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OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

May 10 - 11, 2004 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Joshua Schimel, Chair, Ecology-Biology, University of California
Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Past Chair, Geophysics and Physical Glaciology, University of Alabama
Brian Bershad, Computer Sciences, University of Washington
Julie Brigham-Grette, Geosciences, University of Massachusetts
Beverly Hartline, Argonne National Laboratory
James Hollibaugh, Marine Biology, University of Georgia
Martin Jeffries, Glaciology, University of Alaska
Deanna Paniataaq Kingston, Anthropology, Oregon State University
Paul Mayewski, Glaciology, Climate Change, Glaciochemistry, University of Maine
Marilyn Raphael , Geography, University of California
John Ruhl, Case Western Reserve University
Peter Schlosser , Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
James Swift, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California – San Diego

Members Absent

Thomas McGovern, Archaeology, Hunter College of the City of New York
Paul Shepson, Purdue University

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

The spring meeting of the Office of Polar Programs Advisory Committee (OAC) was held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, on May 10 and 11, 2004.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

Welcome and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m.   The minutes from the October 2003 meeting were approved with the addition of Dr. Peter Noel Webb as one of the attendees of the October meeting.  

OPP Director's Report

Dr. Erb welcomed the OAC and introduced the new members.   Dr. Erb discussed NSF’s organization for the benefit of new members and discussed the OPP and NSF FY 2004 Budget and the FY 2005 Budget Request and mentioned the following personnel changes:

  • Dr. Marie Bundy, Associate Program Manager for Antarctic Biology and Medicine replaced Dr. Deneb Karentz, who returned to the University of San Francisco.
  • Mr. George Blaisdell, Operations Manager
  • Dr. Tom Wagner, Program Manager for Antarctic Geology and Geophysics replaced Dr. Scott Borg.
  • Ms. Sandra Singer, Facilities Engineering, Maintenance and Construction manager replaced Mr. Frank Brier, who retired from government service.
  • Ms. Elena King, Office Director’s Secretary replaced Ms. Brenda Williams, who is now secretary to the NSF Deputy Director.
  • Ms. Pam Toschik, Sea Grant Fellow
  • Ms. Gwen Adams, Associate and Safety Officer will be returning from active duty with the U.S. Army on June 7 th.

Dr. Erb discussed the agenda and noted that a large amount of time had been allotted for the Committee’s discussion of International Polar Year (IPY) planning.  

OPP Updates

Arctic Sciences - Dr. Tom Pyle

Dr. Pyle presented the proposed five themes for Arctic research in IPY:   (1) To determine the present environmental status of the Polar Regions by quantifying their special and temporal variability;   (2) To quantify and understand past and present environmental and human change in the Polar Regions in order to improve predictions; (3) To advance out understanding of polar – global teleconnections on all scales and of the processes controlling these interactions; (4) To investigate the unknowns at the frontiers of science in the Polar Regions; and (5) To use polar regions to develop and enhance observatories studying the Earth’s inner core, the Earth’s magnetic field, geospace, the Sun and beyond.

Dr. Erb commented that the themes presented tie to IPY themes that the NAS is beginning to articulate.   OPP will have to make a decision on what fraction of resources will explicitly be devoted to IPY activities and what fraction would be for large “flagship” activities and what fraction would go either into the individual investigator grants or smaller group activities that fit under the IPY umbrella.

Antarctic Sciences - Dr. Scott Borg

Dr. Borg provided a summary of Antarctic research activities:

A New Investigator Workshop is scheduled for August 23-23, 2004, and is open to anyone who has not previously been supported by OPP.   USAP will be working with the British Antarctic Survey to support an extensive geophysical program in West Antarctica.   SHALDRIL has been experiencing technical challenges in integrating the system on to the ship and there are some drill system development challenges that is being worked through with the ANDRILL project.  

Dr. Borg asked for feedback on the notion of establishing a national committee to help coordinate climate and cryosphere studies.   This issue is in response to the PRB dropping a standing glaciology committee.   Dr. Julie Palais noted that Dr. Roger Barry is promoting the idea of formulating a U.S. committee component for the international Climate and Cryosphere (CliC), which is part of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP).   Dr. Erb commented that one of the major IPY thrusts would be climate change and the question was to what extent OPP should start with a “clean slate” or build on existing activities, such as CliC.

