Summary of FY2001 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation


U.S. POLAR PROGRAMS $285,410,000

The FY 2001 Budget Request for U.S. Polar Programs is $285.41 million, an increase of $32.41 million, or 12.8 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $253.00 million.

(Millions of Dollars)


FY 1999

FY 2000
Current Plan

FY 2001




U.S. Polar Research Programs






U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support Activities






Total, Polar Programs






NSF conducts Polar Programs through two budget Activities:

  • U.S. Polar Research Programs include funding for both Arctic and Antarctic research, as well as operations and science support required to support polar researchers.

  • U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support Activities fund logistics and operational support provided by the Department of Defense that contribute to the U.S. presence in Antarctica.

Polar Programs is unique within the Foundation in both its geographic focus -- polar regions -- and in the breadth of its scientific programs. Polar regions are of critical importance as they are the areas predicted to be first affected by global change. As such they play a central role in environmental issues related to global climate and are vital to understanding past, present, and future responses of Earth systems to natural and man-made changes.

The Arctic and Antarctic are premier natural laboratories whose extreme environments and geographically unique processes enable research not feasible elsewhere. For example, polar ice forms an integral part of the AMANDA neutrino observatory and the cold, dry environment and high altitude at the South Pole render the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica telescopes uniquely effective. Both sets of instruments probe the distant reaches of the universe, while environmental observatories detect and monitor effects of climate change on extreme terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Polar researchers are also monitoring and analyzing recent changes in the Arctic ice cover and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to better understand the potential impact these changes have on global climate change. Other projects supported by Polar Programs analyze the chemistry of ice cores as a record of global climate history; utilize astrophysical observations made in cold dry polar conditions to determine the evolution and structure of the universe; examine the effects on marine life of increased ultraviolet light resulting from ozone depletion; and elucidate adaptation mechanisms of organisms and ecosystems to harsh living conditions.

NSF is one of twelve federal agencies supporting Arctic research and logistics. The Foundation provides interagency leadership for research planning as directed by the Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984. NSF also supports university research to increase our knowledge of the region, to improve understanding of Arctic phenomena, and to enhance stewardship of natural resources. Funding in the Arctic includes research and logistics support for work conducted in that remote region.

Funding for the Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency, is also included within funding for Polar Programs.

NSF is charged with managing all U.S. activities in the Antarctic as a single, integrated program. The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) implements national policy to maintain Antarctica as an area of international cooperation reserved for peaceful purposes, to preserve and pursue unique opportunities for scientific research to understand Antarctica and its role in global environmental systems, to protect the relatively pristine environment and its associated ecosystems, and to assure the conservation and sustainable management of the living resources in the surrounding oceans. Funding for USAP includes research and the science support directly linked to specific research projects, as well as support for the broader operations and logistics infrastructure that makes it possible to conduct science on the remote and uninhabited continent.

In FY 2001, Polar Programs will participate in Foundation initiatives for Information Technology Research (ITR) and 21 st Century Workforce.

Information Technology Research (ITR): Funding for ITR in FY 2001 totals $1.66 million. FY 2001 priorities include: development of remote operation capabilities and development of accessible information systems for polar data.

21 st Century Workforce: Funding for the 21 st Century Workforce initiative in FY 2001 totals $1.10 million. Polar Programs' support enhances the partnership between rural college campuses in Alaska and U.S. research institutes through interactive distance courses, labs, and workshops. Support is also provided for the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI).


U.S. Polar Programs' support for ongoing and new activities contributes to NSF efforts to achieve its strategic goals, as well as to the administration and management activities necessary to achieve those goals.


Support for discovery at and across the frontier of science and engineering and connections to its use in the service to society increases by $16.26 million in FY 2001, to a total of $79.07 million, an increase of 26.0 percent over FY 2000. Priority is given to fundamental research that can be uniquely undertaken in the polar regions. A recurring theme in much of this research is the role of the polar regions in global climate and biogeochemical cycles. This Arctic and Antarctic research covers virtually every aspect of our planet: the solid earth, glacial and sea ice, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the oceans, the atmosphere and beyond. Research on the solid earth is integral to understanding our planet's plate tectonics, the evolution of life in Earth's distant and recent past, and the interactions of Earth's crust with the overlying ice sheets. Glacial and sea ice studies elucidate aspects of biologic productivity and global climate processes. Marine/terrestrial biota studies examine systems from extreme environments that are relatively unaffected by humans -- they are therefore ideal for documenting the long-term effects of human activities. A major focus of ocean studies is the role of polar regions in generating nutrient-rich, cold currents that influence global ocean circulation. High latitude magnetic field and upper atmospheric studies provide unique views of near-earth space physics. The dry, cold atmosphere at the South Pole, its 9,300 foot elevation and six month continuous night permit astronomical studies not feasible elsewhere. The search for Antarctic meteorites enables fundamental advances in knowledge about the origin of our solar system.

