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OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

May 18 – 19, 2006 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

James Swift, Chair, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego
Brian Bershad, Computer Sciences, University of Washington
Edward Brook, Geosciences, Oregon State University
Sarah Church, Physics, Stanford University
Hajo Eicken, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Kelly Falkner, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
Beverly Hartline, Heritage University, Toppenish, WA
James Hollibaugh, School of Marine Programs, University of Georgia
Martin Jeffries, Glaciology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Deanna Paniataaq Kingston, Anthropology, Oregon State University
Andrea Lloyd, Biology, Middlebury College
Donal Manahan, Marine Environmental Biology, University of Southern California
Thomas McGovern, Bioarchaeology Lab, Hunter College of the City of New York
Marilyn Raphael, Geography, University of California, Los Angeles
Paul Shepson, Atmospheric Chemistry, Purdue University
Terry Wilson, Geological Sciences, The Ohio State University

OPP Senior Staff Present

Karl Erb, Director
Michael Van Woert, Executive Officer
Scott Borg, Head, Antarctic Sciences Section
Simon Stephenson, Head, Arctic Sciences Section
Erick Chiang, Head, Polar Research Support Section
Michael Montopoli, Head, Environment, Safety & Health Section
Sue LaFratta, Senior Advisor/Policy, Analysis & Operations

The spring meeting of the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) Advisory Committee (AC) was held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, on May 18 and 19, 2006.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A list of acronyms used throughout these minutes may be found at Appendix 1.

Welcome and Introductions

Dr. Swift called the meeting to order at 8:33 a.m. on May 18, 2006.  He welcomed everyone and thanked Dr. Erb and the OPP Program Managers and staff for their preparations.  The minutes from the October 2005 meeting were approved subject to corrections to be provided by Dr. Falkner.  Dr. Swift asked that future minutes include a list of acronyms. 

Office of Polar Program Director's Report

Dr. Erb thanked Dr. Swift for chairing this meeting and Dr. Hollibaugh for agreeing to serve as Chair in the future. 

Dr. Erb reminded the AC that its meeting is governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  Dr. Van Woert briefed members on the Act’s requirements, noting that the confidential Conflict-of-Interest Statement must be completed.  Dr. Van Woert notified members that for the purpose of this meeting they are considered to be “special” government employees and are subject to the same rules as “regular” government employees.  If a member has a conflict with any of the topics that are discussed, he or she must step out of the meeting. 

The Planning Landscape – Dr. Erb provided a summary of the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), which is the Administration’s science and education initiative.  A related report was issued by a committee of the National Academies of Science, chaired by Dr. Norm Augustine, entitled Rising Above the Gathering StormThe Gathering Storm calls for development of a competitive workforce to lead the U.S and the economy.  The ACI calls for a doubling of funding for physical science research in three agencies – NSF being one – over the next 10 years. 

Dr. Erb introduced the Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI), a new office in NSF that will be chaired by Dr. Dan Atkins.  OPP believes that cyberinfrastructure (CI) offers great promise and is in fact essential to polar research. 

Updating the Committee on International Polar Year (IPY) activities, Dr. Erb explained that OPP and the Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR), represented at the meeting by Ms. Valentine Kass, jump-started IPY education and outreach efforts by allocating $12M of current funding to the FY06 IPY solicitation.  The research focus areas for the FY06 IPY solicitation are Ice Sheet Dynamics & Stability, Life in the Cold & Dark, and SEARCH/AON (Study of Environmental ARctic CHange/Arctic Observing Network).  An NSF website has been established to provide information on IPY, and the site includes the names of programs and program officers  throughout NSF that will consider IPY proposals;

Dr. Marie Bundy, an IPA (Intergovernmental Personnel Act) in OPP, will be working full time on IPY.  Dr. Bundy and Ms. Kass are leading an interagency working group to develop the FY07 IPY solicitation.

Budgets - The Agency is committing nearly $62M to IPY in FY07.  Pending Congressional approval, OPP’s commitment is approximately $50M, of which $30M is an increment to the OPP budget.  Dr. Erb commented that the ACI is influencing budget deliberations on the Hill, and the NSF budget is getting good support from both political parties.  One reason why the increase in the OPP Budget Request looks so large is because $9M was diverted from base funds in FY05 for maintenance of the polar icebreakers.  Dr. Swift asked whether there would be additional impacts on science, and Dr. Erb responded that again this year considerably more than was allocated was spent on maintenance for the icebreakers.  Dr. Erb stated that over the next couple of years, now that we can plan in advance, the cost of the polar icebreakers should not exceed the funds that are available but that in the longer term, the polar icebreakers may not be operable and that is an issue that will have to be faced in the future.

Dr. Swift noted that when one considers the rising cost of fuel, the cost of the icebreakers and inflation, OPP has a flat budget.  Dr. Erb agreed and told the Committee that OPP did get assistance from the Agency in FY06 for the cost of fuel.  In addition, because fuel is procured through the Department of Defense costs are somewhat lower than they might otherwise be.  Many NSF programs are being hurt by fuel cost increases.  UNOLS (University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System), for example, may have to lay up ships next year.  The cost of fuel is also driving a growing focus on alternative ways of generating energy.

