November 28, 2003


SUBJECT: Summary Report of November 19-20, 2003 Meeting

The major actions of the Board at its 377th meeting on November 19-20, 2003, are summarized for the information of those members absent and as a reminder to those present. In addition, a preliminary summary of the proceedings is provided.

This memorandum will be made publicly available for any other interested parties to review. A more comprehensive set of NSB meeting minutes will be posted on the Board’s public Website following Board approval at its next meeting.

1. Major Actions of the Board (not in rank order of importance)

a) The Board approved the minutes for the Open Plenary Session (http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/meetings/mtg_list.htm#recent) and Closed Plenary Session of the October 2003 meeting of the NSB.

b) The Board approved the issuance of an NSF Request for Proposals and the award of any resulting contract to be determined by competitive procurement, to obtain services for logistic and research support for NSF-funded research projects conducted throughout the Arctic (NSB-03-139).

c) The Board authorized the Director, at her discretion, to make an award to Cornell University for the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NSB-03-140).

d) The Board approved Fulfilling the Promise: A Report to the Congress on the Budgetary and Programmatic Expansion of the National Science Foundation subject to final edits approved by the Committee on Strategy and Budget and the NSB Chair (NSB-03-153) (Attachment 1).

e) The Board approved a new voting process for Board elections (NSB-03-161) (Attachment 2).

f) The Board approved its sponsorship of a future workshop on High-Risk Research.

g) The Board approved a resolution to close portions of the upcoming February 4-5, 2004, NSB meeting dealing with staff appointments, future budgets, pending proposals/awards for specific grants, contracts, or other arrangements, and those portions dealing with specific Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigations and enforcement actions, or agency audit guidelines (NSB-03-150) (Attachment 3).

h) The Board endorsed the overall emphasis of the OIG Semi-annual Report to Congress, and approved a letter to convey the report and the Foundation’s management response to the Congress.

2. NSB Chair’s Report

Dr. Washington reported that after Board discussions in August and October on the issue of legal advice for the Board, he prepared a letter to Senator Bond responding to his suggestion that NSB consider hiring its own counsel, separate from the Foundation’s counsel. The letter reported that it was the sense of the Board that it did not need a General Counsel separate from and in addition to NSF’s General Counsel at this time. The Chair also stated that the Executive Officer, Dr. Crosby, was reviewing staff resources and would identify areas for which he needed to recruit new staff. Dr. Washington stated that he has assumed that this response was satisfactory to the Senator, but will consult with him to see if there are additional concerns.

The Chair reported on his participation in a workshop on proposed OMB peer review standards for regulatory information sponsored by the National Academies. At the workshop Dr. Washington stressed the importance of a clear and open peer review process to give the public confidence in the integrity and credibility of regulatory decisions. He noted that the scientific community receives many requests for peer review, and it is important not to stretch reviewers’ energy and goodwill to the breaking point.

Dr. Washington congratulated the Task Force on National Workforce Policies for Science and Engineering and the Committee on Education and Human Resources on successful completion and rollout of the report, The Science and Engineering Workforce / Realizing America’s Potential, held at the National Press Club November 19. He noted that several favorable reports were already appearing in the press.

Dr. Washington reported that Dr. Crosby is working closely with the Chair and Vice Chair, along with several other Board members, on planning the February NSB retreat, site visit and meeting. The Board will focus on four activities: a LIGO site visit; opportunities to learn about unique, mutually beneficial partnership programs between small HBCU undergraduate institutions and large research-intensive universities; the annual NSB Retreat, and NSB committee and plenary sessions. The Chairman said he would be contacting each Board member over the next several weeks to discuss potential retreat topics.

The Chair discussed the need to re-establish two Board committees in the coming weeks. The process of considering nominations for the NSB class of 2012 is a lengthy one, and members must be named to a nominating committee in early 2004. Any Board member who is interested in serving on the nominating committee for the NSB Class of 2012 was asked to contact Dr. Crosby or the Chair. In addition, a committee on the Board’s 2004 Vannevar Bush Award will be established in early 2004, and Board members willing to devote time to this important task were asked to contact Dr. Crosby or the Chair.

