OPP Office Advisory Committee
XXIV Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Office of Polar Programs (OPP)
June 10-11, 1999 Arlington, VA
Dr. Stephanie Pfirman, Chair, Environmental Sciences, Barnard College, New York, NY
Dr. Mary R. Albert, Physical Glaciology, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
Ms. Patricia A. Longley Cochran, Social Sciences, Alaska Native Science Commission, Anchorage, AK
Dr. William Green, Geochemistry, Miami University, Oxford, OH
Dr. Julius Jackson, Microbiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Dr. Douglas R. MacAyeal, Glaciology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Dr. Michael Prentice, Geology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Dr. Farooq Azam, Microbiology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Dr. Robert S. Detrick, Jr., Marine Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Ocean Institute, Woods Hole, MA
Dr. Chester Gardner, Aeronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Dr. Edna MacLean, Linguistics and Education, Ilisagvik College, Barrow, AK
Dr. James McClintock, Benthic Ecology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL
Dr. James Morison, Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Dr. Donal Manahan, Chair, Polar Research Board, University of Southern California
Dr. Frank Harris, AC Chair, BIO Directorate
OPP Senior Staff Present
Dr. Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs
Dr. Dennis Peacock, Director, Antarctic Science Section
Mr. Erick Chiang, Director, Polar Research and Support Section
Dr. Thomas Pyle, Director, Arctic Science Section
Dr. Maryellen Cameron, Executive Officer, Office of Polar Programs
Ms. Altie Metcalf, Budget and Planning Officer
Welcome and Introductions
Dr. Stephanie Pfirman, Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:35 a.m. She provided an update on OPP activities since the last meeting and introduced Dr. Karl Erb, the new OPP Director and noted that several of the OAC recommendations were implemented since the last meeting. She also called attention to a new charter for the OAC (Meeting Book, Tab 2). The Committee will meet twice a year, the number of members will be increased to fifteen. A new format intended to allow more participation and discussion by the OAC members will be tried at this meeting. Members will serve as lead discussants for most agenda items. Introductions were made.
Approval of the Minutes
It was noted there was an error in the title of the subcommittees. A motion was made for adoption of minutes as amended. They were approved.
Dr. Erb commented on the revised agenda structure. The main goal of the OAC charter revision was to install a new leadership scheme in which there will be a current chair, chair-to-be, and past chair as an executive committee. Though not in the charter, the OAC will meet twice a year. There were no comments about the charter.
Dr. Erb then discussed the FY2000 budget request. Two new major initiatives in the FY2000 request include Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT2) and Biocomplexity in the Environment. NSF's proposed budget for IT2 is $146 M. The Biocomplexity budget is $50 M with a focus on biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics, global and environmental change, and environment and the human dimension. The sense is that both of these initiatives will evolve and grow and both would have a role for OPP. The OPP FY2000 budget shows an increase of 2.3% with $250.63 M requested. Dr. Pfirman raised a question about the LEE program and asked if it was now under Biocomplexity. There was also a discussion on the distinction between last year's Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI) and IT2. OPP also requested funding from the Major Research and Equipment (MRE) account for South Pole Station Modernization ($5.40 M in FY2000) and Polar Support Aircraft Upgrades ($12 M in FY2000). Dr. Erb noted concern whether Congress would approve the request. The allocation to the appropriate subcommittee is 8-9% lower than last year for the discretionary funding category NSF is in. This could result in deep cuts in science support. The hope is that the caps that have been set will be relaxed in view of the budget surplus.
In FY1999, the Arctic Section received an increase of $17 M for Arctic logistics. This will be used to improve infrastructure for year-round research in the Arctic and to support researchers' logistics needs.
Dr. Erb discussed the competitions for three contracts: USAP, drilling, and Arctic logistics. The current USAP contract is being recompeted and a new contract should be in place by October 1, 1999. The PICO contract will be split into two pieces: one for Arctic logistics and one for drilling. The idea is to have a separate focus on Arctic logistics. These two contracts are expected to be in place by November 1.
Committee of Visitors (COV) Response
Dr. William Green, Miami University, noted that last June, a Committee of Visitors (COV) met to discuss the Polar Research Support Section (PRSS). They looked at three main areas of performance: the contract and interagency agreement process, program long-range goals, and program measures of performance. The report concluded that the PRSS staff and management had done a superb job during the review period. Recommendations included improved documentation of the contract process, improved management of the Palmer station and improved documentation of performance.
Mr. Eric Chiang, Director, Polar Research and Support Section, responded to the COV's recommendations as follows.
- Development of Rehabilitation and Replacement Account. While OPP agrees with the benefits of establishing this type of account, they do not agree that it should be set aside as a fenced amount. The OPP would rather focus more on the long-range planning process and in that process, argue for funds within the budget through the normal process.
- Communication and Data Processing Upgrade Plans. The COV was interested in how long-term needs of the three stations and research vessels would be addressed. ASA has helped develop a long- range plan for the overall infrastructure. From a process-oriented strategic plan, a long-range plan looking at every element of the communications system was developed. The next step is to look at the integration of all those projects and their planned implementation. This plan will be reviewed annually. A workshop was held last fall to look at South Pole communication issues. Results of the workshop are available. Attempts will be made to identify satellites that are no longer serving their design function, and that thus might be available to NSF/USAP.
- Coordination and Oversight of Science Support, Infrastructure, and Instrumentation. The COV was seeking more integration and planning between PRSS and the Antarctic Science Program with an increased focus on long-range planning processes.
- Comprehensive Use of Performance Measures. OPP would expand use of performance measures to include all of their interagency partners. They did this the past season and were inundated with measures. Mr. Chiang shared viewgraphs of Logistic Performance Measures, Engineering Performance Measures, and Research Support Measures. Research support is the most difficult to measure. Availability of equipment, uses of vessels, productivity, etc. are some of the issues measured. Other agencies provided input on performance of navigation aids, weather forecasting accuracy, and other performance measures.
- Effective Use of User Committees. Feedback from the User Committees was used to develop the new request for proposals.
- Resolution of Palmer Station Management Issues. This appeared to be a one-year problem and was addressed with ASA and the Station Director. During this past year, complaints were not heard.
- Environmental Conservation Plans and System Flexibility. OPP is looking at energy conservation. Two projects are underway at McMurdo to help reduce fuel consumption. OPP is also working with DOE for wind energy and photobiotics.
- Managing Infrastructure while Minimizing Adverse Impact on Science. This is related to South Pole Station during construction. In the next few years, the flights to field missions will be decreased by about 20%, but will increase when new aircraft have been reconfigured. By the 2002 season, science activities should be able to ramp up. The geosciences community has been understanding during this process.
- Assure Contract and Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)/Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Jacket Compliance. A memo was distributed to all Program Directors as to what is expected in proposal jackets.
OPP Planning Issues
Long Range Planning
Dr. Green introduced this topic and asked for questions and comments and new directions in the planning efforts. Dr. Erb noted that the internal OPP discussion focuses on input that comes out of the scientific community, through PIs, workshops, etc. The OAC is looked to for systematic feedback and comments on OPP's activities. At the last meeting the OAC advised OPP that, in addition to the long range planning activities, they would like OPP to look proactively at what might happen in the future, and at new areas of science. OPP subsequently held a program retreat at which the program officers led discussions and presented research areas that they felt deserved special merit in the future (without budget constraints). Dr. Erb noted that OMB has instructed agencies to identify all potential large projects that might be candidates for broad funding over the next five years. Major instrumentation and facilities cost $10 —15M or more, and facilities that would become part of the permanent infrastructure (i.e. 10 years) should be identified. Dr. Douglas MacAyeal, Glaciology, University of Chicago, commented that the Program Managers appear to be the "grass roots" in developing this plan and asked what nature of support they receive to attend conferences, travel, etc. to fulfill this role. Dr. Erb said that he feels NSF travel budgets are not adequate.
He noted the OAC received a list of recommendations from ARCUS immediately prior to the meeting but had not had time to study them. Dr. Julius Jackson, Microbiology, Michigan State, asked about the planning process that was used this year and whether it would be used again on an annual basis. Dr. Erb responded that he found it very valuable and that it would most likely be used again. He said that as discussions unfolded, a need for a Polar Major Instrumentation Program had become clear. Feedback on implementation was requested. He asked if a program like this should be started even if there was not increased funding.
Dr. Jackson asked if there was a barrier in putting travel in their budget. Dr. Erb answered that OPP receives a travel budget, but traditionally it has not been adequate. Sabbatical leaves are given when there is a budget to support it. Dr. Jackson requested that this issue be addressed again. Dr. Erb suggested that the fall meeting could take up issues like this.
Dr. Jackson asked if the demand for a decrease in personnel was still in effect and what impact or projected impact that has had on NSF/OPP. Dr. Erb acknowledged this as an important issue and agreed to get facts and gather information to respond to this. He said he has not been in OPP long enough to answer.
Dr. Donal Manahan, USC and Chair, Polar Research Board, said he supports the idea of a $10 M instrumentation budget. An example of the CRARY Lab was given where several million was needed for equipment. There is another phase that would be needed. Instrument development in the whole area of genomics, etc. would be important. Most of the need is off-the-shelf equipment, but would require personnel support. Dr. Pfirman asked if it would be helpful to partner proposals with DOE, ONR or other agencies that are involved in instrument development. Dr. Erb responded that much of the instrumentation development would have to be in partnership.
Dr. Denise Peacock, Section Head, Antarctic Sciences Section, presented the current OPP Antarctic Science portfolio related to Long Range Planning. Areas related to Antarctic Sciences include:
- Discovery and exploration (e.g. biodiversity, human impacts, origin and evolution of life in extreme environments)
- Polar Regions' contributions to global systems and processes (e.g. climate, ozone, ocean circulation)
- Polar Regions as platforms (e.g. space physics and astronomy)
Various science drivers and strategies were presented.
- Intellectual synthesis of polar results/contributions to the biggest scientific questions such as the origin of the universe, the origin of life, impacts on global systems, environmental research, biocomplexity, biodiversity, and education.
