At its March 31 meeting the governing board of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc. (JOI), designated Texas A&M University to direct scientific operations for the new phase of scientific ocean drilling. William Merrell, associate dean of geosciences at Texas A&M, is leading an interim planning team in implementing the recommendations of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Crustal Studies (Eos, February 22, 1983, p. 73). The ad hoc group, chaired by Charles Drake, recommended that scientific ocean drilling be pursued not with the Glomar Challenger or the Glomar Explorer, but with one of the roughly half-dozen commercial drilling ships that have become available with the slackening of the commercial drilling market.
Foremost of the tasks facing the interim planning team is to write a request for proposals (RFP) for a drill ship and to define performance criteria for a commercial drilling platform. The RFP is expected to be issued by Texas A&M in 6–8 weeks, according to Philip Rabinowitz, acting project director and a professor in the university's oceanography department. Once those tasks are completed and a successful bidder is found, a formal proposal will be made to NSF through JOI. The proposal will be subject to the usual NSF peer review process. If the proposal is approved, Rabinowitz said that Texas A&M would expect actual drilling to begin in October 1984. In addition to Merrell and Rabinowitz, the interim planning team also includes acting chief scientist Stefan Gartner.