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OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

November 1-2, 1999 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Stephanie Pfirman, Chair, Environmental Sciences, Barnard College, New York, NY
Mary R. Albert, Physical Glaciology, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
Farooq Azam, Microbiology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Patricia A. Longley Cochran, Social Sciences, Alaska Native Science Commission, Anchorage, AK
Robert S. Detrick, Jr., Marine Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Ocean Institute, Woods Hole, MA
Chester Gardner, Aeronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
James McClintock, Benthic Ecology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL
Douglas R. MacAyeal, Glaciology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Edna MacLean, Linguistics and Education, Ilisagvik College, Barrow, AK (day two only)
James Morison, Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Members Absent

William Green, Geochemistry, Miami University, Oxford, OH
Julius Jackson, Microbiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Michael Prentice, Geology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs
Maryellen Cameron, Executive Officer
Altie Metcalf, Budget and Planning Officer
Dennis Peacock, Head, Antarctic Sciences Section
Erick Chiang, Head, Polar Research and Support Section
Thomas Pyle, Head, Arctic Sciences Section

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Monday, November 1, 1999

OAC Chair's Report

Stephanie Pfirman, chair, called the meeting to order at 8:35 a.m. A brief summary of scientific activities related to Polar Programs and of the meeting of the NSF advisory committee chairs was provided. The OAC chair's meeting concluded that GPRA reports need to provide more specific detail and should also include weaknesses or areas for improvement as well as strengths.

The minutes from the June 10-11, 1999, OAC meeting were approved.

OPP Update

Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs, provided an update on activities since the last OAC meeting.

In the Antarctic program:

  • The Raytheon Corporation was selected as the new support contractor for the USAP.
  • President Clinton was hosted in New Zealand in September. He expressed enthusiasm for the program and a desire to go to Antarctica.
  • OPP held a workshop on winter science in response to an express desire by the scientific community to extend the season.
  • An ASA contract employee with a serious medical problem during winter-over at South Pole Station was successfully evacuated. Teleconferencing facilitated medical consultations.

In the Arctic program:

  • The logistics program has received its first year of budgeted funding. Long range planning is still needed in this area.
  • Alaska was recently designated as eligible for the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). This may provide an additional mechanism for the funding of Arctic research as OPP learns more about the program.
  • The senior members of the Arctic Council will be meeting in November. There is a proposal from the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) to conduct an assessment of impacts of climate change in the Arctic (ACIA). It could be a major activity that would involve OPP in a significant way.
  • On the international front there has been significant activity. Dr. Pyle has been working with the Norwegians and the Danes. Dr. Erb has also been meeting with other countries.
  • There is a competition for the contractor who will support the Arctic logistics activities. A decision should be made in mid-November, and by the end of the year the polar drilling contract should be awarded.

NSF FY-2000 Budget

A summary of the NSF budget for FY-2000 was reviewed. A 5.4% increase is proposed for FY-2000. The Major Research Equipment (MRE) account includes $5.4M for South Pole Station Modernization and $12M for upgrades to the LC-130s. The GEO directorate also received funding for High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), which may be a resource for polar research as well. Biocomplexity ($50M) and Information Technology ($126M) were allocated as major NSF FY-2000 initiatives. OPP hopes to compete successfully for some of these funds.

Dr. Erb provided a brief update on OPP staffing issues. Other issues noted included: NSF is working to gain access to archival photographs made by intelligence agencies over the past 50 years. One-meter resolution images taken during SHEBA and images of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica from the 1970's and 1980's have been declassified. Additional images of sites are being requested based on the importance of seeing changes over time.

OPP is working on setting up an OAC web page, which would provide access (through links) to workshop reports, abstracts, etc., that relate to major planning issues.

NSF Strategic Plan

Maryellen Cameron, OPP, provided a summary of the NSF Strategic Plan for FY-2000 to FY-2005 and current activities related to it. The plan is required under GPRA guidelines, with updates every 3 years. The NSF Strategic Plan integrates the 1997 NSF GPRA Performance Plan, the National Science Board Strategic Plan (1998), and NSF in a Changing World (1995). The final plan will go to Congress by March 1, 2000.

