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OPP Office Advisory Committee

XXII Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Office of Polar Programs (OPP)

May 29-30, 2003 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Chair, Geophysics and Physical Glaciology, University of Alabama
Julie Brigham-Grette, Geosciences, University of Massachusetts
Beverly Hartline, Argonne National Laboratory
Martin Jeffries, Glaciology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Igor Krupnik, Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution
John Ruhl, Case Western Reserve University
Joshua Schimel, Ecology-Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Peter Schlosser, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Columbia University
Paul Shepson, Purdue University
Paul Mayewski, Glaciology, Climate Change, Glaciochemistry, University of Maine, Orono

Member Absent

Joann Stock, Geology and Geophysics, California Institute of Technology

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs
Robert Wharton, Executive Officer
Altie Metcalf, Budget and Planning Officer
Erick Chiang, Head, Polar Research and Support Section
Scott Borg, Head, Antarctic Sciences Section
Thomas Pyle, Head, Arctic Sciences Section

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Welcome and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 8:35 a.m. The minutes from the October 2002 meeting were approved. Attendees of the meeting, both Committee members and other, introduced themselves.

OPP Director’s Report

Dr. Karl Erbs report to the Committee included personnel changes, the FY 2003 budget and FY 2004 Budget Request, IT Security, the European Polar Board discussion and the upcoming 2003 Committee of Visitors meeting for the Arctic and Antarctic programs.

NSF was one out of the few agencies that received a substantial increase in FY03 budget. Congress appropriated $16M more than the Administration requested on OPPs behalf and IceCube was funded for the second year of construction. In FY04, OPP is asking for a $10M increase. NSF’s Budget Request emphasizes increasing the stipend size for graduate students, increased grant size and duration, and infrastructure investments.

Dr. Erb reported on a break in to South Pole computer systems and the subsequent steps being taken to protect the systems. Dr. Erb and Dr. Pyle attended the European Polar Board meeting and EPB members agreed to share information in the deployment of ships in the Arctic and the Antarctic. Gerard Jugie is the new head of EPB. OPP is interested in pursuing a long-term working relationship between the U.S. and the Europeans in ice core drilling on bipolar bases. Dr. Erb reminded the OAC that the upcoming COV would include one or two members from OPP’s OAC. Dr. Erb also noted that the Russians have submitted a comprehensive environmental evaluation of the exploration of Lake Vostok. This issue will be discussed at an upcoming Treaty meeting.

Arctic Update (Arctic Research Opportunities/Issues)

Dr. Tom Pyle briefed the Committee on personnel matters in the section, and provided updates on the Arctic programs, logistical issues, international issues and strategic planning.

Topics of interest includes the following:

  • Mr. Simon Stephenson has been elected to chair of the Forum Arctic Research Operators (FARO).
  • The Arctic System Science program is going through a reassessment and synthesis to determine its future structure.
  • The Arctic Section has started a Research Experience in Undergraduates in Svalbard and Iceland (first time in foreign countries).
  • The Social Sciences proposals are up 88% with requests from $2.2M to $8M.
  • 182 projects are being supported, representing approximately 600 people in the field each year
  • Communications in the field has improved since IRIDIUM became available, and Barrow now has a T1 line.
  • Planning is underway to add a science support building and accommodations at Toolik to support winter work.
  • Circum-Arctic Environmental Observatory Network (CEON) has been accepted as a FARO initiative. CEON is a network of networks for environmental information on the Arctic.
  • United States Coast Guards (USCG) Polar Class Icebreakers could soon not be available due to their age and condition.

Antarctic Update (Antarctic Research Opportunities/Issues)

Dr. Scott Borg gave an overview of current and future activities in Antarctic Sciences.

Current issues in Antarctic Sciences include the following:

  • The regulation on the collection of antarctic meteorites was effective May 1, 2003.
  • The Antarctic program is now considering a commitment that would essentially lock up the LC130 resources for the FY04 and FY05 field seasons.
  • An overland traverse capability is being developed by 2006 or 2007, which could result in some relief in terms of moving materials around the continent.
  • The sea ice conditions have been difficult, and the Coast Guard has had difficulty with the ships opening the channel for re-supplying McMurdo Station.

