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OPP Office Advisory Committee

XVI Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Office of Polar Programs (OPP)
May 22-23, 2000 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Mary R. Albert, Chair, Physical Glaciology, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
Patricia A. Longley Cochran, Social Sciences, Alaska Native Science Commission, Anchorage, AK
John Carlstrom, Astronomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Jody Deming, Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Dave Hofmann, Atmospheric Chemistry, NOAA Climate Monitory and Diagnostics Lab, Boulder, CO
Amanda Lynch, Atmospheric Sciences, CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Douglas R. MacAyeal, Glaciology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Stephanie Pfirman, Environmental Sciences, Barnard College, New York, NY
Michael Prentice, Geology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
John Priscu, Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Members Absent

Julius Jackson, Microbiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Ken Pepion, CEOSE Liaison, WICHE, Boulder, CO

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs
Maryellen Cameron, Executive Officer
Altie Metcalf, Budget and Planning Officer
Dennis Peacock, Section Head, Antarctic Science Section
Erick Chiang, Section Head, Polar Research and Support Section
Thomas Pyle, Section Head, Arctic Science Section

Monday, May 22, 2000

Dr. Mary Albert, chair, called the meeting to order at 8:40 a.m.

Welcome and Introductions

Dr. Albert reviewed the agenda and provided an update on the NSF advisory committee chairpersons meeting. Dr. Pfirman has agreed to be the OPP representative on the NSF Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education. Introductions were made. The minutes from the November 1—2, 2000 meeting were approved with the correction on the last page to read "Dr. Pfirman becomes the past chair and member of the Executive Committee for the AC."

Director's Report

Dr. Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs, provided an overview of the OPP activities and budget. The agenda for the OPP Advisory Committee (AC) meeting has been structured around the new NSF strategic plan that consists of goals, strategies, and implementation activities. Also, a key issue for NSF is a focus on unmet opportunities.

OPP has formed an Education Task Force; the members are Brian Stone, Fae Korsmo, Dave Bresnahan, Jerry Marty, and Guy Guthridge.

This was the first year of the OPP instrumentation and development program, which will fund development of instrumentation for remote operations. Mr. Simon Stephenson will be managing the program in the first year.

OPP is participating in development of an assessment activity — the "Arctic Climate Change Assessment." This project is being proposed to the Arctic Council and is anticipated to continue for the next 3 to 4 years. It is a joint project of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working groups in cooperation with the International Arctic Science Committee. It could help to identify gaps in the data and research.

The South Pole Redevelopment project is continuing on schedule and within budget. The future of CARA (STC) activities now needs to be considered. The AMANDA project is being proposed on a larger scale, and there is increased demand for deep field work. Both require expanded capabilities for logistics.

The FY 2001 budget request for NSF is $4.6 billion — an increase of $675 million (17.3%) over the current level. The budget is allocated along the strategic goals of ideas, people, and tools. The four cross-cutting initiatives are Information Technology, Nanoscale Technology, Biocomplexity in the Environment, and the 21st Century Workforce. The FY 2001 budget request for OPP is $285.41 million — an increase of $32.41 million (12.8%) over the FY 2000 funding.

Dr. Erb introduced three new staff members:

  • Dr. Dean Stockwell; Antarctic Biology and Medicine Associate Program Manager
  • Mr. Brian Stone; Antarctic Research Support Manger
  • Dr. Neil Swanberg; Arctic Natural Sciences Program Manager

NSF Strategic Plan

Dr. Cameron provided an update on the NSF GPRA strategic plan for FY 2000-2005. A revised version was distributed to the group. The plan's vision is for "Enabling the Nation's future through discovery, learning and innovation" with investments in People, Ideas and Tools. Dr. Cameron reviewed the core strategies covered in the plan. In addition to current funding for competitive, investigator-initiated research, the plan discusses cross-cutting initiatives and unmet opportunities. Unmet opportunities are non-initiative areas of emphasis within disciplines for which there is already some activity in the research community; however, if greater investments were made, it could have a very large future payoff for the Nation. The OPP AC members inquired about how the unmet opportunities were identified. Additional suggestions from the OPP Advisory Committee would be of great value.

