How does a research cruise come about? While it is possible for a student or researcher to put together short cruise - usually local - with little more than a few emails, a remote, basin-spanning transect from a large research ship is the result of years of planning.

First, one or more researchers work out scientific objectives and the means to realize them. To move forward, these must be worked into a research proposal which is sent to the agencies that are considered most likely to support the work, along with many supporting documents such as detailed budget plans and ship-time requests. The I8S cruise was part of the field work called for in a proposal titled "Collaborative Research: Global Ocean Repeat Hydrography, Carbon, and Tracer Measurements", submitted in 2002 to the US National Science Foundation by a team of scientists from many US academic institutions. A companion proposal was submitted by NOAA PIs to NOAA. The proposal was evaluated via mail reviews and a panel review, and internally by program officers. It was recommended for funding, subject to various modifications.

The proposal called for certain cruises to be carried out in specified years. The schedule was modified somewhat to help the ship schedulers create an efficient ship schedule that best met the needs of all groups using the ships; the I8S cruise itself went forward largely as planned.