OPP Office Advisory Committee
XXIII Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Office of Polar Programs (OPP)
April 23-24, 1998 Room 1295
Committee Members Present
Dr. Stephanie Pfirman (Chair), Environmental Sciences, Barnard College
Dr. Mary R. Albert, Physical Glaciology, CREEL
Dr. Farooq Azam, Microbiology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ms. Patricia A. Longley Cochran, Social Sciences, Alaska Native Science Commission
Dr. Robert S. Detrick, Jr., Marine Geology & Geophysics,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Dr. Chester Gardner, Aeronomy, University of Illinois
Dr. William Green, Geochemistry, Miami University
Dr. Julius Jackson, Microbiology, Michigan State University
Dr. James McClintock, Benthic Ecology, University of Alabama
Dr. Edna MacLean, Linguistics & Education, llisagvik College
Dr. James Morison, Oceanography, University of Washington
Dr. Michael L. Prentice. Geology, University of New Hampshire
Dr. Eric S. Saltzman. Glaciology/Ice Cores, University of Miami
Member Absent: CEOSE Liaison
Dr. Glen Wheless, Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University
Thursday, April 23, 1998
The meeting was called to order at 8:33 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions
Dr. John Hunt. Acting Office Director, introduced the new committee Chair. Dr. Stephanie Pfirman. Dr. Pfirman welcomed everyone and requested introductions around the room.
Approval of the 1997 Minutes
Dr. Pfirman motioned for approval of the April 1997 Office Advisory Committee meeting minutes. The motion was seconded and the minutes were unanimously approved.
Report of the Office Director
Dr. Hunt presented an overview of important developments in OPP since the last OAC meeting. They included:
- Implementation of the recommendations from the Augustine Panel Report.
- Deployment to Antarctica by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, National Science Board, military, and other Government officials.
- Appropriation of $70 million for the South Pole Station Modernization (SPSM) project.
- Transition of duties from the Navy to the Air National Guard for support of Antarctic air operations.
- Launching of the research support vessels Gould (Antarctic) and Healy(Arctic).
- Initiation of the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) project.
- National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) theme for 1998 is "Polar Connections."
- Skydiving tragedy at South Pole and OPP's role regarding tourism in Antarctica.
- Personnel changes implemented to bring more balance to the workload between the two science sections and to strengthen the expertise in the sections in specific areas.
- Enhancement of NSF and OPP roles in the Arctic in the areas of climate change and ocean circulation; emerging opportunities linked to the Russian Arctic data declassification; international cooperation and access to Russian sites; emphasis on global systems and human dimensions of climate change; expansion of logistical capabilities; research platforms; extension of education and outreach activities; and an increased scientific cooperation at the international level.
Dr. Hunt presented budget overviews outlining the NSF budget in relation to the OPP budget. The current plan for NSF in FY 1998 is $3.429 billion, which reflects a 4.9% increase over FY 1997. The current plan for OPP in FY 1998 is $228.53 million representing a I.9% increase over FY 1997. NSF's Major Research Equipment (MRE) account includes $70 million in FY 1998 for the SPSM project. Dr. Hunt also presented the same comparison for the FY 1999 budget request. The NSF overall request is $3.773 billion, an increase of 10% over FY 1998. The OPP request is $244.96 million, an increase of 7.2% over the FY 1998 plan. He also provided FY 1999 request amounts for the Arctic ($41.16M) and Antarctic ($32.80M) research programs as well as the request for Antarctic operations, science support and logistics ($171.00M.) Also included in the FY 1999 budget request are two MRE projects. They include SPSM ($22M) and modifications to NSF-owned LC-130 aircraft ($20M).
Statistics on awards for NSF and OPP were presented. They included: the number of competitive proposals reviewed, annualized grant size and success rates for female and minority investigators.
A committee member asked why OPP's success rates appear high in certain programs. The response was that in certain years some programs solicit proposals as part of special initiatives, such as Southern Ocean JGOFS; therefore, the numbers should not be over interpreted. Another member stated that OPP has a low success rate on SGERs and asked if the numbers will increase in the future. The response was that OPP has an average rate on SGER funding similar to the rest of NSF. Another member responded that the size of the award does not provide enough funding to complete a project and no additional funding is received. Dr. Hunt responded that maximum funding for SGERs has been increased to $100K.
Related to a different topic, one member stated that the U.S. has the opportunity to take a leadership role in the Arctic by serving as the Arctic Council chair. It was noted that this is a great opportunity for the U.S. to take an active role in the Council and that hopefully funds will be available for activities in addition to supporting the Secretariat. The funds should come from all agencies with Arctic interests.
