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European Science Foundation.

The idea of establishing an Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) consortium of European countries first came from the US National Science Foundation in March 1983 to the European Science Foundation. The idea was rightly perceived as potentially beneficial for all parties concerned: the countries who could not afford individual ODP membership themselves, the Ocean Drilling Program, and the European Science Foundation (ESF).

The first step was to assess interest level among scientists in these countries. Not surprisingly, interest appeared to be quite high. Though many scientists in these countries had participated in the pre-international phase of the Deep-Sea Drilling Project, there were very few involved during the International Phase of Ocean Drilling, although some had kept themselves informed about drilling activities. This discovery cleared the way for the ESF to proceed.

The main difficulty, as usual, lay in the next step: converting interest into funding. The problem was that the ESF, despite its name, has no resources of its own and can only operate using funds obtained from its member organizations and sometimes other entities (such as ministries and companies); hence the need to convince a sufficient number of these to provide funds. No wonder it took nearly three years of countless meetings and all sorts of other steps--and sometimes dramatic developments that nearly resulted in abandonment--before the nascent consortium eventually managed to obtain the full requested membership fee from its 25 constituent organizations in 12 countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.

The next significant challenge was to build up a suitable management structure for a consortium that was first of its kind in the Ocean Drilling Program--and get it to work. Legal and financial matters were easiest to settle, with the ESF speaking and acting on behalf of the entire group vis-a-vis the international community. A more difficult task was to divide fairly among the various members, whose contributions ranged from 2 percent to 20 percent of the consortium's membership fee, the various ODP benefits, such as representation on JOIDES panels (one seat on each panel for the consortium as a whole), numbers of shipboard participants and co-chief scientists, and quotas for ODP publications. In addition, the consortium needed a mechanism to make fair decisions that took due account of financial contributions while preserving minorities' rights. To this end, two committees were set up, one for management and one for science, each with one representative per country. Decisions were to be reached by consensus, and by vote only if a consensus was impossible (to date, a vote has never been necessary).

Complicated though it may seem, this machinery has not only worked (with minor adjustments) since June 1986, it has even inspired others. Above all, this system has enabled the ESF consortium to act as a full ODP partner while strengthening its cohesion, despite the inevitable conflicts of interest. In this respect, this structure may be judged to have successfully stood the test of time, the best proof of which may be the recent ESF renewal of ODP membership.

G. Bernard Munsch holds a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from the University of Strasbourg (the most continental place in France), and knew next to nothing about earth sciences and even less about the ocean when he joined the staff of the European Science Foundation in 1983. Having thus a naive and totally unprejudiced mind made him the obvious choice to be the officer-in-charge of ODP affairs, a duty he carried out for close to six years.
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Title Annotation:25 Years of Ocean Drilling; Ocean Drilling Program report
Author:Munsch, G. Bernard
Publication:Oceanus
Date:Dec 22, 1993
Words:584
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