Email Print Share

OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

May 9 - 10, 2005 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

James Swift, Chair, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California—San Diego
Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Department of Geosciences & EMS Environment Institute, Pennsylvania State University
Brian Bershad, Computer Sciences, University of Washington
Kelly Falkner, Chemical Oceanography, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
Beverly Hartline, Heritage University
James Hollibaugh, Marine Biology, University of Georgia
Martin Jeffries, Glaciology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Deanna Paniataaq-Kingston, Anthropology, Oregon State University
Paul Mayewski, Glaciology, Climate Change, Glaciochemistry, University of Maine
Thomas McGovern, Archaeology, Hunter College of City of New York
Marilyn Raphael, Geography, University of California, Los Angeles
Peter Schlosser, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
Paul Shepson, Purdue University

Members Absent

Joshua Schimel, Past Chair, Ecology-Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director, Office of Polar Programs
Michael Van Woert, 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 9 and 10, 2005.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Welcome and Introductions

Dr. James Swift called the meeting to order at 8:33 a.m. The Committee members and the Office of Polar Programs' senior staff introduced themselves. Dr. Swift is the newly appointed Chair succeeding outgoing Chair Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan. The minutes from the November 2004 meeting were approved with corrections in the affiliations for Drs. Hartline and Anandakrishnan.

Office of Polar Program Director's Report

Dr. Erb welcomed the Committee and discussed recent OPP staff changes.  Dr. Michael Van Woert is the new OPP Executive Officer and Ms. Kim Silverman joined OPP as the Program Manager for the Artists and Writers Program and as the OPP outreach officer.  Guy Guthridge had retired after many years of outstanding service.  Erb also mentioned that Dr. Marie Bundy, who has been serving as the Associate Program Manager for the Antarctic Biology and Medicine Program, will also be bringing her biology expertise to the Arctic Natural Sciences Program, bridging the Arctic and the Antarctic programs as OPP's first bipolar program officer.   

Dr. Erb then discussed the FY-06 Budget Request to Congress.  Congress is beginning to mark up the budget, and it seems likely that funding is going to be very tight.  There is a 12.4% budget reduction in NSF's Education and Human Resources funding associated with a transfer of responsibilities from NSF to the Department of Education.   In another significant development, NSF/OPP was assigned responsibility in the President's request for funding the three Coast Guard polar icebreakers.  The Administration transferred $48M to NSF for this purpose.    In addition to the $48M, the Coast Guard has said that another $17M should be spent for maintenance on these ships in FY-06. 

Given the uncertainties in the present situation, OPP needs to begin to look at options for resupplying the Antarctic research stations at McMurdo and South Pole.  Dr. Erb asked the committee to think about possibly creating a subcommittee on U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) Resupply.  Dr. Erb commented that he had telephone discussions with the Chair, Dr. Jim Swift, and past Chairs of the OAC, Drs. Joshua Schimel and Sridhar Anandakrishnan, concerning the need for a subcommittee to examine options for Antarctic resupply in light of the current status of the Coast Guard's polar class icebreakers.  OPP had begun looking at options for resupplying the Antarctic stations several months ago and concluded in working with the Chairs that what was need was an external oversight committee that would guide the study of options.  The Chairs developed the draft tasking that is included in your briefing book.  This is a piece of business for the Committee to discuss later – whether you want to form this subcommittee and whether you agree with the tasking as drafted.  If you do, the subcommittee is ready to roll and has picked a date when they could have their first meeting here in Washington.

SEARCH, IPY and Other Arctic Highlights: Arctic Research Report — Dr. Thomas Pyle

Dr. Tom Pyle provided a status report on the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) program.  The NAS/NRC Polar Research Board has been asked to provide recommendations for a potential Arctic observing network and to present some guidelines for activity in this direction under SEARCH.  OPP has identified the implementation of an Arctic observational system as an IPY flagship activity to enable SEARCH, potential process studies in the Bering Sea, and some sea ice studies. There has been a strong interest in ocean observatories of various kinds, generally being linked hardwire to shore for real time data access.  OPP will be working closely with NOAA looking to scope out such a program that would fit with all of the plans to put up a facility in Barrow.    Dr. Pyle said the Section has been discussing what fraction of its budget might be allocated to IPY and noted that numbers on the order of 10% had been discussed.  He said he thought this was low and invited Committee discussion.  Pyle also noted that the ARCSS Program Announcement deadline will be changed to November this fiscal year.  He also announced that the Arctic support contract with VECO was renewed for three years plus a one-year increment according to performance, following open competition for the contract.  Finally, Dr. Pyle announced a new Greenland-Denmark science agreement that no longer leaves us dependent on the old defense agreement.