Report of Polar Research Support Section Head
Mr.Erick Chiang, Head, Polar Research Support Section (PRSS), provided an overview of the Congressional visit to Antarctica. Mr.. Chiang's impression was that the deployment gave each visitor a greater appreciation for the science and operations in Antarctica.
Mr. Chiang presented the committee with updates from PRSS. They included:
- Personnel additions to the section include individuals with expertise in the areas of environmental policy, NEPA compliance, occupational safety and health, waste management. and monitoring for compliance and impacts.
- R/V Laurence M. Gouldsailed for Punta Arenas on December 24, first supporting an LTER science cruise from January 22 through February 19, then supporting a minimally successful marine geology and geophysics cruise from February 25 through March 21. Equipment that was transferred from the R/V Polar Dukedid not perform as well as expected. New procurements for equipment have been added to the operations long-range plan.
- R/V Nathaniel B. Palmerin combination with the R/V Roger Revelle(UNOLS vessel) completed two years of JGOFS experiments. This was the first major integrated program with the Division of Ocean Sciences. The program consisted of nearly 50 PI's (only 10% of which had Antarctic experience) and a series of 11 cruises.
- Renovations at the South Pole Station began as part of the South Pole Safety & Environment (SPSE) project, including construction of a new garage and shop, fuel storage system, and power plant.
- Completion of the SPSM project is scheduled for 2005.
- Science Support highlights for FY 1997-98 included:
— Scientists working on the Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA) project at South Pole Station augmented the current array by adding four new detector strings to the 14 already in place.
— Dedication of a new Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) at South Pole. The ARO will offer twice the space of its predecessor for research on climate, ozone, ultraviolet light, and other atmospheric studies.
— Support at the Siple Dome field camp of 100 people and 3 major sub-projects, one of which encountered major drilling problems during the season.
— Extraction by geologists of the first cores from the floor of the Ross Sea as part of the Cape Roberts project, a three-year joint venture between the United States, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia. Germany, and Italy.
— Recovery of 400,000-year-old ice cores at Vostok Station as part of a joint U.S.-Russian French venture. The cores span four glacial-interglacial cycles, providing an archive of information on past climate history.
- Recompetition of the Antarctic support contract is underway and the Request for Proposals will be released around September I, 1998. Expectations are that the contract will be awarded by October 1, 1999, with complete implementation by April 1, 2000.
Mr. Chiang ended his presentation by stating that the 1997-98 field season provided many challenges to USAP operations due to weather conditions and ambitious scheduling, but that the season was successful because of excellent planning and preparation.
A member asked about the life span of the new South Pole Station. Mr. Chiang responded that the life span is 25 years.
Report of Antarctic Section Head
Dr. Dennis Peacock, Head, Antarctic Sciences Section, reported on current science activities in Antarctica. If future budgets allow, funding for the following programs will be implemented: CARA, AMANDA. GLOBEC, biology graduate course in McMurdo, LExEn, development of GPS, aerogeophysics in East Antarctica. continental margin studies. International Trans-Antarctic Expedition, WAISCORES, Weddell Polynya Response Study (WPQR), and Investigation of Sulphur Chemistry in the Antarctic Troposphere (ISCAT).
Dr. Peacock expressed concerns relating to the Augustine panel's recommendation that $20 million from science and science support over five years be contributed to support the SPSM project. He anticipated that the astronomy program's budget would be scaled back because this field of science requires large expensive equipment to perform the research.
An OAC member asked about the funding balance between small and big projects and how OPP decides how to select proposals for funding. Dr. Peacock responded that the Program Managers using the mail and panel review process, decide what is fundable. Another member asked if OPP looks outside of the office for funding. The response was yes. For example, aeronomy receives support from NSF, other government agencies, and international entities. Large projects are difficult to fund without the support of other entities. The need for joint funding generally increases with the size of the project. However, the largest science project, CARA, is funded exclusively by OPP, except for a 200K supplement from Outreach.
A member asked if the Antarctic Environmental Research Program would merge with Biology & Medicine. The response was that the AEP was very small, and each proposal received will now be directed to the relevant Program Manager. A member asked if the NSF is considering environmental observatories. Yes, talks with the Directorates for Geosciences and Biosciences are underway.
Report of Arctic Section Head
Dr. Thomas Pyle, Head, Arctic Sciences Section, updated the committee on Arctic science events over the past year.
- The first over-winter project at Summit, Greenland, was completed in early April. Discussions with the Danish Government are in process concerning the future of Summit and the possibility of Summit becoming an international environmental observatory.
- The first measurements of full annual cycle of the Arctic Ocean were launched with the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) project.
- The Healy's annual cost will be around $12M/year ($4M operations/$8M science).