Current activities in Antarctic Sciences includes the following:

  • The new OPP South Pole Science Manager participated actively at South Pole during the summer season, which has received positive feedback from the science community.
  • The New Investigator Workshop has resulted in more new proposers, particularly in the biology area.
  • Development of a new deep ice core drill is underway.

Future activities in the Antarctic program will include the following:

  • A workshop to outline the science issues in the future of South Pole astronomy.
  • Winter research in the McMurdo region for biology.
  • Opportunities for a traverse-based snow and ice sampling and new opportunities for FastDrill under the Glaciology program.
  • Long range aerogeophysical work in the Geology and Geophysics program.

Dr. Borg noted that the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program is a growing source of funds—currently up to $85M—in which that the polar community should be involved.

Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics

Mr. Erick Chiang briefed the Committee on the USAP infrastructure and logistics activities, including:

  • Improvements in deep field support
  • U.S. Antarctic Program Communications: the current investment is about $14-15M annually; capabilities are currently 4-5 years behind technology; 24x7 is currently available anywhere in the Antarctic with Iridium; data units are being developed that could be used for higher bandwidth capabilities at the South Pole
  • Efforts at diversifying access to the continent, including traverse capability, which could take the place of 84 LC-130 flights.
  • McMurdo facility development—immediate needs would take $63M to fund and would take 5-8 years to complete.
  • The approximate number of LC-130 missions projected for the coming year is 400; 25% of these are for science support.

Polar Postdoctoral Program

Dr. Bob Wharton provided an update on the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic (TEA) program, namely that any follow-on activity like TEA should be submitted under a new EHR announcement called Teacher Professional Continuum (TPC). A Dear Colleague letter has been issued jointly by EHR and OPP to make the community aware of the deadline. Goals for the Post Doctoral program are to encourage innovative research, foster activities to create a broader impact in society and to increase minority participation. The competition will be held in fiscal 2004. The stipend is still under discussion at a minimum of $45,000 year. The program would be continued for up to three years.

Frontiers in Polar Biology

Drs. Joshua Schimel and Deneb Karentz updated the Committee on the Frontiers in Polar Biology workshop, noting that the report is available at Dr. Karentz noted that OPP is funding projects that relate to genomics and that funds have specifically been set aside this year for projects in this area. Cost of genomics research is relatively high, with average award sizes of $2 million for 3-5 years. Dr. Lynch mentioned that the Polar Research Board has discussed a Frontiers Series; Dr. Schimel agreed that an Academy series would bring attention to this area.

OPP-CISE Communication Workshop

Mr. Patrick Smith gave a briefing on the outcome of the joint OPP-CISE (Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate) workshop, which focused on networking the “unconnected fringe.” CISE is looking for new challenges and opportunities with their network and research community and to link their researchers to working scientists that have real practical problems, so that the technology could be put to real practical use. OPP goal is to advance the capabilities in networking and infrastructure in the polar region while also looking for technology transfer. It is hopeful this would stimulate some new ways of doing science in the Antarctic and Arctic programs.

The web site presentations from the workshops are available at The goals of the workshop were to provide a venue for two diverse communities to gain greater awareness of each other and share ideas such as identifying specific problems and needs in polar science as candidates for innovative and experimental communications and networking technology solutions; summarizing the current and projected states of wireless, sensor and power technologies for various field locations; establishing teams of interested researchers for solving specific problems, leading to the development of new cross-disciplinary proposals and; to specify follow-on initiative to the workshop. Mr. Smith closed by noting that it is necessary to keep the inter/intra community dialog going and said he welcomes any recommendations from the Committee.