In the following discussion the Chair emphasized the importance of clarity in the timing of requests for ship access for IPY projects.  Members also noted that it might be useful to “entrain” NGO studies with government-sponsored ones in order to maximize scientific returns from IPY investments.

Science Technology Center, WAIS IPY, and Antarctic Science Highlights — Dr. Scott Borg

Dr. Borg provided an overview of the new Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), one of two new Science and Technology Centers created in the recent NSF-wide competition.  It brings together modelers and observers nationally and internationally and has the potential for crossing the threshold to produce predicted models of ice sheet behavior.  The main goal is to understand the role of polar ice sheets and to predict future changes and their effect on sea level.  Like all STC's it has a potential lifetime of up to 11 years and will be funded at an annual level approaching $4 million.  The leadership of the Center indicated during the development of the cooperative agreement that they fully intend to be engaged in IPY.

Concerning future Lake Vostok exploration, Borg noted that the SCAR group of specialists has questioned the level of contamination that is acceptable in terms of environmental protection, as well as the level of contamination that would avoid compromising potential scientific findings.  The NAS/NRC Polar Research Board has submitted a proposal to study this issue with strong international participation in hopes of developing an international consensus. Engineering studies cannot be addressed effectively until OPP has an idea of what level of contaminant avoidance needs to be achieved.  He noted that the Russian national program has developed plans to sample Lake Vostok and has sought comments on their plan from other countries, as required by the Treaty, and is continuing to move toward lake entry phase within the next few years.  Dr. Erb commented that OPP has been asked by the Russians to partner with them and that his response has been that OPP cannot provide any logistical assistance until concerns about contamination have been addressed to the satisfaction of the U.S. and international science communities. 

Polar Icebreakers

Dr. Erb commented that the Coast Guard has estimated costs of approximately $1B over the next 6-8 years to maintain the operating condition of the Polar Star and the Polar Sea and then to retrofit the ships' hulls.  Citing inadequate funding, the Coast Guard proposed decommissioning the 2 Polar Class ships earlier in the year. But lacking substitute icebreaker capability, NSF would have to close two of the three USAP year-round stations in Antarctica.  This would abrogate U.S. Antarctic policy and thus the White House (OSTP and OMB) decided against decommissioning and proposed instead to transfer the Coast Guard's $48 million polar icebreaking budget to NSF.  OMB also directed NSF and the Coast Guard to split the additional cost of $18.3 million for ship maintenance, using FY-05 appropriations.  Erb noted that in order to free up the NSF portion of this funding OPP would have to reduce its support of research and logistics activities by over $9 million this year.

The $9M was secured by deferring a $3M payment to an aircraft contractor for modifications to the LC-130s; a reduction in the number of new Antarctic Program research starts for FY-05 and a reduction in increments to some cooperative agreements for a total of $4M; a reduction in funding for Arctic research by $700K; deferring procurement for cargo offload sleds for the Antarctic Program; and also deferring hiring by the contractor for $1.2M; together with reductions in other areas.  The request to Congress was for $48M, but noted that the Coast Guard believes that some $65M will be required to maintain and operate the ships annually.  OPP is looking into how the funding shortfall would be dealt with.

The issues thus are funding; how OPP will interact with the Coast Guard in this arrangement in which the USCG owns and operates the ships while OPP funds the operation; and given the age and lack of reliability of the Polar Class ships, how NSF and OPP can ensure continued resupply of McMurdo and South Pole Stations.

U.S. Coast Guard Presentation Concerning Polar Icebreakers

CAPT Dennis Holland, Head, Aids to Navigation Program and his staff, CDR Tom Wojahn, Icebreaker Division and LCDR Jim Seeman, Budget and Programs Division then interacted with the committee on the icebreaker issues.  CAPT Holland discussed the background of each class of ships, the Coast Guard's plans for the future, and the ultimate goal of getting two healthy ships ready, available and working to support NSF and all other national needs.  CAPT Holland and his staff expressed confidence that if the activity becomes fully funded, the Coast Guard will be able to maintain the reliability of the ships. 

