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OPP Office Advisory Committee

Minutes
XXXI Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Office of Polar Programs (OPP)

November 8 - 9, 2007 • Arlington, VA

 

Members Present

James Hollibaugh, Chair, School of Marine Programs, University of Georgia
Deanna Paniataaq Kingston, Anthropology, Oregon State University
Marilyn Raphael, Geography, University of California, Los Angeles
Edward Brook, Geosciences, Oregon State University
Sarah Church, Physics, Stanford University
Hajo Eicken, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Andrea Lloyd, Biology, Middlebury College
Donal Manahan, Marine Environmental Biology, University of Southern California
Terry Wilson, Geological Sciences, The Ohio State University
Eric Saltzman, Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine
Richard Honrath, Atmospheric Sciences Doctoral Program, Michigan Technological University
Peter Cornillon, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island
Marika Holland, Oceanography Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Anne Henshaw, Environmental Program, Oak Foundation
Mark Engebretson, Department of Physics, Augsburg College

Members Absent

Marigold Linton, Math and Science Initiatives, The University of Texas System

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director
Michael Van Woert, Executive Officer
Simon Stephenson, Director, Division of Arctic Sciences
Scott Borg, Director, Division of Antarctic Sciences
Erick Chiang, Director, Division of Antarctic Infrastructure & Logistics
Mike Montopoli, Director, Office of Polar Environment, Health and Safety
Sue LaFratta, Senior Advisor/Policy, Analysis & Operations

The Fall meeting of the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) Advisory Committee (AC) was held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, on November 8 - 9, 2007. 

Acronyms used throughout these minutes:

AC         Advisory Committee
ANS       Arctic Natural Sciences Program
ARCSS   Arctic System Science Program
COV      Committee of Visitors
IPY        International Polar Year
MRI       Major Research Instrumentation
NSF       National Science Foundation
OPP       Office of Polar Programs
USCG    United States Coast Guard

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dr. Erb opened the meeting at 8:30 a.m. by welcoming the members and thanking them for their continued contributions and participation.  Erb invited remarks from the AC Chair, Dr. Tim Hollibaugh.

Hollibaugh also welcomed the members, and thanked the OPP staff for arranging the meeting and making available information relevant to the discussions that would take place over the 2-day meeting.  All members were in favor of accepting the minutes from the May meeting of the AC.

Members and OPP staff present introduced themselves.

OPP Director’s Report

Erb provided the AC with updates on various items of general interest, including the status of the FY 2008 budget request, international partnerships established for International Polar Year (IPY), the America Competes Act and its requirement for cost sharing by universities applying to the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, and a new NSF-wide initiative — Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation.  He also discussed plans for recompeting the U.S. Antarctic Program prime support contract and concluded by noting OPP personnel changes. 

Hollibaugh asked about the Agency’s coordination process for review of MRI proposals. Erb explained that the review process is standard, but that Division Directors and Program Officers throughout NSF are involved.  The process itself is coordinated by the Office of Integrative Activities.
 
Regarding IPY, Dr. Manahan asked whether U.S. implementation was behind relative to international efforts and about OPP’s biggest challenge.  Erb noted that the U.S. was coordinating closely and moving forward with its international partners and that most countries were at approximately the same stage as the U.S., with Norway being one of the very few countries to have made its funding announcement before NSF.  The biggest challenges to managing IPY are coordinating the international partnerships in view of the absence of an FY 2008 budget appropriation, as well as the strain on staff already fully committed with their regular program workload.  Dr. Engebretson asked whether including focus areas in the IPY solicitation may have led proposers to consider the program too restrictive.  Erb explained that while the IPY solicitation was focused, the regular programs (which also accept IPY proposals) are not restricted. 

Dr. Hajo Eicken commented that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) had not been mentioned as a challenge and asked what changes had occurred to make this less of an issue.  Erb explained that the ice conditions in the Ross Sea are now much more benign, and because the Swedish icebreaker Oden is more than capable of opening the channel to McMurdo, at fixed cost and also supporting ocean-based research, NSF is relying on that ship under an agreement between the U.S. and Swedish governments.  However, the longer-term challenge remains, and one option is to explore the possibility of a private/commercial arrangement for icebreaking services.  In the Arctic, USCG’s Healy continues to be a good platform for research, and the USCG is looking at ways to increase the allowed days away from home port to expand opportunities for research.