- Instrumentation technology development such as drilling (ice, marine, rock), ROVs, AUVs, PRVs, remote sensing, moorings, and expendable probes.
- Physical facilities are needed especially for year round access and observation, specifically long range instrumented aircraft, Palmer area work boat, autonomous stations and vehicles, KM3 neutrino detector, infra-red and submillimeter telescopes.
- Observatories/centers including observatories in the polar oceans, inter-agency environmental laboratories, US-European collaboration at Dome C (Antarctica), and a Rock Repository.
- Communications/connectivity needed for the physical and intellectual integration of polar research. Items needed include upgraded communications to Polar Regions especially South Pole, linked data centers, sample archive/retrieval, computational capability on site, digital library implementation. There is a solicitation for a digital library activity.
Dr. Jackson asked what the specific communications barriers are. Dr. Peacock responded that at the South Pole, they are using an old NASA satellite that NASA wants to remove. They do not have 24-hour per day access; right now it is sometimes only 2-3 hours per day. Mr. Chiang added that the step-wise approach provides TDRS as an interim fix, with 4-6 hours per day access. The problem is that it is unstable and alternative solutions need to be explored. There is a possibility that a military satellite might be available and OPP is talking to other agencies as well. The permanent solutions are expensive. They must either wait for the maturity of systems in the commercial world, or look at fiber optic cable, or at NSF funding their own satellites and establishing their own infrastructure, which would run $10 — 15M dollars.
Short-term issues include the future of LexEn, the Rock Repository, year round access to McMurdo/Dry Valleys, Sub Glacial Lakes, and Astrophysics in Antarctica. The Principal Investigator for the LTER project in the Dry Valleys will be hosting a workshop in September that will address the issue of year round access in the Dry Valleys. Sub glacial lakes, such as Lake Vostok, have generated much interest. A workshop will be held in Cambridge, England in September. There is a center for astrophysics in Antarctica that has an 11-year life cycle, which will be phasing out. This will result in the rebirth of other projects, which will seek funding from NSF.
Dr. Michael Prentice, University of New Hampshire, asked for an elaboration on how these projects are evaluated in relation to each other. Dr. Denise Peacock, Antarctic Science Section, responded that the question is really about how decisions are made in Washington. In a new competition for Centers, several proposals were received for Centers at South Pole.
Dr. Prentice asked whether there is a white paper such as a long-range planning document on the Internet. Dr. Peacock said that OPP used to have one, but in recent years there has not been such a document, partly because things evolve so rapidly. Dr. Erb noted that they are taking a step in that direction in eliciting all the big projects. Dr. MacAyeal commented that in looking at science drivers, he is impressed with how broad the scientific disciplines are. He thinks the OPP keeps a tight focus on this area and does a good job. He also mentioned that workshops had something to do with identifying some of the issues and asked how many OPP funds and how valuable they are in identifying issues. Dr. Peacock responded that there are about two per year per discipline — the results of the workshops circulate through the office. Results are highly variable — 10-15% of the time no action is taken. Products of the workshops have to be circulated by the community and require a community effort. Dr. Pfirman noted that the ARCUS letter recommended that in the Arctic a workshop should be held every two years and that in the interim there should be a plan on the WEB, which would be updated. She noted this might be worth discussing — seems both Poles have this need.
Dr. Jackson asked whether astrophysics needs longer-term attention, or whether the 10-11 year center approach is adequate. Dr. Peacock responded that they do not have to continue with consecutive centers. In Geosciences, there are obvious reasons why one would want to take measurements year after year, etc. At the South Pole, astronomers only have access and work for 2-3 months at a time. The 10-year project could have been substantially reduced, if the seasonal window was longer. Dr. Manahan added that the US has a significant advantage with access to ice in the AMANDA project. Other countries are doing neutrino astrophysics research through water. He asked if the program is looking for international collaboration for the new $100 M project. Dr. Peacock noted that Sweden and Germany participate, though not financially, but for the new project, they have talked about contributing $20 M to the project. Dr. Mary Albert, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, said that in OPP some programs were put on hold during reconstruction. She asked if there is some effort in OPP to make sure that disciplines that have suffered will have opportunities to ramp back up and whether there are discussions on how to be inclusive of other disciplines. Dr. Erb acknowledged that grant money is not the scarcest resource; it is access in many instances. OPP will look at that internally. Dr. Peacock noted that plans for the South Pole were intended to not interrupt science; it was the transition to ANG and the need to refit aircraft that has impacted access to the deep field.
Dr. Thomas Pyle, Section Head, Arctic Science Section, noted the new people in the Arctic Program: John Christensen, IPA in ARCSS; Simon Stephenson, Program Manager (PM) for Research Support and Logistics, and Jane Dionne and Linda Duguay, co-PMs in Arctic Natural Science. He described a plan for a permanent Social Sciences PM. The FY 1999 budget included an increase of $17.5 M for Arctic research and logistics, which is hoped to be renewed. Other one-time funding included an increase of $2 M for contaminant research and $1.5 M for Internet connectivity at Toolik Lake, a number of campuses in remote areas of Alaska, and for a site in Greenland. Contract competitions include ice coring in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and Logistics in the Arctic. New science programs include the Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI) and Human Dimensions of Global Change (HARC), Long-Term Observations (environmental observatories, instrumentation and repositories), Contaminants, and RAISE has been launched (Moscow liaison office). Under RAISE they will also be holding a workshop on coastal erosion. An Arctic Research Support program was established and funded. There has been a significant increase in the number of proposals received (from less than 200 in FY1995 to over 500 in FY1998). One reason for this is that multi-disciplinary proposals are well received and they added deadlines, which gave more opportunities. This increase creates a workload issue. Dr. Pyle noted that the Arctic section works with the community to identify research areas. Workshops held were: An Arctic Opportunities Workshop where input helped in supporting the FY2000 budget request; Marine Science in the Arctic: a Strategic Plan; SCICEX — 2000 Workshop; and Barrow Environmental Observatory Workshop.
Other community planning issues include:
- A cost/benefit analysis of a submarine for science (ONR, OCE, OPP done by RAND)
- SEARCH (Seeking Environmental Arctic Change) with a Workshop in June 99
- Research in Svalbard Workshop in August 1999
- Summit Science Plan, with potential European funding (if there is a long-term observatory at Summit, Greenland).
Other progress includes completion of the SHEBA field program and a Summit winter-over. There were two deployments of SCAMP (mapping pods) on the USS Hawkbill, which provided the first modern bathymetric data in the Arctic Ocean and the first female chief scientist on a US Navy submarine. Dr. Colwell visited the vessel "on ice". Also, OPP is working on a MOA with the USCG with Healy science tests in 2000 (UNOLS) for both Poles and MOAs with Norway, Canada and Iceland; Arctic funding of Barrow UV data (formally an Antarctic operation); and the establishment of Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO) which includes a discussion of Circum-Arctic Environmental Observatories. He said there is a need for an international network of observatories.
Some "blue sky" ideas include submarine science, which may be a reality. There is a possibility that a submarine will be available for a seven-year period, but would have a large cost to operate ($15 M/year) and it is being looked at as a global issue, not just Arctic. Icebreaker science is another issue, and with the Healy on board, additional operational funding will be needed. The SEARCH Network combines aircraft and unattended observatories. He sees this as resulting in particular research programs as more data is collected. One of the issues raised by the IT2 in Arctic Social Science is the cultural difference in humans interfacing with computers.
Some issues of concern include instrumentation development; centralized health and; interactions with the Coast Guard; and Arctic science in Russia.
Dr. Albert commented on the idea about a centralized health and safety program and stated that there are some minimum things that may be desirable to help people going into the field, such as a medical exam if going into remote sites. The Arctic is difficult because there is not one site that everyone funnels to when they go there. It would be nice if there were a one-day training program to show, for example, how to use radios, etc.
Dr. Manahan asked what interest the ocean science community would have with the idea of NSF having access to a submarine for 7 years. Dr. Pyle responded that OCE probably would provide funding to support it. He said they are interested and are in the game, but cost-benefits are not as obvious. This might be the best and last opportunity for a 637 Sturgeon class submarine.
Dr. Pfirman said the ARCUS letter identified a need for continuing oversight and reassessment of the logistics report as things change and she thinks that health and safety might be an issue they might want to take up. She asked what the mechanism would be for following up and continuing this discussion. Dr. Pyle noted that ARCUS was asked to develop a committee to provide oversight. The first focus is on developing a WEB site for Arctic logistics. Dr. Pfirman noted that with respect to the Arctic Opportunities Workshop, she found it useful and thought it should be held every two years. Dr. Pyle agreed that something like that is useful, but thought every two years might be too often. Dr. Albert requested documents like the logistics report be virtual and posted on the WEB — so that those that could not participate in the workshop would not be excluded. There was a question asked on how to implement updates to the report when there are comments or changes. Dr. Erb noted that OPP WEB gets advice from many organizations, and the WEB could be a good mechanism for cross-fertilization of these ideas. Dr. Pfirman noted that there was a recommendation that the OPP WEB site become more content-rich. Then when individual workshops are held, recommendations could also be placed on the WEB.
Patricia Longley-Cochran, Alaska Native Science Commission, commented about arctic science in Russia. In the last few years, it has become more difficult to work in the Russian Far East. The problems have to do more with a lack of autonomous government and there is a need to work with autonomous regions. Negotiations are different and really need one-on-one relationships with governors, etc. Dr. Pyle noted that some of the native communities have much better connections than OPP does. Dr. Erb asked if there has been establishment of an informal network that OPP could promote. Ms. Cochran noted that through the circumpolar conference and RADAN they have been working well. Dr. Erb added that one other issue, in connection with setting up a larger program in the field, is the assessment of environmental impacts, permitting, etc. and asked if the OAC had any thoughts on this question.
