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With dozens of recent reports on the need to better understand and protect the world's oceans, and a national oceans conference held last year, oceans are receiving an increasing amount of attention. But that focus needs to translate into action, say some scientists and policy makers.

One of the most recent ocean research initiatives is legislation before the U.S. Congress that calls for the Commerce Department to contract with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to establish an advisory panel on the feasibility and social value of a coordinated international oceanography program.The panel would include experts in oceanography, marine geology, marine biology, and other fields.