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Media Advisory 14-015

NSF invites news media to apply for the opportunity to report on Antarctic research

Broadcast networks and affiliates that reach large non-English-language audiences encouraged to apply to deploy to the southernmost continent

An Adelie penguin is poised to jump into the water.

An Adelie penguin is poised to jump into the water.

July 17, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting written proposals from media professionals to report on research supported by NSF's Division of Polar Programs in Antarctica.

In particular, NSF is interested in proposals from national broadcast networks--or network affiliates in major markets--that reach significant non-English-language audiences in the United States or are engaged in partnerships that would allow them to reach such audiences.

NSF envisions selecting journalists to deploy whose reporting would help make the broadest possible viewing segment of the nation's television audience aware of the importance of science conducted in the polar regions, including the significance of that science to those who live in the Earth's temperate regions.

Competitive proposals would contain both of the following attributes:

  • Reaching the widest possible audience across a variety of platforms (broadcast, Web and social media).
  • Demonstrating a documented ability to reach U.S. audiences in both English and Spanish, either through the outlet's primary production or through a partnership with another broadcaster.

Research areas that might be part of such a media visit, subject to logistical restrictions, include:

  • NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is home to the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) telescope--which produced a recent discovery about faint microwave signals created shortly after the Big Bang--and to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
  • Studies of population dynamics of penguins and seals in McMurdo Sound.
  • The study of life in extreme sub-ice environments.

For additional background on the U.S. Antarctic Program, please see the Polar Programs Antarctic Sciences Web page.

How to apply: U.S. media receive preference in selection. Applicants must submit to NSF a written expression of interest in participating in the program--the equivalent of no more than three printed pages--describing the media in which the reporting will appear and a description of the potential audiences.

Competition for the opportunity to deploy is perennially intense, as Antarctic logistics are a constraint on the number of deployments to be supported. Logistical limitations make it extremely difficult to modify itineraries once in Antarctica, therefore a great deal of advance planning with the principals, once selected, will be required to make the proposed visit successful.

This planning may therefore necessitate frequent conference calls as well as some in-person visits to NSF.

Application Deadline: 5 p.m. (local time) on July 31, 2014. 

Selection: A panel consisting of science and logistics staff from the Division of Polar Programs and media officers from NSF's Public Affairs office will review all proposals and select the finalist. The panel will look for proposals that indicate an understanding of the nature and challenges of NSF's scientific enterprise in the Antarctic as well as the desire and ability to communicate that understanding to the public.

Application: Applications that indicate solid working knowledge of the U.S. Antarctic program and its science goals and the ability to communicate the research being undertaken to a wide audience, as described above, stand the best chance of selection.

Peter West, Polar Programs' outreach manager, can discuss with potential applicants the requirements for Antarctic deployment and provide access to NSF-supported researchers who are scheduled to be in the field during the deployment. It is strongly suggested that potential applicants discuss their proposed deployment prior to submitting an actual proposal.

Due to the nature of this call for proposals, NSF envisions that freelancers will be unlikely to meet the suggested requirements for success. If, however, freelancers choose to apply, they must supply with their application evidence of a firm commitment, on the media outlet's letterhead, from the prospective outlet that will air their work.

NOTE: General reporting about Antarctica, travel or logistics will not be given priority. The program does not support feature-film proposals. Documentary filmmakers may consider applying to the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program managed by NSF's Education & Human Resources directorate.

Deployment period: Deployment would occur sometime between October 2014 and January 2015, for a period of roughly 10 working days. Actual dates would be contingent on story planning and logistics discussions.

Medical: In order to deploy to Antarctica, it is necessary to pass rigorous medical and dental examinations. Applicants' personal or corporate physicians and dentists, using USAP medical screening forms, which will be evaluated by USAP-contracted medical experts, conduct these examinations at the finalists' expense. Certain medical conditions detected during the physical or dental examinations may disqualify a candidate from visiting Antarctica, even if initially selected as a media-visitor finalist.

Expenses: Media selected for the visit, or their employers, pay for round-trip transportation to--and accommodation in--Christchurch, New Zealand (or, in the case of Palmer Station, Punta Arenas, Chile). NSF furnishes, at no cost to participants, cold-weather clothing solely for use in the field, as well as housing, transportation, and food while in Antarctica.

Note: From time to time, NSF has received requests for media opportunities from reporters who plan to travel to Antarctica at various times of the year via non-governmental means. Such requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Such requests should be directed to Peter West, whose contact information is listed below.

Where to send Applications:

Contact Peter West by phone or by email as soon as possible to express interest. Send the application to:

Peter West, (703) 292-7530 /
Suite 740.02
National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7530, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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