Report on Meeting of Advisory Committee Chairs
Dr. Pfirman reported on the Advisory Committee Chairs meeting held on February 20, 1998. The Government Performance and Results Act was discussed. The focus of the advisory committees will be to assess methods used for measuring NSF performance and issues on diversity needs.
Dr. Pfirman updated the committee on the Proposal Review Advisory Team (PRAT) report. It was noted that the PRAT report was just released and most of NSF has not had the opportunity to review the recommendations.
Dr. Judith Sunley, Assistant to the Director, NSF, updated the committee on GPRA. Dr. Sunley reported that all Federal agencies must provide three documents related to GPRA: 1) A strategic plan; 2) An annual performance plan: and 3) A performance report, which is due 6 months after end of the fiscal year. The NSF performance plan was submitted to Congress in March. 1998. The plan was based on NSF's GPRA strategic plan, which was submitted to Congress in September, 1997.
Dr. Sunley gave an example of one of NSF's Annual Performance Goals. She used the outcome goal, "Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering." The annual performance goal for this outcome states: "NSF is successful when NSF awards lead to important discoveries; new knowledge and techniques, both expected and unexpected, within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries: and high-potential links across those boundaries." "NSF is minimally effective when there is a steady stream of outputs of good scientific quality."
A member asked what are the consequences if an agency does not meet the goals of the performance plan. Dr. Sunley responded that GPRA provides no guidance on this.
The role of the advisory committees will be to benchmark each directorate s performance against the performance standards. Advisory committees could use self-assessments performed by the directorates or could perform assessments of their own incorporating other sources of information, e.g., COV reports. The advisory committee must address both strengths and weaknesses of the directorates. The committee must cover each aspect of a directorate's activities in depth at least once every three years. Advisory committees are being asked for possible approaches that would be beneficial in measuring the performance of a directorate. Some of the approaches currently be considered are: 1) Detailed, "how to" instructions: 2) Basic framework, leaving details to the directorates and advisory committees; and 3) Leave the process at the discretion of the directorate and advisory committee.
Dr. Joseph Bordogna. Acting Deputy Director, NSF, updated the OAC on the status of the search for a Director of OPP. There is a list of about 25 candidates. Dr. Rita Colwell will make the selection following Senate confirmation and her appointment as the new NSF Director.
Dr. Bordogna discussed the response to the Appropriations Committee on issues associated with the creation of a National Institute for the Environment (NIE). NSF sponsors considerable research that contributes to understanding the environment and finding solutions to environmental problems. NSF recognizes the need for a coordinated national strategy but does not recommend the establishment of a stand-alone entity or agency. Almost 20% of the NSF portfolio is directed towards broad-based, high quality environmental research. NSF has requested $88M in FY99 for the Life and Earth s Environment (LEE) theme. LEE can be categorized by research in the areas of: 1) environmental observatories, 2) global change, 3) urban communities, 4) life in extreme environments, 5) engineered systems in the natural environment, and 6) integrated research challenges.
An OAC member stated that some in the research community think the NIE will bring new ideas and more opportunities for research. Dr. Bordogna remarked that the NIE concept was a good idea. but that NSF feels that we already have one, in effect, within NSF.
Dr. Pfirman began a discussion suggesting that the OAC set up subcommittees. The committee unanimously agreed to operate under a subcommittee structure.
The subcommittee's titles are: 1) Education and Human Resources: 2) Executive (including Lone Range Planning); and 3) Environmental. Each OAC member was asked to select at least one subcommittee on which to serve.
Dr. Pfirman adjourned the meeting at 5:05 p.m.
Friday, April 24, 1998
The meeting reconvened at 8:30 a.m.
OPP Long Range Plan (LRP)
Ms. Altie Metcalf, OPP Budget & Planning Officer presented viewgraphs and discussed the purpose and development of the LRP:
- Helps prepare for budget planning and overall good management.
- Responds to "Phelps Report" mention of lack of articulated mission/vision.
- Responds to recommendations in the Augustine Panel report on the need for long-range integrated planning.
- The document was developed using a draft LRP written several years ago as a base.
- There was both community and OPP staff involvement in that draft.
- The structure of the LRP was changed to present research thematically rather than programmatically.
An OAC committee member asked if there are dollar amounts attached to the named initiatives. Ms. Metcalf responded no and said that all special initiatives are funded through core research budgets. Another member asked if most of the initiatives are coming from external communities. The response was that some are developed by the broader community, e.g., GLOBEC and Southern Ocean Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) and others are developed by more focused communities.
Another member stated that the list of initiatives did not include core research. How is such research viewed? The response was that core research is a priority and is in fact at the top of the list of priorities. Many programs are comprised solely of "core research" and do not fund large initiatives. A member asked how OPP manages special programs such as JGOFS. The response was that typically special initiatives are planned far in advance and are funded by balancing available budgets, other competing programs and initiatives, and facilities and support available.
