Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
International Workshop on Neutrinos and Subterranean
Science (NeSS) 2002
Washington Hilton & Towers
September 19, 2002
Good morning and welcome to this robust assembly -
one that brings together so many of the world's leading
figures in underground research.
I want to thank the organizers from the University
of Maryland and the international steering committee
for their dedication and hard work in shaping the
proceedings. We're looking forward to the presentations,
and to the perspective they will provide.
The National Science Foundation derives much of its
strength from listening constantly and carefully to
the community. This gathering is part of that ongoing
effort. But we are also supporting it in fulfillment
of a pledge made seven months ago. Our budget request
for Fiscal Year 2003 includes the promise to underwrite
"a major workshop" on neutrino research and other
underground science applications.
Judging from the extraordinary roster of participants
and expertise assembled at this event, I think we
can safely call it "major."
There are many reasons why this convocation is of such
significance and value to NSF and to the Nation, but
two in particular stand out.
The first is the remarkable range of science and engineering
issues under discussion, which extends from particle
physics and cosmology to national security, geosciences
and engineering, and the study of microbial life miles
below the Earth's surface . . . and perhaps others
not yet imagined. The list includes some of the most
important and fascinating topics ever to challenge
the human intellect.
Diverse as they may seem, they share a common element:
depth. Not just depth of scientific interest and complexity,
although those are certainly apparent. But literal
All of the current and proposed investigations to be
discussed here must take place in special environments
hundreds or thousands of meters below ground level.
Conducting research in those conditions often entails
substantial complications, large infrastructure expenses,
and multi-year obligations.
And that brings us to the second and equally important
reason why this workshop is so significant: Namely,
the nation's urgent need for authoritative and objective
advice on potential science and engineering research
and education investments.
For federal science policy in general, and for NSF
in particular, this is an era of competing and occasionally
On one hand, the Foundation's mandate to support discovery
at the outmost frontiers of knowledge requires that
we fund numerous state-of-the-art tools and visionary
programs that will advance understanding dramatically.
On the other, we recognize that we live in a period
of severe budget constraints, and that each of our
investments must be considered in the fiscal context
of America's war on terrorism - a war that, sadly,
promises to be long and costly before it is ultimately
So it is particularly essential now that the community
formulate and express its best counsel on emerging
opportunities and make the most cogent and convincing
arguments for potential new expenditures.
As NSF reviews the proceedings, it will, as always,
do so with particular attention to those ideas that
integrate research and education, and that will have
the greatest impact on the next generation of scientists
and engineers. In that respect, we are pleased to
see that so many of the projects to be discussed at
this meeting have multidisciplinary aspects, and that
their planners have incorporated education and outreach
components from the beginning. Some have interagency
and international dimensions.
There have been several meetings on related subjects
over the past few years, and NSF has followed their
progress. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences
has undertaken a study of the worldwide needs, priorities
and capabilities in subterranean research. The Academy
panel, too, will be watching this week's presentations,
and will factor the results into their deliberations.
Meanwhile, NSF will continue -- in partnership with
the community -- to do what it does best: Namely,
to evaluate each opportunity exclusively on its merits,
and to make difficult, responsible decisions about
which ideas have the maximum potential for progress
in research and education.
That is never easy when working at the frontier, where
there are few, if any, precedents, and no one knows
exactly what to do. In those circumstances, we have
to evaluate scrupulously the entire spectrum of advice
and listen carefully to the varied voices that arise.
Many of the topics and projects that you will be discussing
this week have already developed broad and highly
motivated constituencies. That is all very well. In
fact, it is inevitable in a democracy. But NSF's rigorous,
multi-stage procedure for determining the value of
any particular investment obtains throughout. Large-scale
expenditures for facilities face an exceptionally
tough assessment process.
Any candidate proposal for NSF's limited pool of facility
funding must first survive critical peer review, and
must show extraordinary intellectual merit and considerable
potential for broader impacts.
Then it must demonstrate that it has the determined
support of the community. And then it must be convincing
that it is worth a sizable fraction of NSF's resources.
Candidate projects are examined in meticulous detail
through several stages at NSF and eventually by the
National Science Board.
If approved at all steps, NSF then will include the
project in an annual budget request, which is produced
in extensive negotiations with the Office of Management
and Budget. And finally, when and if the proposal
becomes part of the President's budget, Congress may
or may not decide to fund it.
From start to finish, this course of review can take
many months, or even years with every step focused
on intellectual merit and a project's value to the
Nation's science and engineering research and education.
Thus, we are keenly interested in hearing the presentations
and dialogue at this workshop. On behalf of the Foundation,
I want to thank each of you for your willingness to
provide indispensable expertise, insight, and excitement.
We all look forward to a successful and highly productive