He noted that the Healy needs electronics upgrades and that the Polar Star and Polar Sea are 29 and 27 years old, respectively.  The Polar Class vessels were designed to provide access to McMurdo Station under any ice condition but they take a beating in the process and were built with 1970's technology.  In order to maintain operability the Polar Star will need repairs in 2007 and 2008, while the Polar Sea will need extensive work in 2005 and 2006.  He said the Coast Guard has initiated a major acquisition process to upgrade or replace those ships.  If the acquisition process were to be funded in FY-07 the first new ship could be available in FY-13 and the second in FY-15.  Meanwhile, additional FY-05 funding is needed for the following maintenance and upgrade purposes:

  • Healy - $4 million above funding in the $48 million baseline
  • Polar Star - $3.6 million above the baseline and $7.4 million from the base
  • Polar Sea - $4.8 million above the baseline and $9.2 million from NSF.

CAPT Holland also said the Coast Guard initiated a study the previous week with the Military Sealift Command concerning possible MSC crewing of the vessels.

In response to questions, the Coast Guard visitors said the Polar Class ships can make 1-2 miles headway/day when backing and ramming in heavy ice, that the budget fully funds crew for both polar class ships even though only one is operational at any given time, and that icebreaker replacement is not included in the Coast Guard's Deepwater renewal plan.

Dr. Erb noted that NSF has historically only paid marginal costs for the use of the polar icebreakers, with the ships being maintained by the Coast Guard to meet a variety of national needs.  The Coast Guard has shown, however, that science has been almost the sole user of those ships over the last decade, and this probably was a factor in the White House decision to handle the issue the way it did. 

Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Management and Budget Presentations

Dr. Michael Holland of the Physical Sciences Group in the Office of Science and Technology Programs (OSTP) then spoke on this issue.  He began his presentation by noting that his responsibilities are to work with OMB in assessing requests from the research agencies, setting priorities for the R&D portfolio and making recommendations in concert with OMB on the President's Request for R&D each year.  OMB and OSTP were presented with this problem of accumulated deferred maintenance to the icebreakers.  Several factors placed the continuing viability of the nation's icebreaking fleet in some doubt.  What was proposed was intended to be an interim solution until OMB and OSTP complete the reanalysis of the nation's needs for the icebreakers. 

He said the President's FY-06 Budget Request proposed moving $48M from the Coast Guard to NSF for the operations and maintenance of the nation's icebreaking fleet.  The Administration expects NSF to pay the Coast Guard to operate and maintain these icebreakers since NSF is the primary customer and to offset these costs.  Costs could be as high as $76 million in FY-06.  The mid-term recommendation that gets OMB and OSTP through the development of a new policy will be during the period of FY06-08 and possibly as long as FY12.  NSF is encouraged to pursue options for increasing the fuel capacity at McMurdo and to become less reliant on annual icebreaking services, perhaps by initiating a sea-ice resupply pilot project. In the long-term, NSF is encouraged to investigate a combination of options: refurbishment of the polars (service life extension program); or, if refurbishment doesn't make any sense, then NSF should be free to pursue procurement of an icebreaker optimized to the Foundation's needs in Antarctica.  Currently, tasking memos have been sent out to the various agencies to solicit their needs for icebreaking services. 

Mr. David Trinkle, OMB examiner for NSF, briefly spoke on the OMB budget process for FY-06 and FY-07.  In regards to the icebreaker issue, Mr. Trinkle said working policies have been put into place to deal with the short term while a long-term solution is developed.  They are still working on what the long-term solution should be and there will be a chance for input.  The FY-06 budget request has been submitted to the Congress and it will only be changed in the event of calamity or war.  The budget is now up to the Congress.  In preparation for the FY-07 budget request the Administration is working now on developing high-level guidance. 

Dr. Swift asked what limits had been placed on NSF's flexibility in dealing with the problem.  Could a different crewing model be used?  Mr. Trinkle responded that OMB hasn't seen a better plan yet than the one put in place for the short-term but that a different crewing model certainly could be considered.  The Coast Guard believes strongly in its model, however.  Dr. Bershad warned against sticking with the short-term solution any longer than is absolutely necessary.  Dr. Erb urged the committee to help OPP think about options it could put into effect quickly in the event the Coast Guard could not provide effective assistance in the near-term because of the age and condition of its ships.  He added that as we think about alternate methods of resupply over the longer term, one important factor is whether other modes of resupply would open up new scientific frontiers that are not currently accessible to the science community. 