OPP has two Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC)-funded projects:  IceCube and South Pole Station Modernization (SPSM).  IceCube is on track and requested $28M for FY07.  Dr. Hartline asked about the progress of IceCube.  Dr. Erb explained that nine strings had been successfully deployed over two seasons, and that the goal was to deploy eight strings per season beginning this coming season.  Dr. Hartline also asked about the status of  hiring a program manager for IceCube, and Dr. Erb responded that it would be readvertised in the near future.  NSF requires that program officers for MREFC projects be permanent government employees.  The kind of person one would want to recruit is also the kind of person who might be interested in doing this for a few years but also gets attractive offers to supervise projects at Department of Energy national labs, for example, making recruiting difficult.  A significant development IceCube since the end of the season is that the international funding partners have agreed on a general framework for funding future operations.  The U.S. will provide 55% and the foreign partners will provide 45%.  The U.S. funding will be managed by OPP through a committee that will have representation from both OPP and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

The balance of funds to complete SPSM was also requested in FY07, and construction for the new station is scheduled to be completed in 2008 or possibly 2009. 

Personnel – New additions to OPP:  Dr. Mike Montopoli, Section Head, Environment, Safety & Health (ESH); Mr. Michael Scheuermann, Polar Research Support Section (PRSS) Aviation Projects Manager, is now an OPP employee; Ms. Maggie Knuth, Sea Grant Fellow; Ms. Teresa Cushman, Director’s Secretary; and Ms. LaTasha Gunter, STEP, Marymount University.  Recent changes:  Mr. Simon Stephenson, Section Head, Arctic Sciences; Dr. Marie Bundy, IPY Program Manager; Ms. Sue LaFratta, Senior Advisor/Policy, Analysis & Operations; and Mr. Brian Stone, Deputy, PRSS.  Mr. Chuck Myers, Head, Interagency Arctic Staff, has retired and Dr. Dennis Conlon, Program Manager, Cyberinfrastructure & Sensors, a visiting scientist, has returned to the Office of Naval Research.

Antarctic Treaty Actions - Dr. Erb alerted the AC to recent Antarctic Treaty actions.  Measure 4, relating to tourists, requires that appropriate contingency plans and arrangements for search and rescue, health, safety, medical care and evacuation be in place; it also requires that adequate insurance or other arrangements be in place to cover costs.  This Measure requires governments to implement legislation to enforce the Measure.  NSF is entering discussions on an interagency basis with the Department of State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to determine how to implement the legislation.  It is likely that NSF will have responsibility for reviewing plans and perhaps for taking action when a tourist fails to implement those plans.  Secondly, a Liability Annex would establish liability for failing to take responsive action to an environmental emergency caused by a State or a private party’s operation.  The Liability Annex would also have to be implemented through U.S. legislation. 

Dr. Falkner asked how Dr. Myers’ responsibilities in the Arctic Section would be covered.  Dr. Erb noted that several personnel actions are currently in progress, and further that OPP is inviting applications for IPAs for (1) the Arctic Observing Network (AON) over the next 2-4 years; (2) a Biologist to assist the Antarctic and the Arctic programs; and (3) assistance in the Arctic Natural Sciences Program.  He also added that Dr. Myers also carried out important office-wide responsibilities and that a new position to address these was a possibility.

NAS/NRC Study on Arctic Observing Network (AON)

Dr. Paul Cutler provided a summary of a report on AON.  The study was requested by OPP, and the goal of the report is to provide guidance to help design an international arctic observing network across land, atmosphere and ocean.  The vision is for an observing infrastructure to collect, work, check, organize and distribute arctic data and to provide a framework for existing programs.  The next steps for AON are to engage all Arctic nations; to build international cooperation and support; to find a common long-term vision; and to grasp immediate opportunities for major progress.  Dr. McGovern commented that the program needs to include social science representation, and that some data centers seem to be missing (e.g., Seal Center in Copenhagen, Smithsonian).    Dr. Manahan asked about the connection to ocean observing systems, and Dr. Cutler acknowledged that the ocean system was somewhat farther along and hoped that AON would add value.

Arctic Science – Future Directions, A Circum-Arctic Observing Network

Mr. Stephenson commented that the Arctic Section is focusing on AON.  The rationale for AON really comes out of the SEARCH program.  AON also plays a major role in system science and, once functioning, it could be a framework for process studies.  Responding to Dr. Hartline’s question about budget, Mr. Stephenson noted that the U.S. contribution is expected to be $20M for science (not including logistics or management costs), and that interagency contributions as well as contributions from Canada, Russia, etc. are also needed.  Dr. Shepson asked about the management plan for AON, and Mr. Stephenson responded that it has not yet been addressed, but that this weakness will be fixed.  He went on to explain that in order for the system to work, Principal Investigator’s (PI) cannot keep control of their own systems and that is a change that the science community needs to come to terms with.  Dr. Swift asked whether NSF could insist that the data be made available immediately.  Mr. Stephenson responded that this requirement could be added as an award condition, and Dr. Erb added that for all OPP awards the PI must share the data after two years.  Mr. Stephenson explained that the data discussion in the solicitation was intended to solicit evidence that the PI had thought through the data issues but it did not address management of the data – how it would flow from a node into a network and then how it would come out – since that had not yet been designed.  Dr. Erb commented that there are a lot of lessons to be learned from looking at other disciplines and also that a better understanding of the cyberinfrastructure required to support AON is needed.