NSF Priority Area: Cyberinfrastructure

Dr. Deborah Crawford, Deputy Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Chair of the NSF Cyberinfrastructure (CI) Working Group gave the history of the evolution of NSFs contributions to and role in computational infrastructure, starting in the 1960s - 70s when NSF first invested in computing. In the mid 1990s, NSF made an investment in the Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, to strengthen computational science capabilities in the nation. In the year 2000, NSF made investments in the Terascale initiative. Finally, in 2001, the CI Advisory Committee was chartered to explore the promise of CI.

Dr. Crawford noted that one of the important characteristics of CI is that it is community driven, supporting data and intensive applications. She asked the OAC for any input on areas that are missing or ways in which CI would be defined to better meet the needs of polar scientists.

Sensors and Sensors Networks Research

Dr. Esin Gularia, Division Director, Division of Chemical and Transport Systems (CTS) briefed the Committee on the new program, Sensors and Sensor Networks. This is a broad interdisciplinary program of research and education in the area of advanced sensor development that seeks to advance fundamental knowledge in the areas of sensor design, materials and concepts, including sensors for toxic chemicals, explosives and biological agents, sensor networking systems in a distributed environment, the integration of sensors into engineered systems, and the interpretation and use of sensor data in decision-making processes. The program is coordinated with the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the Directorate for Biological Sciences, the Directorate for Geosciences, as well as OPP. The anticipated funding for this program is $34M. Individual investigators could get up to $125K per year for three years. Small teams could get up to $250K per year for three years and large interdisciplinary groups could get up to $2.5M for five years.

The Committee agreed that this program is important to all that are involved in looking at global and climate change and impacts on both Poles. They felt that is was a great opportunity for OPP and polar researchers. It was noted that the PIs are limited in their ability to understand change in the Arctic because of the very minimal and in some countries declining support for long term monitoring, so the ability to develop cheap, rugged, low power, very stable, low cost sensors is viewed as being extraordinarily important to the solution of some of these problems.

Dr. Anandakrishnan mentioned that perhaps the OAC could make recommendations on cross-directorate activities.

National Science Board Infrastructure Report

Dr. Erb briefed the Committee on the recently released report on infrastructure by the National Science Board. The Infrastructure Task Force was charged with doing an assessment of national infrastructure and to make recommendations for the future. The reports recommendations are below:

  • Increase the share of the budget devoted to S&E infrastructure.
  • Give special emphasis to increase research to advance instrument technology and to build next generation research tools, address the increased need for midsize infrastructure (costing from millions of dollars), increase support for large facilities and to develop/deploy an advanced cyberinfrastructure.
  • Expand education and training opportunities at new and existing research facilities.
  • Strengthen the infrastructure planning and budgeting process.
  • Develop interagency plans and strategies to establish infrastructure priorities based upon competitive merit review, stimulate the development of new infrastructure technologies, develop the next generation of high-end high performance cyberinfrastructure, and to protect infrastructure against attacks and misuse.

The Committee remarked that often there is funding for infrastructure, but lack of funding for the “human infrastructure” it takes to work on the equipment. The problem is finding resources to pay for personnel. He advised the Committee to comment directly to the NSB, through him or the web site. The final report can be found at

Discussion with NSF Director, Rita Colwell

Dr. Colwell noted that NSF appreciated the Committees time and effort. She briefed the Committee on the FY 2004 Budget Request, NSF efforts to deal effectively with the continuing challenge of computer security, and the importance of Cyberinfrastructure activities for all parts of NSF. Continuing emphasis will be on award size and duration, NSFs administrative and management (A&M), and infrastructure. A member stated that if increased award size and duration resulted in lower success rates, this could be particularly hard on young investigators and underrepresented minorities. Members also noted the problems with digital libraries selling rights to publications and then charging the universities for access to the publication. Dr. Colwell responded that Harold Varmus is currently pushing for a possible solution: paying a fee to have a paper published would mean no fee would be charged to access other papers published on the web. The Committee discussed briefly the issue of funding for personnel needed to operate and maintain large equipment (infrastructure).

The meeting was adjourned at 5:30.

Friday, May 30, 2003

The meeting reconvened at 8:35 a.m.