Dr. Jeffries asked what incentives had been put in place to encourage the agencies to spend wisely and Dr Hollibaugh asked whether the funding action was to be a simple pass through.  Mr. Trinkle responded that OMB would work with the agencies to encourage efficiency and Dr. Erb added that NSF is determined to exercise its responsibility to oversee expenditures and would be working to develop an understanding with the Coast Guard concerning how this would be done.

Committee members questioned the request for $48 million when much more would be needed, and also asked if NSF was free to go elsewhere to secure icebreaking services.  Dr. Erb asks the committee to brainstorm and be prepared to have options that OPP can consider putting into effect quickly as contingencies against failure due to the age of the icebreakers.

OPP Study of Resupply Alternatives

Mr. George Blaisdell outlined a number of options OPP staff have begun studying, including cargo and fuel offload at locations other than McMurdo Station and using overland traverse capabilities to move cargo to McMurdo and South Pole Stations. Dr. Mayewski commented that the ITASE studies have shown that there has been little change in the Ross Sea region over the last 100 years and that traverse capabilities therefore can be counted on for the foreseeable future.  Dr. Anandakrishnan commented that the traverse capability also opens up new opportunities for scientific research.   Mr. Blaisdell also commented on the possibility of constant milling of the ice by relatively small icebreakers, as is done to keep Baltic ports open.  Dr. Jeffries commented that extended milling would have an impact on the ecosystem.  The committee agreed to return to the subject of alternate resupply mechanisms at a later date.

IPY Updates

Ms. Chris Elfring, Executive Director of the NAS/NRC Polar Research Board, provided an update on the new NAS study,  “Assessment of United States Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Roles and Future Needs”.  This study will provide a comprehensive assessment of the current and future roles of Coast Guard Polar Icebreakers in supporting U.S. operations in polar regions, including scenarios for continuing those operations and also alternative approaches, the changes and roles and missions of polar icebreakers in the support of all national priorities in the polar regions and potential changes in the roles of the Coast Guard icebreakers in the Arctic that may develop due to environmental change.  The Committee will provide an interim report this coming November and a final report in late summer, 2006.  Ms. Elfring said the Committee was now being formed and invited nominations, and that she anticipated holding a first meeting in June or early July.

Update on ICSU and NAS/PRB Planning for IPY

Dr. Robin Bell provided an update on both ICSU and PRB activities in planning for International Polar Year.  Dr. Bell chairs the Polar Research Board and also is Vice Chair of the ICSU planning committee.   She said about 35 nations are participating and ICSU has received some 869 notices of intent to conduct IPY research and education activities.  The IPY goal is to develop an international program of coordinated interdisciplinary research and observations in the polar regions in order to explore new frontiers, study polar processes and their global linkages, increase our ability to detect change in the future at the poles, attract and develop the next generation of scientists and engineers, and capture the interest of the public and decision-makers.  The PRB will send out a message reminding the community that:  the ICSU clustering groups are flexible, there's an opportunity to build collaborations, there will be national committee approval, and to look for emerging funding opportunities. Dr. Bell expressed that if the OAC could convey this to the community, it would help the U.S. along in this.  Dr. Anandakrishnan suggested that another path for collaborating with people, if one is not part of these clusters, is to try and be a part of that proposal that the “cluster” is putting together. 

Dr. Erb announced that OPP is planning a large office-wide solicitation for a few major IPY projects that will require a great deal of logistics, but also that both the Antarctic and Arctic regular solicitations will entertain proposals for IPY activity.  In all solicitations the guidelines from ICSU and the NAS will be supplementary to the two standard NSF merit review criteria.  If a group of investigators is part of an international team and wants funding from NSF to participate in that activity, they could propose through either of the solicitations.  OPP cannot abdicate its own review responsibilities to ICSU or anyone else, but on the other hand, OPP expects genuine IPY proposals to have international dimensions and to meet the ICSU and NAS IPY criteria.  Dr. Erb noted that individuals looking for opportunities to get involved in international projects can access the ICSU data base to identify opportunities. 