The OAC agreed   that CliC is an   important program identified by ICSU and the NAS/NRC/PRB but because it had been formulated several years ago, it would be important to take stock of present knowledge in developing IPY thrusts.   There was no support for forming a CliC Committee.

International Polar Year (IPY)

Ms. Chris Elfring, PRB Director, provided a status report on IPY planning.   IPY, set for 2007-2008, has participation by more than 25 countries and to date more than 350 ideas had been submitted to define the IPY themes.   International Council for Science (ICSU)   will review and identify IPY projects using mandatory and desirable characteristics given in the IPY Framework document.

Dr. Erb mentioned that the Arctic Council had issued a proclamation endorsing the concept of IPY.   During the Arctic Science Summit Week, the Arctic Council Secretariat endorsed a strong statement that the Council would like to participate in planning and implementation.   Political bodies such as the Arctic Council, which consists of representatives of the eight nations in the Arctic could assist the science community, for example, in gaining access much more easily to each other’s territories for purposes of doing research.   At the Antarctic Treaty meeting, the Antarctic Treaty parties issued a proclamation supporting IPY and directed the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) and Council of Managers for the Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) to work on making IPY as success.  

Dr. Erb noted that what is likely to come out of this ensemble of planning activities is a set of guidelines articulated at a fairly high level, together with a set of criteria that any project should have in order to be identified as an IPY project.

Dr. Erb also noted that a very important lasting feature that came out of IGY was the creation of the Antarctic Treaty and the way of governing the continent, with the emphasis on scientific research and environmental stewardship.   The OAC could help identify outcomes like that for IPY, as well as to think about what additional planning activities OPP should be engaged in to address outreach opportunities in IPY more effectively.   It was suggested that IPY could be an opportunity to move a TEA-like program forward to a new phase.   The current TEA program is ending and IPY would benefit from a new activity like TEA.   Also suggested was including people who live in the polar regions as members of research teams, and to address the relationships between global climate change and other issues related broadly to human impact.

Discussion with NSF Deputy Director (Dr. Joe Bordogna)

Dr. Bordogna discussed the upcoming FY 2006 budget process and commented on the benefits the COV   process brings to NSF.   He also discussed briefly the reorganization of International Programs at NSF and the benefits of the reorganization to the Foundation.   Dr. Bordgona congratulated Ms. Altie Metcalf on her performance in working with Booz, Allen, Hamilton and their assistance in moving NSF to improve NSF’s business practices.   

The OAC related their concerns about the decreasing funding rates, which they felt undermines the merit review system.   Dr. Bordogna noted that the grant size and duration thrust was well received last year, but expressed concerns about the ability of the system to respond.   He urged the OAC to read a document called “Fulfilling the Promise” a response to Section 22 of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 ( prepared by the National Science Board.   The response indicated how much money NSF really needed, with statistics to support the statements NSF makes, and conveyed how much money is needed to meet NSF’s statutory obligations in the sense of satiating the country’s capacity to do excellence.   But Congress criticized the report as being unrealistic.

IPY Implementation Consideration - Dr. Karl Erb

Dr. Erb provided a summary of a document he sent to ICSU entitled “Comments on IPY Planning and Implementation from the Perspective of a Governmental Funding Agency” covering OPP’s sense of the state of IPY planning and his observations regarding how IPY might best be implemented.   He then solicited comments on how much emphasis OPP should put on IPY compared to the ongoing base programs and also how OPP could best coordinate with international programs.   Dr. Erb summarized the questions regarding IPY implementation:

  • Relative emphasis vis a vis “base” program
  • How to mesh NSF review and oversight processes into multi-national planning activities
  • Role of a Special Solicitation
  • Relative emphasis on continuing vs. “new” activities
  • Relative emphasis on IPY “flagship” programs (large multi-national programs having multi-national program offices, etc) vs. small group activities

The OAC discussed the timing of any special solicitation for IPY and noted that it would have be released within the next 12 months to prepare for IPY.   The Committee questioned whether facilities (including ships) would be available for IPY work but OPP staff responded that there would be available capacity in both ships and flights.

