GEO Advisory Committee
Minutes of November 30-December 1, 1999 Meeting
Dr. Susan Avery, Chair, Director, CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Dr. David W. Simpson, Vice Chair, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, Washington, DC
Dr. Eric J. Barron, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Dr. Otis B. Brown, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Prof. George M. Hornberger, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Dr. Emi Ito, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Dr. Charles E. Kolb, President, Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, MA
Dr. John Orcutt, Director, IGPP, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Dr. Judith Parrish, Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Prof. Lynne Talley, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Dr. Inez Fung, Center for Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
Prof. Alexandra Navrotsky, Dept. of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, University of California, Davis
Dr. Joseph Pandolfo, retired
Dr. Denise Stephenson-Hawk, Provost, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA
GEO SENIOR STAFF PRESENT
Dr. Robert W. Corell, Assistant Director
Dr. Margaret S. Leinen, Assistant Director Designee
Dr. Richard A. Behnke, Section Head, Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Alan Gaines, Senior Staff Associate
Dr. Donald Heinrichs, Section Head, Ocean Sciences
Dr. Clifford Jacobs, Section Head, Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Jarvis Moyers, Acting Division Director, Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Michael Purdy, Division Director, Ocean Sciences
Dr. Michael Reeve, Section Head, Ocean Sciences
Ms. Vanessa Richardson, Director of Operations and Analysis
Mr. William Smith, Staff Associate for Budget
Dr. Thomas Spence, Senior Staff Associate
Dr. Herman Zimmerman, Acting Division Director, Earth Sciences
The fall meeting of the Advisory Committee for Geosciences (AC/GEO) was held November 30- December 1, 1999 at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA.
Tuesday, November 30, 1999
WELCOME & INTRODUCTIONS
Dr. Susan Avery, Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:35 a.m. Introductions were made.
REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE AC/GEO
Dr. Avery provided an update on issues raised at the spring meeting:
- The report of the workshop on GEO Education and Diversity made six recommendations. GEO is now prepared to implement the program with a budget in place.
- The Facilities Report has been published.
- The GPRA FY 1999 Performance Report will be discussed, with the first official draft out for review.
- Progress is being made in filling the staffing positions in EAR and ATM.
- A small subcommittee was formed to prepare a short paper on the International Task Force once the Task Force has defined its purpose. Dr. Corell urged the group to continue to pursue this.
- GEO 2000 will be discussed at the December 13-17 AGU meeting in San Francisco.
Dr. Avery summarized the discussions from the September 21 NSF advisory committee chairs meeting. The group discussed the NSF five-year budget strategy and unmet opportunities. GPRA was discussed with a focus on the time that has been spent looking at evaluations, in COV reviews and topics during the AC meetings. Many advisory committees have formed subcommittees for GPRA issues to minimize the time needed at the AC meetings.
The group broke into subcommittees for Atmospheric Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Ocean Sciences.
VISION OF TRENDS & OPPORTUNITIES IN THE GEOSCIENCES
Outgoing AC/GEO members Dr. Eric Barron and Dr. Susan Avery were asked to share their visions of trends and opportunities in the Geosciences.
Dr. Eric Barron presented his view of trends and challenges in Earth Sciences:
- Interdisciplinary research will be required to solve the major problems (physical, biological and social sciences)
- A "depth of knowledge" will enable interdisciplinary science.
- It will be a challenge to develop the scope and prioritize interdisciplinary research.
- Global Observation Systems will be a major problem because it will be too expensive and new things will continue to be added
- Fundamental Science is gathering a "service to the nation" filter. The nature of research is moving to reflect the "scale" of human activities.
Dr. Barron feels that a focus on regional activities will facilitate agreements and relationships that will help address the issues mentioned above. Once regional efforts can be demonstrated, then agreement can be reached and others will buy in. Dr. Barron's vision for the future of Geosciences included:
- Sensor Webs
- Research-Operational Hybrid
- Integrated Regional Models
- Discipline of Forecasting - demonstrate a capability of prediction
- A"Situation Room" Capability, such as an environmental situation room.