Mr. Eric Chiang provided an overview of Antarctic infrastructure issues. OPP works to ensure that Antarctic Research Support/Infrastructure is driven by the science. General developments benefit Arctic Research Support as well. In response to the COV report, they initially thought they could have an Antarctic Infrastructure Long-Range Plan within six months, but this is not feasible. Mr. Chiang presented a chart of all of the budget expenditures within PRSS including contract support, MOAs with other agencies, and direct science support mechanisms such as automatic weather stations, PICO, ARGOS, and SOAR. While five year costs and projections could be laid out based on inflation, the research long-range plan impacts the support. Communications, maintenance, renovations and upgrades have to be included in the infrastructure plan. The plan would need to be reviewed and updated annually. PRSS hopes to use this plan as a tool to argue for budgets to meet those requirements. Mr. Chiang described how science requirements are integrated into infrastructure requirements and noted the PRSS Long Range Plan goals of last year:
- Provision of Quality Facilities
- Effective and Efficient Use of Resources — challenging the paradigm that increase capability results in increased basic support costs.
- Application of Modern Technology — communication: leveraging science dollars in research by providing a way to distribute information. Remote sensing will play a continuing role.
- Integration of Environmental, Health, and Safety Practices. As a consequence of legislation in the Environmental Protocol, this has been implemented, but can be consolidated.
- Maintain System Flexibility
After the PRSS retreat, which followed the science retreat, they revised the goals to what they thought they heard from the science group:
- Access to Polar Regions (logistics, year round)
- Instrumentation/Technology Development and Application
- Data archive and Distribution
Mr. Chiang commented that a comparison of the goals shows that the two are consistent. He asked, how can we integrate science structure needs into the infrastructure planning and budget process? The new Antarctic support contractor performance measures include the goals of PRSS. Dr. Albert thanked OPP for incorporating those performance measures into the contract requirements.
Dr. Prentice asked is there was some document in place that lays out the relative importance of science projects/science needs that they hear about and asked how one sorts out their relative importance. Mr. Chiang responded that PRSS does not sort out relative importance. They try to stay ahead of the game to project how programs might impact the infrastructure in the future. Dr. Prentice asked if there should be an increase in the role of PRSS in influencing the efficiency of science. Mr. Chiang noted that, as an example, they worked with the astronomy community in the development of instrumentation — to help it be set up faster to reduce support costs, etc. Dr. Albert asked if it would be useful for OPP to consider certain site activities be planned in the future and in looking ahead, how will the stations be used and what disciplines will be conducting research there. Dr. Erb responded that the activity is joint between the science section and the PRSS section. During the communications workshop, the collection of requirements provided input to PRSS for what the potential future needs might be. Discussion also takes place continually between Program Officers and PRSS staff. He suggested that collecting recommendations that have come out of workshops and putting them on the WEB would help the community understand the process. Dr. Prentice added that this might help set up performance evaluations for GRPA — scientific priorities and their value to science. Dr. Pfirman commented that it also can reflect community interests.
Dr. Prentice asked to what extent Program Managers at NSF use information management ideas and apply them to information technology. Dr. Erb responded that this was discussed at the South Pole and McMurdo Users Group meetings. A question was asked about what information should be on the WEB concerning capabilities. He said Simon Stephenson asked the group what critical resource levels they would like to see on the WEB. He received good feedback, including suggestions that in some cases WEB would not be the best place to put this information. Dr. Erb also added that Fast Lane will facilitate handling the proposal and review process while also getting more information about research activity back out to the community.
Ms. Cochran asked where the issue of the crash of ecosystems in the Bering Sea falls in relation to priorities. It is a primary concern in the native communities in Alaska. Does NSF see this as a concern for the long range? Dr. Pyle noted they have funded cruises that have made a number of discoveries and will continue to fund good proposals, but he has not seen a big "science plan". With the submarine use, the Bering Sea is an area that has been thought about as justification for use of the submarine platform. Dr. Albert asked what the mechanism is of getting knowledge from indigenous populations who see these changes to scientists who can research it. Dr. Erb asked if there is a need for workshops on this. Ms. Cochran responded that she felt it was critical. Dr. Korsmo noted that the Arctic Science Program has funded several projects, like the ones on Beluga Whales and hopes to continue to support that kind of work. John Christensen also noted the start of the HARC program — which will address some of the issues about what is happening and how it is perceived. He noted that other fishing areas are having problems as well and there is a need to distinguish fishery management issues from environment/ecology issues. Ms. Cochran noted that the problem is on a much larger scale; large colonies of birds dying, clam beds deteriorating, etc. Dr. Erb noted that this appears to be an area where more communication is needed and suggested more discussion on the HARC program.
Dr. MacAyeal asked if the OPP form for infrastructure requirements in the Antarctic would be on Fast Lane and is prior discussion of proposals with NSF Program Managers allowed? Simon Stephenson noted they are working on an electronic form that is hosted by the contractor, ASA. Discussions can take place with OPP staff about the operational support of the proposal. OPP's forms are not distributed in the package for the scientific review. It is not currently feasible to incorporate this form into Fast Lane.
Dr. Pfirman summarized recommendations from the OAC, noting that Dr. Erb has requested specific recommendations from them:
- Instrumentation Development Initiative — question is on scope
- Sabbaticals and program managers' travel — indicate support
- Articulation of science priorities and availability on the WEB.
Distribution of Federal Research Funds
Dr. Jackson introduced the topic on distribution of Federal Research Funds and GPRA and invited an open discussion of issues. Maryellen Cameron presented information on NSF competitive award sizes. The award duration is fairly constant over a three-year period, while the award amount has increased. For OPP, the duration of awards is decreasing. A comparison of the percentage of funded proposals broken out by female, minority and new PIS was shown for NSF and OPP. A chart compared the top 50 institutions funded by NSF, and then by OPP. The top 30 for NSF are all Research 1 institutions. On OPP's list, there is more diversity with baccalaureate , and other types of institutions represented.
In a report by Dr. Irwin Feller in 1997, the top ten universities received 19 percent of research funding and the top 20 universities received 32-33 percent of funding. Forty percent of our states only received 6 percent of funding. This means that at least 40 states have little interest in the fate of NSF as they receive very little funding. Another point raised in the article was on the distribution of funding to elite universities versus wider distribution. Dr. Pfirman noted that this issue was raised at the AC Chair meeting at NSF. Dr. Colwell would like to look at individuals in the second 100 — and find out how they can be fostered in putting in proposals and receiving support from NSF. Suggestions proposed were to follow up on declines and find out why they are not resubmitted. There was some concern about NSF not having to take the lead in getting the information on the declines, but perhaps asking the institution to do the follow-up. Dr. Pyle noted that they see this more often in Social Sciences, where they don't resubmit. Dr. Jackson requested that the OAC members read the report from Dr. Feller.
Several other points to consider are: are the dollars adequate for the type of work that needs to be done and are the award levels sufficient? He noted that for the Antarctic the costs do not include logistics. For the next meeting, they can poll staff for how much is spent on graduate students, Post Docs, etc.). Another question is whether research dollars should be used to train graduate students. Is it providing a quality training/educational experience for graduate students or is it driving production of "widgets" to make investigators look good? How should training of graduate students be supported? Who are we training and what are we training them to do? Nothing much has changed in the numbers of minority and underrepresented populations. Are there ideas in increasing the participation of minority and underrepresented populations who are US citizens?
Dr. Pfirman noted four recommendations:
- Scholarly output of researchers at the second 100 level be evaluated differently
- Participation should be embedded within existing NSF programs
- To engage leaders of the institutions involved
- Provide assistance with grant proposals.
Dr. Peacock commented on the point about embedding participation. NSF has tried both approaches but we don't know if this is successful as far as societal impact is concerned. The decentralized approach has not been as successful and is uneven. To decentralize, they also need to train program officers and base their evaluation on their success.
Dr. Erb commented on the issue of distribution of funds beyond the top 10-20 institution. He agrees that there is an underlying issue of research activity tied to education. A large percentage of students go to universities within 75 miles of their home. He would extend the question to ask whether we want to use research dollars for undergraduates as well. If we believe that there should be a strong link, then more emphasis should be placed on the educational components of research. Dr. MacAyeal commented on two issues: dwindling representation of Americans in graduate programs and the diversity of institutions. OPP might be a bit ahead, but the point is that they might be more ahead than other parts of NSF, and the diversity of the institutions supported by OPP is having an impact on attracting American students into the programs. In Glaciology over the last 4-5 years, there have been five graduate students that came from small colleges in the mid-west. They became interested in going to graduate school because they were exposed to research by faculty at these small colleges who were working in Antarctica. A focus on smaller institutions may yield more applications to graduate schools, not only by Americans, but also by underrepresented populations.
Dr. Manahan commented that in looking at the list, California shows up more than any other state. A typical NSF grant in the $60-$70 K range can only support one student. In California, institutions are having trouble training people in graduate education because of an increased focus on education for undergraduates, and less on teaching for graduates. He sees this as almost at a crisis point. NSF's Science and Engineering Indicators publication includes this data and he expressed an interest in seeing this publication.
Ms. Cochran said one of the reasons science has not been an important part of their native community is that science has asked them to divorce themselves from their way of thinking. It is important to recognize native knowledge and native science. To get to a point of really training a community, we need to look at broadening science to include other ways of knowing, thinking, and believing. Native knowledge needs to be seen as relevant; for example, what their grandmother teaches them about border patterns in their parkas is science, math, etc. There are a few indigenous persons in college and universities now, but there are no real mentors for those students in any subjects that are of interest to them. We need to look at mentorships and internships that will keep their interest and mean something to them and give them a reason for being a scientist in their own community. She also suggested looking at programs like the American Indians in Science and Engineering (ASE) program for other partnerships.
