Budget 2003 NEON
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NSF Fiscal Year 2003
Budget Request Excerpts

National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)


The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is conceived as a continental-scale facility composed of 10 geographically distributed, networked observatories and will serve as a national platform for integrated field biology research. NEON will deploy new technologies to enable research across scales and levels of resolution that is now impossible. For the first time, scientists using NEON will be able to make simultaneous measurements of ecological phenomena in real-time at regional and continental scales. For example, NEON will allow researchers to determine the impact of regional extreme environmental events, e.g. forest fires, hurricanes, on ecosystem functions in surrounding regions and continent-wide. In addition, NEON will serve as a biological early detection system that will provide an invaluable resource and a front line of homeland defense - both for its scientific potential and for enabling rapid detection of chemical and biological terrorist threats. NSF is also exploring potential partnerships with other federal agencies.

In FY 2003, NSF is requesting $12.0 million to initiate a first phase of NEON. During this phase, NSF will establish two prototype NEON observatories which will demonstrate the feasibility of the NEON concept, focusing on: deploying field instrumentation; gathering environmental data from field based arrays; collecting data simultaneously from geographically distributed arrays; integrating data across diverse types of databases; and establishing an informatics infrastructure. The prototypes will also be used to optimize the functionality of the networked, multiscale, integrated infrastructure that will comprise a fully realized NEON.

A consortium of institutions, such as natural history collections, biological field stations, academic institutions, Long Term Ecological Research sites and federal research facilities will operate each prototype. Collectively, the two consortia will manage the prototypes as an integrated national research platform. The two prototype observatories will be selected via peer review. Each will be funded through a cooperative agreement to the lead member of the respective consortium.

Each prototype observatory will have scalable computation capabilities and will be networked via satellite and landlines to the vBNS, to each other, and to specialized facilities, such as supercomputer centers. By creating one virtual installation via a cutting-edge computational network, all members of the field biology research community will be able to access NEON remotely. This will facilitate the predictive modeling of biological systems via data sharing and synthesis efforts by users of the facility. It will also enhance interagency and international collaboration in field biology research.

The total construction cost for each prototype site will be $20.0 million, for a total of $40.0 million over the next 3 years. NSF will evaluate the success of NEON during this initial phase and together with input from the community decide on the eventual scope of the full NEON concept. NSF is also requesting $3.0 million beginning in FY 2003 through the Research and Related Activities Account to support the initial operation and management of these two sites. Oversight of this project is provided through the Biological Infrastructure Subactivity within the Biological Sciences (BIO) Activity.

NSF Support for NEON
(Millions of Dollars)


FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005







Prior to FY 2002, NSF provided about $210,000 through the R&RA Account to support workshops and other planning activities. The expected operational lifespan of these two initial sites is approximately 30 years. Excluding inflation, the anticipated annual operations and management budget, funded through R&RA, will be about $3 million per site per year, for a total of $6 million per year for the two prototype sites.

Major Milestones for NEON are outlined below:

FY 2003:
Solicit and review proposals for two NEON prototype observatories.
Select prototype observatory awardees.
Start development of system architecture for the flow, integration and networking of data, communications and materials across NEON prototypes.
Hold planning meetings to develop network level standards for instrumentation, data collection, processing, storage, dissemination.
Begin site preparation.
Begin development of evaluation plan.

FY 2004:
Continue development of system architecture for the flow, integration and networking of data, communications and materials across NEON prototypes.
Start development of Network-wide information management system.
Procure and install analytical instrumentation and research equipment.
Release program announcement to solicit proposals to begin research at NEON sites.

FY 2005:
Complete construction of core facilities for two sites.
Beta test core facilities of the two sites.
Complete development and begin testing of system architecture for data, communication and materials flow across NEON.


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