Dr. Susan Avery looked at her past research efforts compared to what she is doing now. Science is entering a very exciting era, becoming more integrated. The ideas in GEO 2000 truly reflect some of that integrated thinking. Several major reports and the scientific community have also stimulated the Federal agencies' response to this integrated thinking. Now the knowledge base is significant enough to tackle some of these large integrative projects. The greatest advances are those associated with life sciences and the environment. Computational developments are in place. Challenges on the horizon include the lack of ability/knowledge to implement these integrated projects. Integration is often more costly and can be difficult. Societal relevance puts impetus on realizing and transitioning the benefits of the research.
A concern is that, although there is an identified need for a global observing capability and networks of observations, it is unclear who is challenging new students to look at this instrument development. This will require collaborations with engineers, laboratory scientists, and others and may take years to develop.
Finally, Dr. Avery noted that issues of ethics are going to become increasingly important. (i.e., creation of life). Given the public interest in environmental discovery and ethical issues, the AC/GEO might be interested in hearing from these groups.
TOPICS TO DISCUSS PER OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR'S GUIDANCE
The AC was asked to provide feedback to the Office of the Director on the following topics:
- The draft NSF Strategic Plan
- Innovation Partnerships
- Unmet Opportunities in Science and Engineering
- Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)
NSF Strategic Plan
The AC/GEO members were provided a draft of the strategic plan that integrates the other existing plans in NSF into one plan. The AC/GEO provided the following comments on the draft:
- The NSF presentation of risk taking and the merit/peer review system seemed to be inconsistent. How is NSF actually going to take risks in the peer review environment? Clarification was provided that there is an existing process within NSF that allows programs to set aside 5% of funding for discretionary projects, though there is a feeling in the community that there is not enough risk taking.
- The AC/GEO commented that the Strategic Plan seems more like a mission statement. Unmet opportunities and transcendent technologies (Section 4, numbers 2 & 3) are the real issues. The group was not impressed with the list of unmet opportunities and felt that is should be more expansive. A general statement could be that NSF wants to tackle this issue head-on and find what the unmet opportunities are. The list should be impressive and should be a compelling case for increased funding.
- The document should indicate how NSF would implement interdisciplinary research.
- Throughout the document, no case is made for anything other than a flat budget.
Dr. Corell noted that the list of unmet opportunities started at an NSF senior staff retreat and initially was about 100 elements long. There was an attempt at the staff level in the Director's Office to shorten the list. The result is the page that was distributed. Out of the list, an informal competitive process ensued concerning what the priorities should be. Dr. Corell encouraged the AC/GEO to review the list and provide feedback to NSF. One comment was that the document should state what areas NSF was addressing across the Foundation vs. areas that are disciplinary. It appeared that some of the items defined as transcendent were not. There was also a concern that the environment should have a stronger thematic role to align more with recommendations from the Environmental Task Force.
Dr. Leinen responded on the process by which initiatives are developed at NSF. Which traditional tools used by NSF (i.e., workshop models) are appropriate and what new tools need to be deployed to engage the community? The Information Technology Research (ITR) initiative has eight subcategories defined in the program announcement. While several are focused on computer science, there are two areas in which GEO will have a role: information management and advanced computational techniques. Others worried that the geosciences are being used to justify the program, but that they will be dropped.
The feedback on the NSF Strategic Plan would be conveyed in a letter to Dr. Corell and raised during the discussion with Dr. Bordogna.
Dr. Corell provided the background on the NSF Innovation Partnerships initiative. It was NSF's response to a strong desire by Congress to develop more substantive partnerships with states. The initiative received $10M in new funding for FY 2000. NSF is still developing this program and is looking for feedback on a philosophical level from the AC/GEO. The AC/GEO was concerned that the document did not clearly describe how the program was similar/different from the existing NSF programs involving states (i.e., STCs, EPSCoR). The document also referred to academic institutions "other than the top 100" throughout. The group wanted clarification on what that meant. They also saw the new initiative as a potential opportunity for NSF/GEO to do something that is geographically focused. Of all the sciences, GEO has the most obvious geographical connection. Innovation Partnerships should not be limited to just the states as there may be regional consortia among states.
