups to define occupations in detail; and (c) workshops to provide insight into present and future workforce and educational needs. We will also compare the OSTO workforce to those for similar non-oceanic fields (e.g., space-based Earth observing systems; weather observation, analysis, and forecasting). These comparisons will be used to improve our analysis and prediction of the evolution of the OSTO workforce, and our identification of effective practices for the education and training of the OSTO workforce.

Data analyses will be conducted to: (1) quantitatively describe the major characteristics of the present OSTO workforce; (2) identify major temporal, geographic, and demographic patterns in the workforce; (3) assess the major factors that determine the supply of and demand for workers; (4) describe the main relationships between educational programs, the KSS required for employment, and employment patterns; (5) anticipate future developments in OSTO and the workforce that will be needed to support those developments; and (6) describe the educational programs that will be needed to prepare that future workforce.

The results of our analyses will be used to identify the most probable scenarios for the evolution of the OSTO workforce, and to recommend methods for monitoring and predicting this evolution on a continuing basis. Drawing from effective practices in industry and related sectors of the economy undergoing rapid changes and increasing pressures from globalization, we will also identify the educational practices that appear to be best suited for supporting this evolution, and propose methods for testing and monitoring the effectiveness of OSTO educational programs. The major deliverable products of this project will be: data from, and reports on results from, project surveys, focus group, and workshops; online databases; project web site with access to project data and reports; and conference papers and journal articles.

Number of Years: 2

Start Year: 2006

End Year: 2008


  • Marine Advanced Technology Education Center
  • Naval Postgraduate School
  • Texas A&M University
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Marine Technology Society
  • Rutgers University
  • ROV Technologies, Inc.

FY 2006 PI Report
FY 2007 PI Report
FY 2008 PI Report