The discussion on the Cyberinfrastructure report continued. The Committee commented that after having the opportunity to review the Cyberinfrastructure report, they were very impressed with the document and its scope. The Committee noted that CI could enable a greater participation of people who could not get to certain sites like Antarctica — because of funding or time — to use observations or data without actually going to the remote site. They also believe this could lead to a transformation in the way OPP does business in polar regions. Dr. Erb noted that he will be meeting with his colleagues and Dr. Colwell at a retreat and will bring forward the Committees thoughts. The Committee was encouraged to provide additional comments to Dr. Crawford and Dr. Erb.

ARCSS Reorganization

Dr. Neil Swanberg discussed the ARCSS program and its current program goals and structure and the ARCSS All Hands Meeting held on the possible future structure of ARCSS. The new proposed structure will focus on sustainability, predictability and feedbacks. The goal is to have a structure that serves the system-wide synthesis goal and still serves the community. The final structure has not been finalized yet. One member noted that the ARCSS program has a very successful program for generating a more interdisciplinary approach.

NSF Cross Directorate Research Programs

Dr. Julie Palais gave a broad review of the cross directorate programs with OPP involvement. She pointed out that there are two types of cross-directorate programs — those with specific, set-aside funds for proposals that are submitted to a central competition (but managed by individual Program Officers in different disciplines and directorates and those without specific funds — called “Phantom Programs” — because there isn't reserved money. Program in the latter category include REU, RUI, and CAREER. The money for these programs would come from Directorate/Division/Program accounts.

OPP has been a fairly active participant in Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) and IGERT. Dr. Swanberg briefed the Committee on BE and noted that BE has five components: The Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems, Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles and Genome-Enabled Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Instrumentation Development for Environmental Activities and Materials Used: Science, Engineering, and Society.

Dr. Palais briefed the Committee on the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, now up to 20 states. The idea of the program is to assist states that are historically underrepresented or have received lower funding in research and engineering. The co-funding initiative, which is an internal NSF mechanism enabling Program Officers throughout the Foundation to compete for extra funding to support proposals that are borderline for funding.

Dr. Jane Dionne briefed the Committee on Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The purpose of IGERT is to catalyze cultural change in graduate education for students, faculty and institution by establishing innovative laws for graduate education and training. NSF receives about 350-650 pre-proposals per year, approximately 70 PIs are invited to submit full proposals, and about 20 awards are made each year. This year the awards totaled $3M and are five-year awards.

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvilli commented that in the Information Technology Research (ITR) program

OPP had only received two out of almost a thousand ITR proposals that came into NSF. He said it was possible most polar PIs do not submit proposals because they do not realize ITR could fund polar activities. He asked the Committee to convey the message to the community that PIs should apply to these initiatives.

Dr. Scott Borg noted that the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program is aimed at instrumentation acquisition from $200K to a cap of $2M and it requires cost sharing. The success rate is balanced between 15 and 20% as measured by requested dollars and awarded dollars, averaging 17-18% level for the larger research school competition while smaller schools’first year success rate is a little over 50%.

Dr. Palais noted that traditionally polar researchers are not active in these programs and encourages the communities to consider applying to these programs.

Update on IceCube

Dr. Jack Lightbody gave a brief update on the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The IceCube Collaboration includes about twenty institutions, including those from other countries, and is led by the University of Wisconsin. The overall cost of the project is approximately $250M. The impact at South Pole includes an estimated 44 flights from FY05 through FY10, 30-34 drillers and module deployers and 10-12 scientists and IT needs to support AMANDA and IceCube.

The challenges in IceCube are to complete Project Year 1 and Year 2 start-up activities; to address management challenges; and to conduct a final readiness review for Neutrino Observatory construction.

Polar Icebreaker Issues

Dr. Tom Pyle briefed the Committee on the Polar Class Icebreakers condition and the potential impact on NSF programs. The ships were commissioned in the 1970s and are very old and have chronic problems with reliability. In the Antarctic, the ships are used to break channels into McMurdo and in the Arctic, the ships are currently used as supplements or back-ups to the Healy.