Initiative: Biocomplexity in the Environment

Dr. Pfirman introduced Dr. Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director for GEO and coordinator for the NSF Environment Portfolio and the Biocomplexity Initiative. In response to the recommendations in the NSB report Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century, NSF has established a high visibility, NSF-wide organizational focus for the environment and biocomplexity. NSF has also established an internal advisory committee and initiated the process for an external advisory committee that would have a representative from each of the Foundation's advisory committees.

The funding for the NSF Environmental Portfolio is $595.23M for FY 1999, $659.20M for FY 2000, and $797.98M for FY 2001. Significant portions of OPP and GEO funds are included in the portfolio amounts. The NSB Report calls for a $1B increase in the next five years. Within NSF, this is divided between the Biocomplexity Initiative and the Environmental Portfolio within core research programs. Immediate priorities for the NSF Biocomplexity Initiative and the NSF Environmental Portfolio is to review best practices for multidisciplinary review, identify multi-year perspective on components of the initiative, identify opportunities with other initiatives, and collaborate with Federal partners. Research platforms are included in the planning such as the National Ecological Observatory networks (NEON), the Integrated Science for Ecosystem Challenges (ISEC), and a platform use for Ocean Biocomplexity research.

The FY 2000 competition for Biocomplexity included 320 full proposals and 155 incubation proposals. There was a diverse range of topics, e.g., urban development and fish stocks, coral reef ecosystems, contaminant movement through the ecosystem. The emerging 5-year goals for Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) include:

  • new theories, methods, and computational strategies for modeling complex systems
  • integration of environmental systems research across fields and across temporal and spatial scales
  • strategic enabling technologies for environmental research
  • incorporation of human and societal factors into environmental science and engineering
  • infrastructure to support environmental activities.

Dr. Leinen introduced Dr. Marge Cavanaugh, chair of the internal BE working group for NSF. The OPP AC discussed the rather low success rate with large initiatives and the impact it has on the community. The polar regions were represented in the proposals received. Dr. Cochran commented that very few people in Alaska responded to the solicitation as they had a difficult time finding a niche into which they could fit. Dr. Leinen responded that the challenge is similar to other groups trying to make the link between social sciences and economic sciences. The next solicitation may have more of an emphasis in these areas.

Discussion with the NSF Deputy Director

Dr. Joseph Bordogna, NSF Deputy Director, was introduced. He discussed the NSF strategic plan, noting that it is required by GPRA law and it affects budget planning. Dr. Bordogna reviewed highlights of the NSF strategic plan, which was well-received by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He also provided a background on the development of the unmet opportunities. NSF is trying to support additional funds for the core disciplines through identification of these unmet opportunities — they are not "mini-initiatives." Rather, NSF wants to enable a discipline to change itself. The budget for FY 2002 will be mapped closely to the NSF GPRA strategic plan. In response to a question about how GPRA goals are identified, Dr. Bordogna replied that there is a group of NSF staff that reevaluates the performance plan each year based on feedback from various sources.

Iceberg Calving — Lunch Presentation

Dr. MacAyeal provided a stimulating lunchtime presentation on iceberg calving from the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. Using modeling techniques, he demonstrated the behavior of the icebergs once they are calved from the ice shelf. We can expect to see icebergs coming off from the western part of the ice shelf. The potential for these calved icebergs is to knock off more pieces of the ice shelf.

NSF-Wide Initiatives

21st Century Workforce

Dr. John Hunt, Deputy Assistant Director for Integrative Activities, Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), provided an overview of the NSF-wide 21st Century Workforce Initiative. Dr. Hunt noted that the 21st Century Workforce initiative is derived from the "People" component of the NSF strategic plan. NSF is already engaged in activities that relate to people, such as the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Innovation Partnerships, CREST, National SMETE Digital Library and the funding of students, postdocs and researchers on research grants. In the past, it was thought that the only productive "Salary & Expenses" jobs were with a Ph.D. The emphasis needs to shift so that people contribute at all levels (i.e. after K-12, after college). EHR has a primary responsibility for K-12. The research directorates have more emphasis on graduate students and professionals. The largest area of overlap is undergraduate education. This year, NSF is piloting some Centers for Learning (CLTs), and there are opportunities for OPP researchers to get involved with these centers.