Dr. Jackson noted there have been projects to explore biodiversity in Central America where there has been an enlistment of local people in an effort to catalog a large number of plants, etc. He asked if there have been any efforts like that. Ms. Cochran noted EPA is funding a project to catalog native knowledge local observations, which has involved the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska. There is information about it on the WEB site. Dr. Christensen noted there is a protocol for research in the Arctic that requires interaction with the community. More and more proposals are having seminars and workshops with people in the community. Ms. Cochran noted that a large Bering Sea workshop was held and the report is going to press. There is more to be done, but she will provide it to NSF and those in OAC interested in seeing it when it is completed. Dr. Christensen said he finds it difficult to see that funding goes to foreign students, but there isn't control over the student body at universities. Dr. Maryellen Cameron said that the stay rate for foreign nationals is about 50 percent so many stay and contribute in ways we would expect and hope. Dr. MacAyeal noted that at the University of Chicago, about 80 percent of applications to the graduate student department are from foreign nationals with no prior US education.
Dr. Jackson asked, why do we need to have graduate students? What purpose do they serve? Why train graduate students in the sciences? He thinks this is an issue that should be dealt with over a period of time to look at data and sample ideas. What should be the objectives and goals in training? We need to repopulate the university faculty. One of the goals of GPRA is cutting-edge research — we need researchers to do this. Is it adequate to say we will take what drifts by with regard to applications to graduate school, or should we be stimulating the process?
Dr. Peacock asked how does one break the vicious cycle of getting underrepresented groups into the system when they are underrepresented? We know there is a talent pool that is coming through in Geology, but how do we get them to the PI level where than can become mentors? In the Antarctic, it is intimidating to break in because of the logistics and fieldwork. He suggested hosting a workshop aimed at young people, underrepresented groups, women, and minorities, that addresses the issue of how to write a proposal, the dos and don'ts of getting it funded, and how to deal with logistical issues (to include PRSS staff, ASA staff, etc.). Stephanie Ship was asked to scope this out with a view of submitting a proposal to host a workshop for underrepresented to groups and to research how to make them aware of the workshop and get them to participate. Dr. Erb noted an experiment NSF tried several years ago with faculty members and students from institutions that were not top notch. There was a series of expectations that NSF was not able to meet because the institutions thought they would start getting grants. Dr. Green suggested that the first step is to encourage proposals from a diverse population. Ms. Cochran suggested involving community members, not just universities. In that way they would be going to the people that they trust to get the information.
Dr. Dionne said that the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program at NSF addresses many of the concerns raised. In IGERT, US citizen PhDs are supported but a recruitment and retention plan for minorities has to be addressed. It is a fairly successful program with 20 awards each year Dr. Dionne will get a list of IGERT awards from the first and second years. There still is a community perception that Polar Programs is an inbred community. Dr. Pyle acknowledged appreciation for Ms. Cochran's concerns, but asked for suggestions for "enforcement" in the area of people talking to the community, etc., and to get ideas on how to follow up if funded individuals are in contact with the communities. A way to facilitate that would surely be helpful.
Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)
Altie Metcalf, OPP, reviewed the GPRA background and schedule. GPRA's primary purpose is to "systematically hold Federal agencies accountable for achieving program results." NSF has five outcome goals. OPP focuses on the first three: discoveries, connections and diversity. There are three types of goals: research results, investment process, and management. All the performance reports will be aggregated into one NSF report. A mock report was done for FY1999. The first real report will be due March 2000. At the fall meeting of the OAC, they will be able to review the results of the data collected over the summer. The OAC will help validate the Performance Report. All the directorate reports are submitted to the office of the director in December and then the NSF report is submitted to Congress. The sources of data for the results are project reports (with grant #s), press releases, program reports (internal), studies/reports (NAS/NRC), and workshop studies/reports.
Questions posed for feedback were:
- What rating would you have provided for each of the three relevant outcome goals?
- Does the report provide enough useful information for evaluating OPP's performance? If not, what information would you suggest rating?
- If this process is repeated for FY 1999 (i.e., OPP prepares a performance report and the OAC assess the report and provides rating), what potential problems could arise?
- Given the performance goals, is there a better or more appropriate way to assess performance?
- Are the performance goals appropriate?
Dr. Pfirman asked if the OAC would see all the information that the report was pulled from, an audit trail back to the source of information. Dr. Albert noticed that some things she knew happened were not listed. The report is not intended to include everything, but it should cover or convey the total program such as the number of TEAs, etc. Ms. Metcalf requested written responses to each of the questions. Dr. Pfirman raised a concern that the draft included major highlights, but it does not indicate what else is out there. There should be help to identify missing gaps. It is up to the Directorate on what to put in. There are page limitations and requirements on what is to be covered. One suggestion was to make sure the report noted that these are "examples". Dr. Green suggested that it also might be important to list what the selection criteria are. He noted that selection is decided by the directorate and COV input. Dr. Prentice said it would help to have some synthesis of projects reported and what disciplinary areas they cover and how they relate to other disciplinary areas that NSF covers. The final report will be representative of what NSF has done, but can not include ALL that NSF has done. Criteria needs to be standardized so data from Directorates can be rolled into one report.
Dr. Jackson encouraged the group to refamiliarize themselves with the GPRA Performance Plan and ask how the format captures the elements that are important to the Foundation that can make impressions on how well NSF handled the money. Another issue raised was that the performance goals will change from year to year — NSF sees this as an evolving process. The Strategic Plan is in the process of being revised and the Year 2000 Performance Plan will probably reflect changes that go into the Strategic Plan. They will incorporate feedback into the process for next year. Dr. MacAyeal had a question on "successful" or "minimally effective" as rating criteria. The GPRA law permits that rating in the alternative approach which allows discussion of the impact of science. Dr. Jackson asked if there is room for quantitative input and the response was that there is. Dr. Prentice said it would help to have some statements as to what are the frontiers of science and what they are compared to. Also noted was there was so little on service to society. It is not one of OPP's main areas of emphasis — but they are open to comments on that. The document should distinguish between discoveries and paradigm shifts. Dr. Jackson suggested that all of the discussions on GRPA are important for GPRA reporting. Five points in that regard are:
- Leading the expansion of science base — are American scientists at the leading edge?
- Do American scientists lead at the frontiers of knowledge?
- Does the report capture the production of PhD scientists who are in the expenditure?
- Is there evidence of full participation by historically excluded and underrepresented people in the leading edge of science?
- Do the federal R&D dollars produce the adequate numbers of academic faculty?
Dr. Jackson noted that these should be elements addressed in the performance reports. These are factors noted in the Performance Plan and he sees these as quantitative measures that support discovery and impact on society and diverse workforce.
OPP Planning Issues — Part 2 NSF-Wide Activities
The Information Age: Information Technology in the Twenty-First Century (IT2)
Dr. MacAyeal led the topic on The Information Age: IT2. Dr. Bob Borchers, CISE, provided an overview of the IT2 program, the implementation plan for which came out of the PITAC report. It calls for a major investment in software. The request to Congress is for $336 M for this effort spread across six agencies. NSF is proposed to receive $146 M. PITAC also stressed the importance of funding high end computational capability and NSF is requesting $36M for that purpose. Another longer term objective is to try to increase the success rate of basic research programs in the information sciences for individual scientists. Additional goals are to invest in multi-investigator research (about one/third) and in Center types of research. Terascale research, in cooperation with DOE, will be funded out of CISE. Dr. Borchers said the overall thrusts are in fundamental research and applications technology.
Dr. MacAyeal asked what role OPP might play in the IT2 initiative. Dr. Erb noted that there are several direct connections: one is that the teraflops machines will be available to anyone who has an appropriate use for that machine. Proposals will be reviewed for the merit of the research. This will improve the infrastructure for computation. In subsequent years, the program will evolve to support applications. Funds this year will be administered by CISE. Dr. Borchers noted that one area of importance to researchers is getting high-bandwidth wireless connections. Dr. Pfirman remarked that telemedicine was one area that would be important to the Arctic. She is aware that at the beginning this type of investment is needed in CISE, but then it should branch out to applications in other areas. Dr. Borchers responded that in IT, applications in many areas are very easy to see. The big companies have gotten away from doing fundamental research, but are profit driven.
Dr. Erb asked for clarification on research in high bandwidth communications. Dr. Borchers said he would like to have standards so everyone uses the same algorithms. Dr. Borchers said most of the research would be done with academia — with industry involved later when it is ready for market. Most of fundamental research is only being done in academic institutions. Dr. MacAyeal noted an example where one tool developed in support of NSF research was NCSA MOSAIC, which was bought by Microsoft. There has been a huge payoff for what has been a relatively minor investment over the decades. Dr. Borchers added that PITAC noted the huge need for software, but that there currently was no mechanism for development. Dr. MacAyeal asked for specific ideas or recommendations for OPP in relation to the IT2 initiative. Dr. Erb noted that OPP investigations don't have adequate electronic access to remote research sites. Also, more R&D is needed in areas like robotics and OPP will try to explore with CISE ways the two programs can work together. Dr. MacAyeal thanked Dr. Borchers for the discussion.
21st Century Workforce
Dr. Erb provided a broad overview of the 21st Century Workforce issue. NSF has been thinking about what role it should play in education, at all levels. Should NSF be educating more broadly — focusing on community colleges, etc.? Should it be doing more to prepare the workforce for the 21st Century? The lead for this effort is in EHR. Should NSF try to mount a major initiative in this area? Can we justify going after new funds on the order of $50 M for this purpose? Ms. Cochran shared an email from Dr. Norman Fortenberry and suggested that workforce issues for discussion should include:
- Science of Learning — research program on science of cognitive learning
- Instructional Workforce
- Diversifying the Workforce — information access and infrastructure.
- Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative — products which sponsored a booklet, Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools, the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, and Guidelines for Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers for Alaska's Schools.
Dr. Pfirman started with the issue of the Science of Learning, commenting that we need to work more closely with social scientists. Psychologists have much to offer in this area.