OPP-wide Activities

Polar Genomics

Dr. Robert Wharton discussed the PRB document Frontiers in Polar Biology in the Genomic Era and the fact that OPP had set aside funds to be made available to help fund OPP proposals related to frontiers in polar biology, particularly in the area of polar genomics.   It was also noted that BE as a priority area is ready to phase out and become part of core funding.

Polar Postdoctoral Fellowships

Dr. Bernhard Lettau served as the coordinating program officer for the Polar Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.   In the first year, OPP expects to award 5 post docs, each for two years with a possible extension to a third year.   The number of fellowships awarded could increase to as many as 10 in future years.   The program also includes a travel component, where a prospective applicant may apply for a small grant of $3,000 in order to visit prospective institutions. The fellowship is $70,000.   Dr. Erb emphasized that the fundamental goal is to bring new people with new ideas into polar research.


Mr. Peter West, Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA) works with OPP on media events, press releases, and public affair generally.   His responsibility is to publicize research results for the OPP and to arrange media events/visits in the field.   OLPA is responsible for publicizing the broader impact of research and to increase public awareness of science discoveries – to make the information more accessible to people who might not have scientific backgrounds.  

The OAC suggested that OLPA should produce a video on how scientists could work more effectively with the media to make their interactions with the media more effective.   Dr. Erb noted that Mr. West has been extraordinarily effective on behalf of polar science and emphasized that the OAC could help OLPA be more effective by keeping their institutions and press officials in touch with Mr. West to bring ideas to his attention.

Infrastructure Priorities, Challenges, Issues

Arctic (Dr. Tom Pyle)

Mr. Simon Stephenson, Program Manager, Arctic Research Support and Logistics, briefed the OAC on the status of Arctic infrastructure available to support researchers.   Arctic research is currently supsported in all eight Arctic nations, the Arctic Ocean and the surrounding seas.   The program supports approximately 160 projects each year.   Most OPP-supported PIs are using a non-NSF facility, the use of which has been coordinated by OPP.    One element of Arctic research is the necessity to be “good” guests of other Arctic countries.   In contrast, NSF owns and operates a small facility at Summit, Greenland.   NSF has begun a program for long-term observations, requiring year-round use of the station for the next five years.   OPP have also been working with the Europeans in research collaboration at Summit.   They currently make up one-third of the projects that gets supported at Summit and now the Europeans are considering joining OPP in the operation of Summit.   Mr. Stephenson noted that the challenges in supporting Arctic research are ensuring health and safety, access to Russia, and development of a new site in Barrow.   He also noted that IPY has the potential to help U.S. PIs with access into Russia -- both oceans and terrestrial.  

Antarctic (Mr. Erick Chiang)

The Antarctic infrastructure has three permanent stations: South Pole, McMurdo Station and Palmer Station.   There are two research vessels based in Puntas Arenas, Chile and in Christchurch, New Zealand.   The two research vessels, the Nathaniel B. Palmer and the Laurence M. Gould are used for science support.   Current efforts include science traversing, camp infrastructure, renewable energy, large engineering and construction projects in support of the science, telecommunication infrastructure and, transportation infrastructure sealift and airlift.   There are approximately 3,000 U.S. personnel that transit through Antarctica, including approximately 700-800 researchers and graduate students. Antarctic operations and logistics support is categorized in four major groups:   Science Support, Telecommunication, Transportation and Logistics and Facilities.    Out of the $220.36M, 24% is devoted to science support, 13% to IT and telecommunications, 45% to transportation and logistics and 18% to facilities operations, construction and maintenance.

The OAC noted the challenge of providing adequate IT support to Antarctic researchers.

Availability of Polar Research Vessels and Icebreakers - Mr. James Swift

Dr. Erb outlined the issues on the availability of research platforms that can operate in ice-covered waters for the benefit of the science program and the difficulties in breaking the channel into McMurdo.   If the channel cannot be broken, it will cause both the McMurdo Station and South Pole Station will have to be closed.   NSF and the U.S. would then have failed to meet a national mandate from the White House that has been sustained for many years.   The Coast Guard performed a scoping exercise that concluded that approximately $400M would be needed to refurbish the two ships, making them operational and reliable.   The Coast Guard has undertaken a mission analysis study and contracted that out to Booz, Allen, Hamilton.   

