Study of the world ocean requires not only interaction among scientific disciplines but also cooperation among countries. Scientists have played an important role in deciding how this international cooperation should be organized and conducted. From its origin eighty years ago under the leadership of Prince Albert of Monaco, the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) has been at the center of this effort among scientists to create organizations that would serve their purposes. IAPSO discussions have dealt not only with the principal scientific questions of their time but also with building the international infrastructure within which the research could be developed.
An early question was whether marine scientists should be concerned only with pure science or should their organizations also consider the applications of that science. Thought was given how best to ensure the timely exchange of information on scientists and institutions engaged in ocean research, on improvement of the methods scientists were using, on their plans for research cruises, and on publication of their findings. Cruises sometimes included both physicists and biologists, and it was evident that these specialists were often working on different aspects of the same problems. The nature of this cooperation was reflected in the non-governmental organizations such as IAPSO and those such as the International Association for Biological Oceanography (IABO) that later arose within the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). These became somewhat linked through their participation in the governance of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR).
In the intergovernmental world, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) joined the more specialized agencies dealing with subjects like fisheries and meteorology. In recent years, spurred largely by realization of the potential impacts of climate change, large interdisciplinary and international programs, such as Global Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC), Joint Global Ocean Flux Studies (JGOFS), and Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) have been developed through joint action of scientific and governmental institutions. IAPSO has steered a steady course through these turbulent developments as it pursues its principal focus on promoting and promulgating the findings of marine scientific research.