The National Science Foundation
October 15-16, 2003
Warren M. Washington, Chair
Rita R. Colwell, NSF Director
*Absent on October 16 only
Daniel E. Hastings
Dr. Warren M. Washington, Chair, convened the Open Session of the National Science Board meeting at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 16, 2003.
AGENDA ITEM 5: Minutes of Open Session of August 2003 Meeting
The National Science Board approved the minutes of the Open Session of the August 2003 Board meeting (NSB-03-122, Board Book Tab E).
AGENDA ITEM 6: Closed Session Items for November 2003 Meeting
The National Science Board approved the Closed Session items for the November 19-20, 2003, Board meeting (NSB-03-125, Board Book Tab F).
AGENDA ITEM 7: Chair’s Report
Dr. Washington congratulated Dr. Daniel Simberloff who spoke on October 14 at the Smithsonian Institution as part of a Distinguished Lecturer Series sponsored by the Senate of Scientists and the Smithsonian’s Associate Director for Research and Collections.
Dr. Washington announced the publication of the 2003 edition of the National Science Board members’ booklet (NSB-03-114), which contains an overview of the Board’s purpose and function as well as photographs of current Board members and a list of all former members. Copies were made available to the public.
Dr. Washington announced that October 16 was the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Inspector General Act and recognized the contributions of the Inspectors General at Federal agencies. He thanked the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Office of Inspector General for assisting the Board in overseeing the complex and challenging operations of the Foundation. He also thanked Dr. Christine Boesz, NSF Inspector General, for hosting an informative open house on October 15.
Dr. Washington updated the Board on plans to equip the Board Suite and Board Room for wireless computer operations. He reported that implementation should be completed by the end of the year.
Dr. Washington reported that, on September 9, Dr. Michael Crosby, NSB Executive Officer, had delivered a letter from Dr. Washington to pertinent congressional offices to fulfill the Board’s reporting obligation under Section 14 of the NSF Authorization Act of 2002. Section 14 requires the Board to report any delegations of authority to approve funding for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction projects. Dr. Washington’s letter stated that the Board had not delegated that authority in fiscal year 2003.
At Dr. Washington’s request, Dr. Crosby updated the Board on arrangements for the February 4-5, 2004, Board meeting in Louisiana. Dr. Crosby reported that he and staff had made a site visit and appreciated the valuable assistance of Drs. Barry Barish and Kenneth Ford. The February meeting will consist of a site visit to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, opportunities to learn about partnership programs between some of the smaller Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the larger research-intensive universities, a Board retreat session, and other Board business, including the election of a nominating committee for Board officers. Dr. Crosby asked Board members to contact him with their ideas for topics to include in the retreat.
Dr. Washington presented proposed guidelines for attendance at Board meetings. He reported that the Executive Committee had reviewed the guidelines and recommended their adoption by the Board. Upon this recommendation, the Board acted as follows:
The National Science Board adopted and will implement Attendance Guidelines for the National Science Board and Its Committees and Other Subdivisions (NSB/EC-03-11, October 15, 2003) as its official guidelines for attendance at Board sessions. (NSB-03-135, attached as Appendix A)
AGENDA ITEM 8: Director’s Report
Dr. Colwell introduced new NSF staff: Dr. Michael Turner, Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Dr. Rosemary Hagett, Director of the Division of Undergraduate Education in the Education and Human Resources Directorate.
Dr. Colwell announced that NSF was named one of the top performers
and best places to work in the Federal Government in an assessment
by the Partnership for Public Service and the Institute for the
Study of Public Policy and Implementation, American University.
Dr. Colwell reported that, with virtually no increase in staff for several years, NSF had processed 40,000 competitive awards in 2003 (up from 30,000 in 2000) and a total of almost 56,000 actions in 2003 (up from 42,000 in 2000).