Dr. James Swift noted that the document “Arctic Research Support and Logistics” does not directly address the polar research vessel availability and summarized the letter from the OAC regarding the urgency of the icebreaker capability.   The letter urged OPP to charge a new committee to assess the capability of the icebreakers or to evaluate options or work with other entities like the PRB on this issue.   The OAC document was viewed as being roughly parallel to the PRB’s “Ship-Dependent Science Needs in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Ms. Elfring provided a brief summary of the PRB document noting that it became clear that there was a broader context, so that the summary that Dr. Swift noted is in essence a current draft proposal of a study that could be done in a more comprehensive way, identifying the science priorities and the types of support needed from polar capable ships and an inventory of assets and capabilities.   The report could identify the gaps and timing issues, other scenarios to meet the needs, and the opportunities and the obstacles.  

Lt. Commander Tom Wojahn, Ice Operations Program Manager for the Coast Guard, gave a brief description on the “Contractor Technical Support for a Mission Needs Analysis of U.S. Coast Guard Icebreakers” task order, noting that the USCG received input from different agencies on their concerns with the Polar Icebreakers to make sure all agencies’ needs are addressed.  

Dr. Swift expressed concern that decisions would need to be made about the icebreakers fairly soon.   Several options were discussed, including that OPP double the cargo and fuel supply on the ships one year, so that if the channel could not be broken in a subsequent year, McMurdo and South Pole Stations could remain open.

Broadening Participation in Polar Research - Dr. Robert Wharton

Dr. Judith Ramaley, Assistant Director for the Directorate for Education and Human Resources discussed with the OAC their interest in broadening participation and summarized that although progress has been made in producing opportunities to engage with the native people of the Arctic, broadening participation further into other communities that are underrepresented in their research remained a challenge.   Dr. Ramaley pointed out that there are a number of ways for people to broaden participation that can build onto ongoing activities.   NSF has alliances that involve multiple institutions that are found in a many parts of the country that are generating a significant number of undergraduate as well as graduate by individuals underrepresented in science and engineering.   The two major alliances are the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, headed by Dr. Art Hicks and The Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program headed by Dr. Roosevelt Johnson.   This represents a source of interested undergraduate or graduate students to involve in polar research and polar research and education.   These alliances are are natural convergences of institutional types that are more likely to represent and support underrepresented students.   All of the alliances have research intensive and research extensive participants.  

Current NSF programs that OPP can connect to are:   (1) Minority Serving Institution (MSI), (2) Alliances and Partnerships that include MSI, (3) Program Supporting Diversity, and (4) Participation of Minority Investigators in NSF’s Award.   These are programs that specifically relate to an investment in the institution itself.  

Dr. Wharton opened the floor for discussion of other outreach activities that are specific to OPP and broadening participation.   Some activities noted:

  • The New Investigator Workshop will be held on August 23 rd -24 th.
  • The Linking Polar Research and Education Workshop on June 23 rd-25 th.
  • The New Post Doctoral Program- to broaden participation and also to bring new people into the polar research area.  
  • OPP’s history in obtaining interns and fellowships.

Mr. Chiang added that two years ago, Raytheon started with a polar education program and expanded that to an internship program.   They started an alliance with five universities and hired students from the university as part of the workforce and to work on projects related to their degree program.   It was difficult to align their jobs with their educational experience, but nevertheless, there were 6-8 students involved in the first year. He welcomed ideas on building on this activity.

Dr. Wharton noted that while the transition from the TEA project is winding down, there is one existing program that OPP is exploring called Research Experience for Teachers (RET), which which could provide the vehicle to extend efforts like TEA.

The meeting adjourned at 5:45 p.m.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The meeting reconvened at 8:30 a.m.

Dr. Erb introduced Dr. Tom Windham, Senior Advisor for Science and Engineering Workforce, to the Committee, who advises the Director and ADs   on workforce issues.