A member asked if the Human Dimensions of the Arctic is a priority. The response was yes.
NSF Research and Education Themes
Dr. Linda Duguay, Program Manager, Arctic Sciences Section, provided a presentation on Knowledge & Distributed Intelligence (KDI).
KDI represents new money for FY 1998. A Foundation-wide survey of Directorates and Offices estimated that NSF currently spends about $350 million in total KDI research spread among programs for individual investigators, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary projects. A big question is how to take existing information about this theme and get it into the hands of program managers. KDI is a very large theme, which is broken down into three components: 1) Knowledge Networking; 2) Learning and Intelligent Systems; and 3) New Computational Challenges. It's still evolving, but, NSF has received 1 153 letters of intent for the Foundation wide competitions.
Due to time constraints, Dr. Duguay focused on areas she feels are important for OPP. The areas would be Knowledge Networking and New Computational Challenges.
A discussion ensued concerning Learning and Intelligent Systems and the level of involvement of the polar community. Dr. Duguay stated that we are looking for PI's to bring us ideas. A committee member stated that they feel this initiative is geared more towards disciplines outside the polar community as many working in the polar regions are forced to work with computing equipment that is not at the cutting edge.
Dr. Duguay explained that the initiative would use the panel review process, involving the community and program staff. KDI panels will not be broken down into disciplines because this is a multidisciplinary initiative. A committee member asked what we expect KDI will pump into the community five years from now. Dr. Duguay responded that $1-2 million will be guaranteed this year with possibly another $2 million available from the Director's Opportunity Fund.
Life & Earth's Environment (LEE)
Dr. Pyle provided an overview of the LEE theme. LEE is defined as a framework to organize and describe NSF initiatives and core-program research in environmental science, engineering and education. The primary initiatives within LEE include: Integrated Research Challenges, Urban Communities, Engineered Systems in the Natural Environment, Global Change, Environmental Observatories, and Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn). Dr. Pyle discussed the Charge given to the Foundation s LEE Working Group and the goals and directions of future activities.
Dr. Pyle briefly described the broader organizing sub-themes of LEE, which are: Global Environmental Change (GEC), Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (BED), and Environment and the Human Dimension (EHD). Finally he discussed the activities which would take place within each sub-theme. They include:
- Measurements and measurement tools
- Observatories including LTERs
- Databases and digital libraries
- International interests
Educating for the Future (EFF)
Dr. Hunt discussed this Foundation-wide research theme. He stated that the real secret to improving math skills involves focusing on the K- 12 group. However, NSF does not have the money it takes to make these changes. States receive block grants from the Department of Education, which are focused on standard based reform through NSF's Systemic Reform efforts, so that a $10-20 million investment has turned into $100 million focused toward these efforts.
Dr. Hunt also mentioned that Dr. Dionne is involved with the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) initiative, a multidisciplinary agency-wide program aimed at the development of innovative, research-based, graduate education and training activities that will produce a diverse group of new scientists and engineers prepared for a broad spectrum of career opportunities. The new announcement for this program is now on the NSF Web page under IGERT.
Finally, Dr. Hunt presented some statistics comparing numbers of students involved in OPP research versus those of NSF's Chemistry Division. He challenged the committee to help us figure out ways of better educating the future polar scientist.
One OAC member asked how other OAC members feel about Dr. Hunt's statements. The response was that we need to make sure there is national interest in these EFF initiatives. There also needs to be more nurturing done among the Alasken Natives in middle schools. Another member agreed, stating there is a need to do as much as possible within the Native communities in the Arctic, working with existing basic programs and providing funding opportunities and mentoring.
Discussion of OAC Subcommittees
Dr. Pfirman discussed viewgraphs on which she had drafted the charge, and tasks for the proposed subcommittees.
Education and Human Resources Subcommittee:
- Increase inclusion of underrepresented minorities and individuals from local communities
- Expand educational and outreach activities
- Draft OAC response to Director's questions
- Work with the EHR Directorate to create recommendations for diversity, education and outreach, "EHR Counseling" (job add ons)
- Compile existing exemplary program materials and advertise them
- Review proposal and final report guidelines
- Provide input to Education and Outreach part of LRP
A discussion topic focused on human resources issues and who gets hired. One of the goals is to increase the base of knowledge available to the community and underrepresented minorities. A committee member asked how could they impact change. The OPP response was that this issue will not be solved this year, but that it welcomes ideas from the EHR subcommittee. OPP would like to develop modest and focused goals that can realistically be accomplished.