Dr. Colwell summarized recent congressional actions affecting NSF. On September 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the FY 2004 VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriation bill. The Senate bill would give NSF a 5.2 percent overall increase, compared to a 6.2 percent increase in the House bill. NSF is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution. Dr. Colwell expects the remaining appropriations bills, including the NSF appropriation, to be part of an omnibus package to be voted on in November. The Senate is drafting a bill that would establish NSF as the lead agency for the National Nanoscale Initiative. This bill would be a counterpart to the House-passed Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003. The House Science Committee may hold a hearing on programs funded through the H-1B visa fees. At NSF, those fees cover computer science, mathematics and engineering scholarship programs.
AGENDA ITEM 9: Discussion: Update on NSB Election Procedures
Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman explained various election rules and their effect on the outcome of elections. She noted that there is no “correct” voting rule, but the outcome of an election can be influenced by the choice of a voting rule. She illustrated with material from Liberalism Against Populism by William H. Riker and discussed the Arrow Impossibility Theorem, for which Dr. Kenneth Arrow received a Nobel Prize in economics. Dr. Hoffman explained plurality, the Borda rank order count, approval voting, and Condorcet winners. She offered several alternative voting rules for the Board to consider. Dr. Washington called for a straw vote on the question of whether to keep or change the current election system. Because the straw vote was close, Dr. Washington asked Dr. Hoffman to present a recommendation to the Board at the November meeting.
Dr. Crosby reminded Board members that they had received information regarding the May 2004 election of a Board Chair, Vice Chair, and two members of the Executive Committee. Because of the legal requirement to hold Board elections in May and the fact that a class of eight Board members will rotate off the Board as of May 10, he suggested that the Board consider changing the dates of the May 2004 meeting from May 27-28 to May 3-4. After discussion, the Board acted as follows:
The National Science Board approved a revised meeting schedule
(NSB-03-68, revised October 16, 2003, attached as Appendix B).
AGENDA ITEM 10: Presentation: OMB’s Draft Peer Review Standards
Dr. Nancy Beck, a toxicologist and risk assessor working in the Office of Management and Budget, gave an overview of the Information Quality Act, which requires OMB to develop procedures to improve the quality of information disseminated by all Federal agencies. She also discussed the Agency Information Quality Guidelines and OMB’s proposed Bulletin on Peer Review. The bulletin would define and describe the standards for peer review, the basis for selecting peer reviewers, and the duties of the reviewers. The bulletin would cover scientific or technical studies and reports, reviews of literature, risk assessments, and regulatory analyses. Not included would be routine statistical and financial information, grant applications, material already peer reviewed, internal documents not disseminated, adjudications and permit applications, and national security information. There would be a waiver for emergencies, imminent health hazards, and security threats.
Dr. Washington asked for a clarification of the effect of the Act on how scientific results are communicated, and Dr. Delores Etter asked how the Act would affect NSF. Mr. Lawrence Rudolph, General Counsel, responded that NSF does not solicit regulatory information in its reviews and therefore the Act would have minimal impact on NSF-funded research. He noted, however, that individual scientists doing work and submitting results to different agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, would be more subject to the Act’s requirements.
Mr. Eduardo Feller, Senior Staff Associate, Office of International Science and Engineering, Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, asked for clarification of NSF’s responsibility if NSF funded research that was published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the information was later picked up for policy. Dr. Beck replied that the burden of compliance would always be on the agency using the information, to make sure it meets the information quality and peer review guidelines. If the agency took the peer-reviewed article and submitted it as the regulation, the item would be exempt because it has already been peer reviewed. If the agency took that article and several others, performed an analysis, and submitted that analysis in a new rulemaking process, that analysis would be subject to peer review.
AGENDA ITEM 11: Presentation: Update on S&E Visas
Dr. Washington introduced three experts on visa policy: Mr. Edward J. Ramotowski, Director of the Office of Public and Diplomatic Liaison and Visa Services at the Department of State; Dr. George Atkinson, Science Technology Advisor in the Secretary of State’s Office; and Ms. Shana Dale, Chief of Staff of the General Counsel of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Mr. Ramotowski provided an overview of the State Department’s current practice in handling visas and the near-term future outlook. He stated that Secretary Powell had articulated the policy as “secure borders and open doors,” and the administrators of the visa system were attempting to balance the two objectives.