Dr. Bob Bindschadler, NASA provided an update on NASA's IPY plans.  He suggested that NASA should have a coordinated function for IPY since the science, the technology, and the outreach resides in separate Directorates and without some type of pan-directorate presence and function within NASA for IPY, NASA really won't be able to take advantage of IPY opportunities.  Dr. Bindschadler hopes that in NASA's annual solicitation of proposals that IPY would appear as an individual element to give visibility within the agency not just within science, but also across other directorates.  He also noted that IPY in the NASA context is not limited to the poles of this planet, and will extend to polar regions in the solar system. There are a lot of icy environments and cold dark planets of great interest to NASA.

Dr. John Calder, NOAA noted that NOAA's intention is to play a role in several clusters such as exploration, observations, prediction and modeling and data outreach and decision support.  They are open to opportunities to coordinate and collaborate.

Dr. Pyle noted that prospective PI's should alert individual Program Managers at the various agencies to their interests about participating so that joint review and funding could possibly be arranged.  Dr. Swift suggested that it might be beneficial for OPP to identify Program Managers to contact in the Announcement of Opportunity and then the Program Manager could help proposers identify other agency contacts that might be useful.  Dr. Erb commented that the clustering process would need to be repeated again after projects have been selected for funding.

Discussion with NSF's Director

Dr. Arden Bement, Director, NSF thanked the committee members for their time especially during this difficult time for OPP.  He briefed the committee on NSF planning for cyberinfrastructure and announced the formation of the new Cyber Infrastructure (CI) Council.  The Council will be made up of the NSF Senior Management group consisting of the AD's and Office Heads, and will help determine future CI directions and budget recommendations.  It also will advise on how NSF might structure itself internally to carry out a broad mandate addressing networking, middleware, software, high order language, algorithm development, workforce development and high performance computing.  NSF is trying to structure a program that serves all of the science and engineering community with the ever-increasing generation of data, development of databases, growth in sensor networks and the computation that entails, as well as building the tools that generate the data.  NSF is preparing a strategy document for discussion with the National Science Board in the upcoming meeting. 

Dr. Bement then commented on IPY, noting that NSF has compiled the statements of intent of other agencies in a draft document that will soon be finalized and sent to the Senate.  IPY will be a two-year intensive set of activities that should result in a legacy of observations and observation systems that will enrich scientific investigations for many years to come.   NSF should focus not only on the two-year period of IPY, but also on the longer term and how to sustain benefit from these investments made during that two-year period.  He added that the Kansas University Science and Technology Center would be an important attractor for international collaborations.

Dr. Bement then discussed the Agency's budget proposal for FY-06 and expressed the hope that Congress would at least meet the President's Request.  He said 197 members of the House of Representatives are advocating for NSF.  On the icebreaker issue, Dr. Bement said the polar class ships are ageing and get beaten up.  NSF has been asked to provide funding and management oversight.  The House and the Senate have asked us to look at alternatives and NSF is looking forward to the committee's input on this issue.  NSF will continue to work with the Administration to sort out the icebreaker budget issue for next year and beyond.  He asked the OAC to consider alternatives on how best to handle the resupply mission and he said the advice would be taken very seriously and discussed with the Administration. 

 Dr. Jeffries expressed concern about the need to fund professional development of teachers and noted that the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctica Program was ending. Dr. Kingston commented that the Department of Education didn't appear to be collaborating on IPY planning.  Dr. Bement commented on the importance of every Directorate's investing in education in one form or another, at every level of education and he expressed support for the TEA concept.

Dr. Swift asked about the possibility of adequate funding for icebreakers and Dr. Bement replied that there had not yet been a full discussion of the issue.

Dr. Bement then discussed briefly the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and commented that he thought this area of research needed greater investment.  Dr. Swift observed that because OPP was not organized around disciplines it could be more effective in integrative research of this type.  Dr. Jeffries asked if NSF could help make climate models available for use by the broader scientific community and Dr. Bement said they should be made available.  Drs. Mayewski and Kingston spoke about the importance of data management and exchange on an international basis and Dr. Kingston noted the recommendations of the SEARCH data group that data collectors work with the end users in designing their collection and distribution mechanisms. 

The meeting adjourned for the day at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 10 , 2005

The meeting reconvened at 8:33 a.m.

OPP Polar Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Dr. Katy Flint, Science Policy Fellow, AAAS briefed the committee on the Postdoctoral Fellows Program goals and overview, program innovations and its latest development.  One unique feature of this program is that it is the first to provide health insurance and it requires that a host scientist must detail a mentoring plan for the postdoc as part of their letters of support.  After identifying the new Fellows and summarizing their research goals Dr. Flint asked the committee for guidance on the program evaluation come next year. 