Long Range Planning Subcommittee
- Protect creativity research
- Assess proper role of OPP in environmental research and education i.e. IARPC, NIE, AMAP
- Shape OPP Long Range Plan to reflect polar community thinking - including local community initiated research
- Arctic leadership role - "implement" Arctic research policy
- Assess "core" vs. named programs over time
- Tie budget into plan - LRP becomes basis for budget justification
- Integrate logistics/facilities
- Integrate international programs/activities- observatories, Antarctic protocol
- Identify performance goals for GPRA
The committee suggested references to "core" be changed to "creativity" in the LRP, e.g. Protect "creativity" research and assess the proper role of OPP in environmental research and education.
The discussion then centered on what OPP expects to come from the LRP discussions scheduled for the remainder of the day. OPP asked for:
- Input that will help establish more clearly the role of the Office of Polar Programs within the Foundation.
- Ideas and advice from the committee on what's important and exciting for OPP.
- The committee's vision regarding the future of OPP five years from now.
- Comments on listed activities on our plate - what should be implemented?
Some OAC members were concerned about including too much information and detail in the LRP because it gives the impression there is no flexibility remaining. A focus on acronyms in LRPs may give the wrong impression that there is too much emphasis on named programs.
Discussions of LRP Themes
Marine and Terrestrial Ecosystems
Presented by Dr. Polly Penhale, Program Manager, Antarctic Biology and Medicine. Topics discussed included:
- Ecosystem Response to Global Change
- ATLAS (Arctic land-atmospheric carbon flux program) SO-GLOBEC (Southern Ocean Global Ecosystem Dynamics)
- Environmental Observatories
- MCM-LTER (Antarctic terrestrial/freshwater LTER) PAL-LTER (Antarctic marine LTER)
- New Arctic Coastal LTER (proposed land/coastal marine LTER)
- Toolik Lake Field Station (research at this site jointly supported by OPP and the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
- Polar UV Radiation Monitoring Network (sites in Antarctica, Argentina, Alaska)
- Adaptation and Interactions in Polar Environments
- Integrative research on adaptation to an extreme environment and research on how polar organisms interact with the biotic and abiotic components of polar regions
The discussion that followed focused on the importance of interdisciplinary research, where a goal is to understand how the physical environment affects the individuals and populations in the ecosystem. The Environmental Observatory concept met with approval, as these observatories would provide opportunities for ecosystem research in the context of long-term research projects or facilities where long-term data are being collected and made available to the scientific community at large. OAC members expressed their support for individual or small group collaborations, which should be supported along with the larger, interdisciplinary programs. Community involvement in the development of initiatives and long-range science planning was encouraged by the OAC members.
Ocean & Climate Systems and Global Environmental Change
Presented by Dr. Bernard Lettau, Program Manager, Antarctic Oceans and Climate Systems. The emphasis was on processes and the control of processes on varying scales. Large programs, presented as opportunities were grouped in four categories:
- CLIVAR, SOJGOFS, SIMS, ASPECT
- RAISE, ISCAT
- SBI, Coastal Polynyas/iAnZone, SHEBA, Dynamics of the Antarctic Atmosphere, SCICEX
- ITASE, WAIS, and WAISCores
An OAC committee member asked if SIMS, an Arctic program, could be relevant to the Antarctic. The answer was yes, although with modifications since ARCSS was defined as a systems program, and the Antarctic program is not. A question was raised on incorporating long-term data sets into the LRP in the context of climatic change. This is being done although the global change time scales are significantly longer than the time scale of individual projects.
Solid Earth Systems and Plate Tectonics
Discussed by Dr. Jane Dionne, Program Manager, Arctic Natural Sciences. The presentation highlighted fundamental processes of ocean basin formation and plate tectonics in the Arctic. In the Antarctic, opportunities to constrain global plate motions from oceanic tectonic studies were highlighted along with plate tectonics issues that relate to ice sheet history, ice sheet processes, and the nature of lake basins beneath the ice sheet.
An OAC member asked how the program might be affected by possible major cut-backs in Antarctic efforts because of commitments to South Pole redevelopment and the aircraft conversion. The response was that these factors would affect deep field programs significantly, with few or perhaps no new commitments for the next 1 or 2 annual competitions. The "Dear Colleague" letter addressing these issues that was sent out in early April may result in a significant drop in the number of proposals sent to OPP because support for new remote field work will be very limited.
