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AGU has recently completed what is probably the most comprehensive human resources survey of U.S. ocean scientists and engineers ever conducted. For this survey, a questionnaire was developed and sent to all those listed in the National Academy of Science's U.S. Directory of Marine Scientists 1982, AGU members with a primary or secondary Ocean Sciences Section affiliation, individual subscribers to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Journal of Physical Oceanography, and members of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), the Marine Technology Society (MTS), and the Coastal Society. Lists of faculty and graduate students from major institutions were also obtained to use as mailing lists, as were selected lists from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Acoustical Society of America.

More than 17,000 questionnaires were mailed in 1986, followed by a reminder; 5757 questionnaires (about one third of the original total) were returned. In 1987, a follow-up questionnaire was sent to all who responded to the first questionnaire, and 2100 people responded by the cutoff date.