Dr. Lloyd asked how OPP would ensure that measurements are sustained given the 3-year funding cycle.  Mr. Stephenson stated that OPP funds some observing grants for 5 years, and although the Directorate for Biological Sciences funds the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites for 10 years, there is a significant review after six years.  OPP would not make 10-year awards without intermediate reviews.  Dr. Erb added that the Directorate for Geosciences has supported the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology network for a long time, and that the National Science Board recently authorized continued long-term support for the project.  The question about whether to continue revolves around how important an activity is to the science community.

Gathering Storm/ACI

Dr. Hartline introduced Mr. Tony Gibson from NSF’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA), who spoke about The Gathering Storm report and the ACI.    Mr. Gibson summarized The Gathering Storm into four broad recommendations: 

  1. Ten thousand Teachers - Ten million Minds (K-12 science and math education);
  2. Sowing the Seeds (emphasis on increasing support for basic research and in the physical sciences);
  3. The Best and the Brightest (focus on undergraduate science and technology fellowships); and
  4. Incentives for Innovations (research and experimentation tax credits). 
In introducing the ACI in his State of the Union Address, the President laid out three goals:  research, innovation, and education.  NSF’s entire budget was targeted, and for the first time NSF received out-year budgets from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which show NSF on a doubling path in ten years.  Dr. Erb commented that there were very positive reactions from all parts of Washington to these two reports.

Mr. Gibson commented that the Administration is comfortable with the way NSF makes decisions and prioritizes, and that NSF has not received any specific direction as to which programs should be increased, and so these decisions will be made internally with input from the ACs.  Mr. Gibson noted, however, that as other agencies may not do as well as NSF, NSF will receive more and more proposals.    

Dr. Brook asked whether NSF had done any internal planning on how to use a doubled budget. Dr. Erb commented that NSF has started to actively plan for the FY08 budget request, noting that IPY is an Agency priority, and that OMB agreed to $30M for IPY in FY07.  Another priority is cyberinfrastructure, and there is a session on the agenda related to how cyberinfrastructure could benefit OPP and how OPP can help drive that activity. Both of these activities could be budget drivers in future years.

Cyberinfrastructure (CI) and Polar Research

Dr. Bershad, member of the OCI AC, asked the AC for help in putting together a message for the next meeting; specifically, to complete the worksheet included in the handout.  Referring to the handout, Dr. Bershad explained that the Executive Summary contained a brief explanation of the CI initiative.  The goal is to support national and global priorities for which we opt to use technology in a more coordinated way in a cross-disciplinary fashion.  CI consists of networking, operating systems and middleware and is intended to support community-specific knowledge environments for research and education (collaboratory, grid community, e-science community and virtual community) and customization for discipline- and project-specific applications.  

A Blue Ribbon Panel recommended that NSF make CI a first-class funded area and estimated that $1B a year would be needed.  Dr. Bershad asked the AC to tell him what they think the program content balance and overall performance should look like so that he could provide appropriate advice.  The OCI AC will provide advice on several things, but most importantly it will provide contacts with the science and engineering community and other stakeholders impacted by the Agency’s CI portfolio because CI is about cross-disciplinary activities.  There are a lot of technologists and an under-representation of people who would be served by what actually gets built.  He encourages the AC to think about what the make-up of the committee should be as it relates to what sort of input OPP would like to have and what information the AC would like to have carried forward.  He would also like to identify past, present and future OPP projects that helped or are being helped by CI.  Dr. Swift interjected that moving data around Antarctica fits CI. 

Dr. Stephen Meacham has a joint position in OCI and in the Directorate for Geosciences.  He introduced Dr. Kevin Thompson and Dr. Guy Arms who are also in OCI.  If there is any interest in following up to see how the OCI could help with development efforts for AON, he encourages all to speak to Dr. Thompson.  Dr. Meacham briefly discussed how the OCI came about and its structure.  There is a significant effort in OCI to promote the use of CI in education and learning and to educate and train the future workforce in the use of CI.  He encourages all to find the strategic planning exercise on OCI on the NSF web site and noted that public comment is very much invited and solicited.  He also asks the AC to encourage their communities to provide some feedback on these chapters and to send comments on the first three chapters at A handout includes examples of various CI activities that the Directorate for Geosciences is involved in, and Dr. Meacham invited committee members to contact him if any of the listed activities have an impact on polar research. 

Lunch with NSF Deputy Director, Dr. Kathie Olsen and Discussion of Strategic Plan and Planning Background

Dr. Kathie Olsen, NSF Deputy Director, asked Mr. Craig Robinson, Budget, Finance and Award Management, to make a presentation on the NSF Strategic Plan.  Mr. Robinson explained the Plan, changes that have been made since the last Plan, the required elements of a plan and the drafting process.

Dr. Falkner asked about data enhancements and, with the emphasis on the ACI, how international activities fit in.  Dr. Olsen noted that science is global at the fundamental research level.  An agency like NSF, which supports fundamental basic research, is a global enterprise.  IPY is a high priority for NSF as it is also a high priority across other federal agencies and internationally.  NSF is in a very good situation right now because it is part of the ACI.  NSF’s budget was increased by 7.9% this year, putting it over $6B for the first time.