The question was asked, "How many projects are doing remote field work that might be affected by these problems?" Dr. Scott Borg, Program Manager, Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program, estimated that about 30% of the projects in his program are marine, or ship-based projects. 50% are field programs, mainly relying on LC-130 support, and that the Cape Roberts Project constitutes about 20% of his program at this time. Consequently, about half the community will be affected. However, there are some emerging scientific opportunities that might result in a bit lower demand on LC-130 time in the future. For instance, GPS studies aimed at using vertical crustal motions to estimate recent mass changes of the ice sheets and other studies that are technologically intensive might be supportable with somewhat fewer LC-130 hours but perhaps larger demands on other logistical assets such as helicopters and Twin Otters. Emerging approaches in passive seismology is another example of a new opportunity in solid earth science that is technology intensive and could change the style of project support in future. Overall, the technological developments occurring are very important and are opening up a lot of new opportunities. OPP is trying to encourage the community to take fuller advantage of these opportunities.
Another committee member noted that there appears to be a lack of emphasis in the LRP on earth science contributions related to climate change - specifically as related to sediment drilling in regions that are important oceanographic gateways. This general theme is dealt with in the draft LRP under the topic Global Environmental Change rather than Solid Earth Systems and Plate Tectonics. Dr. Borg responded that OPP/AG&G recognizes that the sedimentary records on the continental margin are a major unexploited source of research information bearing on global environmental change. For instance, several hundred-thousand line-kilometers of seismic data exist on the Antarctic continental margins, but establishing ground truth by drilling has been done in only a few regions.
Upper Atmosphere and Astrophysical Systems
Presented by Dr. John Lynch, Program Manager, Antarctic Aeronomy and Astrophysics. Viewgraph listed priorities, which included building a second generation of telescopes at South Pole Station, the development of a cubic kilometer scale neutrino detector in ice at South Pole, the continuation of year-round operation of the Summit station on the Greenland icecap needed for atmospheric studies, and an increased effort in coordinating the analysis of data now being acquired around the world to better understand the effects of solar activity on Earth and space-based systems (space weather).
It was pointed out by a member of the OAC that disciplines other than aeronomy were interested in continuing operations at Summit. It was suggested that NSF might seek funding from NASA for Summit. The NSF consensus was that this is probably inappropriate, and that NSF should continue in the lead.
There were a series of questions about the source of funds for the Antarctic Aeronomy and Astrophysics Program and how the Arctic and Antarctic programs work together. Dr. Lynch responded that he has close ties to the Astronomy, Atmospheric Sciences and Physics Divisions as well as to the Arctic Section. He has split funding arrangements for investigations in each of these organizations as well as close cooperation and split funding with NASA in other cases. Additionally, some of the larger projects, such as CARA, AMANDA and AGO include significant participation by foreign collaborators.
Dr. Hunt asked about the source of funds that established CARA. Dr. Lynch responded that the original funds had come from the Office of Science and Technology Centers, the Geosciences Directorate, the DPP Director's resources and a relatively small amount ($300,000) from the AA&A Program to fund the first year (FY 1991) at $2.000,000.
The Human System
Presented by Dr. Fae Korsmo, Program Director, Arctic Social Sciences. She began by stating that there are two unique aspects of Arctic social science: partnerships with Arctic communities, including design and implementation of research (see Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic); and the interdisciplinary nature of Arctic social science projects.
The Arctic Social Sciences Program (ASSP) welcomes proposals from all social science disciplines supported by NSF, in addition to proposals covering special themes identified by the Arctic social science research community. These themes include human-environment interactions, rapid social change, and community viability (Polar Research Board report from 1989, "Agenda for Action established basis for the new ASSP)."
Arctic social scientists recently have revisited these themes and remolded them into five:
- human-environment interactions - subsistence practices, traditional ecological knowledge
- resource management - large-scale development, co-management, ecosystem management
- institutional design and change - how do structures of governance develop, how do different
- levels of institutions (including rules and customary law) interact
- language, culture, identity - focus on patterns of emergence and interaction of different linguistic and cultural groups throughout the history of the Arctic, and
- knowledge systems - indigenous arctic peoples have acquired and tested systems of ecological knowledge over time.
In addition, social science research conducted in both polar regions emphasizes conflict resolution and group dynamics. Antarctic projects examine human behavior in remote environments; there are also opportunities for doing this in the Arctic.
Dr. Korsmo also briefly discussed the "Human Dimensions of the Arctic" initiative. She stated that the initiative is based on Prospectus, People and the Arctic and focuses on multidisciplinary research teams, effects of climate warming, and education and outreach.
Polar Technology in the Next 5-10 Years
Discussion lead by Mr. Simon Stephenson, Research Support Manager. The question was posed, "What priority should be placed on Polar Technology and why?"
In general, facilities provide the access, resources, and communications necessary to perform remote research at the poles. OPP develops facilities taking into consideration proposal pressure, future directions identified by workshops, advice from user groups, and advice from the OAC.
The presentation concentrated on four areas:
- Information distribution
The program at both poles encompasses a broad geographic distribution of projects and investigators. Should OPP invest more in making a systematic effort to communicate research and facilities plans and results outside the current distribution (mainly within academic forums), say using the worldwide web, and developing/applying better search engines?