The committee suggested that OPP might want to look in the latest edition of the American Scientist where there's a post doc review study that could assist in evaluating the success of the post docs and mentors.  It was also suggested that a telephone interview would be useful when evaluating a candidate because this is such a prestigious award and that the awarded fellows will continually be tracked to monitor their progression long after the award has ended.
Dr. Falkner asked how many post-doctoral fellows were currently being supported by OPP through research grants and the response was approximately 150.

IPY Human Dimensions

Dr. Anna Kerttula briefed the committee on the social and cultural dimensions of IPY as well as the focus of the IASSA IPY, the Arctic Social Sciences Program and its interest in including SEARCH, BEST, General Social Science Survey, Documenting Endangered Languages and BOREAS. 

Ms. Renee Crain spoke on what OPP has been doing to organize, coordinate and facilitate education activities with IPY.  Education and outreach for IPY will help develop the next generation of Polar researchers by engaging young people, including minorities and underrepresented groups, and by engaging the public and decision makers.      

Dr. Kingston commented that research projects that have an education and outreach component should engage those communities before the research begins in order to involve members of the local communities more effectively.

Mr. Curt Suplee, Director, OLPA provided an update on OLPA's IPY outreach ideas.  Mr. Suplee encouraged the committee to comment on what OLPA is proposing for IPY outreach.  One suggestion was to decide early on what subset of the population to target and to find the right type of spokesperson to generate interest in that subset of the population. The idea of putting videos with sound on the web could captivate people and news agencies.   Dr. Swift suggested that the OAC could come up with some recommendations on providing explicit guidance to investigators for providing and contributing outreach materials.  Dr. Anandakrishnan suggested that the OAC could make a recommendation to encourage OPP to provide extra resources for groups that have the most scientifically interesting core program that would enable them to collect images and information in the field and to bring them to OLPA at the end of the season.  Dr. Hartline suggested running a contest for GK-12 to provide web useable video clips, so that at the end of the contest, there would be a big collection of materials to choose from.   

Revisiting IPY: Updates on OPP's IPY Proposal Solicitation Plan

Dr. Marie Bundy discussed the OPP Proposal Solicitation Plans.  There will be three science themes:

  1. Development of an integrated polar observing system in concert with the ongoing Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH),
  2. Adaptations to life in extreme cold and prolonged darkness, with emphasis on ecological and genomic processes that occur during the polar night, and
  3. Studies of the stability and dynamics of polar ice sheets. 

There are two crosscutting areas:

  • Education and Outreach must be integral part of research proposals.
  • Stand-alone proposals for E&O (e.g., for TEA-like programs) will also be considered and Data management providing open data dissemination is critical. 

Dr. Bundy asked the committee to provide some input on the best way to proceed with how to handle data management; language in the solicitation to involve other directorates and agencies; how should OPP communicate the characteristics of IPY projects; and, how to foster the next generation of researchers. 

Dr. Anandakrishnan suggested that a few OAC members take on the task of gathering information either in addition to or beyond the themes that had been put forward, but especially on data mining.  

Antarctic Logistics and Infrastructure Update

Mr. Erick Chiang briefly touched on the key infrastructure developments over the last several years, i.e. information security required by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) to undergo the Vulnerability Analysis and Penetration Test; the KRASIN icebreaker and the request for continued support; the 2004-05 South Pole traverse route and the completion of the proof of concept; SPSE/SM construction schedule and accomplishments. Mr. Chiang also noted that modernization plans include alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. 

Dr. Erb commented that OPP is looking into the possibility of delaying South Pole Station construction by a year to make sure that there is space at the Station for new science capability in IPY.  He was concerned about over emphasizing high bandwidth communications to South Pole Station as the centerpiece of an outreach effort because of bandwidth limitations.  He suggested focusing on the Outreach program and building a robust activity that takes advantage of things other than high bandwidth capability.