Dr. Corell shared that in his experience working with various state groups, the key players are universities. He hopes that NSF investments in Innovation Partnerships will have a high degree of leverage that will help move GEO-related sciences forward.
MEETING WITH NSF DEPUTY DIRECTOR JOSEPH BORDOGNA
Dr. Bordogna provided a brief update on activities within the Foundation in the past year:
- Congress increasingly sees the importance of science at the Frontier.
- NSF has an integrated strategic plan and the goals and strategies have been well received.
- NSF is still struggling with the details on GPRA and how to measure success - it is a learning process.
- The themes/initiatives approach seems to be successful in getting increased funding. In FY 1999, Information Technology was funded and in FY 2000, Biocomplexity in the Environment received funding. FY 2001 initiatives might include nanotechnology and mathematics, terascale computing, and social, behavioral and economic sciences.
- NSF has also been looking at the size and duration of grants in an effort to make the research process more efficient. NSF is pressing for a higher average of $250K for each grant with four years' duration. To fund this increase, NSF would need $7.7 Billion in funding, not including any of the initiatives.
Dr. Avery shared the advice and concerns from the AC/GEO. In regards to the NSF Strategic Plan, the group felt that the current draft does not convey the excitement that would push an increased budget strategy forward. She noted the issues related to the unmet opportunities and transcendent themes. Dr. Bordogna commented that transcendent was a new word for interdisciplinary/cross-directorate. He supported the idea that the document needs to be modified to make it more robust. Specific feedback from AC members was welcomed.
In response to the concern that the Strategic Plan was not tied closely enough to the NSB report on the environment, Dr. Bordogna commented that the report, though a good report, will be difficult to implement.
Dr. Avery noted that the Geoscience community is interested in the Information Technology Research Initiative. A concern is that historically, proposals that were not from a computer science background have been declined. How can the community ensure that partners are there when the growth of trained computer scientists has been flat? Dr. Bordogna responded that with the ITR initiative, the intention is to focus on research in information technology and to couple applications with computer science. The perceptions and barriers will be difficult to break down, but with continued efforts to implement change, all can win.
The AC/GEO also asked about the intention of the Innovation Partnerships program. Is it aimed at small institutions? Dr. Bordogna responded that for years NSF has tried to capitalize on state and federal funding. More and more states are seeing the importance of science and technology and are setting up offices and technology transfer programs. The program will try to leverage many of the resources. NSF has established working groups that will be putting together a plan for the new program.
Dr. Avery and Dr. Corell thanked Dr. Bordogna for meeting with the AC/GEO.
UPDATE FROM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Dr. Corell provided an update on the FY 2000 budget appropriations. The NSF appropriation was increased by 5.8% from FY 1999. There is a pending .38% "across the board" reduction that will be implemented. The FY 2000 appropriation includes $90M for Information Technology Research (ITR), $50M for Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE), and $10M for High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), to enhance aircraft for North Pacific Research. Other directorates have increases of about 3%. The FY 2001 budget request has been submitted to OMB.
The GEO 2000 plan is nearing the final version. It is undergoing a final internal clearance process before it can be printed. Drs. Corell and Leinen will jointly make a presentation on the GEO 2000 Plan at the December 16th AGU meeting. Dr. Avery noted that GEO 2000 does not mention Biocomplexity. Dr. Corell responded that a link would be made in the final plan to Biocomplexity and the NSF strategic plan.
Dr. Corell noted some of the projects going on in GEO. EarthScope (a telescope into the Earth's interior) is a major new development in the earth sciences community. The Global Lake Drilling initiative is another area in which the international community is prepared to develop a plan.
In the OCE Section,
- The Ocean Drilling Program continues to produce cutting-edge science (e.g., Norris and Röhl).
