Division of Ocean Sciences - Spring 2001 Newsletter

Letter from the Division Director...

Photo of Donald F. Heinrichs

Hello and goodbye — again!

As many of you know, I retired in January 2000 to pursue a life of leisure. I was persuaded, however, to return for a brief stint in the Division to provide continuity while the recruitment for Mike Purdy’s successor took place. The good news is that the announcement of the new Division Director is expected shortly. This is very good news for me as well — I enjoyed my 11-month vacation!

This was a good year to be back. The very positive budget increase for the Division (16.6%) enables all programs to have base increases to improve grant size and duration; provides sufficient funds to meet the operating costs for the academic fleet and ODP drillship with fuel costs up and a 19% increase in ship days; and allows us to fully participate in the NSF-wide priority areas for Biocomplexity in the Environment and Information Technology Research. In addition, we have provided increased resources for ocean observations and computational/data activities through the interagency National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP); increased our education and outreach activities; and started the design effort for a new Alaska-region research vessel.

Another highlight of the year was the recent publication of Ocean Sciences at the New Millennium. The report is truly unique in scope -- looking across disciplines to identify the most promising opportunities for discovery in the ocean sciences over the next decade and beyond. No report in recent memory has attempted to provide a vision of the future of the ocean sciences as an integrated whole. With this new perspective, common scientific directions and technological needs across disciplines become increasingly evident. I encourage you to become familiar with the report as it will provide a basis for much of NSF Ocean Sciences future program development activities.

Despite the many highlights, I must bring to the community’s attention a developing problem resulting from an increasing number of late proposal submissions to the OCE target dates for the major research review panels (see front page for details). Late submissions may be a convenience for proposers that cannot be afforded in the future. Late submissions significantly impact program officers with reviewer selection issues, significantly impact reviewers by reducing time for review (and may result in non-review), and significantly impact panelists by having incomplete peer review information for their deliberations. If late submissions do not decrease noticeably this summer, we plan to move to deadlines instead of target dates in calendar year 2002, or apply rigorous enforcement of the target dates under which a proposal will not be considered until the subsequent panel with an added six-month decision time. And who wants to lose a cruise by not meeting scheduling deadlines or have a “stale” proposal up for consideration in a very competitive environment? We alerted the Ocean Science Subcommittee of the Geosciences Advisory Committee to the problem and agreed to revisit the topic at their next meeting this fall. This is your alert that changes are coming that should benefit us all.

Ocean sciences works in a great laboratory consisting of over 70% of the Earth’s surface with some 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of salty water. Life abounds above and below the seafloor, billions of tons of carbon move around, heat, energy and momentum numbers dwarf atmospheric values for climate variables, most of the earth’s crust is created and destroyed in the oceanic realm and much remains to be explored in space and time. It is an exciting realm with many challenging research questions for us all. Keep at it!

Once again, it has been an enjoyable year and I wish my successor well as I return to my life of leisure.

Donald F. Heinrichs signature

Donald F. Heinrichs
Interim Division Director
Division of Ocean Sciences

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