Dr. Jackson commented that it has long been known that there are multiple ways of learning, yet we focus on only one type of testing. He would encourage the concept of timeless testing which would require a wholesale redesign of tests. Another consideration is how much will the emphasis on mathematics expand. Should we increase exposure to a whole group of people who don't want to major in mathematics? Perhaps two hours a week of mathematics education for several years can enhance literacy to a point where it can expand itself. He asked if these kinds of issues could be addressed in looking at the 21st Century Workforce. Dr. Manahan noted that there is a perception in the community that the education side of NSF is separate from the science side but he knows lots of scientists who would like to take some of those chances in Education. Dr. Erb said it has been difficult to build that bridge, but there have been scientists in the Arctic and Antarctic programs that have developed a good collaboration with EHR. Dr. Jackson noted that supplements are available for education support ($50K) in Elementary and Secondary education, through EHR. Perhaps this can be extended to the undergraduate and graduate level. He said it is difficult to get funding because the education and research directorates have very different languages. EHR has a series of requirements for one of the supplemental awards, which takes a lot of time to understand and to communicate to the PI. Dr. Albert noted that a lot of information is available on the WEB and on computers. The students that have access are thriving, but teachers don't know how to use it. We need to bring teachers on line.
Dr. Erb noted that one part of the initiative was to involve graduate students in K-12 education and he asked for the OAC reaction to this. Dr. Korsmo explained that the initiative is for putting graduate students into K-12 classes to provide support to teachers and introduce them to cognitive processes that happen at the K-12 level. From the response, there appears to be students and teachers interested in this. Dr. MacAyeal raised the point that a young person just out of college can more easily identify with graduate students than an "older" researcher. Dr. Jackson commented on a program at Michigan State where graduate students can obtain some certification for teaching by getting exposure to teachers en route to getting their graduate degree. At Copen State in Baltimore, they have taken on the responsibility of supporting teachers in local schools to help them educate kids better, without any outside funding.
Dr. Pyle asked how this program could be used in Alaska where there may not be local graduate students. Ms. Cochran responded that the elders could help. Dr. Fortenberry noted that the current program announcement should encourage the involvement of local resources — museums, science centers, etc. and in an area where local elders would be important, this is within the guidelines of the program. Part of the hope is that this catalyzes and recognizes communities that have already been involved in these activities and provide support and recognition for this activity. Dr. Manahan cautioned that as director of a graduate program, in his experience, students already feel overworked and underpaid, and therefore, this program will be difficult to implement. They get tremendous reinforcement for teaching, but if they do it very well, it is at the expense of their research. Dr. Fortenberry responded that NSF has a program for Post Docs to explore further what they want to do in undergraduate or K-12 education. There is an opportunity to leverage interest among students in the process.
Dr. Erb suggested a discussion of the diversification of the workforce. Dr. Fortenberry said in regard to Information Access and Infrastructure, with a more digital environment the faculty can interact with other faculty, students with students, large datasets, etc. A national digital "library" would have powerful implications for education and the opportunities for research and education are enormous. Networking Connections is a second issue and is key for leveraging centers to enhance connections to students and faculties within minority institutions. There should be innovative approaches to provide access to underrepresented groups. He suggested an EPSCOR-like activity to find researchers in under served institutions and to encourage them to apply for research support, as well as to offer co-funding to take care of some of the concerns of program managers.
Dr. Pfirman commented that it is one thing to create resources and materials, but another to get people to use them. She asked if EHR has thought through the implementation aspect of this. Dr. Fortenberry noted they have a program called adaptation and implementation. It provides a one-to-one match.
Dr. Erb asked whether in the context of minority-serving institutions, as part of this initiative, is there an implementation problem? Many of these institutions don't have access to the Internet, etc. Dr. Fortenberry responded that a large number of institutions do have a robust connection to the Internet. K-12 schools are different but proposals also have a component for teacher training which is being addressed with other programs in EHR for preparation of teachers.
Dr. Manahan commented that in relation to Polar issues— ow do you get kids out from behind the computer screen? In looking at polar science, there is difficulty in getting them involved because they want hands-on active experience. Dr. Fortenberry noted that the Education Centers, as part of their activity, include linkages to other institutions and there is a flow of faculty and students to other institutions. Also, staring at a computer screen can provide some simulated hands-on activity, such as the remote operation of a microscope through the Internet. The GLOBE project has students from all over the world collecting meteorological data. Seeing information that students collected used by professionals in the field adds a level of excitement.
The first US-hosted meeting of the Arctic Council was held. Maryellen Cameron provided an update on NSF activities in this area. She also provided an overview of the Arctic Council and said it is supported by voluntary Agency contributions. The emphases for the Arctic Council activities are environmental protection, sustainable development, and public awareness and outreach. There is an unprecedented opportunity to link scientific activities in the Arctic. The five working groups were listed. The sustainable development working group met for the first two days of the four-day conference. Projects that have already been approved are improving the health and well-being of Arctic children and youth, managing regional fisheries, assessing prospects for expanded use of telemedicine on a circumpolar basis, promoting cultural and eco-tourism, and improving rural sanitation systems. All eight Arctic nations gave comments on what they thought were high priorities. Common themes were human health issues, etc. The US stated its priorities for sustainable development. Other areas of potential cooperation were listed. The first initiative for telemedicine in Alaska was in 1973. There are 19 projects in the State at present, but the feeling is that most don't work. The corrections department and the US military have two programs that appeared to work. Dr. Cameron shared specifics about some of the issues related to telemedicine that were discussed, as an example of the range of the discussion for the sustainability issues. The second two days of the meetings focused on science issues. Several publications have been put together by the various working groups. Work is also being done on national implementation plans in each country with a focus on basic research. The group also coordinates workshops. Another issue discussed at the meeting was the Arctic Council Action Plan that provides a framework for cleanup procedures and pollution prevention. The next issue is the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. A draft was presented at the meeting and the Senior Arctic officials (A US Department of State official is the US SAO) requested a more detailed work plan for presentation at the September meeting. Other topics included education outreach, and presentations from various groups like NSF, Arctic Native Science Commission, etc.
Ms. Cochran added that there is an active Alaska working group. The group meets every month with representatives from the State, US Department of State, etc. It serves as point of contact for the Children and Youth Initiative. They presented information on local observations and contaminants issues. One WEB site is up on contaminants and subsistence foods. It also tells some of the cultural experience of the communities involved and nutritional benefits of some of the foods these communities eat. They are working on a second WEB site on traditional knowledge and a radionuclides project. They meet with communities throughout five regions of the State and map where incidents are occurring, and enter information in a database. They are also trying to gather information from the people in the Russian Far East as well, and expect to have the WEB site up in the next 2-3 months.
The Fall meeting of the Arctic Council will be held on November 15-16 at the US Department of State. Dr. Pfirman noted that the report sounds more upbeat than those from previous meetings did. Ms. Cochran noted that the US Department of State went out of their way to have groups represented. There is a realization that science is forming the basis for a lot of what is being done. In response to a question about whether the integration of activities with the broader research community is taking place, Ms. Cochran answered in the negative, but said it is moving in the right direction. NSF was not involved until about a year ago and it needs to stay engaged. These meetings are also not opened to the public. She thinks this policy should be reviewed to see if they could open it up. Dr. Pfirman noted that the concept of working groups is the best way to get input but asked if there is a way to get more science into the working groups. How do we get more active scientists involved in this process? There is an Arctic Council WEB site. Dr. Manahan noted that part of the concern about getting scientists involved is because in the community there has been an explosion of councils, particularly in the Arctic. When one forum doesn't work, a new forum is established. Mr. Myers noted that the Arctic Council is an outgrowth of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. Dr. Pyle noted that this is a political organization and not a science group. Science is saying we should have a chair at the table, but it is a State Department-driven, politically international organization. Ms. Cochran noted that the working groups are open to having outside members and are open to data as well. Dr. Manahan asked if there is anything the Polar Research Board could do to get some leadership to help strengthen their support. Perhaps IARPC is a way to do this or maybe there is a role for them. Mr. Myers noted that each of these organizations was formed for a specific purpose and was established, not to compete, but to provide information to a certain population. Dr. Erb added that he sees an opportunity, through the working groups, to participate, and that NSF is doing so.
NSF- NSB Task Force on International Issues in Science and Engineering
Dr. Erb noted that the NSB Task Force on International Issues was formed recently and will report back to the board about a year from now. Science is viewed as important for developing nations. There is a growing recognition that science and technology are the drivers that will enable underdeveloped countries to develop their economics.
There will be a series of open hearings, with the first one on July 30 in Washington. It will focus on US perspectives, with presentations from the State Department and other agencies that support international research partnerships. In September there will be another workshop with a focus on non-governmental perspectives (industry, professional societies, Foundations, etc.). The third session, scheduled for October 29, will focus on foreign perspectives that would involve officials from other governments. It is anticipated that they will not all be from developed countries and they will also form development organizations such as the World Bank.
Some of the issues under discussions are: 1. Do we need to move beyond scientist-to-scientist collaborations? 2. Should there be multi-lateral arrangements? 3. Underlying much of this is, what is the role of those partnerships and collaborations in generating economic development?
Dr. Pfirman questioned the role of the State Department. In the past, often they had individuals with scientific backgrounds that negotiated international agreements, but they now are moving away from that. There are very few trained scientists in the State Department. She is certain that there will be a call for more science expertise in the State Department. While this can be helpful, she asked if we should totally rely on the State Department in these efforts. She sees the State Department more in a sign-off role, rather than a brokerage role. Dr. Pfirman added that what is needed is having scientists and students study abroad, etc. — a transfer of mass. In the past there were funds for this kind of experience. Dr. Erb noted that the INT Directorate is interested in funding exchange activities. However, one concern among young scientists was losing contacts that are critical to their career after spending a few years abroad. Dr. Erb said that students and Post Docs working in forefront facilities did not have this problem. INT is helpful in supplementing new exchanges and has also helped negotiate a number of MOUs.
A question was raised about whether there is legislation that would be helpful in promoting international science. There are issues about eliminating tariffs on scientific equipment, issues related to foreign nationals on military ships, etc. In the Arctic, one of the biggest issues is access to restricted areas in other nations.
