The International Quiet Ocean Experiment (IQOE) was the result of a series of discussions that started at the joint meeting of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Ocean Studies Board of the U.S. National Research Council in October 2008 at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. At that meeting, Jesse Ausubel of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation posed the question about what might be observed in the behaviour of animals in the ocean if all human-generated sound in the ocean were stopped for some period. Ausubel expanded on his ideas in a November 2009 article in SEED Magazine: “I propose that scientists, environmentalists, and maritime industries organize an International Quiet Ocean Experiment in which humans refrain from adding noise to the oceans for a few hours. Because of the speed sound spreads in sea water, we might, fortunately, need to turn down the volume globally for only four hours or so to achieve a great diminuendo. During this time researchers would observe the behaviour of many forms of life in the ocean that might respond to the quiet change. (JH Ausubel. Broadening the scope of global change to include illumination and noise. SEED Magazine 23 Nov. 2009)”.
Through funding from the Sloan Foundation, Ausubel helped SCOR and POGO convene an international workshop of ocean acousticians and marine mammal scientists at the University of Rhode Island (URI, USA) in October 2010, led by Ian Boyd (University of St. Andrews, UK) and George Frisk (Florida Atlantic University/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA). Participants at the URI meeting concluded that, although it was probably not feasible to turn off sound in the ocean for any significant period, an international project on sound in the ocean and its effects on marine organisms is needed to help document ocean sound as a form of global change with widespread impacts. The results of the URI meeting were presented in a paper in Oceanography magazine (Boyd et al. 2011. An International Quiet Ocean Experiment. Oceanography 24(2):174–181, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2011.37.)
One conclusion of the URI meeting was that it would be important to gather ideas and input from the broader community of scientists, navies, industry, and others at an open meeting. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission hosted an open science meeting at its headquarters in Paris, France, in August 2011.