Members were reminded that the NSF Authorization Act of 2002 requires the NSF Office of Inspector General to audit the Board’s compliance with the Government in the Sunshine Act. The objectives of the review are to assess the Board’s compliance and to determine whether closure of committee and Board meetings was consistent with the Sunshine Act. Dr. Crosby and his staff have begun working with the Inspector General’s staff to make sure that this audit is completed in a timely manner. The Board should receive the results of the audit in the Spring of 2004.

The Chair was pleased to report that the NSB suite is now equipped for wireless computing. He thanked Dr. George Strawn and his colleagues in DIS for implementing this system ahead of schedule. He also reported that Dr. Crosby has arranged for a Help Desk staff member, Mr. Chad Turner, to serve as a dedicated IT support person for the Board.

The Chair announced that Mr. Paul Herer, Office of Integrative Activities, plans to retire in December after 33 years of Federal Service. Dr. Washington recounted the many ways in which Mr. Herer had served the Board, including as executive secretary to the NSB Task Force on Merit Review, where he helped develop the two merit review criteria the Foundation uses today. He recently served as executive secretary of the NSF Task Force on S&E Infrastructure. He currently serves as executive secretary of the Committee on Strategy and Budget, and he has assisted the Committee in developing a response to Congress on how NSF should spend its funding increases in the next five years. Mr. Herer also had a major role in updating the NSF Strategic Plan that the Board approved in September, and in preparing annual merit review reports and budget reviews. On behalf of the Board Dr. Washington thanked Mr. Herer for his important contributions and wished him well in retirement.

3. NSF Director’s Report

Dr. Colwell reported that an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2004 is expected to be completed this weekend, including the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies bill.

On October 30, the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research held a hearing on the importance of K-12 science and math education. NSF Math-Science Partnership Program awardees were among the witnesses, and Representative Boehlert, the Subcommittee Chair, praised the program. On November 18, the Senate passed the Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which is expected to receive Presidential signature as soon as the House passes the Senate version. The Act authorizes $385 million in FY 2005, rising to $476 million in FY 2008 for the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

The Director reported that the Foundation was ranked second in an assessment of the best places to work in the U.S. government, based on a survey of government employees. She read selections from the report of the Partnership for Public Service and American University, citing the high level of job satisfaction among NSF respondents. In related news, she described recent praise of NSF management from the GSA, current recognition from other agencies who are studying NSF programs as models, and a recent improvement in the Foundation’s management scorecard from OMB, moving another goal from red to yellow.

4. Presentation to the Board

Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman presented a proposal for a new NSB election procedure, in a continuation of the discussion held at the October meeting. She described the proposal as a mirror image of the existing procedure, which isolates those receiving the fewest number of votes. The proposed procedure would isolate those receiving the most votes, and satisfy the statutory requirement that the winners receive a majority of votes. After discussion the Board voted to adopt the proposed procedure (NSB-03-161, attachment 2).

5. NSB Committees Summary Reports
(Committee summaries are provided by executive secretaries.)

a. Executive Committee (EC)
Dr. Colwell called for, and received, unanimous approval of the minutes from the October 15, 2003 meeting of the Executive Committee (NSB/EC-03-14).

Dr. Colwell noted that Dr. Wrighton was unable to be present, but that he had asked her to relay to the Executive Committee his assessment that Dr. Thomas Cooley did a great job with the NSF audit report provided earlier to the A&O Committee. He further felt that it was important that in conversations with Congress, NSB Members should stress their support for the NSF S&E budget request.

Dr. Colwell asked Members for any other open session items. Dr. Washington noted that he was impressed with how minor the problems were that the audit identified. He stated that, while some Board Members have raised the general question of whether it may be useful to examine the costs of undertaking audits versus the infractions identified, the audit process is nevertheless important and necessary.

Dr. Colwell then asked if there were any additional open session items, and there being none, the open session adjourned.