Dr. Eicken expressed concern over the changing role of education at NSF and wondered whether everyone involved is aware of those changes.  As an example, on the one hand there is the education directorate, but on the other hand there is Criterion 2 which everyone submitting research proposals must address.  Dr. Eicken stated that as a reviewer he is not comfortable reviewing other proposers’ plans because he does not have the proper expertise, and that to some extent he feels that NSF may be promising something that it cannot deliver.  Dr. Olsen responded that the two criteria are intellectual merit and broader impacts.  It does not have to be “education”, but rather what are the broader impacts of your work.  At a university level, it could be involving graduate and undergraduate students, or it could be producing PhD’s in four to five years rather than 10 years. 

Dr. Erb added that in discussions about the review criteria, both NSF and the National Science Board had resisted the temptation to provide a weighting.  When proposals are heavily oriented toward education, program officers are expected to make sure that they have expert reviewers to address the main substance of the proposals. 

Dr. Olsen noted that NSF is responsible for K-12 science and math education, and that NSF does have a directorate that is involved in training teachers.  NSF’s mandate also includes advancing the frontiers of science and broadening participation.  Dr. Erb commented that one of things that the AC did was develop a list of exemplary ways in which proposers could address the requirements of the broader impacts criterion; the list is published on OPP’s web site. 

Dr. Hartline noted that there appears to be funding for education, but that there is a gap in funding to replicate and implement.  Dr. Olsen noted that all of the education programs in the EHR have an evaluation component.  Ninety-five percent of NSF’s funding goes out the door. One of the things NSF is trying to do is to develop a web site so that people who are funded by NSF have a place to advertise their work.  NSF cannot endorse the results because it does not carry out the research.  NSF does compile books of best practices, etc., but it is for the universities and the school systems to read and incorporate the material.  NSF does work with the Department of Education to transfer knowledge into the school systems. 

Dr. Swift commented that the Strategic Plan serves NSF’s needs very well, but that increasing proposal pressure may affect recruitment into science and engineering and that it may work against some of NSF’s initiatives and goals.  Dr. Olsen responded that this is addressed in the section on strategic excellence, but also that NSF has established a working group to examine success rates.  NASA has some challenges, the Office of Naval Research is no longer doing some of the things that they were doing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is no longer doing CI and the National Institutes of Health says it is going translational, so these communities are coming to NSF.  Dr. Olsen finished by stating that NSF worries about capacity loss and the impact on the merit review system as the proposal load increases, so it is looking at the outside as well as at the inside communities. Dr. Erb commented that Dr. Olsen established a committee that is helping NSF deal with staffing issues by finding ways to streamline the hiring process and helping to alleviate some of the workload issues.

Further Discussion on Planning Background

The AC suggested that OPP get more help from CI on the data issue.  Dr. Erb agreed that this would be very helpful, for example with AON.  One of the complications that the OCI faces, unlike the disciplined-based organizations in NSF, is that OCI has a lot of territory to cover. 

In discussing development of the AC agendas, Dr. Erb acknowledged the limitations of a two-day meeting and asked if there is a need to implement a more systematic way of preparing future agendas.  Dr. Shepson suggested that some agenda items could be dealt with in advance of the meeting.  Presentations could be received ahead of time and members could bring their questions to the meeting or be prepared for a discussion at the meeting. Dr. Erb commented that subcommittees could be formed to examine some issues as well.

The NSF Environmental Research and Education (ERE) Advisory Committee

Dr. McGovern is the OPP AC liaison to the ERE AC, and provided an update on the ERE AC’s meeting.  One activity that the group has been working on is the Water Challenge – ensuring adequate supplies of water for human ecosystems is a major challenge for the 21st Century. This requires that a lot of disciplines such as social science, natural science and physical science come together to find a common area for research.  A Schoolyard Children’s book series based on findings from the LTERs was published in May 2004.  One book is called “My Water Comes from Mountains” and includes a package for K-12 school teachers to help them develop water resources and water management questions for the classroom.  Dr. McGovern noted that OPP is well represented in the book series.  Dr. Erb commented that ERE’s emphasis on water is a subject that needs a lot more attention, but that if an NSF focus were to develop around water, OPP would be involved. 

IPY (I): FY2006, Update on OPP/EHR Solicitation

Dr. Bundy provided an update on the OPP/EHR solicitation: 

  • 253 proposals with 146 projects totaling $166M
  • Science represented $115M/97 projects
  • Education/Outreach represented $51M/50 projects. 
The science emphasis areas include AON, biology, glaciology, data and education/outreach.  Responding to Dr. Falkner’s question on the review process, Dr. Bundy notified the committee that the Program Officers had been identified, that mail review would occur shortly and that panels will be held in August.  Dr. Lloyd wondered whether anyone would be charged with looking for overlaps and gaps, and Mr. Stephenson responded that it would be a coordinated review.  Dr. Hollibaugh inquired about the ratio of U.S. to international dollars requested.  Dr. Bundy explained that the proposals demonstrated significant intellectual collaboration.  Dr. Eicken wondered whether awards would be balanced between Antarctic and Arctic, or whether awards would be made strictly on the basis of merit review.  Dr. Bundy responded that the working group was still working on that issue, but Dr. Erb noted that the large number of proposals suggested that there would be many highly meritorious proposals for work in both regions.  Dr. Brook asked about mechanisms for establishing communications with international partners, and Dr. Borg explained that mechanisms do exist and would be exercised prior to making any funding decisions.