Information Technology Research (ITR) Program Committee of Visitors Report

Dr. Brian Bershad had served as the OPP OAC liaison for the ITR/COV review for NSF and reported on those activities. One critical and successful aspect of the program was the Interdisciplinary Inter-Institutional and International Collaborations component.  The Program succeeded in creating critical masses of PI's in emerging areas of research.  The kinds of things highlighted by the COV for praise were the kinds of things OPP does, such as the creation of virtual observatories and data repositories.  The report emphasized the importance of developing new tools as well as the need to fund the continued maintenance and use of those tools.  Two key aspects of the ITR program were:  its interdisciplinarity and its openness to high-risk research.  The COV concluded that the ITR program is a great program, but suggested a few tweaks.  The COV message to OPP was that OPP did a nice job.  OPP was only a very small part of the program and yet was mentioned several times in the report.  Dr. Bershad believes that the ITR program review provides the basis for understanding how OPP can fit in and he suggested the OPP should work a little harder to do so. 

Dr. Erb commented that traditionally, the polar community has had trouble getting traction on these cross agency initiatives and believes that it's a challenge for the polar community to think about how these programs could overlap with what they are trying to do.  He expressed appreciation for Dr. Bershad's remarks and for giving OPP helpful advice on how to think about cyberinfrastructure.

The Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) Report on Broadening Participation

Dr. Beverly Hartline presented a report from the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE).  The CEOSE responsibilities are to review and provide advice to NSF on programs and activities within and outside NSF that promote and broaden the full participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities, who are currently underrepresented in scientific, engineering, professional, and technical fields.  Their report indicated that barriers encountered by underrepresented groups in STEM have remained essentially unchanged since the first CEOSE biennial report in 1982.  The lack of adequate disaggregated demographic and other data on underrepresented groups persists, limiting understanding of the issues and barriers faced by these groups. CEOSE recommendations to NSF including paying greater attention to removing barriers faced by women, minorities, and persons with disabilities who enter the STEM professions and collecting more data on participation by underrepresented groups.  The recommendations addressed accountability, research, policy levers, and the needs of tribal colleges, and included widening pathways into STEM, institutional transformation, evaluation and communication. 

Dr. Kingston commented on the importance of recognizing modalities other than those embedded in western science.

Polar Research Support Section 2004 Committee of Visitors Issues

Mr. Erick Chiang focused on topics that were relevant to planning, resource allocation, and cost estimating.  Three out of seven questions posed to the COV and the resulting recommendations were: (1) Have the processes used to establish priorities captured long term needs and priorities; (2) Has PRSS funding for support of scientific needs and investment in infrastructure been appropriate; and (3) Does PRSS plan and implement science projects effectively to achieve research goals.

In response to the COV Recommendations for Question 1, Mr. Chiang noted OPP concurs with all four recommendations and the importance of assessing future directions:

1.1  Sponsor with the OPP Science Section, a community-wide workshop, or series of workshops on Grand Challenges in Antarctic Science.

1.2  Become more efficient and accurate in providing timely support cost estimates and innovative in enabling more complex projects.

1.3  Based on input from the Science community, PRSS should take a comprehensive “South of 60o” look at other opportunities for infrastructure development to encourage the submittal of proposals that stretch the bounds set by current support limitations.

1.4  Work with OPP science section to identify logistical requirements and constraints in order to optimize USAP participation in the International Polar Year (IPY) and to provide support for collaborative international efforts funded by other nations.

Some examples of workshop reports resulted in the major projects that OPP is implementing today:  WAIS, Cape Roberts/ANDRILL, SOAR, large field camps, GLOBEC.  PRSS wants to ensure that past practice does not preclude exploration of new scientific frontiers that require different logistics and/or infrastructure.  He believes that it would be worth discussing how OPP would choose the kind of infrastructure to which to put our resources should OPP phase out the kind of support in place today or are there trade-offs that can be employed amongst disciplines rather than trying to prioritize between disciplines.  PRSS is trying to build flexibility into the budgeting and resource allocation processes to enable longer range planning and trade-offs. 

Question 2 dealt with cost issues in the support infrastructure. The Science Section and PRSS will institute a joint planning process to complement the planning done in each section.  In the interim, Program Managers will be provided with “resource baskets” which allows them to allocate available resources, i.e. LC-130s, helicopters, vehicles, etc. and to consider trade-offs.  In the new process, PRSS wants to tracks O&M costs distinct from infrastructure and science project costs.  Some resources however support a wide variety of infrastructure and science needs. 

Question 3 was in regards to cost and cost allocation.  The Antarctic Science Section and PRSS are working to implement a system to allow for improved analysis of support needs for large projects.  This activity includes a detailed analysis of the project and project planning and will certainly require additional time as well as substantive involvement of PI's prior to a final funding decision.  One of the complexities in this process is the interface between the scientist, contractor and NSF necessary in order to come up with a complete picture of the requirements and subsequent costs, and the impacts of design as the consequence of where we need to build something or the transportation of a particular component for infrastructure.