- Ocean Observations are being planned with highly successful pilot activities (e.g., H20 and ABE).
- Ship usage in FY 2000 is the highest in recent years by NSF.
- Planning for the International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) accelerates with letters of intent from several countries.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:35 p.m.
Friday, December 1, 1999
The meeting reconvened at 8:30 a.m.
FUTURE OF GEO EDUCATION & DIVERSITY STRATEGY
Dr. Michael Mayhew, EAR, provided an update on GEO's efforts to implement recommendations made in the draft AC/GEO's Education and Diversity report.
The strategy outlined in the report was summarized:
- Engagement of geoscience researchers with education
- Integration of research and education
- Elements of support at all education levels
- Implementation of the standards
- Commitment to diversity
- Limited resources: need for partnerships
To facilitate the engagement of geoscience researchers with geoscience education, partnerships have been sought with:
- NSF's EHR Directorate
- Other federal agencies
- Professional societies
- University consortia
- Other non-governmental organizations
- State-level organizations
Also in response to the report's recommendations, two solicitations were produced in cooperation with the Division of Undergraduate Education called "Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education":
- January 1998 - "Awards to Facilitate Geoscience Education"
- March 1999 - "Geosciences Education," which included awards to facilitate Geosciences education and a digital libraries initiative.
The response to the solicitations was good. The digital library initiative was sponsored by several federal agencies including NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Library of Congress. The Digital Library for Earth System Education falls within the Federal Information Technology initiative. The World Wide Web creates an educational opportunity for the digital library, but there are some shortcomings. To overcome these, standards are important in providing open, robust, and enabled framework.
Features of the National Digital Library:
- Provides a forum for review, recognition, registry, and archiving of quality educational resources.
- Target audience is defined, along with the suggested use.
- Platform for traditional, continuing, and distance education using validated materials.
- Provides for active learning via access to data sets and simulations.
The vision for the digital library is a virtual meeting place that supports new interdisciplinary communities.
A large portion of the funding from the competition in FY 1999 went to a consortium, the Geoscience Digital Library. This has a strong outreach component. A collaborative effort has begun with NSF and NASA in support of a workshop called "Portal to the Future" to develop a strategic plan for establishing a national Digital Library for Earth System Education. The GEO website provides reports from the various working groups of the workshop. Dr. Mayhew reviewed the design consideration for the proposed digital library. He summarized that access via the Web to the Digital Library for Earth System Education will allow any teacher, student, or citizen to easily find high quality materials and data they need, in a readily usable form. It will also facilitate collaboration with the community. The Digital Library will benefit GEO, responds to expert advice, fits into GPRA goals, and fits into the NSF Goals (ITR, Educating for the Future). Future plans for FY 2000 are to issue a new program announcement to support focused planning efforts with funds from FY 2001 used for implementation of the library.
GEO has provided funds from the Directorate's reserve to match program funds for a new proposal to establish Centers for Excellence in Minority Education and Research. Dr. Mayhew and other program managers reviewed examples of projects that support minorities funded through EAR, OCE, and ATM.
NSF-wide, there are several programs to encourage minority participation:
- Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER)
- Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT)
- Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education (POWRE)
The Program Plan for GEO Education and Diversity includes the Core Program, new Division- based programs, and augmented programs. The Digital Library for Earth System Education will continue to be funded, as it provides a framework for advancing and improving the quality of Geoscience education at all levels.
Questions still exist for the best way to increase diversity. A structured program and solicitation is targeted for FY 2001, though responsibilities and workload issues, in addition to collaborations with other NSF directorates, need to be worked out.
Dr. Clifford Jacobs provided an overview of new division-based programs to include the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Program for the Advancement of Geoscience Education (PAGE). Others include the EarthScope Education and Outreach program and the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) project. Dr. Michael Purdy provided an overview of COSEE, which will hold a workshop in the Spring of 2000 to determine feasibility. All three programs would expand the GEO education and diversity portfolio with a broad impact beyond divisional disciplines.