Support includes $3.96 million for three centers in Antarctica. The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica conducts research in both astronomy and astrophysics at the South Pole. Two Antarctic Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites are part of the U.S. LTER network. On the Antarctic Peninsula, the LTER near Palmer Station focuses on marine research, with field support from the leased research vessel Laurence M. Gould. At the LTER in the Dry Valleys near McMurdo Station, researchers study polar desert oases and permanently ice-covered lakes and their unique microbial systems. Research at these sites involves researchers, graduate students and undergraduates from universities across the United States, as well as researchers from other federal agencies.

Arctic and sub-Arctic LTERs in Alaska -- at Toolik Lake and at the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest --are the logistical base for ecosystem studies of Arctic forests, tundra, lakes and streams. These LTERs are supported in cooperation with NSF's Biological Sciences Activity, with Polar Programs providing both research and operational support.

In FY 2001, Polar Programs will continue its efforts to address Foundation-wide concerns about grant sizes by increasing the average duration of awards. In accord with the Foundation's FY 2001 Performance Plan, Polar Programs will continue to provide increased attention to the percentage of competitive research grants going to new investigators. These efforts will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the Foundation's merit review process and achieve greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.


Across its programs, OPP will provide support for about 2,100 people in FY 2001, including students, researchers, post-doctorates, and trainees. Support for programs specifically addressing NSF's Strategic Goal of "People -- A diverse, internationally competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens" totals more than $1.46 million in FY 2001, an increase of 7 percent over FY 2000. Moreover, about 40 percent of the funding for research grants -- an amount approaching $32.0 million in FY 2001-- provides support for researchers and students, including about 740 postdoctorates, trainees, and graduate and undergraduate students.

Innovative efforts in Polar Programs contribute to developing a diverse, internationally competitive workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens. These efforts include use of new technologies such as interactive video; efforts to improve scientific literacy and education in Alaska; and contribution to development of a geosciences curriculum for undergraduates (GLACIER) relating geoscience disciplines to polar and global phenomena. Continuing activities include support for the Antarctic Artists and Writers program; Scouting in Antarctica; Live from Antarctica project linking researchers to classrooms; curriculum development initiatives; summer science camps for Alaska Natives; and Teachers Experiencing the Antarctic and Arctic. Polar Programs also supports a graduate /post-doctorate level course at McMurdo Station that addresses the adaptations of ecosystems to cold climates; this is an international course that uses biomolecular and genetic techniques to understand issues ranging from physiology to behavior. The Center for Astrophysics in Antarctica (CARA) will host a Chautauqua course for undergraduate teachers. Polar Programs also supports the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program and Model Institutions for Excellence.


Research in the polar regions is also supported through provision of research support, special facilities, and logistics. Funding for facilities in FY 2001 totals $201.53 million, an 8.2 percent increase over FY 2000. Research support includes costs typically awarded directly to grantees in other areas of NSF - technicians, field safety equipment, laboratory costs, transportation of scientists and their cargo, and instrumentation and equipment - but handled centrally by Polar Programs when it is more cost efficient to do so. In FY 2001, both the physical infrastructure and communications will continue to be upgraded. Both scientific and operational needs for enhanced computing and communications will be met by equipment upgrades. Remote sensing, data retrieval and handling, and automated observatories will be developed.


Support for Arctic research, through Polar Programs and other NSF Activities, includes support for Arctic field stations and large instrument facilities in Alaska, Greenland, and Canadian Arctic:

  • Camps and automated stations on the North Slope of Alaska support studies of carbon dioxide and methane fluxes from the tundra as well as polar adaptations to environmental change. Increases in funding since 1998 have been used to provide additional helicopter support for improved access to remote regions and make possible broader, improved regional studies.

  • Toolik Field Station on the Alaskan North Slope, one of the focal points of U.S. polar terrestrial research, is operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. NSF is working cooperatively with UAF on the operation of Toolik Field Station to enhance its management and long term development of the infrastructure.

  • An Environmental Observatory at Point Barrow, Alaska, that focuses on land-ice-atmospheric studies, will be developed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, and the local community.

  • Leased facilities at Kangerlussuaq, on the west coast of Greenland, provide a support hub for research on the Greenland icecap and the coastal tundra.

  • NSF's Summit Field Station on the Greenland icecap is being developed into a year-round international site for a variety of atmospheric and geophysical measurements. NSF partners are the Danish Polar Center and the European Union.