NSF Study of Proposal Success Rates and Related Issues

Erb introduced Dr. Jacqueline Meszaros, a member of NSF’s Impact of Proposal and Award Management and Mechanisms (IPAMM) working group.  Meszaros provided the AC with context for the group’s work; in particular, changes in proposal success rates, reviewer workload, and associated issues.  For example, success rates declined from 30% in 2000 to 21% in 2005.  The AC was invited to review additional information available on the NSF website, and was encouraged to send comments on the analyses done and suggestions for additional analyses.  Led by Dr. Ed Brook, the AC engaged Meszaros in a follow-up discussion on various aspects of the data, including sources and accuracy.  Manahan expressed concern over the lack of data on post-docs, and praised the Young Investigator Workshop for enabling new scientists to gain access to NSF support for Antarctic research.

Arctic and Antarctic IPY Research

Dr. Scott Borg and Mr. Simon Stephenson provided the AC with information on the FY 2007 IPY solicitation, including awards made under each of the focus areas and information on NSF, interagency and international partnerships.  Erb noted that OPP is also thinking about post-IPY activities, particularly synthesis activities to bring together the results from different investigators working on related projects. 

Erb said he asked the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council’s Polar Research Board to think about and advise on post-IPY synthesis activities, and he asked the AC to think about this as well.  He noted that in addition, synthesis activities need to be coordinated with those of international participants.  The Chinese are planning a meeting focused on post-IPY science in the Spring, and there is a possibility that the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research/International Arctic Scientific Committee will have a significant discussion at their combined meeting next July.  Eicken and Dr. Marika Holland moderated the Committee’s discussion, during which Erb answered several questions having to do with participation by other NSF offices and directorates in both Arctic and Antarctic IPY activities.  Regarding cyberinfrastructure, Borg explained that there are well-developed data systems for the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) network, and Stephenson explained that the ARCSS (Arctic System Science) program has had a coherent data management approach for about a decade that they are now thinking about expanding to other Arctic programs such as the Arctic Observing Network (AON) which is currently 30 separate projects.  Dr. Dan Lubin, a cyberinfrastructure expert, will join OPP soon to assist in these efforts. 

Antarctic Award Data:  Distribution by Institution Type

As a result of discussions at the Spring AC meeting on the Antarctic COV report, Dr. Andrea Lloyd presented data on Antarctic awards by institution type.  Borg noted that the data show that the Division’s statistics are comparable to those of NSF overall and indicate that more outreach needs to be done to encourage participation by faculty not typically conducting research.  Relative to NSF overall, the Antarctic Sciences Division has more "other" awardees, particularly because OPP is obligated to support the Antarctic work of other federal agencies such a NASA and NOAA.  There was discussion on whether OPP should require separate proposals from minority serving, masters-granting, and 4-year colleges — instead of their being subawardees to larger institutions — to encourage their participation.  The concept was thought to be worth exploring, but it was pointed out that these less traditional awardees may not have the requisite administrative support and thus they rely on the larger PhD-granting institutions for that support.  Committee members discussed whether barriers to participation were institution-based, for example teaching colleges may not value research in promotion decisions, and for faculty with a full teaching commitment, it is difficult to conduct field work   The AC concluded that there was no evidence of preferential treatment according to institution type.

Antarctic Committee of Visitors Report

Erb introduced this session by describing NSF’s process for Committees of Visitors (COV) and why they are important to NSF and its overseers, such as the Director’s Office, the Office of Inspector General, and the Congress.  Because COVs are subcommittees of the AC, the AC needs to decide how it wants to transmit the COV report to OPP.  The AC could forward the report as written with its concurrence or with its comments in its transmittal letter, or it could reject the report and call for a new COV review.  If the report is to be transmitted, the AC should give OPP guidance on how OPP should respond to the many recommendations included in the report.  For example, should OPP prepare separate responses to each of the recommendations or should recommendations be grouped.  Continuing, Erb thanked Dr. Marilyn Raphael for moderating this topic and introduced Dr. Peg Rees, chair of the Committees’ Antarctic COV.  Rees noted that OPP’s preliminary response was well done, but commented that one issue — coordination between logistics and science and the use of preproposals — merited further discussion.