The plan's outcome goals focus on three areas: ideas, people, and tools. Dr. Cameron reviewed the long-term outcome goals for each of the three areas and the strategies for achieving the goals. The earlier drafts of the document had intermediate goals, but it was felt that they were too ambitious for 3 to 5 years and too specific for a Foundation-wide document. Feedback from the OAC would be helpful on the omission/inclusion of these items. Intermediate goals are more focused and would link the long-term goals.

NSF currently has three Foundation-wide initiatives in the areas of Information Technology, Biocomplexity and the Environment, and the 21st Century Workforce. In exploring ways that OPP can contribute to research in these three areas, OPP Program Managers are continuing to build relationships with the CISE and BIO directorates.

The OAC noted that many of the unmet opportunities listed in the Strategic Plan had a greater emphasis on information technology, such as nanoscale research. There may be some under-emphasis on the people aspect of research that should be addressed. One member added that research should look at the impacts of technology on communities. In indigenous populations, the impact may be significant. Dr. Pyle noted that there is a component in the Information Technology Research (ITR) initiative that will be looking at human-computer interfaces and the Arctic Social Sciences Program should be involved. Another recommendation was that the Plan should put more emphasis on interagency cooperation and the link between tools and the ability to implement the other goals. There was also a question on the relative weights of the goals.

Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

Mary Albert provided background information on the FY-1999 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) report that assesses OPP's performance compared to the GRPA Plan. Altie Metcalf, OPP, provided a summary of OPP's assessment for FY-1999 and reviewed the responsibilities of the OAC. After reviewing statistics on use of merit review criteria, OPP felt they should provide a better explanation for the criterion in the information they provide to reviewers. One suggestion was to have NSF review forms have two different sections to complete: one for each criterion. Another suggestion was to modify FastLane to address each criterion on the review form. Dr. Albert stated that the goal of the discussion was to summarize the OAC input and then vote on the overall sense of how OPP is doing. In areas where it was felt OPP could do better, details would be provided in the OAC report. A summary of the OAC's discussions for each goal is below.

Goal 1 — Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering.

  • OPP is doing well. The OAC listed several examples of research that met this goal such as Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) and the ice core work. Both research projects cut across disciplines and have resulted in outcomes expected and unexpected. Other important developments include the Lake Vostok research, fish antifreeze gene evolution, and the potential for year-round life sciences research at McMurdo.
  • To improve this area, OPP could solicit more feedback from the community on ongoing research. A "show and tell" FTP site could be established where investigators could upload pictures and information.

Goal 2 — Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society.

  • Sections that could be strengthened included SHEBA — because the write-up doesn't make it clear how much SHEBA contributed to public interest in science and the Arctic — and the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) studies. The Arctic artists and writers program should be included as well.
  • There should be clearer evidence of the impact of polar research on policy development. Ways to collect this information were discussed.
  • There are examples of programs that have been initiated by the communities (not just universities) that could be included.

Goal 3 — Diverse, Globally-Oriented Science and Engineering Workforce.

  • Altie Metcalf presented additional information that was requested on the numbers of minorities in OPP research.
  • OPP may want to include data from annual reports on PIs involved in outreach activities in K-12.
  • The OAC discussed the aging workforce in the polar sciences. The discussion focused on characteristics of the workforce and potential reasons for higher median-age in certain research areas. OPP was encouraged to provide increased support for post-docs and graduate student supplements to support the student beyond when the PI is funded.
  • Training could also include persons in villages, such as the training of biosamplers.
  • The OAC felt NSF was not very successful in the area of diversity. The group struggled for examples of ways diversity in the workforce could be increased.

The OAC voted on how they would rate OPP for each goal. The summary ratings would be provided at the conclusion of the meeting.

Discussion with the NSF Director, Rita Colwell

Dr. Colwell, Director, National Science Foundation, thanked the OAC members for their contribution to the NSF. She noted that the President's trip to New Zealand was exciting. She reviewed the FY-2000 budget which was 7% ($300M) higher than FY-1999. The FY-2001 budget is being prepared. She noted a few positive things related to Polar research to include the South Pole Modernization Project (which is on time and within budget) and the increased efforts for an Arctic logistics program. She would like to see a central, common logistics center in the Arctic.