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) - Dr. Robert Corell

Dr. Erb welcomed and introduced Dr. Robert Corell, who has been leading the ACIA effort now nearing completion.   Dr. Corell briefed the OAC on the background of ACIA and how the assessment was conducted.   There have been an increasing number of strong signals of climate change being noted in the Arctic, including increasing oceanic surface temperature, glaciers receding at unprecedented rates, and rising sea level.    The indigenous community across the Arctic has reported observations similar to those made by the research community.   In October 2000, the Arctic Council responded to a proposal from the International Arctic Science Sommittee (IASC) and requested conduct of the assessment.   The ACIA effort brought together approximately 300 authors from the Arctic nations and a number of other countries that have strong Arctic research programs.   Dr. Corell’s testimony before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on ACIA, which includes key findings, was distributed to the OAC.   The document is in the final editing stage and will be released shortly.   In addition, ACIA lead authors will produce a special volume on identifying the key gaps and needs for research and long term monitoring.

International Polar Year (continued discussion)

[Note:   The following discussion actually began at 8:30 but was suspended for the ACIA presentation.   The discussion picked up after ACIA.]

Dr. Schimel encouraged the OAC to continue the discussions from the first day on implementing IPY and summarized the outstanding issues:   (1) Should OPP plan an IPY effort without knowing future budgets and if so, what is the best way to do that? (2) How much emphasis should be given to new flagship opportunities? (3) Should OPP fund IPY activities at the expense of ongoing activities?   In response to these questions, the OAC referred back to Dr. Erb’s bullets on “Questions Regarding IPY Implementation”.

The OAC discussed whether it would be possible for IPY to become an NS-wide initiative, since NSF identifies particular interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary scientific theme areas to be Foundation initiatives.   This NSF theme would get the other Directorates and Offices involved in participating with OPP in certain initiatives, programs or projects, which might involve people who are not normally engaged in polar research in this.  

Dr. Erb explained that NSF has crosscutting themes at different levels of participation.   A full-scale “initiative” requires the support of everyone in the Foundation and might be difficult to arrange, but OPP may be able to foster something like the Engineering Directorate’s research theme called Sensors and Sensor Networks.   This started out as an Engineering activity, but acquired substantial support from other parts of the agency, including OPP.   OPP is interested in it because of the remote technology aspects, as are GEO and BIO for similar reasons.   He also noted the importance of staying connected to the international level because many cannot be carried out on a national level.   One of the important opportunities IPY affords is the ability to carry out flagship projects that can only be accomplished through the coordinated efforts of several countries.   The U.S. has potential thrusts that could become important components of flagship activities and that are consistent with the themes in the ICSU and U.S. NAS guidelines.

Some ideas mentioned as potential flagship activities included Study the Stability of West Antarctica Ice Sheet, International SEARCH, International Trans Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE).   The OAC suggested that OPP should look at activities or projects that the community has wanted to do for a long time, but have not been able to generate the resources whether it is flagship activities or a lot of individual ones.

Members commented that the U.S. contribution to IPY on the NAS/NRC human dimension theme should involve the indigenous resident people of the North as partners and stakeholders from the outset.

Questions were raised about how OPP would facilitate flagship activities and what the next step would be after the PRB report is out?   Are there any plans yet through agencies or in collaboration with PRB that would take OPP to that next step?   How will OPP sort through the present collection of ideas and narrowing them down to the point where they can be implemented?

Dr. Erb’s responded that the managers of the Antarctic and Arctic programs together would assess how OPP’s programs could tie in with flagship programs that are being suggested from around the world.   OPP/NSF and the other U.S. federal agencies will need to continue to work with the PRB and the OAC can be particularly helpful to OPP.   Dr. Erb asked the OAC to assist OPP by using their knowledge of NSF’s programs, knowing what OPP’s capabilities are and knowing the interests of the communities OPP supports to suggest areas of special interest for IPY.   This would enable OPP in discussions with counterparts of other national programs, particularly on how to invest resources on the flagship issues.  

In conclusion, Dr. Schimel asked the OAC to think about activities that could be pushed forward that are ready and might not otherwise get pushed forward.   Activities should be are integrated and bipolar to the extent possible; have high impact; with the potential of quick pay-off, not just with long development times; and some elements in these activities needs to incorporate the native people into the activities and not merely as subjects.   Dr. Schimel requested that the OAC read the PRB report and circulate commentaries to him, which will then be shared with Drs. Brigham-Grette and Mayewski for synthesis.