The advantages (early look at resource requirements) and disadvantages (requiring full merit review even though they do not result in award actions) of a preproposal process were then discussed, as was the idea of a phased approach to award-making.  The Committee discussed factors to take into account in considering the preproposal recommendation.  One is compliance with NSF’s 6-month decision policy, which is motivated in part to provide proposers with time to reformulate and resubmit proposals before the next solicitation deadline.  Antarctic Sciences has difficulty in meeting that goal because of the time required for the logistics review.  Another concern is that outstanding proposals could be declined because of inadequate advance planning to meet logistics constraints.  The preproposal process could provide advance warning of logistics needs.  Rees pointed out that it would save proposers the time they would have spent writing a full proposal if the logistics would not be available. 

In the Arctic, coordination between logistics and science is less of an issue than it is in the Antarctic. Logistics support can usually be obtained from commercial providers; and Arctic PIs work with the support contractor in advance of submitting their proposals to determine what logistics are available and what can be supported.  The Antarctic Sciences and Antarctic Infrastructure & Logistics Divisions are working with the Antarctic support contractor to determine what information can and should be made available to proposers in advance. They will consider having Antarctic PIs work with the support contractor at an earlier point in the proposal process.  An alternative to either of these would be to make logistical resources and resource availability known to proposers earlier in the process.  It was suggested that in addition to making information on existing logistics available, it would also be useful to seek community input concerning the need for new or additional logistics capabilities.

Other ideas were discussed, such as having proposers include more information in their proposals.  Concerns ranged from additional burdens on proposers and creating barriers for new investigators to whether reviewers had the expertise to review logistics requests and whether reviewers would react negatively if they saw the cost of logistics included in proposals. 

Another idea was to create a pool of funds that would be available to fund targeted logistics, such as helicopters on the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer in one year and a helicopter camp or an additional Twin Otter in other years.  This would require budget flexibility as well as trade-offs in other areas.  At the conclusion of the discussion, Rees noted that it was not evident to the COV in its review of highly rated proposals that were declined for logistics reasons that there was a coordinated process for determining logistics availability, and that OPP should make that process clear.  The committee agreed that this topic would be taken up at the Antarctic Infrastructure & Logistics COV scheduled for the spring.

Arctic Award Data:  Goals, Success Rates, and Balance

As a result of discussions at the Spring AC meeting on the Arctic COV report, Stephenson presented data on Arctic awards.  The committee, led by Dr. Deanna Paniataaq Kingston, engaged in a discussion of the data that was presented, including success rates, program allocations, competition between programs, and program organization (e.g., should the programs be more or less disciplinary in nature).

Arctic Committee of Visitors Report

Dr. Dan White, chair of the Arctic COV, presented a summary of the COV’s recommendations.  Manahan moderated the session.  One issue in particular that the COV noted concerned the success rates of the Arctic Natural Sciences (ANS) Program.  In response, Stephenson advised the Committee that the ANS program budget had been increased in FY 2007.  The committee noted that the decline mirrored that of NSF as a whole.  Erb asked whether the COV noticed a difference in quality thresholds across the various programs in the Division.  White stated that some highly rated proposals were not funded while some not highly rated proposals were, but this was not pervasive and thus not viewed as an issue.  The AC discussed the possibility that reducing solicitations from two to one per year may have had an impact, although OPP pointed out that the one general solicitation was replaced by special or targeted solicitations.  The AC continued its consideration of program balance and noted that if there is a perception that funds are targeted to one area in particular, the result could be that good science might not be proposed.  Arctic Sciences Division program officers explained how they often use joint consideration of proposals to leverage their own program budgets, and so a highly rated proposal from ANS might be funded through ARCSS, and vice versa.  Stephenson confirmed that he conveyed to program officers that when highly rated proposals are not funded, the documentation in the jacket must be very clear and specific as to why.  The Committee cautioned that the tremendous increase in interest in the Arctic could in the future lead to even more proposals, and thus the Division needs to be sure it has the flexibility to respond.  Erb noted that an alternative to dividing the ANS budget among several disciplines might be for program officers to further develop co-funding strategies with the discipline-based divisions around the Agency — earth, atmosphere, ocean science, biology, chemistry, etc.

The Committee then engaged in a general discussion of the quality of the data generated by NSF’s systems, with several members stating that their own data and anecdotal information from their communities is often at odds with NSF’s published data.  All agreed that accuracy of the data is very important, but also that NSF does not always provide the data that is needed to answer questions posed to COVs.   The Committee requested that OPP program officers provide their own data, and that data provided to future COVs be explained so that they understand what the data includes and does not include, and how it can be used.  Stephenson agreed that the next COV would hear a presentation on programmatic drivers for budget levels.