Dr. Swift stated that he understood how costing would take time, and asked how this would be done. Dr. Erb replied that commitments would be planned with the full involvement of PRSS and the Science Section to develop a process over the next year, and that this was a very important COV recommendation. 

Dr. Erb commented that another very important issue that the COV raised was whether science was unduly constrained by historical logistics patterns.  That the research community may at times feel that there is no point in proposing a particular piece of science because they don't think OPP could support it logistically.  The study being overseen by the OAC subcommittee offers an opportunity to address this question.  Dr. Erb believes this is a very important question for the future of polar science.  He noted that OPP is going to have to address this in view of the icebreaking crisis and that OPP is going to have to think more widely about what it could do differently, what it should do differently and what are the benefits of doing it differently.  It was recommended that Dr. Swift's subcommittee read the COV report.

Discussion of User Group Recommendations

Mr. Al Sutherland and Mr. Brian Stone discussed the various user groups in the Antarctic program.  The Minutes of the meetings of these user groups can be found at

Some issues identified by the COV with respect to the user committees were as follows:

  1. USAP-wide issues that cut across user groups include:
    1. Information technology security;
    2. Deployment issues;
  1. Difficulty coordinating activities between committees;
  2. Inconsistent charters; and
  3. Discipline representation.    

Mr. Stone expressed that OPP needs to work with the existing heads of each Antarctic User Committee to come up with a revised charter that all committees can agree upon.  He requested advice from the OAC on how to charge the user committees as to whether they should be tackling big programmatic issues or just the user interface.  Mr. Stone also commented that defining the areas OPP wants the user committees to look at requires more discussion with the committee. 

Dr. Erb mentioned that the South Pole User Committee commented extensively on a management plan OPP is preparing for the South Pole area that will be submitted for consideration to the Antarctic Treaty System in June.  This management plan will set priorities that will identify what different areas are used for.  This is another important contribution of the South Pole User Committee.

Dr. Falkner asked about providing feedback to VECO and asked what was happening with the questionnaires.

Mr. Stephenson explained that VECO has a performance review by OPP on an annual basis per project.  The performance review ties into OPP's evaluation process that feeds into GPRA and PART, but VECO does not have an overall user group for facilities because it's so distributed – it's Arctic-wide. 

Dr. Shepson noted that BASC could be more useful in long-range planning, but that it is very integrated with the native community, enabling it to provide opportunities for outreach and integration of the science with the community.  It is a very unusual resource. 

Dr. Scott Borg commented that OPP has not been using the user committees in the Antarctic as an evaluation tool.  The input recommendations are filtered through Raytheon to address and discuss with NSF and that not all recommendations are implemented, but in parallel with that, OPP has out-briefs.  There is a concern that the out-briefs are not capturing a completely candid response from the PIs. Dr. Tom Wagner developed a simple questionnaire to all of the active projects as an experiment to get some independent feedback that avoids the issue of people being reticent about making criticisms when dealing face-to-face and when you know you have to depend on those people next time around. 

Dr. Ruhl noted that the SPUC list did not capture the committee's hot button issues, and supports OPP's efforts to improve the feedback loop.

Other Business

Dr. Swift was aware that many major issues were not addressed such as the Antarctic program resupply option and providing guidance regarding the IPY level of funding.  He noted that these issues can be discussed on email where questions will be developed that are very effective and focused and will be brought to the next meeting.  Dr. Swift thanked all who attended. 

Dr. Erb thanked all who prepared items for this meeting and particular thanked Dr. Swift for not only chairing this meeting, but for agreeing to chair the subcommittee activity.  Dr. Erb also thanked Dr. Anandakrishnan for agreeing to be the OAC's liaison. 


The meeting was officially adjourned at 2:30 p.m.

See Agenda for this meeting.

Last Updated

October 2005

Polar Programs Advisory Committee Pages
Advisory Committee Home Page Advisory Committee Charter
divider line
Advisory Committee Members Advisory Committee Documents
divider line
Advisory Committee Meetings Committee of Visitors Documents
divider line
Advisory Committee Meeting Materials Polar Programs-supported Workshops

divider line

Office of Polar Programs SITE MAP!