Environmental Stewardship - Dr. Bob Wharton and Mr. Erick Chiang

Dr. Wharton stressed the important responsibility that OPP has in the protection of the environment in both the Antarctic, and to a lesser extent the Arctic.   NSF/OPP conducts environmental reviews of USAP activities for two main reasons: (1) the U.S. policy assigns NSF overall responsibility for U.S. governmental activity in Antarctica and, (2) the Antarctic Conservation Act (1996) assigned NSF/OPP specific responsibilities for environmental protection and oversight.   Dr. Wharton covered the levels of review required for environmental clearances.

Dr. Erb briefly explained that many environmental problems were inherited by NSF from the previous operator of the program (U.S. Navy), and that OPP has been actively remediating these problems.   Mr. Chiang informed the OAC that over the last 15 years, OPP has terminated all incinerators in the Antarctic, ceased the practice of dumping either in the marine or terrestrial environments in landfills, and has recently completed a waste treatment plant at McMurdo.   In terms of prevention, OPP has identified as a major vulnerability the handling of fuels and the identification and remediation of contaminated sites and sites of historic activity.   OPP instituted a cradle to grave program, which tracks what comes in, what goes out, and what is left in the Antarctic.  

2003 Committee of Visitors -
Dr. Scott Borg

The 2003 COV Report and responses were discussed at length at the November 2003 OAC meeting.   Pursuant to discussions between Dr. Hartline (the OAC representative on the COV), Dr. Borg, and Ms. Metcalf in preparation for this meeting, Dr. Borg was asked to review the status of several COV recommendations that merited continued discussion.   Dr. Borg reviewed the issues noted below:

A.1.2   Notice of declinations should be expedited

OAC offered the following comments:

  • Decline decisions should be made in time to allow proposers to submit a revised proposal before the next program deadline.   OAC members admitted this would require very fast turnaround for the Arctic, with its two deadlines a year.   Prescreening could speed up the process of identifying declines, but that would lead NSF away from the standard merit review system.  
  • If a proposer receives notification of a decline that doesn’t allow time to submit a revised proposal before the next deadline, perhaps allowances could be made to accept the proposal late.
  • The review system might actually be working better than it appeared to the COV.

Program staff commented that with Electronic Jacket, the process may go more smoothly.   Dr. Erb agreed that this issue needs continued work and that the processing of declines will be discussed further in OPP to see where improvements can be made.

A.1.6   OPP should share exemplary examples of program officer recommendations

OPP has been sharing exemplary examples and “best practices” with each other and will further emphasize the process.

A.1.15   Impact/extent of budget reductions resulting in reduced student involvement

PIs are not required to notify NSF if they want to take funding that is initially identified for student support and reallocate it for other purposes.   This is on the PI’s discretion and NSF has no control over that.   However, OPP could require that any changes to budgets impacting student support be approved by NSF.

The OAC questioned whether lower success rates could also adversely affect young investigators.   Dr. Erb responded that agency-wide the success rate for young investigators has gone down.

A.1.28   OPP should enable teacher participation

OPP has some ideas and may have a new AAAS Fellow who has indicated interest in this area.

C.1.1 Encourages OPP to be active in areas of global science, bipolar science etc.

OAC commented that this was an important issue.   For example, ultimately ARCSS synthesis needs to be coupled with whole earth system synthesis.

OPP agrees that support of bipolar science is important and supports workshops that try to enable a global perspective and a polar perspective when appropriate, and also by participating in international for a such as SCAR, IASC, COMNAP, AOSB, FARO, etc.

C.4.3   Put final reports on the NSF public web site

Dr. Erb has proposed this to NSF management in the past, but the practices has not be instituted.   Dr. Erb will discuss this recommendation with the appropriate NSF officials.

OAC members offered the following comments or suggestions:

  • Develop a system enabling public access to some of the report, basically, an “after project abstract” listing two to three basic ideas that came out of that project would be a great follow-up for many programs.  
  • The COV found that some final reports were not prepared properly and were not elaborate enough.   If the final reports were made public, PIs might take more care with their preparation.  
  • Take the project summary from the original submission and allow the PIs to annotate it.   This would allow a reader to see the success of the project.  
  • Make broader impacts more publicly available.
  • The audience of these final reports is really the NSF group; the peer reviewed journals are for those audiences that are interested in what science NSF produced.
  • Researchers will be hesitant to share results before they have been published.
  • In working in the indigenous communities, the native communities claims that it is their knowledge and they want to decide how it is disseminated.  