Discussion with Rita Colwell, Director, NSF
Dr. Pfirman welcomed Dr. Colwell. Dr. Colwell commented on the outstanding work of researchers in both Polar regions. She is counting on OAC for input with respect to GPRA, the performance measures, and the subsequent evaluations. She is also interested in input on the kinds of research they should be doing, but can't do because the funding is not there. With the budgets for mission agencies around $15 B, the NSF $4 budget for basic research is not sufficient. She thinks the message can best be made in terms of what we need to be doing and what we are not able to do and what this means for the Nation's future. The polar region's laboratory is fundamental in many research areas. We need to know from the OAC what the unmet needs are. Since she recently took part in an Arctic submarine scientific voyage, she has a deeper appreciation for what can be achieved. There also are human challenges — research in this area is critical. She encourages collaboration with NIH. She sees very interesting kinds of things to be done in the Arctic and justification for an expanded program. NSF has set priorities such as Information Technology, which is a priority because it cuts across all science and engineering. It will clearly benefit those working in the Polar Regions. There is also the capacity for virtual laboratories, etc. We are reaching a point where equipment can be operated remotely through IT. Dr. Colwell noted the change in the way we do things and emphasized that the $110 M in IT funding is not just for CISE but for all at NSF. If there are ideas for new software applications in doing research, polar scientists should inform their computer science co-workers. Another priority is Biocomplexity. There is a major role for Polar Region research in this area. NSF had requested $180 M from OMB, and got $50 M. This year she expects a $200 M annual budget priority for a minimum of five years and funds are open to all scientists and engineers. Another initiative is science education. She sees no future if we don't educate all of our citizens and our children and the public in science and engineering. It is a crosscutting priority for every directorate. It is important the OAC describes some of the objectives they want to see carried out. There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm about what is being done in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Dr. Pfirman asked Dr. Colwell what would be helpful to get from OAC with regard to Biocomplexity. Also, in regard to the NSB Environmental Task Force will OPP be asked to review the report and respond with ways they would like to see them implemented? Dr. Colwell said the report will be out in July. OACs will be asked for input with respect to implementation.
Dr. Colwell reiterated the role of new Task Force on International Science and said that ideas for input to that committee should be provided now. Both groups deal with a number of countries and experience and recommendations will be very helpful.
The Biocomplexity initiative for FY 2000 will be expanded beyond microorganisms. NSF needs input for FY 2001 and for five-year budgeting plans. NSF has been asked by several members of Congress to describe where it sees NSF in the 21st Century. Dr. Manahan commented on Biocomplexity in Polar Regions and discussed the building of the CRARY lab and how it revolutionized what could be done in Antarctica. A second phase might be getting it functional to do genomics and cost analyses. Dr. Colwell noted that NSF is redefining the concept of Major Research and Equipment. The definition of a platform is changing. What needs to happen at the CRARY lab is that it should be tied with information technology so that work can be done on an ongoing basis — not just tied to a specific project. Research could be interactive with researchers in the US. We need to be getting our next generation of kids down there too. There might be way to reward school kids who do well by providing them an opportunity to go.
Dr. Prentice asked, how well is the message getting to Congress of the need for polar research? Dr. Colwell responded that she would describe it, as being research we have to do to understand how the planet works. We must tell Congress what we are doing in the Polar Regions, and how it improves our understanding of global cycles, phenomena, etc. She thinks Congress recognizes the value of science: economists say 70 percent of our economic growth is due to technological sciences. Some of that is due to investments we made 20 years ago. She thinks Congress understands that, but needs help to understand future possibilities. They don't quite understand that today's Nobel prize winners were the product of NSF investments 20-30 years ago. We have to invest today for 20 years from now.
Dr. Pfirman raised the issue of a need for program officers to go to workshops, travel and take sabbaticals. Dr. Colwell said she has a request to be able to use program funds for travel in this year's request. Five percent of the budget is supposed to be for risky research, but how can you make a risky investment sensibly if you don't know people that are out there doing research?
Dr. Jackson commented on core science support and on the issues of who we educate, and what do we train them to do. Dr. Colwell responded that in the FY 2001 budget there are funds for strengthening the directorates. In response to who are we educating, she said we better be educating everyone to be flexible and permanently re-educable. Current graduates are predicted to change jobs seven times in their career. We need to make sure all of the US population has the opportunity for science, mathematics and engineering education. They are looking at several ways of doing this, through Learning Centers and graduate education fellowships. They received 167 pre-proposals for the graduate education fellowship. Learning Centers are geared to learning more about how kids learn, not just on teaching and on modalities of learning. NSF has begun teaming with NIH to address the idea of Learning Centers. Dr. Jackson asked how this related to GPRA. Dr. Colwell said she is concerned that GPRA will be used as a blunt instrument rather than as a management tool.
Dr. Pfirman asked Dr. Colwell a question about the role of IARPC and what she sees as the goals of this group? A report from 10 years ago asked for a bio-polar program. In looking at global circulation there are common threads and it would be great to pull these together and have a good partnership going. She sees the IARPC building on the strength of human dimension and other aspects; there is a need to develop an integrated program in research.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:52 p.m.
The meeting reconvened at 8:32 a.m. Dr. Erb introduced Dr. Frank Harris, the chair of the BIO AC, who will be joining the morning discussions.
Integrating Research and Education in OPP
Dr. Prentice introduced the topic and listed questions to be addressed related to increasing the instructional workforce and diversifying education. There is $2.2 M in FY 2000 for educating students. The programs that NSF supports are:
- Education Research
- Model Institutions for Excellence
- Alaska State Wide Satellite Program
- Teachers in the Arctic and Antarctic
- Live form Antarctica
- Artists and Writers Program
- Antarctica Molecular Biology Course.
He asked the following questions:
- How does OPP attract and engage PIs to activities that will develop the instructional workforce?
- How could we scale up polar related activities for K-12 teachers/ pros and cons?
- How can we encourage teaching in an interdisciplinary context?
- How can we motivate graduate students to be interested in K12 teaching?
The key questions he posed about diversifying are:
- What datasets or research process or instrumentation lends themselves to incorporation into curricula that could be operated remotely by students?
- What particular research educational endeavors could be advanced among polar researchers and communities?
- Would co-funding of an ESPCOR style increase competitiveness for minority serving institutions?
Dr. Fae Korsmo described several programs such as Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic (TEA). The program has been extremely successful in bringing high school teachers (and in the past, students) into the Polar Regions. She also discussed an OPP project to connect remote villages in Alaska (50-100 people) to distance education opportunities through the University of Alaska. Advice was requested on how to implement these sorts of activities in the future. The Toolik Lake LTER will soon be connected so researchers can interact with students in very small remote villages. What is the best way to follow up on the Alaska rural systemic initiative? There is also an informal science education program so if PIs have an idea for a separate grant in informal science education, they should talk to EHR. Finally, the HARC initiative includes an education and outreach component which is required in the proposal.
Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic (TEA)
Mr. Guy Guthridge provided a more detailed overview of the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic (TEA) program. At a past COV review, OPP had 30 education activities, of which OPP was funding about $1 M with $2 M from EHR and another $2 M from other sources for a total of $5 M. Goals for TEA are to bring the teacher to the research. Typically, the teacher spends about 10 days at the home institution of the PI, then participates in polar research for one month, and then the PI does a follow-up visit to the teacher's institution. Teachers have responsibilities for participating in the program that includes at least 6 talks to the public, and mentoring about 100 peers each over a 3-year period, etc.
This year, there will be 3 teachers in the Arctic and 8 in the Antarctic. The estimate of costs is about $11,000 per teacher for the Antarctic and about $14,000 for the Arctic. With regard to researcher participation in the Antarctic, out of a total of 125 PIs going into the field, 18 volunteered to host a TEA teacher. A new idea is TEA ICE (Involving Classrooms Electronically).
Dr. Jackson asked what types of things they do in the classroom when the teacher returns. Mr. Guthridge responded that they typically build learning units, using their experience to illustrate or exemplify the excitement of science. Dr. Albert shared an experience she had with a teacher from Montana. Upon her return, she related basic concepts of science to the Polar Regions (heat transfer, etc.). She said there is more potential for interactions like that. Dr. Scott Borg noted the GLACIER program on the WEB, which is a middle-school curriculum. Dr. Polly Penhale shared an experiment of a TEA graduate that found a follow-up project. Many ASA employees were writing letters/email to students, but did not have training on the best way to effectively communicate with the local community schools. Dr. Jackson suggested that the microbial work at either Pole could broaden those opportunities for classroom students' experiences in hands-on science. Kids can even be involved in the discovery of what's there. In some school districts, there is an extremely tight budget for science education. One consideration might be a small amount of money to put equipment in the classroom to facilitate this participation. Dr. Korsmo added that they have, in the past, used some of the funding to purchase equipment so the classroom could participate.
The TEA program is flexible. This year, they have asked the PIs to nominate teachers so there is an established partnership. Dr. Albert supported that idea. Since she's far from her teacher in Montana, close proximity would encourage continual interaction. Another teacher, involved in an archeological dig in the Arctic, has formed a relationship between his high school in upstate NY with Barrow High School and has also spoken in several Alaskan schools about this project. They also help in the analysis of data. In Alaska, one problem is connectivity; it is more difficult to send back daily journals, etc. The connectivity projects in rural Alaska will help. There is also a smart classroom in Fairbanks that is being set up. Ms. Cochran noted that in the Derring program (archeological dig), there were concerns from the community involved and asked how it was dealt with. Dr. Korsmo responded that there are many sensitivities to researchers coming into a community. The Derring program works because the researchers sat down and listened to the community needs. It became an issue because the groundwork was not laid initially, so they had to go back and do that, and then it ran smoother.
The Connectivity Project—with 170 encoders in the villages—allows access to the satellite broadcast at a cost of about $.5 M. In most of these small villages, there are correspondence courses. Pat Smith suggested that since there is not a lot of established structure with the local phone companies, another agency such as the National Telecommunications Administration, which is part of the Department of Commerce might be worth pursuing for co-funding. There are also political issues i.e., many of the telephone companies are locally owned and the project provides satellite transmissions of courses and researchers to very remote communities.