The augmented program is aimed at implementation of the Earth and Space Science elements of the National Science Education Standards. The focus will be on K-12 education, with the potential for partnerships. It may have an initial focus on the EPSCoR states, an idea that remains to be explored.
Dr. Denise Stephenson-Hawk (participating by phone) added that the workshop held in the spring of 1999 resulted in a report. The draft was disseminated in August and feedback has been received. More statistics were requested to determine whether GEO is meeting their goal for diversity, but they were not available to inform the report. GEO will work with the AC to help put these statistics together.
The AC/GEO members were impressed with the progress GEO has made in three years in implementing the education and diversity strategies. They noted the importance of continued encouragement and endorsement of the program. The partnership between GEO and EHR should continue to be developed. Dr. Corell added that the emerging partnership with EHR would continue to develop rapidly in the months ahead. Educating for the Future is one of the major initiatives within NSF and in the next year there will be a heavy focus to develop this component among the directorates, with EHR in a lead role. EHR also encouraged the AC/GEO to continue an interactive process with Dr. Mayhew in helping to conceptualize and develop programs for the Workforce in the 21st Century initiative.
TRANSITIONING AC/GEO MEMBERS
Dr. Corell provided an update on the new members to the AC committee. There will be ten AC/GEO positions open in the next year. Dr. Corell thanked individuals who will be leaving the group.
UPPER ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH SECTION (UARS) COMMITTEE OF VISITORS' (COV) REPORT
Dr. Richard Behnke provided a summary of the Committee of Visitors review of the Upper Atmospherics Research Section. The review was very thorough and, though it took time, it provided a good opportunity to take a look at the overall program and its accomplishments. Dr. Avery responded that the UARS Program Directors and staff did an excellent job in putting together background materials for the COV to use in the GPRA review. Two days were not enough to do the review of the jackets plus address the GPRA goals. Three days would be better. The report was longer than previous reports, but it was hoped that it could be directly used for GEO's GPRA report. Overall, the UARS section was found to be in excellent shape.
The COV recommended that GEO review and modify the process to allow enough time to review the program and apply the GPRA review. They were not fully comfortable in assessing the performance as "Successful" or "Minimally Successful." Dr. Corell reassured the group that the assessment is provided to the AC/GEO. They should offer honest evaluations. The group noted a conflict that appeared to exist, with the purpose of the COV being to provide an internal review while the purpose of the GPRA is to provide an external review. They also noted the very high standards set by GPRA even for minimally effective ratings. They also requested that future meeting minutes include the schedule for the COV reports.
The COV Report was unanimously accepted by the AC/GEO.
NSF'S GPRA PERFORMANCE REPORT
Will Smith provided a review of GEO's draft GPRA Performance Report to be submitted by December 15, 1999, to NSF. He provided a brief overview on the GPRA law and how it applies to NSF. In implementation, there is an increased role for the COVs. Annual program reports are due to the NSF, which are combined into a single report and submitted annually to the Congress. The AC/GEO is also asked to provide an assessment of how well GEO is meeting its goals and to prepare a brief report outlining GEO performance.
The AC/GEO was asked to "vote" on each of the NSF Performance Goals (each member was entitled to up to 2 votes):
Goal 1: Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering
The AC/GEO rating was unanimously Successful. The narrative in the report was thought to have excessive emphasis on UARS, since that was the COV report done this year. The report should state explicitly that the COV report was the basis for information.
Goal 2: Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society
The AC/GEO rating was mostly Successful with clarifications (13 Successful, 4 Minimally Successful). The group discussed the issue of the impact on policy development. Global Change is linked to this criterion closely, but in other areas, the standards would not be as high. A suggestion was made to enhance this section. The potential areas of weakness should address the fact that to implement this goal, funds are required to "seed" the activity from research into the private sector. There is potential for a rating of Successful. There are several cases where GEO is Highly Successful and several areas where they are on the way to Highly Successful.
Goal 3: A diverse, globally oriented workforce of scientists and engineers resulting from NSF investments.