Dr. Erb added that NSF is committed to reaching funding decisions and notifying proposers within six months from the time proposals are submitted, but that this is not always possible; for example, coordinating with funding sources in countries and determining whether the logistics capacity to support an activity exists may increase the time it takes to complete a review.

Antarctic Sciences: Future Directions, Antarctic System Science — Dr. Scott Borg, Section Head

Dr. Borg invited AC discussion on development of an Antarctic Integrated and System Science program.  He explained that OPP has received proposals that cross program boundaries but they have not taken on the system in a broader sense.  The proposition is to use a rotator to engage in an in-depth dialogue with the community.  The dialogue would have to draw on lessons learned from other similar programs to explore issues such as long-term data sets and what kinds of observations might be needed.

Dr. Borg expects to see proposals that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and approach issues on a system basis in response to the IPY solicitations.  He added that with some growth in the budget, OPP may be able to take on this challenge in a more continuous fashion.  The committee supported the idea, questioning how much of the budget should be allocated to this program and the appropriate balance between system and disciplinary research.  Dr. Borg responded that he would have to engage the community to get the right balance. 

Dr. Swift also agreed and noted that the strength of the Antarctic program would make a good base for an Antarctic Science System program.  Dr. Erb added that a system science program provides a different way of thinking and a framework for doing things that might not be obvious otherwise. Looking at proposals will probably tell us that there is quite a lot of work that fits together naturally into a systems approach and that would provide material for a trial period while OPP assesses the program.  Dr. Borg added that the other side of the coin is that the program officers are already overwhelmed because OPP is smaller than a directorate but it funds research in every discipline.

Dr. Hollibaugh asked whether having someone working bipolar makes more sense, and Dr. Erb noted that OPP is recruiting a biologist to work in both polar regions and also a program officer to handle office-wide issues.  Dr. Bundy broke new ground for OPP by handling biology proposals for both polar regions, and OPP would like to do more of this wherever it makes sense.

IPY (II): Agency-Wide Planning

Developing the FY07 Solicitation - Dr. Bundy and Ms. Kass discussed the FY07 solicitation, explaining that the response to the FY06 solicitation is helping to guide the FY07 solicitation.  Dr. Bundy and Ms. Kass are co-chairing a working group of program officers within NSF to develop the following material for FY07: 

  1. solicitation(s);
  2. programs receptive to unsolicited proposals;
  3. management and coordination plans;
  4. setting the stage for FY08 activities; and
  5. programs that will entertain IPY proposals.
When the FY06 solicitation was developed, it was done assuming there would be no new funds.  Dr. Erb added that the AC recommended two years ago that OPP should begin to plan even though the amount of funding might not be known.  The planning process has led to interest in other directorates and offices.  He also commented that OPP does not know what level of support IPY would receive in the future if funding turned out to be flat, but believes that other directorates and offices would participate at some level.  OPP would try to maintain the current funding level.

Dr. Erb commented that at least 70% of awards made under IPY will have significant foreign collaborations and foreign participation.  OPP has been paying close attention to the International Council for Science (ICSU) process.  NSF has not requested that proposers send letters of intent to ICSU; nevertheless, many have done so.  We will ask proposers to be guided by the NAS/NRC IPY guidelines. 

Drs. McGovern and Paniataaq Kingston wanted to be sure that the social sciences and human dimensions have a place in the IPY solicitation.  Mr. Stephenson asked members to let OPP program managers know about activities that have not been mentioned but that are a high priority for the social science community. 

Ms. Kass commented that she is looking forward to the AC’s input and suggestions for the working group.  Dr. Erb added that it is important to remember that NSF is addressing IPY on an Agency-wide basis, so all of the program officers on the working group will be interacting with their communities and advisory committees. 

International Discussions - Dr. Erb noted that members and others have asked if OPP would be able to facilitate building international collaborations.  In speaking with program managers in other governments, OPP emphasized that it looks first for scientist to scientist collaborations.  OPP’s job is to be able to follow through to provide support for those collaborations that have high scientific merit and meet the needs and priorities of both agencies or countries.  OPP has been holding meetings with a number of international organizations to build relationships so there is a basis for exchanging information about merit review and deciding whether or not to jointly fund proposals.

The Canadians committed $150M for IPY, and their proposal deadline was in March.  OPP and the Assistant Directors for Biological Sciences and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences met with Canadian officials in March to establish communication channels for the purpose.  At the invitation of the Chinese government, Drs. Erb and Borg and Mr. Chiang met with the President of the National Sciences Foundation, who was very enthusiastic about joint support of projects.  The Chinese focus is on building collaborations among young scientists.  Dr. Erb has been working with the EU and the EC primarily through the European Polar Board.  The potential for supporting joint research with China ranges from Glaciology to LTERs to workshops for young biologists.  There may be timing issues in arranging mutual support for collaborations, however. 

