Clark Receives Ocean Sciences Award

H. Lawrence Clark received the 2008 Ocean Sciences Award at the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting, held 2–7 March 2008 in Orlando, Fla. The award is given in recognition of outstanding and long-standing service to the ocean sciences.


clark_h_lawrenceThe AGU Ocean Sciences Award is presented in recognition of outstanding and long-standing service to the ocean sciences community. It is my pleasure to make the citation for Larry Clark, our 2008 recipient of the Ocean Sciences Award.

Larry worked in the Ocean Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for over 25 years. Beginning in 1981 as program manager for the Oceanographic Technology Program, Larry helped foster innovative technology development that advanced oceanographic science. He managed three interdisciplinary components of the program: technology development, acquisition of shared-use instrumentation, and shipboard technical support services. Larry did much to advance ocean sciences by encouraging and stimulating development of oceanographic technology. He was instrumental in the evolution of ocean observatories.

Larry’s responsibilities at NSF were expanded in 1993 when he became program manager for Oceanographic Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination. Besides his former duties of directing oceanographic technology, Larry now also oversaw elements of the Ocean Science Division’s international and ocean education activities, the Arctic System Science Program (ARCCS), and the Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP) Program. Larry’s abilities to foster innovative science, obtain funds for research, and conduct rigorous scientific reviews and evaluation were major contributions to the success of CoOP. Under Larry’s leadership, NSF Ocean Sciences began the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) program, which advanced ways ocean scientists can contribute to “K-to-grey” education.

As head of the Ocean Sciences section and director of the Ocean Sciences Division of NSF, Larry fostered interdisciplinary research. He represented NSF Ocean Sciences in the National Ocean Partnership Program, the Interagency Working Group for Ocean Observations, and the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology. Through Larry’s leadership, the critical role of NSF’s basic research in ocean science was supported in these initiatives.

In addition to his many contributions to oceanography through his work at NSF, Larry has a long record of involvement with the Oceanography Society (TOS), culminating with his service as president of TOS. Larry has helped organize TOS meetings, created education initiatives, and made efforts to entrain minorities into oceanography.

People who have been fortunate to work with Larry will attest to his integrity, diligence, and dedication. He has advanced ocean science through his promotion and leadership of interdisciplinary research and advances in ocean instrumentation. Larry has altruistically devoted his career to oceanographic science and deserves recognition through this award.

Michael R. Roman, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge


Thank you, Mike, Cindy, and the AGU Ocean Sciences section. And thank you, friends and colleagues, who nominated me and supported my receiving this award. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today. And it is especially so for me, after having looked on the AGU Web site and noticed some of the previous recipients of this award—many of whom have been my mentors and people I hold in great esteem.

I feel privileged for having had an avocation for the oceans—messing around on boats and being in and on the water—become a gratifying vocation for 25 years. I realized early on that I would not be on the cutting edge of science and personally making great advances in our knowledge of the oceans. But I had a rewarding career facilitating and helping others, who were on the cutting edge, advance our field. Whatever I may have accomplished is as much the result of efforts by the people with whom I have worked as with my own doing. I had the privilege of spending a career with some of the most dedicated, hardworking, interesting, and smart people engaged in scientific research. And many of you are in this auditorium today.

If you will indulge me, I would like to leave you with a thought. Please raise your hand if you have ever reviewed a research or other proposal for the NSF, ONR, or any other agency—nearly everyone here. If you did not raise your hand, one of my former colleagues will be visiting you soon!

Throughout my career, I tried never to lose track of the human element behind the proposals and projects I dealt with. Instruments and ships and computer models do not advance science; people do. Scientific advances come from the intellectual creativity, curiosity, wisdom, experience, and talent of people working in all modes of our profession. Many of these human qualities do not lend themselves to the formal structure and formatting of proposals. As funding competition increases and there is more emphasis on bureaucratic imperatives and performance matrices, the human element behind the proposals can get lost. Ocean science can suffer as a result. So I hope that the next time you review a proposal you will look beyond the science and the scoring sheet and the panel ratings and consider the individual behind the proposal; do not lose track of the human element that is key to advancing our knowledge of the oceans.

Thank you for the award. I had a great career, and I wish you the best success in yours.

H. Lawrence Clark, National Science Foundation (Retired), Arlington, Va.