10 Successful, 5 minimally successful. There was difficulty on the interpretation of this goal's criteria. What is meant by globally oriented? How do you measure experiences? The AC/GEO felt it was difficult to have a goal that can't be measured. There is a data issue related to this criteria. There is data on NSF-sponsored programs, but not a way to determine whether it is comparable to other fields. Do you have to be successful in all three, or in one and trying in the others? The data in the draft report only addresses the workforce element. There was a real concern about the formulation of the goal, as the group felt it was mixed and should be broken up.
A letter accompanying the GRPA report from the AC/GEO would note the concerns they had about the data issues and criteria for this goal.
Goal 4: Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans
No Vote/Some Minimally Effective because the AC/GEO felt this was also a difficult goal to assess. GEO has few awards in this area. Any proposal that has an education component would apply. It is difficult to assess improved student performance in participating schools and districts. GEO cannot accomplish this goal without collaboration with EHR. Though GEO has several good examples that contribute to this goal, such as the digital library, their primary focus is not education of teachers for K-12. GEO can play a role of providing technical expertise to make sure the material is good and exciting. If responsibilities are defined, then the feeling is that GEO has done a great job. The AC/GEO was not able to come to a unanimous decision on whether to vote or not on this goal. Progress has been made, GEO is ready and wants to be a partner, but other resources are needed.
The final draft of the GEO GPRA Performance Report would be provided for AC/GEO comments. The chairs of the subcommittees, in addition to Dr. Avery and Dr. Simpson, should respond.
UPDATE ON 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Dr. Simpson provided an update on the agency-wide supported events to celebrate NSF's 50th Anniversary. The Office of Naval Research is having regional symposia and a national symposium. Most of NSF's activities are going to take place in the Washington, DC area. Posters, logos, and other promotional materials are available. The NSF Director's Office is encouraging self-declaration and GEO and the research community can take advantage of whatever resources are available.
REPORTS FROM AC/GEO SUBCOMMITTEES
Dr. Charles Kolb summarized the subcommittee discussions. The group heard a presentation about computing at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which was positive. A panel was formed to look at the software at NCAR to determine if the codes were meeting the challenges of the computing environment. It did not receive very high marks and a strategy to address this is being developed. It was noted that this is not a unique problem. Other geoscience areas are facing this same problem. The review of the NCAR code was initiated between GEO and CISE and resulted in a good report. Dr. Cliff Jacobs can provide more details and the report is available. A suggestion was that NCAR should be urged to survey the experience of other organizations that are addressing similar problems. The COV report was reviewed. ATM is very pleased with the $10M in funding for the HIAPER aircraft. Dr. Avery added that the Polar Cap Observatory has been modified to be a relocatable observatory and the hope is still that it will be funded through the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account.
Dr. George Hornberger provided a summary of the Earth Sciences subcommittee. Emi Ito will take over as chair of the EAR subcommittee for next year. Staffing issues were addressed. Open positions are being filled and the staffing is looking good. Long-term funding needs for EAR include EarthScope. The Biocomplexity in the Environment initiative was discussed to include ways that EAR and BIO could work together. It was noted that the GPRA report's introduction could use some work. The groups talked about the use of the second GPRA criterion as well. The National Research Council's Board on Earth Science and Resources (BESR) is producing a report on Basic Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. EAR has sponsored several workshops which resulted in white papers, available on the BESR website.
Dr. John Orcutt provided a summary of the Ocean Science subcommittee meeting. The group talked about the five open positions within OCE and how they can help to get them filled. Biocomplexity was discussed. Ocean Sciences did quite well in the competition. There was discussion on the current Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), which ends in 2003. At that time, there is potential for a two-ship operation with the Japanese. A budget strategy was discussed, which would double the budget by 2006. GPRA discussions noted that they were not particularly pleased with the specific examples and lack of focus on the outcomes in general. Also, there was a limited treatment of facilities and their importance. The group very positively endorsed the idea of ocean observatories.