Working in each polar region involves fairly complex logistics. The office is developing several web-based tools to assist investigators in preparing their proposals and communicating plans.
Communications have become the fastest evolving technical area in the program. Few investigators accept the old paradigm that remote field work effectively cuts them off from the world.
- Remote Sensing
While NASA or NOAA are the lead agencies in this area, OPP promotes the use of remote sensing technologies wherever they have application to the scientific questions being addressed by investigators supported by the office.
The committee indicated that OPP should play a larger role in developing and enabling infrastructure, such as remote science support platforms and ocean and land drilling capabilities. The Automatic Geophysical Observatories (AGO's) in Antarctica are a good start, but similar needs exist in the Arctic, both on and off-shore. OPP is not seen as supporting this type of instrumentation development. One opportunity related to intelligent instrumentation now exists within KDI. Another opportunity is the SBIR program.
Education and Outreach Activities for OPP
Drs. Peacock and Korsmo presented and discussed OPP activities in education and outreach. Dr. Peacock provided an introduction and viewgraphs containing OPP's strategy in education. Items included:
- Use polar regions as an attraction
- Have a presence at all levels (graduate to general public)
- Maximize impact by leveraging output (e.g. use of Internet)
- Establish partnerships (e.g. EHR, IGERT, Scouts, Blue Ice)
- Encourage curriculum development and publish instructional material
- Encourage diversity at all levels
- Build in assessment at the beginning
- Encourage existing programs to develop activities e.g. Center for Astrophysics in Antarctica (CARA)
Dr. Peacock discussed examples of activities in the Antarctic program such as Boy/Girl Scouts in Antarctica, the graduate course at McMurdo Station, the ship based REU program, NSTW, the "Live from the Poles" program, and the Antarctic Artists and Writers program.
Dr. Korsmo began her presentation by stating that an ever-increasing network of satellite communications in remote areas provides enhanced opportunities for education and partnership activities between universities, field sites, and rural Alaskan communities. Already the Alaska Native Science Commission, supported by the Arctic Sciences Section and the Rural Systemic Initiative, supported by EHR, have created linkages between the scientific community and Alaska Native villages. In addition, community-based museums and educational facilities, such as the Alutiiq museum in Kodiak, provide outreach to rural Alaska and can be used as sites for informal education projects.
She stated that the Arctic Section has participated and plans to continue participating in the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic program. This year OPP is sending student and teacher pairs to participate in (1 ) field archaeology near Deering, Alaska, on the southern end of Kotzebue Sound; (2) a project to map the thickness of the active layer in the Kuparuk River basin of north-central Alaska: (3) a study on the effects of oil contamination on the river otters inhabiting the shores of Prince William Sound: and (4) a cruise to collect ice entrained sediment and perform chemical analyses on samples to determine the impact of ice cover on the benthos.
Discussion centered on outreach and Alaska science networks. The Arctic Section plans to use the burgeoning infrastructure for developing outreach and informal science education projects, including networks for scientific exchange between universities, field sites, K- 12 schools, and community-based research projects.
Ms. AltieMetcalf. Budget and Planning Officer/OPP summarized what Dr. Sunley presented the previous day, making sure OAC members understand what is expected of them:
Advice NSF Needs from the OAC
- How does the OAC want to review OPP performance?
- Follow detailed template?
- Follow general framework provided for all directorates?
- Something different?
- How does the OAC want to do the assessment?
- Based on input from OPP staffs
- Validate assessment made by OPP staffs
Advice OPP Needs from the OAC
- How can OPP measure its success?
Ms. Metcalf covered some basic GPRA vocabulary: Inputs — raw materials and human and physical capital required for the research/education process: Outputs — immediate, observable products of research/education activity; Outcomes — longer-term results to which program contributes. Inputs lead to outputs; outputs lead to outcomes.
Ms. Metcalf discussed NSF's first performance goal, "Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering." The Performance Plan indicates we are successful when NSF awards lead to (1 ) important discoveries; (2) new knowledge and techniques, expected and unexpected, within and across disciplinary boundaries; or (3) high potential links across these boundaries. NSF is minimally effective when there is a steady stream of outputs of good scientific quality. This sets a very high standard for being successful. How will we measure performance for this goal? What can we do better or differently to make sure we reach this goal?