On the issue of diversity, NSF is undertaking different approaches at different levels, including:

  • K-12: systemic initiatives, attack performance gaps; information, after-school
  • Undergraduate: build the talent pool; institutional approaches
  • Graduate: expectations for participation in research and traineeship activities; institutional approaches
  • Post-Graduate expectations for participation in research and education activities; institutional approaches

The OPP AC saw opportunities for collaborating with EHR through the integrated biology course taught at McMurdo Station. They felt that the new NSF G/K-12 program offered opportunities for interaction at the university level. NSF was encouraged to look at the definition of workforce in a creative way, in the context of sustainable communities. Dr. Erb noted that there is a deliberate effort to broaden the definition of the workforce initiative.

Information Technology Research (ITR)

Dr. George Strawn, Executive Officer, Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), provided an overview of the ITR initiative. The program began out of the recommendations in a spring 1999 report from the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), and NSF is the lead agency. Priorities for research include software, scalable information infrastructure, high-end computing, socioeconomic impact, and management and implementation. ITR is led by CISE for all of NSF. The FY 2000 budget had $36M for the terascale facility and $110 million for IT research and socioeconomic impacts. For FY 2001, the Administration has requested $225M for NSF ($45M for terascale facility and $180M for ITR work throughout the Foundation).

NSF is currently in the middle of an competition for terascale facility proposers. The proposals received vary from pure computer science to more applied in nature, and at least 30% of the proposals came from outside of the computer science community. Dr. Erb is talking with Dr. Bajcsy, the Assistant Director for CISE, about the possibility of jointly funded proposals between CISE and OPP.

Long-Range Planning Discussions


Dr. Tom Pyle discussed the arctic budget and the continued need to balance science and logistics needs. One ongoing issue is how more useful data can be collected for less cost, time, and risk. There is a need to invest in remote sensing, robotics, and new instrumentation. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaker/research ship Healy will be in use, and the transition has gone well.

Dr. Pyle discussed some of the current U.S. facilities in the Arctic, including facilities at Toolik, Barrow, Little Diomede, North Pole Environmental Observatory, USCG Healy, moorings and buoys, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). The SCICEX project is complete. The future of submarine science is uncertain, although other options are being discussed by other arctic communities.

The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) has established a project office at the University of Washington. Coordination has begun with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) and an implementation plan is being developed. Dr. Erb commented that the IARPC had a significant breakthrough as they agreed to form a working group to advance the SEARCH program and develop a coordinated budget to go to OMB. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) project of the Arctic Council will look at climate impacts. The assessment report is anticipated to take 3 to 4 years.

The Arctic Research Support and Logistics program completed a long-term observatory competition that resulted in 12 awards for $20M. A new support contractor was selected — VECO Polar Resources. Robotics may come out of the new OPP-wide instrumentation program.

The OPP AC encouraged NSF to continue to foster collaboration with Canada for use of facilities. There was also a concern raised about the increased demand for research facilities with the focus on climate change in the Arctic. Dr. Pyle noted that NSF is intending to pursue the opportunity to collaborate between NSF, DOE and NASA for research at the Barrow Environmental Facility.


Dr. Dennis Peacock provided an update on activities and issues in the Antarctic.

  • The AMANDA project demonstrated that neutrino detection at South Pole is feasible. The project now goes to full-scale implementation (ICECUBE), which requires $100M and would be proposed for FY 2002.
  • The Center for Astrophysical Research (CARA) has a sunset clause that includes support for the center ending February 2002. OPP is investigating how this can be continued into a next phase.
  • OPP has asked NASA to help pay for an upgraded Long-Duration Ballooning facility to help handle a NASA backlog.
  • OPP struggled to make the AGO units work through the winter. The facilities are becoming obsolete.
  • Astrophysics in NSF: working with the MPS directorate and thinks astrophysics could be coordinated more across the Foundation.
  • In biology and medicine, research at Lake Vostok, LExEN, Biocomplexity and season extension are current issues.
  • In geology and geophysics, access to the deep field is affected by the limits on LC-130 hours.
  • SOAR (aerogeophysics capability) is being restructured.
  • Classified data exists that could be useful in OPP had access.
  • Mapping: Need better maps for many areas of the continent.