Two processes have caused particular concern within the scientific and academic communities. (1) The Security Advisory Opinion Process permits other agencies to look at visa applications, and the State Department must wait for an affirmative response from every agency in the process before issuing a visa. The massive increase in security name checks (200,000 per year compared to 4,000 per year before September 11) has strained the system and resulted in delays. (2) The Visas Mantis Clearance Program, established in 1998, is a specialized security screening process that relates to the transfer of sensitive technology and information controlled under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The caseload has grown significantly since September 11; at any given moment, between 1500 and 2000 cases are pending in the interagency review process. The Department is streamlining the clearance process to provide clearances for 12 months rather than for each visit.
Mr. Ramotowski described a memorandum of understanding that has
been signed by the State Department and the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS). The memorandum gives DHS final authority over visa
policy, while State administers the process.
Dr. Ramotowski suggested that the scientific community enter into a dialogue with the DHS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies involved in the visa system. He noted that security checks are performed by agencies in the law enforcement and intelligence communities, not by the Department of State.
Ms. Dale added that OSTP has monitored the impact of changes in implementation of visa policy on students and visiting scholars and continues to assess whether sufficient scientific expertise is being brought to bear on the visa screening process. OSTP remains concerned that scientists and students may be hesitant to come to the United States because of the lengthy application process. Dr. Atkinson suggested that the Board consider what type of useful feedback could be provided to the scientific community by an authoritative source such as the Board.
During discussion with the presenters, Dr. Rossmann related personal
experiences illustrating an adverse effect of visa policy on scientific
collaborations. He also noted that many international meetings are
being held abroad because of U.S. policies and procedures.
Dr. Fedoroff also related her experiences with students who have been refused visas for trivial or inexplicable reasons. Dr. Randall noted that having an open door may not be useful if people perceive that there is a lot of interference and choose to go to Canada, England, or Europe instead. Dr. Wrighton asked for clarification about a person’s ability to continue to pursue education or research once cleared for a visa. Dr. Anita Jones suggested that the community develop metrics on the “open door” side of the Secretary’s policy to determine whether the door is really open and whether the policy is working to the detriment of U.S. leadership in science and engineering. Dr. Joseph Bordogna, NSF Deputy Director, asked which was the best place to go to find out exactly what is going on in the fluid visa situation.
All three presenters agreed that the visa process is highly fluid and that there are multiple points of entry in DHS, Department of State, and the Congress. They encouraged a dialogue within the scientific community to develop metrics and provide data to the DHS and other groups involved in the visa process.
Dr. Washington asked Mr. Ramotowski to provide a copy of his presentation so the Board could make it available to the community.
AGENDA ITEM 12: Committee Reports
a. Executive Committee
The report was covered in the actions taken earlier in the meeting.
b. Audit and Oversight (A&O)
Dr. Mark Wrighton, chair, reported that the committee met briefly in a closed session to hear about an active investigation being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General. In open session, the committee received an update from Mr. Thomas Cooley, NSF Chief Financial Officer, on the status of the accelerated audit schedule for FY 2003, the work of the NSF Advisory Committee on GPRA (Government Performance and Results Act) Performance Assessment, the business analysis contract with Booz Allen Hamilton staff, the congressionally requested study of NSF by the National Academy of Public Administration, financial management challenges and NSF’s efforts to track and manage them, and cost-sharing statistics associated with NSF support. Office of Inspector General staff gave presentations on the FY 2004 audit plan and on a recently resolved investigation.
c. Education and Human Resources (EHR)
Dr. George Langford, chair, gave a status report on three forthcoming
publications. The report of the Task Force on National Workforce
Policies for Science and Engineering, The Science and Engineering
Workforce/Realizing America’s Potential, is on schedule for
Web publication in November and for printed copies by the end of
the year. A PowerPoint presentation and talking points are being
prepared for Board members’ use in publicizing the report.