Life Science Course in McMurdo
Dr. Manahan, University of Southern California described the Life Science course offered at McMurdo. Graduate training in Science is now more complex in that it is multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary, and involves integrative thinking. Dr. Manahan shared an example from his field, marine biology, which now requires several different levels of biological analysis, plus environmental chemistry and physics. The result is that very complicated training is needed. Various levels of analysis include molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, ecology, and evolution — often involving faculty and students from separate departments within the university. In the Antarctic course, they are trying to span the levels and areas in an effort to teach teamwork and integrative thinking. The course focuses on "Integrative Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Marine Organisms" and was offered at the CRARY lab at McMurdo, in 1994, 1995, and 1996 and will resume in 1999, 2000, and 2001. Until the present there have been:
- 89 personnel, (65 students, 14 instructors/lecturers, and 10 teaching assistants)
- 62 universities and 17 countries have participated with 59 universities from the US, 5 from Canada, 3 from 5 countries and 1 from 10 countries. Every year they have a mix of international students, and different skill levels. He sees differences in approaches. They have 24 students this year and anticipate up to 40 participants per season. The NSF funds it. He would like to make it scholarship-driven to make it affordable. Travel is covered through OPP. There is a ratio of about 3 students per instructor.
The theme is biodiversity—the course covers a broad range of topics.
- Photobiology/IV Module
- Physiology (invertebrates)
- Biochemical Adaptation (mainly fish).
Dr. Manahan commented that he is often asked, "Why take the time and money to go to Antarctica for a course?" Another question is "How to better teach integrative biology?" He shared quotes that indicated that the course participants gained a more global view of the life systems than they otherwise would. There are problems still with communications between molecular biology and ecology and he thinks to resolve this, courses like NIH would be helpful. A new PI-level Investigators program in Antarctic Research is a goal. It's still early in the process, but he thinks that in the future, Polar Regions will be part of what they teach. He concluded that graduate training in teaching integrative science is hard, but it is possible. The challenge ahead is for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary training in other areas. There is still a question about undergraduates: what is the best approach for training them in these areas?
Dr. Manahan said in the McMurdo course there are 2-3 students per instructor with 2 faculty and 6 TAs. That's what is required for a hands-on approach. It is a 7-days a week program. There is also a potential safety issue and by using experienced instructors, there has not been a single accident on the ice. Dr. Manahan was asked "if students publish any of their research?" Dr. Manahan responded that they have used pieces of it as parts, of other papers and he has seen quite a bit of the information published. Dr. Christensen asked if any of the NSF programs link up with the Department of Education? Dr. Erb responded that there is a very significant partnership with NSF and DOE. Dr. Peacock noted that the biology course did cause a fair amount of competition for space in the CRARY lab, and there have been some issues with PIs who have had to compete for space.
Dr. Pfirman asked about a parallel program for doing a similar program in the Arctic. Dr. Manahan responded that he thought this is a great idea. Challenges would be "working from a tent", but similar programs could be implemented. The challenge is finding someone to take the course on. Faculty members are not working through their universities but are doing an extra job.
Dr. Peacock noted that they visited a high-latitude lab at Bisbow, Sweden, which seemed to be very underutilized. Perhaps NSF could think about partnering. Dr. Pyle noted they are talking to Norway about this (at the University of Svalbard).
Dr. Frank Harris, Chair, BIO AC, noted that the BIO Directorate came up with the idea of undergraduate IGERT to involve undergraduates in an educational environment. The national labs have a program that is close to this in which they bring in students. Dr. Prentice noted the Juneau research program works well at an undergraduate level and would be quite productive in the Antarctic. In Geology, it is common for undergraduates to spend a few months in field camp in their junior year. There are a few programs like that, such as the NSF center at Michigan State, Woods Hole, etc. but only three to four, when there should be a dozen. Dr. Erb noted that everyone is struggling with the concept of a multi-disciplinary approach. OPP has traditionally been non-disciplinary, and therefore is a good candidate to lead the way. Dr. Prentice said that New Zealand and Australia are offering programs in such courses and asked if there is any collaboration with them.
Dr. Pfirman reviewed the topics and provided an update of events prior to and since the last meeting related to NSF's role in environmental initiatives. NSF and NSB established a joint Task Force on the Environment to review the role NSF should play in environmental issues. In July, the Task Force report will be completed.
There are three proposal solicitation deadlines: Biocomplexity, Arctic contamination, and Arctic Environmental Observatories. There is concern that there is a lot going on and we want to make sure that Polar PIs are not excluded from these larger initiatives.
Biocomplexity in the Environment
Linda Duguay, OPP representative to the Biocomplexity Working Group, provided a review of the NSF-wide initiative on Biocomplexity in the Environment. Biocomplexity is looking across biological scales from the atomic components of the cell, to the organism, to the planet. The FY 2000 funding is $50 M, but there is a small competition in FY 1999 with a limited focus on microbial systems. There were 113 pre-proposals submitted, 6 were related to polar research, but for various reasons, these proposals were not invited back. Attributes of the "better" proposals were important systems, original topic with creative approaches, multidisciplinary, and integrative across scales and modeling. She anticipates for the next 5 years, biocomplexity will be a focus, and is viewed as a $200 M budget item for the next five years. In the current fiscal year, a significant portion of OPP funding goes to projects that could be considered biocomplexity related. Phase II, $50 M initiative is still evolving and there is time for input.
Biocomplexity will be a cross-cutting program that builds on scientific research being conducted in the disciplinary areas and the new developments in IT, to integrate from molecular-genomic systems science through the global climate system with feedbacks to the health of society and the planet. Topics under discussion include non-linear dynamics of systems; investigation of emergent phenomena of systems; and interactions across scales (temporal, spatial and hierarchical). The implementation approaches might include a single program announcement, component programs, and various incubator projects (workshops, conferences, and synthesis programs). Dr. Duguay identified some specific polar research topics relevant to biocomplexity such as Lake Vostok, thawing permafrost, ocean-atmosphere interactions, ocean-sea ice interactions and feedbacks, and POLYNA systems. Dr. Harris commented that the BIO AC struggled with defining biocomplexity and with the issue of bringing disciplines together and concluded that incubator funds would be needed. Some groups, like polar scientists, might be used to working in groups, but this is not typical for all scientists. It involves framing scientific questions differently and looking at model hypothesis and large systems and asking how the model responds to various changes.
He recommended an article in the April 2, 1999 Issue of Science on complex science, as one OAC members might familiarize themselves with. Research in the past has been more one of integrating within a discipline. We now must move toward integration between disciplines and within disciplines.
Questions and comments were:
- What is the future scope of the biocomplexity and environment? Is the scope for FY 2000 on track?
- What is the relationship to other programs/terminology? (LEE, LexEn, OPP).
- What is the desirable award size—large centers? other models?
- Would the awards be housed in BIO?
Dr. Pyle asked if defining the program too specifically might restrict unduly. Dr. Duguay responded that the working group is struggling with how to control the flood of proposals. Dr. Jackson asked a number of related questions: One may capture great topics in year one, then what happens in year two? Do you switch to a new area? There is a potential of generating lots more information. How much emphasis is there on interpretation and modeling of these systems? Dr. Erb welcomed the questions, as helping to define the issues. Dr. Prentice noted the use of a "SGER (Small Grants for Exploration Research) approach" to provide seed money to get preliminary data. Dr. Duguay noted this would be an incubator program. Dr. Jackson asked how much discussion there has been on the kinds of datasets that would be generated from these kinds of studies. Dr. Duguay responded that this has not been a focus of discussions but should be. Dr. Colwell said the MRE account should go beyond physical facilities to include large information storage and retrieval systems.
Dr. Dionne noted that Arctic contamination has been a topic of discussion by the OAC for several years. A workshop was held on Arctic Contaminants; one topic was chemical cycling and contaminants. In the Arctic, there is a natural cycling of chemical components where processes are not the same as they are in other parts of the world. Contaminant sources within and outside the Arctic, such as PCBs, pesticides, and heavy metals, DMS (dimethylsulfide), etc. have affected systems of many animals. We know that contaminant trends are complex. There are different input functions, sources, pathways and transformation and sequestration patterns. OPP initiated a contaminants solicitation with $2 M from the NSF Opportunity Fund and an additional $1.5 M from OPP and directorates. The announcement was put out in early March 1999. Fifty-six proposals were received, a number of them from new investigators and new institutions.
Dr. Pfirman posed the following questions:
- What did we learn from this test case (range of people interested in this program)?
- Prospect for the future (will it be included in future budgets and announcements, and what is the relationship to other NSF initiatives)?
- What is the relationship to other national and international activities, Arctic Council, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and will it be part of a US implementation plan?
- What are the cross-cutting interests with other parts of the Foundation?
Dr. Cameron addressed questions about Arctic Council connections, stating that these involve a range of activities. The contaminants opportunity is one the community had been interested in for years. Dr. Pyle added that he does not look at what we are doing as part of a US implementation plan — it will continue to be supported and imbedded in ongoing activities. He feels strongly that other agencies should be helping to support this program. Within Arctic sciences, partnering exists with other NSF directorates and that will continue. Ms. Cochran noted that the Alaska Native Science Commission is involved because contamination is a very big concern in the communities. There is great concern about what that means to the community. It is not enough to know that the animals are contaminated, but they need to know what that means to health, lands, and waters. This should be stressed as a critical part of this research. Dr. Christensen added that there was concern that they would receive proposals from PIs that did research in other agencies that were no longer supporting the Arctic (like EPA and NIEHS). He asked why aren't they supporting this as well and asked if they have they been approached. The response was that they have been approached through IARPC and the Arctic Council but their support has been way down. They are willing to make contributions of human resources. Ms. Cochran noted that EPA is funding two of the projects that they are doing. Dr. Manahan said that the PRB asks why these agencies are pulling out and doesn't understand why NIH and others aren't getting involved.
