Closing Plenary: Where is ocean acidification research going?

Chair: Jean-Pierre Gattuso

Ken Caldeira (1)

1 Dept. of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford CA 94305 USA.

Ocean acidification research has at least two related goals: To build mechanistic understanding of how the world works, and to provide useful information that can help people understand likely consequences of possible actions.

Ocean acidification research is now spreading out in spatial and temporal scales. One important line of research goes down in spatial scale from organism to molecule. Another line of research goes up in spatial scale, from organism to populations, communities, and ecosystems. Further, there is an important temporal dimension yielding investigations into issues related to acclimation, adaptation, and evolution.
These deeper kinds of research often require exponentially greater resources than do short-term examinations of small populations in laboratory aquaria. Unfortunately, funding for research is not expanding exponentially in parallel, and in some cases funding for ocean acidification research has diminished.

How can the research effort get exponentially more ambitious in its goals if the funding is not also increasing exponentially? Part of the answer involves in collaboration with people working in other disciplines. And part of the answer lies in recognizing that research is resource limited and not every experiment will be able to measure every desirable parameter or be able to control for every possible source of unexplained variation. Authors will need to be more forthright about study weaknesses. And if such studies are to be publishable, reviewers will need to focus a bit more on what is valuable and can be learned from a study, and be a bit more generous in understanding that not every study can be conducted as if we were living in an ideal world without resource constraints. And of course, part of the answer involves working to increase overall research budgets.
If ocean acidification research focuses on improving mechanistic understanding while seeking to provide policy makers and the public with actionable information, and the research community, through meetings such as this one, can work together towards common goals, ocean acidification research will play an increasing role in both research funding and policy decisions.