Dr. Colwell asked for questions from the OAC. Ms.Cochran raised a concern about the impact of technologies on communities in Alaska. Technologies such as telemedicine may or may not be accepted by indigenous groups. How can the impact on the communities be minimized? Dr. Colwell noted that telemedicine's positive impact was demonstrated when the contractor at South Pole became ill. Without telecommunication, it would not be possible to provide that kind of quality health care. She suggested that questions similar to the one raised be communicated to the SBE and CISE directorate. They are addressing the issues related to human-computer interface and it may provide a good opportunity for the OPP and the IT partnership to work.

Dr. Colwell noted that in the past year, NSF has been gathering data on the size and duration research grants. There is an enormous amount of effort spent on behalf of the research community in reviewing grants and writing research proposals. NSF would like to see additional funding for an increase in the size and duration of grants.

What does NSF plan for OPP for the next 20 years? Are unmanned stations planned? Dr. Colwell noted that is the direction they are hoping science will move. The National Ecological Observational Network (NEON) is likely to have a site at the poles.

Dr. Colwell talked about G/K-12, the new NSF education and outreach program. The program funds graduate students to work with an assigned classroom teacher in K-12. The graduate student response has been excellent, though some university faculty members are resistant to change. Based on feedback from the current program, improvements will be made for the next round of funding.

Dr. Colwell briefly mentioned the Biocomplexity in the Environment initiative. NSF is still in the process of defining what biocomplexity means.

Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE)

Dr. Azam introduced Marge Cavanaugh, Division of Chemistry, and Roberta Marinelli, OPP, to discuss the BE Initiative. The NSB's Task Force on the Environment issued an interim report. In a review of over 250 reports, consistent issues included an enhancement of disciplinary research, strengthening interdisciplinary research and an increase in long-term research support. Infrastructure and partnerships to facilitate coordination and collaboration were also needed. NSF has funded initiatives in biocomplexity such as Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) and Global Change Environmental research. There is a movement to broaden the scope from a physical understanding of the environment to include the social, behavioral and environmental components. A diagram was displayed showing how OPP research fits into the BE activities.

The FY-1999 Biocomplexity Phase I competition focused on microorganisms and their relationship to others. There were 34 full proposals submitted. Five proposals were awarded and two are under negotiation. A number of proposals were interdisciplinary. A total of $28M was funded with $12M from special funds and $16M from the directorates.

The FY-2000 Biocomplexity Phase II competition has a focus on biocomplexity in the environment. Integrative themes with a biological focus are important in addition to scales and quantitative modeling. Incubation studies and full research proposals will be funded. Successful proposals seemed to be looking at new ways of looking at how systems are organized so that not only can the function be determined, but also predictions can be made as to how systems will respond to change. Examples of themes for Polar Regions were provided to include:

  • UV/Ozone depletion effects on ecosystems
  • Transport, sequestration and fate of contaminants on multiple spatial and temporal scales
  • Local and global influences on land/margin ecosystem

The OAC discussed the size of awards, a disciplinary vs. interdisciplinary approach, the number of PI's and size of activities. They also noted that smaller interdisciplinary proposals might be likely to get funded through directorates.

Alaska Native Science Commission Projects

Dr. Cochran presented the Alaska Native Science Commission projects. A traditional knowledge and radionuclides project combines local observations and traditional knowledge with western science. The project has produced several reports and a web site. Regional meetings have been conducted in Alaska to gather traditional knowledge. Northwest Arctic concerns include fish with abnormalities; an increasing number of beaver and bears; high cancer rates in some villages; a change in the food sources and distribution of walrus; and changes in numbers of seabirds and waterfowl. Data on these observations of changes related to wildlife, humans, weather and plants and possible reasons for the changes are captured in a database. Information is listed in full context, then linked by key words for searching. The project is trying to get native concerns and research to establish a more common agenda. Western research documents include AMAP reports, ANWAP reports, Canadian Northern Contaminants Program findings, and the Alaska Research workshop report from April 1997. Another database supported by the Alaska Native Science Commission is the Alaska Traditional Knowledge and Native Foods Database. The databases can be accessed at http://shiva.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/knowledge/.