GEO Plans for IPY

Dr. Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director for Geosciences (GEO), gave a summary of GEO’s interest in IPY and the opportunities that are going to be available.  Dr. Leinen explained that because this is an international activity, a lot of their counterparts are also focusing resources in the polar area, providing a lot of opportunities for U.S. scientists.  Dr. Leinen also reported that GEO is working with other agencies to try to leverage funds for IPY in ocean science, earth science and atmospheric science.  GEO is contributing to the IPY legacy through infrastructure with the Alaska Region Research Vessel (AARV) (an $82M MREFC project), the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR), and the R/V Alpha Helix.  GEO looks forward to working with OPP to ensure that NSF plays a leadership role in IPY with exciting scientific research and an infrastructure legacy for the future.

Dr. Manahan commented that many people in the polar community are not aware of these opportunities.  Dr. Erb noted that the ICSU IPY Secretariat in Cambridge has two subcommittees: one on data and the other on outreach.  NSF has been contacted by the Outreach committee to provide information about everything we are doing in IPY.  This subcommittee would be a good mechanism for collecting and disseminating information about IPY.  Dr. Erb expanded on this to suggest that in time a mechanism that pulled together the results of all IPY-related activities would give us a better snapshot of the planet or of the focus of a particular IPY research project.  As an example, one could imagine a synthesis effort involving workshops that also include representatives from activities that did not have their genesis in IPY, but whose work contributed to IPY goals being achieved.

Open Discussion

Dr. Erb noted that to assist U.S. scientists wishing to conduct IPY research in Russia, OPP is sponsoring an office in St. Petersburg that will offer assistance with gaining entry, getting equipment in and out of the country, getting data back, etc.  OPP is now negotiating the budget for this office with the funding partners.

Dr. Swift thanked everyone for a very productive meeting. 

The meeting was adjourned at 4:50 p.m.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The meeting reconvened at 8:00 a.m.

Polar Icebreaking/Research Platforms

Update by NAS on Icebreaking Committee - Ms. Marie Uhle, Study Director, NAS, gave a status report on the “Assessment of U.S. Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Roles & Future Needs.” An Interim Report was released on December 15, 2005, covering two topics and making five recommendations. The final report is expected in August.

Dr. Erb provided background for the AC and commented that the entire government is looking forward to the results of this study to help find a way forward.  For a number of years, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has not been able to get the funding needed to keep the ships in good repair.  One consequence was that Congress tasked the USCG to fund this Academy study, but at the same time, the USCG itself decided that it could not keep the ships operational and the Commandant notified the Director of NSF that he could not keep the ships in good operating condition.  This would have left polar research high and dry, and so the White House stepped in and transferred funding responsibility to NSF -- at least for the short term -- to keep the ships operational.  In FY05, NSF was directed to provide approximately one-half of the extraordinary maintenance funds needed to get the ships seaworthy, and the USCG the other half.  OPP reallocated $20M from its FY06 base budget to help repair the HEALY, the POLAR SEA and to some extent the POLAR STAR.  The USCG has indicated that maintenance for the POLAR SEA and the HEALY will be approximately $15M in FY07.  The two agencies have agreed to place the POLAR STAR in caretaker status.

OPP issued a Request for Information (RFI) to the shipping industry for icebreaking services for a period of 10-20 years and has had discussions with Germany and other nations on how they operate their ships.  In discussions with the Europeans, OPP realized that Arctic resupply is done differently, with the icebreaker and the cargo ships operating as an integrated unit, and we may issue a new RFI in that context. 

Update on HEALY - Mr. Stephenson noted that the research community is pleased with the Healy.  The Healy will undergo dry dock this winter; the only known issue is with the bow thruster which is not reliable but could not  be fixed this season due to dry dock availability. In addition to operations and maintenance, OPP pays for other items.  For example, OPP has increasingly relied on UNOLS for technical services and that cost has increased to over $1M per year.  The Arctic Section also incurred costs for civilian helicopters this year since USCG helicopters are no longer available (the USCG is re-engining its helicopters); the civilian helicopters cost three times more, increasing the cost from $300K to about $1M a year.

Update on Polar Sea - Mr. Chiang provided a status report on the Polar Sea.  Approximately $8M was spent for its maintenance, and its dependability will be important this season.  Mr. Chiang also noted the possibility of chartering a vessel as a backup for the Polar Sea.  Dr. Erb explained that the outgoing Commandant, Admiral Collins, assured the NSF Director that if NSF committed to fund the extraordinary maintenance costs, the Polar Sea would likely be operational for 2007 and for 2008.  OPP has had initial discussions with Swedish colleagues about the possibility of beginning a long-term arrangement for use of the Oden on a scientific collaboration basis.  There is interest, and there have been discussions with their community.  In addition to the discussions with Sweden, Dr. Erb noted that parallel discussions have also been initiated with the Australians.

One option is for OPP to charter the Oden as a trial on a commercial basis.  Mr. Chiang commented that OPP needs a reliable icebreaker, whether it is the USCG or a commercial vessel.  Dr. Erb added that the way the military does business is optimized for national security and defense purposes, but is expensive for scientific research purposes.  Dr. Erb continued by noting that civilian crews would be more cost-effective (Military Sealift Command is one model; UNOLS is another) and that because NSF’s directive from the White House is to arrange for services in the most economical and effective way possible, NSF does at least in principle have a voice in how the ships are crewed.