The AC continued their discussion by briefly considering use of the checklist that was recommended by the COV.  Erb provided background on NSF’s merit review process and the National Science Board’s decision to weigh both criteria (scientific merit and broader impacts) equally.  As such, a checklist that assigns percentages to the criteria would be problematic.  Evaluation of the broader impacts criterion was mentioned in both the Antarctic and the Arctic COV reports.  The AC noted that young investigators are struggling with developing a broader impacts track record, and suggested that the AC spend some time on this issue. 

When asked whether the Agency had reviewed the effectiveness of the broader impacts criterion, Erb explained that the Agency relies on the COV process to evaluate its effectiveness.  White stated that the Arctic COV did see improvements in its review of the broader impacts from 2003 to 2006. In the discussion that followed, it was suggested that assistance from NSF would be more efficient than relying on individual principal investigators to design their own plans, and it was noted that many universities do not value broader impacts while others have centralized their broader impacts activities to make it easier for individuals to demonstrate effectiveness.  At some agencies, funding for broader impacts is handled separately from research funding so candidates with successful broader impacts programs are able to get additional funding for these activities.  The AC suggested that a showcase of broader impacts activities would be helpful, along with an assessment of whether they were effective.  Review of the effectiveness of various broader impacts activities may also be a way to help awardees figure out how to target broader impacts.  Erb explained that there have been discussions within the Agency, and that there are varying views — does a presentation to a junior high class demonstrate broader impacts, or would it have to be a presentation to a number of junior high classes?  NSF encourages both the small, targeted efforts and the systemic efforts.  Rees noted that, from review of Antarctic Sciences Division jackets, it appears that the criterion is broad enough that it is sufficient to say that papers will be published and that 1,000 children will be reached and, if that is the case, it would be helpful if NSF let proposers know that.  The AC commented that it would be valuable for NSF to provide COVs with quantitative data on broader impacts.  Erb explained that while quantitative data are not available, NSF does demonstrate research accomplishments through submission of "highlights," which are assessed by an Agency-level AC, and that the same could be done with broader impacts accomplishments.  He asked the AC to remind their communities to submit this information to NSF through their annual and final project reports.  Kingston offered to provide OPP with contact information for the person at her university that is developing assessment metrics for its diversity program.

Before closing this session, the Committee was asked whether they had any other concerns that needed to be discussed before the session scheduled for the next morning to accept the Arctic and Antarctic Sciences Divisions COV reports.  The Committee agreed that Arctic data and Antarctic science/logistics coordination were both issues that needed further discussion, and that these issues would be included in the AC’s letter transmitting the COV reports.  A motion was made and seconded to accept the COV reports; all were in favor with none opposed.

Hollibaugh thanked the COV Chairs for the excellent work done by them and their committees.

U.S. Antarctic Program Infrastructure, Directions and Future Challenges

Mr. Erick Chiang presented the AC with highlights of ongoing activities at each of the three stations, including increased fuel storage at McMurdo Station and the introduction of wind energy on Ross Island in collaboration with the New Zealand Antarctic Program.  He described a workshop convened to optimize operations at the new South Pole Station and plans to mitigate constraints on existing power, bandwidth, and beds at the Station.  With completion of the majority of the modernized station, more LC-130 flights will be available for the deep field science program.  Ensuring flight crew proficiency in deep field landings was the subject of another Division workshop.  He also updated the AC on plans to use the traverse during the 2007-2008 season.  Traversing materials to the South Pole will also free up LC-130 flights that would otherwise have been used to resupply the Station.  Plans to replace the existing pier at Palmer Station were also discussed.  Lastly, plans to issue a Request for Proposal to replace the research vessel Lawrence M. Gould and recompetition of the Antarctic prime support contract were discussed.  Engebretson led the AC’s general discussion on this topic.

Friday, November 9, 2007

IPY Education and Outreach Awards

This session was moderated by Dr. Anne Henshaw.  Erb introduced the session by explaining that an already evident legacy of IPY is the very strong partnership forged between OPP, represented by Ms. Renee Crain, and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, represented by Ms. Valentine Kass.  Kass spoke on the goals for IPY education — to inspire, educate, and create a legacy.  The solicitation criteria and competition statistics were summarized.  Kass pointed out that the awards represented a balanced portfolio among K-12, undergraduate/graduate and informal science projects.  Kass then updated the AC on the current activities of one of the awards – a prototype poster series being developed that was made available to the AC.  They were invited to make comments on the content.  Crain provided updates on several other awards.  Erb explained that awards were selected by education and research professionals at the Foundation.  When asked what types of undergraduate experiences were being provided, Crain explained that it was varied and included lab work, lectures, field work, and workshops including new and seasoned researchers. 