Education and Training

Dr. McClintock introduced John Hunt, Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), who provided a review of the issues related to SMET and K-12 education. As a country, the U.S. scored very low in the TIMSS tests. There is a shortage of well-trained science and math teachers and teachers with training in the use of technologies. There is a lack of equity and opportunity and a random nature of what is taught and when and how it is assessed. Dr. Hunt discussed the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative with its goal to improve math and science achievement in Native village schools and to integrate indigenous knowledge into curriculum and pedagogy. Elders and adults of the community work with teachers. One specific project that was recently funded in EHR was adapting Yup'ik knowledge in mathematics. There are many challenges facing K-12 education in Alaska. OPP researchers can help provide content and share the thrill of exploration.

K-16 EHR opportunities include:

  • Informal Science — supplements to research grants or large projects with polar themes
  • Materials and Curriculum — websites (e.g. GLACIER, Antarctic Food Web), contributions to textbooks/videos/CDs; course, curriculum, and laboratory improvement; digital library project.

Dr. Hunt encouraged the community to submit proposals.

Wayne Sukow, EHR, discussed the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and the Antarctic (TEA) program. To enhance the amount of transfer to the classroom, OPP and EHR will be exploring the idea of funding teachers in Antarctica who will be corresponding with teachers in the United States. A preliminary set of ideas has been submitted to OPP for this project.

Issues in higher education include the challenge of technology, ensuring content, mismatch of supply and demand for graduates, imbalance between opportunity and interest in choice of majors, attracting and keeping students from underrepresented groups in S&T, the changing nature of "appropriate" training, and improving non-major courses and science literacy. A place where OPP can make a great contribution is at the beginning level of college.

Workforce Initiative Components are also an upcoming initiative in EHR. Ideas include the science of learning, centers for teaching and learning, and broadening participation of individuals and institutions. Dr. Sukow challenged the polar scientists to get involved in these new centers.

Dr. Hunt discussed Alaska's bid for EPSCoR Status: The University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) is preparing a proposal for EPSCoR. He briefly reviewed the criteria for consideration. The OAC discussed the likelihood of Alaska being accepted as an EPSCoR state and agreed it would be good if Alaska were approved.

Guy Guthridge noted the Artists and Writers program in OPP. Often this has resulted in books for children about science in the Antarctic.

The OAC suggested that OPP work to establish a mechanism to follow-up on EHR grant supplements such as links on the OPP web site.

Innovation Partnerships

Paul Herer, Office of the Director, discussed NSF's program on Innovation Partnerships. Academic institutions are core NSF partners. Private industry and the States are also key partners in promoting research and education to advance the innovation process. NSF has received funding of $10M for Innovation Partnerships. Questions included: What models should be used in designing and implementing this program? What should be emphasized? What are the measures of "success" for NSF? Preliminary discussions have taken place as to the objectives of such partnerships and the desirable features. There is some concern as to how this new program would impact the EPSCoR program. Input from the OAC would be welcome as there are not yet detailed plans for this program. One suggestion is a Phase I and Phase II plan, where Phase I is development of the management plan. The OAC noted the importance that the design of the program allows for a broad view of research and that states would be true partners. Further comments from the OAC should be provided to Paul Herer and Dr. Bordogna, Deputy Director of NSF.

Other Issues

Dr. Erb provided additional details on the NSF Initial Intital legislation would have had NSF to transfer $5M to NOAA for Arctic logistics in FY-1999. The Senate markup language for FY-2000 initially proposed that the amount for Arctic logistics be increased to $25M and transferred to the Arctic Research Commission for distribution. That was not passed, but NSF is expected to work with the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) to develop a multi-agency plan and common agenda for US-Japan research activities related to global climate change. Dr. Erb requested input from the OAC on ways to develop the relationship with IARC. It was also noted that a new competition for a replacement research vessel for the RV Nathaniel B. Palmer would be issued in about one year. Congressional language requires a ship built in the United States.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, November 2, 1999

The date finally set for the Spring meeting was May 22-23, 2000.