Dr. Erb added that these reports actually are available to the public upon request.   There has to be very specific reasons to keep anything out of the public domain.   Final project reports are not truly final since synthesis may go on for years, rather they are a snapshot summary of what was done in a period of the research.  

On the issue of speeding up handling of declines, Dr. Erb noted that the issue would be discussed further internally in OPP and then revisited with the OAC.   One of the reasons why the system is breaking down is because program officers often send proposals out to as many as10 reviewers, whereas NSF only requires three to review to make a decision.   Final decisions thus often await the submission of a large number of reviews.

Antarctic Logistics Issues - Mr. Erick Chiang

Mr. Chiang briefed the OAC on the LC-130 missions planning.   There are 411 USAP missions available which is different than missions scheduled.   The 109th schedules 15% more than the 411 missions available.   The 15% margin allows for maintenance issues, weather aborts, etc.   The mission success rate this past season was around 90%.    

Proposed Arctic Move to Single Annual Competition - Dr. Tom Pyle

Dr. Schimel noted that the Arctic Sciences Section has proposed a new schedule of competition moving from two deadlines (August and February) to one deadline in January.   The rationale behind this is to allow the best proposals to be funded each year instead of in a 6-month batch.   This would allow management to make better decisions because it is closer to the budget cycle.   It provides time for resubmissions, which is required by NSF policy. It also facilitates use of panels.   The downside is less flexibility for the PIs to actually get proposals written and submitted.

Dr. Pyle responded that this change was motivated primarily by the fiscal environment OPP is facing.   The deadline of January 25th will provide enough time for managers to make better decisions on awards because the current year budget allocation would be available.   This would eliminate the effort by PIs to rapidly turn around a proposal to make another deadline in the same year. When PIs rapidly turn around a proposal, the quality of the proposal may suffer.   This also creates a greater number of proposals to process and therefore, an even lower acceptance rate.   The mangers believe that they can do a better job of serving science by having one deadline date each year.

The OAC cautioned that the date must be carefully chosen. Dr. Pyle encouraged anyone with question thoughts to contact him.

IceCube Logistics

The Committee was briefed on the IceCube project by Dr. Scott Borg and Mr. Erick Chiang.   Dr. Erb informed the OAC that the National Science Board recently passed a resolution authorizing OPP to move to the construction phase of the IceCube project, which will take approximately eight years.   The project will put heavy requirements on infrastructure and logistics through the entire Antarctic system.   The purpose of this session was to acquaint the OAC with how OPP will accommodate IceCube.  

2004 PRSS COV Planning - Dr. Karl Erb

The activities of the Polar Research Science Support Section will be reviewed by a Committee of Visitors (COV) this summer.   COVs are subcommittees to the Advisory Committee and should include one to two members of the OAC.   Dr. Schimel asked members interested in serving on the COV to step forward.   Jim Hollibaugh agreed to serve subject to schedule availability:  

Some comments/questions suggested by the OAC:

  • Is the planning for large projects appropriate to the size of the project?
  • The communication line between the grantees and Raytheon are very critical, what is the structure that OPP operates through and can it be improved?
  • Are the User Committees being disbanded?   (The User Committees are now included in the contract with Raytheon as something they have to maintain.)
  • Is the program cost effective?  
  • Are mechanisms in place for driving continuous improvement of all the activities, not just the business practices and the oversight, but also the conduct of the logistics.

Other Business

Dr. Beverly Hartline is a member of the Committee on Equal Opportunities of Science and Engineering.   She gave a brief overview of statistics on women and minorities and persons with disabilities in science and engineering.   She spoke on the expectations that people have on women and minorities and some of the difficulties they face.   Dr. Hartline asks the OAC to become more aware of the different worlds or faces that science and engineering presents depending on gender or ethnicity, especially the underrepresented groups.  

Dr. Jefferies commented that interesting students in science begins early, at the K-12 level.   He also recommended reading a recent article in Science called “Scientific Teaching” on the need to change teaching approaches to make science more interesting to a broader group.

The meeting adjourned at 2:40 p.m.

See Agenda for this meeting.

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March 2005

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