A question was asked whether language about this issue will be in the next ANS program announcement. Dr. Erb noted that it is too early to say. Mr. Myers added that NIH is working with NSF on jointly funding an activity. Dr. Jackson asked what is the final statement of NSF on a National Institute of the Environment, leading to discussion of the next agenda item.
NSB Task Force on the Environment
Penny Firth, Executive Secretary, NSB Task Force on the Environment, noted that the information about the Task Force can be found on their WEB site, accessed from the NSF home page. She reviewed the charter for the Task Force. The Task Force began meeting in November 1998. It reviewed existing research and documents and developed a list of about 200 references. A variety deal with Polar Regions. The Task Force requested input from the public and several hundred responses were received. In addition, several people were invited to address the Task Force. The Task Force also held three public events, with a variety of speakers and discussants. A draft report will go to the full board for approval at the July meeting.
Dr. Pfirman asked if the analysis would include the role of NSF and other potential partners. Dr. Firth responded in the affirmative. Dr. Pfirman shared a copy of recommendations made by the AMAP program and said it would be an interesting exercise to match up this list with what NSF could do and what other agencies could do. There was also concern expressed that the Task Force will have a strong biological focus but Dr. Firth said the Task Force was not focused on any one area. The report will make recommendations about the level of investment that will be needed. NSF will then respond to the report to see how they fit in. OSTP has been involved in the process and has requested a briefing prior to the release of the report.
Dr. Jackson infers that the position of the board is that there is no need for a NIE; it can be done in-house with interagency collaboration. Dr. Firth predicted that the strategies that will appear will reflect compromise; no one management approach was recommended. A question was raised about whether there is a lot of interest on the part of other agencies and Dr. Firth responded that EPA, USGS, and others are interested. Dr. Erb asked for comments on what role OPP should have in environmental research. One way to think about it is to identify research activities where the Polar Regions are important and not worry too much where the funding will come from, but what needs to be done.
Dr. Harris added that the ACs tends to come together twice a year and hear and react but biocomplexity needs more of a leadership position. He suggested the idea of creating some longer-term activities which don't look from solicitation to solicitation, but are longer term. This will require more time of the AC to be involved in these strategic activities throughout the year.
GPRA scoring on FY 1998 GPRA Mock Performance Report
Members noted that the report did not bring out the best elements. NSF is successful, but some areas are not addressed in the report. There are monitoring activities, etc. that inform policy decisions that should be included. A point was made that the reports that are completed on Fast Lane do not contain the information needed. The questions in project reports don't explain how important the responses are. That makes it harder for OPP to do the assessment.
The AC assigned ratings were:
Page 1: For all first 2 goals successful.
Page 4: Successful—appropriate level of detail and use of references is good.
Page 10: Connections between Discoveries and Service to Society—Successful.
Page 11: Diverse, Globally-Oriented Science and Engineering Workforce—see following discussion:
One member stated that the results could not be characterized as successful. He said, there is a strong global orientation, but it is not diverse enough to get at all populations. If it is viewed as successful, then there is no more work to do. The questions are: At what rate are we moving towards achieving this target of an overall goal? What is the target/objectives and rate to expect to achieve this? Dr. Pyle said there are actual results to see. There were several comments that there is difference between what they reported vs. what is in report. Dr. Erb noted that written feedback on what materials OAC would want to see in the Fall for the FY1999 Performance Report would be useful. It is important to look at goals for the Foundation and apply them to local goals comparing OPP's goals in line with the Foundation and then set up a timetable for measuring progress in achieving those goals. That would create a benchmark, a metric for seeing how performance measures against those goals. If there is an established internal goal, then everyone is expected to move toward it. Without those expectations, things may or may not happen.
Members commented that because the writeup does not identify all the OPP activities in this areas, OPP won't get credit for all the things they do. There is no description, for example, of the number of TEAs, the number of REU students, etc. The write-up should also include assistance that is provided along with research programs. More numbers are needed to demonstrate the breadth of their programs and numbers of people involved.
Ms. Cochran commented that OPP has really made long strides, from the Native Alaskan perspective. There is a long way to go but they are starting to address issues that had not been dealt with before. Dr. Erb suggested that the OAC could assign one or two people to work with OPP to follow up on and attempt to resolve this issue. The diversity report should include the fact that there is a strong representation of female Program Officers in OPP.
The discussion continued and many questions were raised such as:
- Did the report provide enough information on OPP's performance? The response was in the negative. It was suggested that contractor performance should be included.
- If this process is repeated for FY 1999 what potential problems could arise? It was suggested that it would be useful to have a few OAC members work with OPP in developing the self-assessment. Dr. Prentice and Dr. Albert's were asked to work with OPP in doing the assessment over the summer.
- Given the performance goals, is there a better or more appropriate way to assess performance? Here too, getting more information from contractors was suggested. Internal goals would speak to issues of how performance is assessed. The fundamental weakness in the report is that there are not some measures to relate to this. A suggestion was made to put the goals in a global context where there is a connection to society. They need to be written for a more general audience — a global audience.
- Are the performance goals appropriate? It was suggested that the fourth goal, (improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans) might also be included for OPP. They agreed that the top three are most appropriate for OPP. In Goal One, they thought the word "minimally" should not be there, "effective", by itself, would be better. They also suggested getting rid of "steady stream" and instead state "there are outputs". There were no comments for Goal Two. For Goal Three, it says participation "increases" — but then rated as "minimally effective".
- Some felt that there was ambiguity in the standard definitions. If one is "minimally effective", perhaps there is not enough funding. If one is "successful" is there too much? What metrics would be used — what is the measurable data? What is the workforce now? Also, to be considered are diversity of grants or of educational levels, diversity of backgrounds of students, etc. We need to educate the community about this and how to capture the appropriate data.
It was noted that it is difficult to determine measurements that apply to all of the standards. Ratings for "minimally effective" seem to be setting a pretty high standard. Some felt that was all right. Science should be of high quality and progressive but refinement is needed and we ought to think about making specific recommendations for establishing more specific goals for OPP that would be a better guide to assessing progress. Dr. Erb suggested that Goal Two, be modified adding "and appropriate communities" and suggested that "have some measurable impact" would be better than "feed into" and he's not sure "rapidly" is the best term, since we acknowledge the time delay in making discoveries and having their impact felt. OAC will respond in writing, coordinating by email.
Resolutions from Discussions
Dr. Pfirman then led the Committee in a discussion that consolidated the previous discussions.
- Polar Instrumentation Technology — recommended an initiative developed along those lines to include in the letter to OPP. All agreed on it.
- $50 K supplements — recommends that OAC works with EHR to advertise and use supplements for public outreach, and explore using this for undergraduate education as well. There is a question as to the content of the award letter package: does it point out the opportunities for these types of supplements? Does it point to opportunities? The OAC suggests looking at BIO award letters. They have standardized award letters to point to grant supplement opportunities. REUs, etc. are listed in those letters also. Facilitation of these supplements is an issue and members agreed with the recommendation, including a review of the BIO letter.
- Communication with the community — make available resources to travel to meetings and workshops and take sabbaticals and provide sufficient funds to do this. OPP's travel funds are 17 percent lower than they were 6-7 years ago.
- OAC recommends that OPP explore research changes in the Bering Sea and its effect on local communities.
- Communications between scientists doing research in native communities and members of the communities is important and steps should be taken to improve it. Avenues for improving communication and participation should be explored. One suggestion was that a MOU be required within native communities, where appropriate, to include a native science representative. There is no one central agency to funnel information. NSF should bring information to the Alaskan Native Science Commission so they can work with the community. OPP noted they could provide information on what is funded and let them follow up. Some instances require a letter of support to demonstrate that they have had consultation with the community. A question asked was: Is the Alaskan Federation of Native's guidelines included in NSF packets to the scientists? OPP does reference the principles for conducting research in the Arctic and could send copies of that out. It may be time to revisit the principles for conduct adopted in 1990 and enhance those. Who should investigators contact when they go into the field? Perhaps the award letter should include telephone numbers and email addresses of suggested contacts. It would be better to make contact in advance.
- OAC recommends exploration of development of other integrative activities in collaboration with other countries, similar to the Antarctic Biology Course. One AC member suggested adding microbial biology. Members decided to mention in the text of the letter that they recognize the importance of such a program. Some discussion continued as to whether this would be a recommendation or just an endorsement in the letter, and a question was asked whether steps should be taken to make this an agenda item for future meetings.
- The OAC discussed asking workshops to identify key research and education opportunities for the future and that these be put on the OPPWEB site with a link to the workshop report and made available for community input. The "blue sky" ideas could be collected and be part of a growing list available for community input and revision. It would be made clear to the community that it is a working list. Another model would be to have sessions at professional society meetings to solicit these ideas. Also there could be solicitations to target and pull together communities to address research topics in the crosscutting programs. Dialogues with other directorates could be held to see if there is interest for such a workshop. OPP will explore this option with BIO. OPP has to continually be proactive to be surfacing new ideas and issues in the community. They should be receptive to things that are in the early stages, etc. It was decided not to make a recommendation with respect to this issue.
- Training graduate students on research dollars—bears further discussion. How are students being trained? What objectives or goals do we have in training graduate students for the future workforce? This might be discussed and ideas presented for another session. Do they want training concentrated at elite institutions? Are programs designed to target other types of investigators? Integrated research at undergraduate institutions might be worth looking into.
Dr. Pfirman will be in email discussion with session chairs and provide response for review by other AC members. She will be incorporating resolutions in a letter to Dr. Erb. Potential dates for the next meeting are November 3, 4, or 5, 1999. Dr. Pfirman asked if the new format was helpful and members agreed that it was. Dr. Pfirman thanked OPP, the OAC members, and Dr. Manahan for their participation. The meeting was adjourned at 2:05 p.m.
2:05PM Meeting Adjourned
See Agenda for this meeting.
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