Dr. Manahan asked how much new ships would cost.  Dr. Erb answered that if two ships are built, the USCG has estimated that it will cost approximately $1B.  However, it might be sufficient to have a single ship if there is a workaround for years when the ship cannot get in.   Dr. Manahan asked whether moving McMurdo had been considered.  Mr. Chiang responded that it had, but that science drives the need to continue access to McMurdo.  Dr. Swift explained that there have been studies of this question, and all studies show that McMurdo should remain where it is because the next nearest location that appears to meet the need is hundreds of miles away.  Dr. Erb added that while science does require a presence at McMurdo, the Station may not need to be the size that it is now.

Infrastructure Developments

South Pole Station - Mr. Chiang reviewed FY06 accomplishments, noting that the South Pole Station is a good news story, but along with the good news come some significant challenges.  Mr. Chiang introduced Mr. Jerry Marty, the on-site representative for many years and probably responsible for the success we see around the station, and Ms. Sandy Singer, the OPP Facilities Engineer who has been responsible for quantifying the issues. 

The design for the South Pole Station was locked in with the National Science Board’s approval to proceed in 1997.  By 2006, scientific opportunities presented challenges in population, power generation, fuel storage and bandwidth.  Mr. Pat Smith, PRSS Information Technology Manager, noted that from the requirements we are seeing two major step functions.  The first will come when IceCube ramps up and the second will be in 2009 when the South Pole Telescope is schedule to complete a detector upgrade that could double their output.  Dr. Borg added that there needs to be an assessment of capabilities and science requirements.  OPP has not had an in-depth discussion with the community regarding what could versus must be moved and identifying the threshold in terms of the loss of scientific opportunity.  OPP will have to do this with the community and will have to provide guidance in announcements and in advance about data, power and other resources. 

In the short term, 2007-2009, the upgrade to NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) will allow OPP to meet current demand (70 GB/day).  In the mid-term, 2009-2014, additional upgrades will enable 127 GB/day.  The biggest challenge is for 2014 and beyond, as the South Pole is very much dependent on TDRSS.  OPP is discussing this with NASA to ensure that NASA includes the U.S. Antarctic Program’s (USAP) needs in its future designs.

Mr. Chiang continued with station population, noting that occupancy is limited by the number of beds and the amount of water that can be produced.  He added that while the current plan is to reach 154 in the summer and 50 in the winter at station completion, implementation of that plan would mean a significant slow-down in the completion of experiments that have been proposed. 

Mr. Chiang explained that there is a short-term plan to increase efficiency and reduce the overall load on the Station’s power. In addition, Mr. Chiang stated that a power management plan needs to be established and alternative energy sources – wind turbines and photovoltaic panels – need to be explored.  However, if changes are made to the Basis of Design, the environmental impact statement would need to be revisited because there would be an increase in fuel storage, the footprint and total emissions from the Station.  Mr. Chiang explained that it is possible to change the generators from 1 MW to 1.5 MW, but that this would have impacts in terms of the amount of fuel that would have to be delivered to the Station and delivering the fuel.  If delivered by air, flights to deliver the additional fuel might impact the field science program unless the fuel is delivered by wheeled aircraft, which in turn would require a hardened runway at South Pole.

Dr. Swift asked how the AC could assist.  Mr. Chiang commented that guidance is needed from the scientific community on the future direction of science.  Mr. Chiang agreed with Dr. Hartline that it maybe useful to have a special logistics or infrastructure advisory committee for Antarctica or South Pole.

Dr. Bershad encouraged OPP to develop bandwidth policies/guidelines.  He noted that at McMurdo there is not much visibility into how the scarce bandwidth is being used and how it is allocated so that one can understand where the pressure points are.  He added that the bandwidth at South Pole is going to disappear and without guidelines in place and buy-in from the community it will be difficult to decide how to prioritize. Dr. Church agreed that this needs to be addressed. 

Dr. Erb stated that this issue requires focused attention over the next few months.  He suggested that OPP work with committee leadership to discuss how we would do that.  For example, the committee may need to form a subcommittee.  Dr. Erb asked the AC to give thought to the issues of how we plan, how we allocate bandwidth, and how we trade-off between bandwidth and on-site presence for discussion at the fall meeting. 

Arctic (Barrow) - Mr. Stephenson reported that NOAA is funding a new facility in Barrow, the Barrow Global Climate Change Research Facility (BGCCRF) which is owned and operated by the local village corporation Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation (UIC).  In the summer, it peaks to about 50 people and in the winter it falls to 5-10 people.  The two peaks are the sea ice community and the terrestrial community.  Although the BGCCRF is not an NSF facility, the NSF Director visited Barrow last summer and discussed what NSF’s role should be with Senator Stevens.  NSF agreed to make investments in information technology and to fund research-driven instrumentation.  UIC has been holding a series of workshops to collect requirements for the new facility.  At this time a proposal has been developed primarily by the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  OPP plans to have things in place for the opening of the facility in the spring of 2007. 