The Coast Guards proposed remedy to the ships aging condition is to implement a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) estimated about $400M, not including any possible science upgrades. Cost estimates, science upgrades, joint budget initiatives, and upgrades versus new construction are issues that are being considered. The Committee suggested that there could be international collaboration for providing ship support and that science needs to be considered when upgrading the ships. Dr. Anandakrishnan asked Drs. Joann Stock and John Ruhl to work with Dr. Peter Schlosser to work on a recommendation the Committee can provide to OPP. Dr. Erb agreed that if the OAC wanted to go on record concerning the importance of breaking the channels to Antarctica, then making a formal recommendation would be helpful.


Ms. Altie Metcalf briefed the Committee on the assessments currently ongoing at NSF. The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) requires an annual performance report from NSF. While individual advisory committees submitted GPRA reports in the past, there is now an Advisory Committee for GPRA that reviews NSFs performance in the aggregate, based on submission directly from each Directorate/Office.

The other assessment that is being done is the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), which was implemented last year by the Office of Management and Budget. PART requires 20% of every agencys programs to be reviewed each year. In addition, every program across NSF is required to be reviewed by an external committee every three years. And this review covers process issues and the research results. At least one member of the OAC has to be on the Committee of Visitors (COV).

COV Planning

Dr. Erb advised the Committee that the key function is to review OPPs process for handling proposals. He also welcomed recommendations for COV members.

West Antarctic Ice Core Project

(Dr. Paul Mayewski participated by teleconference.)

Dr. Julie Palais gave a brief presentation on the history of the ice-coring program, going back to 1989. The Ice Coring and Drilling Services (ICDS) is the current contractor supporting these activities. ICDS commissioned a report presented by the University Colorado School of Mines that evaluated the state of the deep ice core drill system and what should be done for future drilling programs. It was decided that the U.S. needed a different ice core drilling system. ICDS provided estimates for Deep Ice Sheet Coring (DISC) Drill versus EPICA Drill (used by the Europeans) as input to any decision made on what direction needed to be taken on the deep ice core drill and possible collaboration with the Europeans on both science and drill development. The current ICDS tasks for the deep drill project is to hire a deep drill Program Manager, begin initial design of a 10cm “Hybrid” deep drill with 12.2 cm “scale-up” option, begin initial design of a replicate coring bottom hole assembly and finally, the drilling fluid selection. The first deep drilling season should start November 2006 through March 2007.

On behalf of the community, Dr. Paul Mayewski expressed appreciation that OPP is standing behind this program.

International Polar Year

Dr. Amanda Lynch provided an update on the planning of the International Polar Year (IPY). The European Polar Board and the U.S. Polar Research Board have decided to act as catalysts to plan for the polar year. The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), which has an IPY proposal, believes IPY should be an intense program of internationally coordinated polar research and should be specific in short terms and outcomes, but should also set the stage for some exciting long-term science. In addition, there should be an outreach effort that should attract the next generation of polar scientists. The characteristics of these focused areas are to be bipolar, multidisciplinary to include human dimensions, international, include educational and outreach components, have tangible outcomes and should be challenging and achievable, not just “business as usual.” The Committee stressed that whatever is done must be driven by good science. It is also important to use an open forum for national discussions, and to generate excitement in the community and the public.

Wrap-Up and Other Business

Dr. Lynch advised that she would be unable to attend the Fall OAC meeting. Dr. Erb thanked Dr. Lynch for her services in OPP on this Committee, both for her outstanding work as Committee Chair and for serving as Committee liaison to the 2000 Committee of Visitors.

The Committee suggested possible dates for the fall OAC meeting (October 2-3; October 20-21; October 30-31; November 3-4; November 24-25). Dr. Anandakrishnan asks the Committee for their assistance in putting a document together for making recommendations for Cyberinfrastructure.

The meeting adjourned at 2:35p.m.

See Agenda for this meeting.

Last Updated

October, 2003

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