Broadening Participation

Ms. Celeste Rohlfing, from the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, described NSF’s plan to broaden participation.  A working group, composed of members of each of NSF’s directorates and offices, was charged with developing a plan to increase participation of underrepresented groups in NSF programs and activities, which includes defining existing baseline data and increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in the pool of reviewers for NSF proposals.  The group developed six recommendations which are under consideration by senior management and have been posted for public comment.  Rohlfing invited AC members to e-mail her their questions, comments and ideas.  Henshaw led discussion on this topic.  The AC asked what activities are planned to remove implicit bias, and Rohlfing explained that panelists are briefed on implicit bias.  Since it had been discussed on the previous day, Erb asked whether the reluctance of reviewers to answer questions about gender, race and ethnicity had come up in other directorates and offices and whether letting them know how important the data is to NSF would encourage them to provide the data.  Rohlfing explained that the working group recommended that NSF do just that.  Hollibaugh pointed out that he does not provide the data when he reviews proposals because he thought the PI system (which has the data) and the reviewer system were linked.  Rohlfing clarified that the two systems are not currently linked, but that an effort is underway to link them.

Antarctic Science:  Directions and Future Challenges

Dr. Kelly Falkner next provided information on the inaugural workshop to develop an Antarctic Integrated System Science Program within the Division of Antarctic Sciences.  Copies of the workshop report, with recommendations, were made available to the AC.  Erb reminded the Committee that one year earlier it had recognized the importance of this activity and had urged OPP to move forward, and he commended Falkner for her work in getting the program underway.  Dr. Eric Saltzman led a general discussion about whether the community needed to be organized or whether there was already pent-up demand for this type of program.  Falkner noted that the workshop report recommended that OPP be proactive and nurture the community, but that there is pent-up demand within some groups at least. 

Arctic Science:  Directions and Future Challenges

Stephenson introduced committee member Dr. Peter Cornillon, explaining that they had worked together to develop a presentation on one of the Arctic Sciences Division’s future challenges – planning for and incorporating cyberinfrastructure.  Cornillon provided an informative presentation on how to conduct long-range planning for cyberinfrastructure, emphasizing that planning must assume exponential and not linear growth in technology.  The AC participated in a discussion on the impact of technology on human productivity, the need to think about what might be coming and to build in flexibility so that you can take advantage of advances, and whether advances in technology could ever supplant the direct observations that are now taking place at the South Pole and on the research vessels, for example.

Transmitting the COV Reports

The AC engaged in a drafting session for the letter that would transmit the COV reports to OPP.  Hollibaugh suggested two items that needed special mention:  data and coordination between science and logistics.  With respect to data, the Committee was concerned over the validity of data in NSF’s systems and a lack of data to answer some questions posed to COVs.  Rather than provide additional data, however, the Committee thought NSF’s questions should be limited to those that could be answered with existing data.  Erb suggested that the AC work with OPP to find ways to address success rate and balance questions, acknowledging that in some cases qualitative answers may be more appropriate.  Hollibaugh will distribute a draft letter for AC comment prior to submitting the letter and the reports to OPP.

MREFC Project Updates

Chiang provided an update on the South Pole Station Modernization project, including cost and schedule performance, remaining scope and remaining challenges, such as hiring and retaining skilled workers, competition for resources, and increases in fuel costs.  Dr. Sarah Church led the AC’s discussion on this project and on the IceCube Neutrino Observatory presentation that immediately followed.  The AC noted that there would be continued pressure to do science at South Pole.  Erb and Chiang noted that there is a need to accommodate surges but also to be more efficient through, for example, increased use of renewable energy and remote instrumentation, and re-examining the number of personnel needed to operate and maintain the station and the level of support that should be provided.  The AC noted that NASA cancelled flights and used the funds to give its principal investigators an opportunity to reduce the energy used in their instrumentation.  Erb also put on the record that the existing science has already outstripped the available capacity in terms of beds and electricity.  Borg provided an update on construction of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at South Pole.  This project is doing very well in terms of cost and schedule performance, and it appears likely that the originally-planned 80 strings will be possible.  Erb acknowledged the efforts of Mr. Jerry Marty and Dr. Vladimir Papitashvilli and the University of Wisconsin. 