USAP Logistics and Science Support

Mr. Erick Chiang provided an overview of activities related to USAP Logistics and Science Support. LC-130 hours and communications needed at South Pole were two of the main issues. A new contract will be awarded this year for a replacement for the Nathaniel B. Palmer research icebreaker. Transportation is an important issue, particularly with the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft. OPP will host a seminar to identify the largest demand on the LC-130s at South Pole, and what options can be pursued to mitigate this problem. OPP hopes to have recommendations, which would result in a 50% increase in the LC-130 capabilities, from the workshop at the fall meeting of the OPP AC.

Mr. Chiang reviewed specific issues related to IT/communication, technical infrastructure, and services. In summary, the main areas being worked on are:

  • a robust and state-of-the-art oceanographic research vessel;
  • transportation issues;
  • and improved information technology/communication facilities to take OPP researchers into the 21st century.

The Polar Instrumentation and Technology Development Program

Mr. Simon Stephenson, coordinator for the Polar Instrumentation and Technology Development Program, said the program is largely an outcome of recommendations at the OPP AC 2 years ago. There were 54 proposals received in response to the solicitation with a total request of $38.4 M over 1 to 5 years. For FY 2000, $3M is available. There are 13 program managers involved from OPP, MPS, GEO/ATM and GEO/OCE. Of the 48 projects, nearly all were bi-polar. The requested amounts ranged from $60K to $500K per year. Nearly all were multiple-year proposals. Dr. Erb noted that this was a 1-year experiment. The program might be modified or fine-tuned in the coming years.

Unmet Opportunities

Dr. Priscu started the discussion by asking "What should OPP be aiming at for the next 5 years?" There is a need to identify a scientific umbrella for science that is so compelling the NSF can sell it to Congress, the person on the street would support it, and Congress would be inclined to greatly increase NSF's budget to tackle this area. The OPP AC's task is to think big.

The group began discussing potential unmet opportunities, including polar genomics, health of the unisphere and atmosphere, and astrobiology. The committee was asked to draft paragraphs describing several unmet needs in polar science.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:40 pm.

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

The meeting was reconvened at 8:35 a.m. and the discussion on Unmet Opportunities continued.

Continued Discussion of Unmet Opportunities

Dr. Albert reviewed the objective of the previous day's discussion, which was to draft a brief paragraph of unmet opportunities. Dr. Deming will draft a paragraph on Polar Genomics. Dr. Carlstrom will draft a paragraph related to astrobiology and the question of the origins of the universe. Dr. Mosely-Thompson liked the idea of filling in the gaps — data densification. The extended season in the Antarctic would help to fill in the data gaps. Dr. Priscu noted that the polar regions have much to offer but also have unique needs.

GPRA/Committee of Visitors (COV)

Dr. Colwell has requested that advisory committees provide a review of the GPRA process and make recommendations on how to streamline and improve it. Altie Metcalf provided a brief overview for new members on the GPRA process and goals and the role of the COVs. The question posed to the group was: Can the GPRA process be streamlined? If so, how? Dr. MacAyeal laid out two sets of requirements for the process:

What does the AC want OPP/NSF to provide before or at the next meeting to prepare for GPRA?

  • Previous Year GPRA Report
  • COV report
  • Compilation of other Directorate AC reports for previous year
  • Statement from OPP — what do they want the ACs to consider?
  • Full attendance
  • Need four specific times during 2-day meeting to talk about GPRA (first morning, end of first day, second morning and revisited at end of meeting).
  • Facilities for word processing
  • Data and objective measures

What are the AC's responsibilities?

  • Full attendance
  • Appoint a secretary from AC responsible to draft after first day
  • Be prepared to discuss and change minds
  • Format of AC report
  • Always paraphrase the criteria for the successful grade and underneath each point inject the materials from the discussion and director's report that justify that grade.
  • List examples
  • Chair to nominate someone to work with OPP prior to the meeting to make sure the data was there to rate each criterion.

The OPP AC noted that the change in the criteria — dropping "minimally effective" — will help in the assessment.

K-12 Education

Dr. Albert hoped the OPP AC could identify a way OPP could make a bigger impact in K-12 education. The Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic program is a great model, but it impacts only a few teachers. Dr. Wayne Sukow, Dr. Joyce Evans and Dr. John Hunt from EHR were present to assist in the discussion. Dr. Fae Korsmo, OPP, led discussion of the topic. Dr. Evans said the first step is to compile an inventory of what is being done in polar science education. The benefits that would accrue from compiling such an inventory would demonstrate the depth and range of NSF impact on K-12 SMET education on a national level, demonstrate the uniqueness of the NSF contribution to K-12 SMET education, and provide details on the contributions that individual scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are making to K-12 education and what we are learning from these interactions.