  • Facilities leased at Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland support terrestrial/icecap field programs in northern Greenland and on the drifting ice of the Arctic Ocean.

  • Polar Program supports Long Term Observations in the Arctic. For example, a new monitoring site in the central Bering Strait is being set up on Little Diomede Island to measure the biological, chemical, and physical properties and collect samples of waters flowing from the North Pacific into the Arctic Ocean. The station will be operated as a collaboration between the Little Diomede Inuit community and scientists at major U.S. universities. The station will be housed in the community and maintained daily by local technicians trained by the science team. This activity also includes development of innovative technology and instrumentation, such as pilotless aircraft and autonomous underwater vehicles that will be able to make measurements year-round, in and above the Arctic Ocean.

  • FY 2001 will be the first opportunity to support merit reviewed research on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The Healy will have the capability to support a broad range of research, including physical oceanography, ocean-ice-atmosphere interactions, marine sediment coring, petrologic biogeochemical surveys, and long-term observational programs to track environmental change.

  • The research vessel Alpha Helix, part of the U.S. academic research fleet, enables oceanographic research in the northern high latitudes. Primary support comes through NSF's Ocean Sciences Subactivity, with contributions from Polar Programs.

  • Airplanes, helicopters, access to other ice breakers and field support are provided to researchers participating in approximately 100 projects in remote sites in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Arctic Scandinavia, Russia, and the Arctic Ocean.

  • Improvements in safety, including global telephone communications, will be provided for individual investigators working in remote regions. These safety improvements are important because there is no centralized programmatic communication and control system in the Arctic.


In the Antarctic, funds for science support, operations, and logistics make research possible by providing all the infrastructure, instrumentation, and logistics necessary for scientists from all disciplines who travel to Antarctica for their research. This support includes forward staging facilities in New Zealand and South America, as well as the home ports or headquarters for the military and civilian contractor in the United States. Facilities include:

  • A year-round facility at McMurdo Station on Ross Island that functions as the logistics hub of the USAP. It is the southernmost port and the largest of the three Antarctic permanent stations. Research on glaciology, geology, geochemistry, and geophysics, biological studies, and long term ecological research is conducted at the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center in McMurdo and in the immediate vicinity. During the austral summer McMurdo is the gateway to the interior of the continent, including Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and USAP major deep field research camps.

  • A year-round facility at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station. Research areas supported by the station focuses on understanding earth systems and on the origin and evolution of the universe. Disciplinary studies include meteorology, astrophysics, aeronomy, atmospheric chemistry, astronomy, and seismology research.

  • A year-round facility at Palmer Station on Anvers Island in the Peninsula area near South America. This facility is primarily a marine biology laboratory and is one of NSF's long-term ecological research sites, focusing on biological and marine ecosystem research.

  • Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft necessary to provide transportation of people and cargo to and within the continent; all support for outlying field camps; and search and rescue operations. Some aircraft are owned or leased by NSF, and others are provided on a cost-reimbursable basis by the Department of Defense. Leased Twin Otter aircraft are specially outfitted with a unique suite of integrated instruments for gathering airborne geophysical data for research projects over the icesheet.

  • Two leased research vessels -- the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, a research icebreaker designed to operate year-round throughout the Antarctic Ocean, and the R/V Laurence M. Gould, which supports research in the Antarctic Peninsula area and provides the logistics support to Palmer Station.

  • A Polar Class U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker for opening the channel to McMurdo Station for the single annual fuel tanker and single annual supply ship that are provided on a cost reimbursable basis by the Military Sealift Command.

  • Operations support by a civilian contractor that operates and maintains the stations, provides engineering and construction, manages the USAP logistics system, manages contracts to complement USAP airlift, and provides science support.

  • Air traffic control, meteorology services, and electronic equipment maintenance support by the Department of Defense.

In FY 2001, $13.50 million is requested for the next phase of South Pole Station Modernization. The Major Research Equipment Account has further information on this request.

Administration and Management

Administration and Management provides for administrative activities necessary to enable NSF to achieve its strategic goals. This includes the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments, contractors performing administrative functions and, in FY 2001, travel for staff in the program offices.

Number of People Involved in Polar Programs Activities


FY 1999

FY 2000

FY 2001

Senior Researchers




Other Professionals








Graduate Students




Undergraduate Students




Total Number of People




Polar Programs Funding Profile


FY 1999

FY 2000

FY 2001

Number of Requests for Funding




Dollars Requested (in thousands)




Total Number of Awards




Statistics for Competitive Awards:





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Median Annualized Award Size 1




Average Annualized Award Size 1




Average Duration (yrs.) 1




1 Statistics for award size and duration are for Research Grants only.


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