By Martin G. BROWN, IOA Member, Senior Naval Architect, Mathon Engineering Ltd., London, U.K.
In February 1995, during a visit to the IOA office in Taipei (see photograph), a number of ways to increase the effectiveness of the IOA were discussed. This article introduces and discusses the potential of some of these ideas.
1.0 Establish an IOA connection to the Internet
The Internet or World Wide Web is a massive computer network connecting together millions of different types of computers throughout the world. It was developed in the U.S. as a Defense Department project to evaluate communication methods in wartime. Since then its potential has been seized upon by countless individuals and organizations leading to its spectacular growth.
From an IOA perspective, the key to the Internet is that it provides a cheap way of transferring large amounts of data quickly around the world. This can be achieved since Internet users, by means of a modem link, log on to a local host computer. Information is then transferred and received for the cost of a local phone call. The actual international data transfer is effectively undertaken for free, by the Internet provider (e.g. CompuServe) through fibre optical links. Although Internet users pay a modest subscription, the many benefits, plus unrestricted access to the international information superhighway, has now made "the net" indispensable to many organizations.
OTEC/DOWA by its very nature attracts scientists and engineers throughout the world. The IOA Newsletter provides an excellent means of keeping members informed of world wide OTEC developments. However, researchers would benefit from a quick and cheap means of day to day communication with their counterparts throughout the world. An IOA bulletin board on the Internet would provide such a facility. It would enable engineers to work together on projects despite their different geographical locations. This would help to boost self motivation as well as increase the exchange of ideas and information. Anyone who has become accustomed to the speed and convenience of electronic mail can appreciate how much it enhances communication.
Since a bulletin board on the Internet is effectively available to all Net users, it provides a means to publicize OTEC/DOWA to a wider audience. In addition, it provides a mechanism to attract experts with specialist skills. For example, marine biologists unfamiliar with deep ocean water aquaculture could, by means of Internet search programs, locate relevant DOWA data on the bulletin board. Such specialists would bring new skills to the IOA community.
Collecting together the Internet addresses of all IOA members would allow specific questions to be sent to individuals without the expense and time associated with using a fax machine. Because of the convenience of electronic mail, it is easier to get replies from people at the top of organizations whose available time is strictly limited.
2.0 Compile an IOA on line OTEC/DOWA Library
Through out the world many thousands of papers and reports have been prepared on OTEC. For example, the major U.S., Japanese and French research programs. Yet there is no central collection of data with its own purpose built index system. Hence it is difficult for researchers to discover quickly what work has been performed in the past or to obtain a copy of the work. This means that there is a real danger of duplicating work with a resulting partial waste of scarce research time and money.
Therefore, it is suggested that IOA members should be encouraged to submit copies of past and present reports and papers which would be of benefit to the entire OTEC/DOWA community. This data could be scanned and stored on magneto-optical disk, thus easing access as well as minimizing physical storage space.
Such a system would allow information to be retrieved any where in the world, in a matter of minutes, by any internet attached PC. Printing such an electronic paper on a local laser printer would result in a near perfect quality copy. Such a process is much quicker, cheaper and convenient than waiting for inter library loans.
In the longer term the Internet could be used for building up a database of cost estimates for all the major components required for an OTEC system. By having this data on line and accessible to all IOA members would enable feedback to take place on the accuracy of the quoted figures. Thus, when new projects are being evaluated reasonably accurate cost estimates could be quickly obtained. For example, the costs of micro-tunneling or high density polyethylene pipes are difficult to obtain unless you know the right people and companies to contact. A cost database would make this information more widely available and provide contact names and addresses where further information could be obtained.
3.0 Reproduction of Historical and Modern OTEC Related Papers
The problems faced by OTEC researchers today are similar to those which have been experienced by all engineers who have investigated OTEC over the years. Some of the solution suggested in the past, which for various reasons may not have been implemented at the time, may be appropriate for toady's technology and economic circumstances. For example, in the 1950's the French government supported a test program for the installation of cold water pipes (CWP's) through beach surf zones. This was achieved by use of a new design of semi-submersible support float. Such a device might prove useful for future CWP installations. In general, it is always wise and beneficial to learn from other peoples' previous successes and failures.
Currently the IOA Newsletter often provides information on new papers which would be of interest to IOA members. However, sometimes new papers are not mentioned and can only be located if an individual has time to perform an on line library search. Thus, it is suggested that all members should be encouraged to notify the IOA secretariat of any new papers or reports which they come across. The paper title, source and possibly an abstract, if space permits, could then be listed in the IOA Newsletter. Alternatively this data could be placed on the IOA Internet bulletin board.
It is appreciated that setting up an Internet bulletin board and an on line library necessitates expenditure of time and money. However, if the IOA can find the resources for such an enterprise, it is believed that the benefits would far outweigh the expenditure. With increasing competition for research and development funding, it may well be that such a network will be necessary for the future survival and prosperity of the OTEC/DOWA community.