The meeting reconvened at 8:35 a.m.

Arctic Logistics

Tom Pyle, Head, Arctic Sciences Section, provided an update on Arctic Research. A competition for long-term observatories was held. Out of 73 proposals, four awards have been made with FY-1999 with several more planned with FY-2000 funding. The Arctic logistics budget was $23.4M in FY-1999 and $25.7M in FY-2000.

Simon Stephenson, Program Manager for Arctic Research Support and Logistics reviewed his role in his new position. The primary goal is to establish a five-year plan for Arctic Research Support and Logistics. A rough plan is being reviewed with program managers. The program is very closely linked to science programs. The plan will be a tool to help set priorities for where investments will be made in the next five years. Discussions include a second competition for Long Term Observatories, and bringing the research vessel Healy on line. OPP wants to run an open program, which communicates with the community. To do this, Mr. Stephenson will use meetings, web sites, workshops, etc. The Arctic Logistics Information Access Service (ALIAS) web site will get going in FY-2000 after a period of dormancy. The Arctic Research Support and Logistics program will be driven by proposals in response to science needs. There is also an effort to determine areas where people are not submitting proposals solely because the facilities are not there.

The status of the SCICEX submarine was discussed. The Navy is retiring a nuclear submarine that can be operated for another 7 to 8 years. RAND is doing a study on the cost of operating the submarine. It would cost approximately $140M for operations and $5M for renovations. The Navy has offered to split the costs. The OAC's unanimous reaction was that new funds would be needed to support this. OPP would commit science support funds if the submarine were available.

The OAC encouraged the OPP to set up User Groups for the Arctic as they have in the Antarctic. Mr. Stephenson noted that they have started a User Group for the ships and plan on an international User Group for the Summit Observatory.

The OAC discussed ways they could leverage international access to ships and other logistics opportunities. It would be helpful if the Arctic logistics web site could announce international expeditions that would be willing to take on additional people. One problem is that when such opportunities arise, there is often little lead-time and it may not coincide with the NSF proposal schedules. There should be a way to fund these opportunities.

This year, OMB suggested that NSF should pay for the entire operating costs of the RV Healy, without additional funding to offset the operating costs. What advice does the OAC have if this comes up again next year? Would they want $10M to be taken from science for this purpose? The group expressed concern that the science supported by the Healy should be very compelling for the amount of funding.

The OAC inquired about the different possibilities for air access in the Arctic. One idea is the commercializing of the LC-130 aircraft used in Antarctica that would allow for off-season support in the Arctic. There is also a new aircraft, the Bassler, which has enhanced capabilities over the Twin Otter. A limitation for Arctic air access is that ski-equipped aircraft are not readily available. There may be potential to develop this market.

Several funded Long-Term Observatories (LTOs) are of interest to the Alaskan communities. How will communication and access to the data be facilitated? The proposal required PI's to work with the native communities. Information is posted on the NSF web site. In the Bering Strait LTO, native members will be conducting measurements.

Antarctic Logistics

Chet Gardner asked Erick Chiang, Head, Polar Research Support Section, to talk about what led to the decision to select a new contractor for support of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and how the transition will take place. There has been an intensive review of those proposals by three panels over the last 6 months with a focus on past performance, cost and technical merit. The panels were made up of OPP staff, NSF contracting staff, Office of the Inspector General, and outside experts. There is a protest period until November 15. If a protest is filed, it must be resolved within 100 days after it is submitted. Debriefs will be held with the three finalists. A phase in process will take place over the next five months with a contract start date of April 1, 2000.

Other issues included:

  • Recruiting for the Antarctic Research Support Manager position has seen a high level of interest. Selections will be made before the end of the year.
  • Performance measures were put together for all contractors. The list was shared with the OAC. Quantitative measures will be established with Raytheon.
  • South Pole construction is going well with a good winter-over effort. OPP is on schedule and slightly below budget.