Planning for Antarctic Support Committee of Visitors

Erb advised the AC that the Antarctic Support COV would likely be held in the late March to early April timeframe, and so it was time for the AC to determine what it wanted to task its subcommittee to look into.  The AC was provided with questions posed to the last COV, although the chair of that COV had conveyed that some of the questions had been difficult to answer.  Since the last COV, a new office within OPP was established, Environmental, Health and Safety, and so questions relevant to assessing that area would need to be developed.  Erb suggested that the AC nominate members to work with OPP to develop draft questions for the full AC’s approval.  Drs. Engebretson, Church, Wilson, and Manahan volunteered, and Engebretson was identified as the AC liaison to the COV.  OPP will provide the volunteers with a starting draft of questions that might be asked.

Transformative Research

Dr. Richard Honrath led an AC discussion on NSF’s transformative research initiative.  He recalled the statistics provided earlier in the meeting by Meszaros.  Erb told the AC that at NSF, 5% of program funds are supposed to be used to support transformative research, and that a mechanism is in place which allows program officers, at their discretion, to fund research that could have a transformative effect — Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER).  Lately, however, the Agency has questioned whether this mechanism is being used effectively. Erb is hopeful that the Committee’s discussion will inform OPP as it implements the transformative research initiative within OPP.  For example, how do we encourage principal investigators to put forward risky projects? If funding riskier science increases "failures," how will this impact the evaluation of future proposals?

The AC thought it would be helpful to provide examples of transformative research.  Erb agreed that it is difficult to predict what activities will prove to be transformative.  For example, monitoring initiated at the conclusion of the International Geophysical Year in the 1950’s placed ozone hole observations made 30 years later in sharp focus — in a truly transformative manner.  The AC also commented that NSF might be hoping to enable transformative research using non-transformative methods, and that perhaps some internal transformation needed to take place.  For example, is the merit review system well-suited to evaluating transformative research ideas when program officers have to justify not funding the excellent proposals for lack of resources and is the potential for a huge pay-off always required in order for research to be considered transformative.  Career considerations also need to be examined. For example, is a principal investigator going to write mainstream proposals because they are likelier to be funded.  It was suggested that providing larger grants for longer periods of time for transformative ideas might encourage transformative proposals.  

Erb concluded this session by noting that the working group that will examine transformative research issues has not yet been formed, so this is an excellent time to be exploring the issues raised by the AC.

NSF Deputy Director

In the final session of the meeting, Dr. Kathie Olsen, NSF’s Deputy Director, updated the AC on congressional action on the FY 2008 Budget Request. 

Regarding transformative research, Erb told Olsen that the AC had held discussions on transformative research in preparation for their meeting with her.  Olsen noted that the National Science Board’s report on transformative research included its concern that the merit review system might be too conservative to support transformative research.  Within two weeks, a new task group will begin looking at issues related to transformative research: 

  • What mechanisms should be used to review it? 
  • How best to do interdisciplinary research within and across directorates and offices?
  • How has NSF been evaluating, reviewing and identifying transformative research? 

Asked whether she thinks program officers feel constrained from funding this type of research, Olsen responded that the Division Directors who review program officer recommendations should challenge their decisions and ask whether it is or is not transformative.  Erb related an earlier AC comment on the possible need for a mechanism to fund transformative research that may take a major investment in time and money.  Olsen responded that NSF is currently thinking about eliminating or modifying SGERs, which are used for high-risk projects where timeliness is important, and that mechanisms for two different approaches are under consideration.  One is a mechanism for funding activities where rapid response is important, for example responding to a Katrina-like event.  Another is for those projects that do require longer time periods and greater amounts of money.  A review mechanism might also be needed.  All of these issues are included in the charge to the working group.  Dr. Olsen noted that AC discussions help NSF prepare for its discussions with the National Science Board and she thanked them for their assistance.

Olsen asked the AC to remain engaged on IPY, including thinking about how we are going to maintain the legacy of IPY.  Erb advised that the AC had already started to think about this subject, and that it would be discussed in more detail at a future AC meeting.

In closing this meeting of the AC, Erb asked for suggestions for new members to replace those that were rotating off, thanking all members for their service and especially Dr. Tim Hollibaugh, Dr. Deanna Paniataaq Kingston and Dr. Marilyn Raphael, whose service ended at the conclusion of this meeting.

 

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