The committee then convened in closed session to discuss specific personnel matters, a Board Member proposal, and future budgets.

b. Audit & Oversight (A&O)
KPMG staff reported on the FY 2003 Financial Statement Audit. The financial statements received an unqualified “clean” opinion, with no material weaknesses and only one reportable condition. Two prior year reportable conditions have been resolved. Mr. Cooley (NSF CFO) noted steps underway in FY 2004 to address the reportable condition and management concerns about budget/performance/cost integration. He also noted NSF’s efforts to meet the reporting requirements under the Improper Payments Act of 2002, and that NSF’s OMB submission was viewed as a good model for other agencies.

Dr. Boesz presented the OIG Semi-Annual Report and Dr. Umminger shared the draft transmittal letter. The committee endorsed the overall emphasis of the OIG Semi-annual Report, and recommended that the full Board approve a letter to convey the report and the Foundation’s management response to the Congress. Mr. Geoffrey Grant (NSF BFA) reported on the work of the NSTC’s Committee on Science Research Business Models Subcommittee. Mr. Grant is providing staff support to the group, which is addressing the policy implications arising from the changing nature of scientific research and how we can maximize public investment in science. Input from the national research community is being solicited. A two-day meeting in December will include OMB, OSTP and President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency representation.

In closed session, the Committee heard briefings on several active investigations by OIG staff.

c. Programs and Plans (CPP)
In closed session, the Committee considered and approved two action items [Request for Proposals and Award of a Contract for Arctic Logistics in Support of Research (NSB-03-139) and the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NSB-03-140)], recommending them to the full NSB for approval.

In open session, the Committee heard a presentation on the status of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA is on budget and the US costs are unchanged. There is a 4- month slippage in the schedule, but a recovery plan is being implemented that predicts no cost consequences and will regain these 4 months by the end of FY 2004.

There was discussion and a status report from the ad hoc Working Group on Long-lived Data Collections, specifically informing the Committee of the recently held workshop. The workshop had broad representation of the Federal community along with NSF staff presenters. The Committee indicated a desire to continue this ad hoc group as a formal Task Force. The Terms of Reference for the Task Force will be revised and distributed for discussion at the February NSB Meeting. A second workshop is also being planned to involve the LLDC user-community.

The Committee heard a report from the ad hoc Working Group on High Risk Research and considered a proposal for an NSB Workshop on New Approaches to NSF Support for Innovative Research. The Committee agreed to proceed with a workshop, and to generate a document that sets out the issues and ideas.

The Chair of the Subcommittee on Polar Issues presented a report on their meeting.

d. CPP Subcommittee on Polar Issues (PI)
The Office of Polar Programs briefed the Subcommittee on the following items:

(1) Over 400 researchers, approximately 20 percent of them from outside the U.S., met in Seattle at the end of October to discuss the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH). SEARCH is a research program supported by NSF-OPP and a variety of other federal agencies, including NASA and NOAA, developed under the auspices of the NSF-led Interagency Arctic Research Policy Group. The goal of SEARCH is to study the causes of changes occurring across terrestrial, oceanic, atmospheric, and human systems in the Arctic. SEARCH may become a nucleus for the International Polar Year science program in 2007-2008.

(2) The Director of OPP met with the European Polar Board’s Executive Committee recently to plan for coordinated use of research vessels in Arctic and Antarctic research, the development of second- and third-generation ice core drilling devices, and planning for the International Polar Year. The next such meeting will take place in the spring.

(3) The Antarctic field season opened last month, and the on-continent flights are on or ahead of schedule.

OPP staff provided examples of ways in which its interagency and cross-directorate partnerships provide for collaborations and infrastructure and logistics support for work in polar regions by grantees of all NSF Directorates and by scientists from NASA, USGS, NOAA, DOE and other federal agencies. An extensive list of such collaborations was presented.

Finally, the Subcommittee discussed an action in closed session.

e. Education and Human Resources (EHR)
Dr. Miller described the press release of the NWP Task Force Report, The Science and Engineering Workforce / Realizing America's Potential. A 30-minute presentation given by NSB Members at the National Press Club was well attended by press members. Press follow-up questions were positive. The report is now posted on the NSB website. Hard copies of the report will be available in about 2 weeks. PowerPoint summary slides will be provided for NSB Members.