Unmet Opportunities

Doug MacAyeal introduced the discussion. The NSF Director has asked the OAC to consider major opportunities for investment that are currently unfunded or underfunded, but viable - meaning the knowledge base and researchers are in place to undertake the investment, but the available resources and/or infrastructure is not sufficient. Dr. MacAyeal added his "unmet" needs for NSF, which included a brain drain of researchers for NSF, and the need to reinvent platforms and systems for doing research in the Arctic and the Antarctic. There are many systems that have been around for 25 years or more. They may be too expensive to operation in the future. There is a need to reinvent how research is done to include use of robotic technology and unmanned research platforms. Research will need to be more international with a sharing of costs and resources.

Dr. MacAyeal posed two questions that will have to be thought about by OPP:

  • How is OPP going to articulate its needs relative to the other Directorate's needs?
  • How is staff going to approach Congress to justify the additional funding?

Dr. Peacock distributed a matrix that is a partial list of unmet opportunities that had been identified in a long range planning retreat. The material gathered came from Program Managers and workshops. Mr. Chiang added that there is nothing fixed about list. The OAC commented that some items on the list are needs that are presently being met. The group talked about the items on the list to include access to the McMurdo Dry Valleys in winter; year-round use of the CRARY lab; year-round access to LTERs in the Arctic; extended research seasons in the Arctic; and international management of a station at Summit, Greenland. Data simulation is another unmet opportunity (i.e. mapping ice distribution). Another area is spatial heterogeneity in scaling. Many other examples were given.

The OAC revisited the Strategic Plan goals for ideas and tools. Many of questions that came up in prior discussions were dealing with people. What opportunities fall under that? Dr. Pyle presented a list. Diversity is also an aspect. Increasing the size and duration of the grants will help to increase the diversity (with more funding for graduate students, etc.) Multidisciplinary research and diversity are two of the "people" issues.

Instrumentation Technology Initiative

Dr. Erb presented a draft of the polar regions instrument and technology development plan. The purpose of the initiative is to enable polar science in extreme environments and address science-driven objectives through adoption of ab initio design and development leading to deployable instrumentation. It is not intended for the purchase of off-the-shelf instrumentation. The strategy proposed is to leverage OPP and additional resources (other NSF programs and other federal, state or local agencies, universities, industry) and respond to unsolicited proposals. In FY-2000, $3M is initially proposed (ramping up to $10M) with an award size up to $250K per year.

Possible examples include:

  • Power systems, control systems, and communications (fuel cells, solar/wind energy developments)
  • Smart deployable instrumentation
  • Ship, aircraft and station Instrumentation requiring human hnteraction

Prioritization of needs would be on the basis of scientific importance and potential application.

OAC members were very supportive of this new initiative and felt if would increase the impact of polar research. Further clarification was requested on "off-the-shelf" definitions and what was meant by "instrumentation." Other criteria for an award were also discussed. The members felt that the award size was too small to allow for any major new equipment development. The group also discussed other criteria that might be important to include in a solicitation of this nature.

Dr. Erb noted that OPP will consider increasing the proposed award size to $500K. An announcement of opportunity will be listed during the first quarter of 2000.

Program Management Issues

Dr. McClintock introduced Maryellen Cameron, Executive Officer of OPP. She reviewed the organized advisory mechanisms in OPP which include science panels, workshops, cooperative agreements/workshops, advisory cooperative agreements/advisory grants, and advisory committees. Other ways that OPP stays informed about interests in the community is through travel. A chart was displayed showing FY-1999 purpose of travel for science Program Managers and average travel funds per program manager. The broader issue is whether Program Managers are adequately funded for travel to meetings and for site visits? In general the OAC felt the funds spent for travel per Program Manager were not adequate. The OAC agreed to make a recommendation for increased funding for Program Manager travel.

Dr. Cameron displayed a comparison chart of the average annual award size for FY-1999. Diversity statistics were also displayed. Though OPP Program Managers handle fewer proposals than those in other directorates, they have a larger management role fextensivelyes and are more estensively involved in cross-agency initiatives. Some OAC members felt that the award size is the bigger issue. NSF can't have more than 65% of program funds committed in the out years. The issue is the "mortgage" of a program - which limits the ability to fund new ideas. One argument for extending the award duration is that three years will not fund a graduate student for the duration of his or her graduate work. The OAC discussed the size of the grant versus the duration. It was also pointed out to the OAC that one GPRA goal is for 30% of awards to go to new PIs. Is this a reasonable goal? Feedback from the OAC was welcomed.