Dr. Sukow shared a list of activities that scientists can get involved in right now. The programs in EHR that facilitate educational efforts include the ESIE Intermediate Materials Development program, the ESIE Information Secondary Education program, and the ESIE Teacher Experiences program.

Dr. Erb noted that in OPP there were five volunteers to develop activities that would lead to a more effective presence in K-12 education. Dr. Erb can charge that group to work on a variety of tasks, some in collaboration with EHR.

Broadening Participation in Polar Science

The two issues to explore are:

  1. bringing non-polar scientists into the field, and
  2. increasing the diversity of scientists in the field.

The increased diversity applies to the proposal applicant pool, students, NSF staff, and contractors. How can OPP work to improve diversity? Polar scientists could approach the community colleges about giving courses in their fields. Rural and tribal colleges should be approached as well. There was general agreement from the OPP AC members that there is much interest in these small communities. Programs, such as REU, have been successful in increasing diversity. Expanding something REU to include community college teachers was suggested.

Arctic Science Support: Safety

Dr. Erb noted that the NSB has made arctic safety a specific interest. One of the issues put forward is ensuring the safety of the investigators and how much should be done? Dr. Mosley-Thompson noted that it is more difficult in the Arctic (than the Antarctic) to get a handle on the number of people and the number of sites. Additionally, the sites are varied and requirements can differ for each site. One set of guidelines might not suffice.

Mr. Stephenson led the discussion with an overview of the review of policies, the 1997 ARCUS Logistics Report recommendations, and initial directions. The recommendations from the report included a recommendation to "protect the health and safety of people conducting research in the Arctic". This was a broad recommendation that applied to all agencies. Mr. Stephenson will have a more complete analysis of the program and its safety issues by July, but he did discuss some possible safety recommendations, including:

  • sponsor voluntary arctic travel skills and survival courses, focusing on "field skills" and medical training
  • supply portable telephone satellite communications as needed
  • establish U.S. bank accounts in local Russian cities

The objective is to create a standard of safety in the field without a regimented program.

Comments from the OPP AC are summarized:

  • Dr. Cochran suggested including a native world-view course as well. Many researchers don't know how to deal with communities and what to expect.
  • Should there be a policy regarding children accompanying researchers?
  • There could be mentoring — pairing an experienced arctic researcher with a new researcher.
  • Medical screening for everyone is important to help prevent emergencies from occurring in the first place.
  • What responsibility does NSF have for search and rescue?

Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) Program

Dr. Pamela Taylor, POES Product Manager, National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS), NOAA, reviewed the mission, processing, and products/applications for the POES program. The polar-orbiters are sun-synchronized and give total global coverage 14 hours a day. The POES mission is to provide uninterrupted flow of information such as global soundings and global imagery. Researchers can request special measurements by calling the agency. Often the requested measurements have already been scheduled. Another possibility is to directly read out the data being gathered. The NOAA web site provides more information.

Polar Bibliographies

Guy Guthridge and Charles Myers provided an update on the polar bibliographies. The Antarctic Bibliography and Cold Regions Bibliography cover virtually all of the Antarctic literature. NSF awarded a 5-year Cooperative Agreement to a scientific institute for preparing bibliographies. Joint funding will be provided by CRREL and the arctic and antarctic science programs in OPP. The new project will be on-line with a full-text digital library of the polar bibliographies.

The arctic bibliography prior to 1974 was put on-line in January 2000. The 17 volumes contain 114,716 references with English abstracts. It is available at It was suggested that NSF consider adding local and traditional knowledge into the bibliography.


Dr. Albert agreed to draft a letter to Dr. Colwell and Dr. Erb for the OPP AC review. Dr. Pfirman will coordinate the feedback from everyone and forward the final letters to NSF. With no further discussion, Dr. Albert thanked the OAC members for their participation. The dates for the next meeting are tentatively set for November 6-7, 2000. The meeting was adjourned at 3:05 p.m.

3:05 PM Meeting Adjourned

See Agenda for this meeting.

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