The Committee heard that five NSF program directors testified on October 30 to the House Science Subcommittee on Research on the Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program. NSF received positive feedback on the first round of MSP grants. Additional information was presented on the MSP solicitation, which targets partnerships, focused on secondary grade level, development of teachers, leadership for course and curricula, and furthering the knowledge base.

The Chair provided an update on the Committee’s August Workshop on Broadening Participation. The NSB office is translating the transcripts of the meeting into text, and a first draft should be available at the end of November. The EHR Committee will then discuss recommendations. The Committee expects to have the report available on the Web by the end of the calendar year, and printed shortly thereafter.

The NSF EHR Division Director of DGE discussed plans for a Graduate Student Support Workshop, tentatively scheduled for April 2004. Representatives from the Council of Graduate Students and NIH are involved in planning. The workshop focus will be on time-to-degree and graduate student support.

Dr. Willie Pearson of Georgia Tech presented a report from the Committee On Equal Opportunities In Science And Engineering (CEOSE), a Congressionally mandated advisory committee to the National Science Foundation. He also summarized a recent workshop: Pathways to STEM Careers. The workshop emphasized the continuing lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.

Dr. Ramaley led a discussion on coordination of education across the NSF, joined by NSF staff from BIO, CHEM, EHR and HRD. The purpose of this presentation was to describe ways in which NSF currently coordinates and collaborates among its administrative units to develop and manage education programs and activities. An update on the Workforce for 21st Century Priority Area was a focus of discussion.

f. EHR Subcommittee on Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI)
The Subcommittee approved a cover for the 2004 S&E Indicators volume based on an image of the potassium ion channel from work by 2003 Nobel prize winner Roderick McKinnon. Dr. Richardson will draft a caption describing the cover, based on language submitted by Dr. McKinnon.

Members reviewed a draft Companion Piece, based on an outline approved at the October meeting. They asked for a more forceful introductory sentence, making the main point that the data in S&E indicate a nation in crisis. A discussion followed of the kinds of systematic data that are most needed to understand S&E labor force flows. SRS staff described some current initiatives to improve data in these areas, including funding data-sharing between the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of the Census; work with UNESCO and OECD to encourage data comparable to the US Survey of Earned Doctorates in India, China, and elsewhere; and other recommendations that may emerge from a National Research Council report on NSF’s R&D data in the Spring of 2004. SBE staff described efforts they are making to identify whatever systematic data exist to include these topics in the 2006 S&E Indicators volume.

Subcommittee members viewed a demonstration of the website developed for the chapter on Indicators of State R&D. The demonstration was greeted with enthusiasm by the members, who predicted that the State-level data are likely to cause significant interest among State and regional journalists.

Subcommittee members suggested placing a “comment box” like the one developed for the State chapter on all S&E Indicators chapters on the Web. SRS agreed that this was possible, and proposed that maintaining the practice would depend on the number of comments received.

The Chairman asked NSB Office staff to e-mail the current Companion Piece draft to all Subcommittee members and asked for comments to be returned to Ms. Hines as soon as possible, with copies for himself.

g. Committee on Strategy and Budget (CSB)
The Committee reviewed the draft of the report (dated November 10, 2003) mandated by Section 22 of the NSF Authorization Act. Most of the attention was focused on the two-page executive summary. A number of suggestions for improving this portion of the document were made.

The Members then reviewed the text of the full report - page by page - and provided suggestions on many aspects of the report. Most of the comments addressed editorial concerns and the organization of the report.

Dr. Savitz then offered a resolution (NSB-03-153) to be placed before the Board on the following day, that the Board approves the report, subject to final edits approved by the CSB and the NSB Chair. This motion passed unanimously.

The Committee then briefly discussed possible future agenda items.

Michael P. Crosby
Executive Officer

Attachment 1: NSB-03-153
Attachment 2: NSB-03-161
Attachment 3: NSB-03-150

Back to NSB Meetings