The COV for facilities is scheduled for next year, but the AC/GEO recommended that the Academic Research Fleet report be used instead of having a COV this time. The only facilities not covered in the report, ODP aside, was the AMS facility at Woods Hole. It might be helpful to have more time to collect the outcome from these facilities. The AC/GEO also requested that GEO explore the idea of redistributing the timing of the COVs so there would be two each year (currently there are 3, 2, and 1).
Another committee called Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences will be producing a report that may be of interest to the AC/GEO. It would be good for one or two AC/GEO members to agree to review the report.
Strategic Plan and Unmet Opportunities
An ad hoc subcommittee of the AC/GEO was formed to look at enhancing the NSF Strategic Plan's section on unmet opportunities. The group focused on the unmet opportunities and the transcendent themes and proposed an alternate approach for developing this list. There are an enormous number of unmet opportunities, well beyond the scope of current funding capabilities. To identify these unmet opportunities, NSF should:
- Ask each Directorate to provide a list of two examples of unmet opportunities that crosscut broadly within the Foundation.
- Accept the notion that there are priorities and list only the top two from each group.
- Provide some sort of bridge in the document that acknowledges that facilities, labs, databases, etc. are also necessary in order to meet those unmet opportunities.
The resulting list should replace the information in the current document. GEO's unmet opportunities should also be part of the GEO 2000 plan. The AC/GEO agreed with the proposed model for revising the section in the NSF Strategic Plan. They discussed the top two unmet opportunities for GEO and identified Planetary Metabolism and Hazards/Complex Systems.
In the Strategic Plan's narrative on transcendent themes, the recommendation was to eliminate language about redistribution of funds. Implementation of these transcendent themes will require substantial new investment. The title for Biocomplexity should also be changed to Biocomplexity AND the Environment, which would help align the document with the NSB report on the Environment and add merit. The important message from AC/GEO to NSF is that the draft document was not compelling enough to call for a dramatic increase in budget. It has to reflect the excitement of the research and the need to ensure they have resources.
FOLLOW-UP DISCUSSIONS & DRAFTING OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The AC/GEO members revisited several issues.
Merit Review Criteria
The group discussed the revised merit review criteria with the second criterion placing an emphasis on education outreach. How does NSF feel about the implementation of this criterion? Some members noted that they, as reviewers, have taken the criteria lightly. Others felt that this should be applied to every proposal. The general feeling was that they wanted to have flexibility in using the criteria. If a proposal addresses this area, it should get extra points, but it should not be required.
Future Assistant Director for GEO
Dr. Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director Designee, noted that she enjoyed her experience as an AC member. She is impressed with how far the science has come in a short time. In her new role as Assistant Director, she is looking forward to the advice she will get from the Advisory Committee that will help shape the agenda for GEO.
Dates for Next Meeting
The tentative dates for the Spring AC/GEO meeting are May 1-2, 2000.
The AC/GEO commented that the Innovation Partnerships program needs clarification about what it is targeting and how it fits with other NSF programs. The AC/GEO did not feel they could provide any additional input without a concise description of the partnerships and more information on the current programs it would build on.
The AC/GEO stressed the importance of pointing out that the GEO GPRA Performance Report is a sampling mechanism. How would the rewording of the NSF Strategic Plan with a focus on people, tools, and ideas affect the GPRA goals? Would they be rewritten? Evaluating a goal of "people" will be difficult to do.
International Task Force
The AC/GEO is waiting to see a list of questions from the International Task Force. When available, Dr. John Orcutt and Dr. David Simpson will write a response on behalf of the AC/GEO, if appropriate, for review.
Education and Human Resources
The AC/GEO gave kudos for the work that has been done by GEO in the areas of Education and Human Resources over the past three years. With tighter links to EHR, so much more is still possible. The letter to the AD should encourage GEO to strengthen this implementation.
Approval of Minutes
Minutes from the May 1999 meeting were unanimously approved.
Dr. Simpson thanked Dr. Avery on behalf of the AC for her leadership. With no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 2:35 p.m.