OPP Office Advisory Committee Web Site

The OAC web site was presented by Winifred Reuning, OPP. It is proposed as a starting point for the OAC web page. The workshop web site is still in the development. In general, the OAC liked the web site.

Unmet Opportunities, Continued

Dr. Pyle provided an update on the research vessel Healy. If delivered as planned, sea and science trials will occur in FY-2000. The solicitation date for proposals for use of the Healy in 2001 is February 2000. There is also some discussion of having an open house in Baltimore when the Healy comes up from its warm water test. Suggestions or ideas for who should be invited and format for such an invent were welcomed.

The SCICEX project is in the last year. No large announcement will be made as only a few days ship time are available. Some of the constraints in the Arctic include the demise of SCICEX, the difficulty in conducting small-scale topography and the need for an observing scheme in the subarctic seas. One new program area is the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH). SEARCH is working on a draft science plan which can be reviewed on the project web site at http://psc.apl.washington.edu (go to projects, go to SEARCH, user name authors, password $earch). The project has started looking at physical changes in the ocean and has identified a connection with Arctic oscillation. The program fits with NSF's Biocomplexity Initiative.

Dr. Pfirman encouraged the group to continue thinking about unmet opportunities and to talk to colleagues. There will be a continued opportunity to provide input to OPP. OPP needs to add their input to the Unmet Opportunities document as soon as possible to push for FY-2002 funding. There will probably only be a few unmet opportunities that can be funded over a 2-3 year period of time.

Revisited Issues


During the presentation on Biocomplexity, several potential projects were shared as examples of biocomplexity related to polar research. Examples of themes:

  • UV/Ozone depletion effects on ecosystems
  • Transport, sequestration and fate of contaminants on multiple spatial and temporal scales
  • Local and global influences on land/margin ecosystem interactions

There is a sense that the definition of biocomplexity can be broad. There are aspects of predictions and how biology plays out in the environment that could fall under this initiative. Dr. Cochran noted the Alaska working group for the Arctic Council has been working hard at establishing an Alaska Arctic Contaminants program modeled after the Canadian contaminants program. This will link up with AMAP at some level. Funding for Canadian program is about $10M per year. Senator Stevens is involved with others.


Dr. Albert summarized ratings given by the OAC. For goals 1 and 2, there was general agreement that OPP has done an excellent job. For goal 3, there were mixed results for the individual criteria. The group struggled with the assessment of the diversity of science and engineering workforce. How do they vote when one subcategory is not considered successful. The OAC was also concerned about providing a low rating for an organization that is working very hard — compared to counterparts who might be rated higher. It was eye-opening to discover that after all that Arctic has done to get proposals from more diverse groups, only six awards were made in FY-99 with minority PI's. It is a long process to get change. If rated minimally successful, the OAC will explain or rate as successful some of the criteria, and offer clarification. Their input will serve as a management tool to help impose changes. The OAC decided to consult on the rankings by email. Overall, they would have very positive ratings. One concern was to make sure the OAC can see the raw data to aid in making their decisions.

Other Business

April 27-28 or May 1-2, 2000 were identified as potential meeting dates for the Spring OAC meeting1. Nominations for new OAC members should be submitted to Dr. Erb.

Dr. Erb thanked the OAC members for their contribution and noted the members that were rotating off the committee. Dr. Pfirman will step down as Chair of the OAC but will remain on the committee as Past Chair. The OAC members thanked Dr. Pfirman for her contributions as Chair. With no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.

2:15PM Meeting Adjourned

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See Agenda for this meeting.

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Polar Programs Advisory Committee Pages
Advisory Committee Home Page Advisory Committee Charter
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Advisory Committee Members Advisory Committee Documents
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Advisory Committee Meetings Committee of Visitors Documents
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Advisory Committee Meeting Materials Polar Programs-supported Workshops

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Division of Polar Programs SITE MAP!


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