Dr. Joseph Miller, chair of the task force, was interviewed by CNN
for the Lou Dobbs show on the Board’s position on the science
and engineering workforce. Science and Engineering Indicators---2004
and a companion piece on the science and engineering workforce are
on schedule for delivery to the President by January 15, 2004. The
proposed cover art comes from the work of the 2003 Nobel Prize winner
Dr. Rod MacKinnon who worked out the three-dimensional structure
of the potassium ion channel. In addition,
Dr. Robert Webber, Senior Analyst for the NSB, is preparing a report from the workshop Broadening Participation in Science and Engineering Research and Education, held August 12. A Web version will be available by the end of the year, with printed copies soon to follow.
The committee also discussed a draft report developed by the three working groups on three levels of the educational pipeline: K-12, undergraduate, and graduate education. The three groups have reached consensus on the primary recommendation that NSF should establish a position in the Office of the Director to coordinate and oversee education programs and related outreach activities throughout NSF and to evaluate the effects of the broader impacts merit review criterion; to have access to funds for rewarding successful programs or innovative ideas; and to report to the committee annually on the activities, accomplishments and needs of this position. The committee also considered an alternative proposal from the Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources that that position be assigned responsibility to coordinate NSF-wide the integration of education and research and workforce development. The committee asked the Assistant Director to report to the committee at a later meeting on current and pending strategies and activities that relate to the recommendations. Each working group proposed additional specific recommendations that will continue to be addressed at future meetings.
d. Programs and Plans (CPP)
Dr. Anita Jones, chair, reported that the committee had held a closed session to consider and approve three action items to bring to the Board and to hear a presentation on cyber infrastructure. Dr. Peter Freeman, Assistant Director for Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering, explained that NSF was moving from having a focus on mainly very high performance computing to a more balanced weighting of high performance computing with high speed communication and very large data. At the same time, that infrastructure is being provided by a much larger number of institutions. Two challenges are allocation of resources and collective management of the infrastructure.
In open session, the committee received a report on plans for a workshop on Federal experience with policies related to long-lived data collections to be sponsored by the Task Group for Long-Lived Data Collections. Dr. Bruce Umminger, Senior Scientist, Office of Integrative Activities, gave a history of the Science and Technology Centers.
e. CPP Subcommittee on Polar Issues
Dr. Daniel Simberloff reported in the absence of Dr. John White, chair. The subcommittee discussed four topics: planning for the International Polar Year, 2007-2008; the need for two Coast Guard icebreakers to keep the path to McMurdo Station open; tourism issues in the Antarctic; and Canada’s intent to become a full member of the Antarctic Treaty. The subcommittee received updates on the conversion of three LC-130s to Air Force configuration and the South Pole Station Modernization Project. They also discussed the work of the International Arctic Research Center.
f. Strategy and Budget (CSB)
Dr. Maxine Savitz, chair, reported that in a closed session the committee had received a review of NSF’s final FY 2005 budget submission to OMB and the status of the FY 2004 budget appropriations.
In open session, the committee and many other Board members discussed the draft report that the committee is preparing for the Board as the submission to Congress required by Section 22 of the NSF Authorization Act of 2002. Section 22 directs the Board to prepare a report addressing and examining the budgetary and programmatic growth provided for in the Act. The Board’s report is due to Congress by December 22, 2003. During discussion, it was suggested that the report begin with a bold statement of NSF’s priority needs for research and education, followed by forward-spending recommendations on how the authorized funding levels can help (but not completely) meet these needs. It was also suggested that the report show the synergy that exists between the different spending priorities and stress the value of international collaboration as key to developing a 21st century science and engineering workforce. The committee will prepare a revised draft report for the November Board meeting.
Mr. Paul Herer, Senior Staff Associate, Office of Integrative Activities, reported that the NSF Strategic Plan, FY 2003-2008, was approved by the Board and OMB in September and was submitted to the Administration and the Congress by the deadline of September 30. The document is on the NSF Web site and will be published in printed form.
There being no other business, Dr. Washington adjourned the meeting at 3:37 p.m.
Appendix A: Resolution on Attendance Guidelines (NSB-03-135)
Appendix B: Revised 2004 Board Meeting Schedule (NSB-03-68, revised October 16, 2003)
1 The minutes of the 376th meeting were approved by the Board on November 20, 2003.
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