OAC members commented on how difficult it would be to measure this. It would also be difficult to consistently be considered successful with these criteria. Wouldn't there have to be a paradigm shift each year to be considered successful? To be successful under these criteria one must be willing to take risks in deciding what projects and activities to support. Some members suggested that a project that is truly risky will be submitted to other agencies, not NSF, for funding. Some expressed the feeling that the standards have to be set high, and that the measures of success are appropriate. Others felt what was described as "successful" was actually "outstanding." The Committee was concerned that everyone at NSF, up to the highest levels, must buy into these criteria for NSF culture to change. The Committee wondered if the highest levels of NSF management had agreed to the Performance Plan. The response was that this document's being published is an indication it has top level approval.
Ms. Metcalf discussed the fact that Performance Goals for NSF Investment Process include Facilities Oversight, including whether projects were completed on schedule and within budget. OPP has started reviewing how it could measure success in that area since support and operation of facilities are such an integral part of OPP's mission.
Mr. Simon Stephenson then presented how OPP is measuring the use and productivity of its facilities for GPRA reporting purposes. At the core is the concept of User Units which is consistent across the NSF in accounting for facility productivity. For GPRA purposes, OPP runs four facilities: McMurdo Station (including the field projects working out of McMurdo), Palmer Station South Pole Station and Research Vessels.
Within NSF, user units are intended to give a sense of the pressure on the facilities by comparing the number of user units available at each facility and the number requested. However, this does not work well in OPP's case where the number of projects that can be supported at a facility varies with the type of science project. OPP may have a number of meritorious proposals that are declined simply because the facility can not support them compared to the number that are being supported.
OPP will also report on the planned number of observing days at each facility, compared to what was actually used, and the number of days lost for reasons that are beyond our control, such as weather. Collecting this information is not foreseen as being difficult. Most investigators are already interviewed when they complete their work. The increased work will involve documenting the number of planned days of making observations, a number mostPI'ss have worked up informally anyway, and at the end of the season, estimating what actually occurred and why. Examples of reasons for lost days, other than weather, are: waiting for cargo, aircraft is unavailable due to maintenance, or equipment is simply not working. In some cases, the estimated number of days required is not needed. It has not been decided yet as to how to handle this.
After further discussion on the role of the OAC in GPRA assessments, the Committee agreed that they would like OPP to do a serf-assessment that the OAC will validate. They also agreed that they would like NSF to provide a general framework for assessment rather that a detailed template. They will continue to provide advice to OPP on how to measure success.
Dr. Pfirman then asked the Committee how OPP can measure its success according to GPRA? She then presented a viewgraph containing some suggested items for discussion. Items listed included:
- High Risk/High Payoff
- Research Program Manager/Reviewer
- Clarify the different perspectives of all parties
- Development in management
She asked the committee members for comments about these points. She also stated that there should be a way of making reviewers aware that current projects are high risk, but worth taking a risk. She noted that there recently was a change in NSF Guidelines. There is nothing listed in these guidelines that encourages risk taking. Instead the guidelines focus on high impact.
A discussion then ensued on the use of appropriate language and commonality in describing and defining performance measures. An OAC member commented that OMB, Congress, the Community etc. need to use appropriate language when describing the measures. These performance measures set the bar at a very high level right from the beginning and discourage the funding of high-risk science. Another member commented that NSF does not fund high-risk science even if the potential payoff is high. Proposals are submitted elsewhere for this type of work and these performance measures will do nothing to change that. A member stated that Congress and the public are important so it will be critically important to present these measures in an understandable format that will also provide a sense of credibility. Credibility can be ensured through the use of the peer review system, the Committee of Visitors process and through the OlGs of rice as a legal review system. Dr. Pfirman closed this topic by stating that perhaps the LRP subcommittee could review the issue of how to help OPP measure success within the framework of their future discussions.
Next, human resources issues were discussed. What recommendations can we make for NSF? A committee member stated that the issue is how to turn set aside programs for underrepresented groups into day to day activities thus eliminating the need for such programs. How do we generate proposals? The success rates of underrepresented groups is the same as the rest of NSF, the basic problem is getting the proposals. Could NSF bring in people under planning grants and encourage submission that way? Perhaps there could be a process developed which would allow multidisciplinary projects in which students and younger PIs could learn from experts in each field.
Closing and Final Comments
Dr. Hunt asked the committee if the South Pole Station is meeting community needs. The new station plan has been under discussion for years. South Pole science and the station plan have been reviewed by an NSTC panel, the Augustine panel and two other panels - there are no plans to solicit other views. The new station is not what everyone wants - the design is smaller than what was planned, but it will provide an excellent science platform.
The committee discussed the impact on science related to construction of the new station. Committee members will provide input to Dr. Pfirman via e-mail on this subject. She will then be back in touch with Dr. Hunt, and perhaps will send a letter to the NSF Director.
Dr. Pfirman thanked Dr. Hunt and everyone else for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in this meeting.
3:55PM Meeting Adjourned
See Agenda for this meeting.
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