Dr. Shepson asked how NOAA ownership affects management, space allocation, etc., and Mr. Stephenson responded that UIC will own the building and manage the space, and that NSF will lease space in the building.  In addition to the building, there are four additional phases of construction.  The next phase is the vehicle and storage facility, but there are no appropriations for that yet.

[change in the agenda to accommodate airline schedules] 

Education and Outreach and the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CRESIS)

Dr. Erb introduced the session by explaining that CRESIS is relevant to helping to implement the two policy documents discussed earlier, “The Gathering Storm” and the “American Competitiveness Initiative.” Dr. Borg introduced Dr. Dave Braaten from CRESIS to talk about education and outreach since one of the purposes of the Center is to stimulate education and improve connections among an array of institutions to increase opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Dr. Braaten provided a summary of CRESIS, commenting that the Center brings together key people to develop tools and hypotheses to solve problems.  The Center’s vision is to provide research, education, diversity and knowledge transfer. 

The Center reported having difficulty finding qualified American graduate students to work in the Center.  It has found that students need to be trained in math and physics very early. 

Dr. Braaten mentioned the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and explained that rather than have them just do research, the Center wants the students to get involved in the Center.  They developed a series of tutorials on background, glaciers and ice sheets, radars and applications, aerospace and unmanned aerial vehicles.  The students are required to write reports and papers and end the program by compiling their research into a paper.    

Report from the Environment, Safety & Health (ESH) Section

Health and Safety Challenges - Dr. Mike Montopoli, a board-certified occupational medicine physician currently serving in the Navy Reserve Medicine Unit, is Section Head for ESH, has been in the position for five months.  He provided a summary of his background and the mission of ESH. 

Dr. Montopoli reported on the disappearance of Joshua Spillane, a Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC) marine technician, from the R/V Gould during its voyage from Palmer Station to Puntas Arenas, Chile.  The incident is still under investigation and OPP is waiting for the results of investigations from RPSC and the FBI.  At the time of the incident, the Gould was operating in fairly calm seas.  OPP has no reason to believe that the Gould is an unsafe vessel. 

Dr. Montopoli also reported that the Avian Influenza is a potential threat to USAP operations because of the long supply chain and that disruptions to it could have significant impacts.  The USAP also has limited redundancy in terms of personnel.  The Ministry of Health in New Zealand indicated that their response to a flu pandemic would include closing their borders. Because of these potential threats to the operation, ESH formed a tiger team to identify vulnerabilities and is emphasizing the need to coordinate with partners such as the Department of Defense, the USCG, other federal agencies, PIs and their institutions.  Dr. Montopoli concluded by pointing out that the remoteness of Antarctica and other places that OPP operates in the Arctic might actually protect us from an outbreak. 

Dr. Montopoli went on to explain that safety and health statistics showed there were 20 recordable injuries, 4 first aid and 9 off duty injuries involving grantees.  ESH is exploring ways to address this including improved training, providing protective equipment, redesigning work, etc.  ESH plans to continue to collect information about injuries to learn how to prevent them.

Dr. Montopoli discussed the medical screening program, explaining that it is somewhat outdated and needs to be revised, but that its goal is to prevent adverse events, prevent people from having serious medical conditions on the ice or needing emergency medical evacuation, which is clearly disruptive and expensive.  ESH recently signed an agreement with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for expert medical consultation services. 

Dr. Falkner noted the need for attention to safety in the Arctic, and Dr. Montopoli responded that ESH will oversee preventive approaches for the Arctic as well.

Non-Indigenous Species in Antarctica & Environmental Assessment in the Arctic - Dr. Polly Penhale briefed the AC on a report on non-native species in Antarctica and other related information such as Antarctic Treaty provisions, discussions with the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Members, and a workshop on Non-Native Species in Antarctica. 

Dr. Penhale also discussed environmental stewardship in the Arctic.  Mr. Stephenson commented that the first HEALY cruise north of Barrow was delayed by mutual agreement with the native community for four days to avoid the local hunting season.  PIs now discuss science projects in advance with the native community.

Dr. Erb said he understands that in Canada, each Territory has its own regulations governing environmental assessment, and that within each Territory there are arrangements with local communities that further govern how environmental assessments are done.  In order to deal with that, particularly for IPY, Canada is setting up a number of local offices to help people with assessments.  For IPY researchers planning to work in more than one location within Canada, it could be complicated. 

Committee of Visitors (COV) Planning

In preparation for science section COVs in the fall, Dr. Erb provided a summary of the COV process.  All COVs answer the same set of questions; after the NSF Strategic Plan has been completed, the COV questions will be updated.   Since COVs are subcommittees of ACs, one or two liaisons are needed.  Drs. Paniataaq Kingston and Manahan agreed to serve as AC liaisons for the science section COVs; Drs. Raphael and Hartline agreed to serve as advisors.  Dr. Erb will work with Drs. Swift and Hollibaugh on the organization and thrust of the upcoming COVs.

Lunch and IPY Web Page Overview and HDTV Video

Mr. Peter West, OLPA, briefed the AC on OLPA’s organization and function, and explained some of the things that OLPA and OPP have done in preparing for IPY.  Mr. West reported that fewer and fewer people watch network television, and that those who do watch are much older.  He also provided some statistics on science on television.  He noted that there are a number of ways to bring IPY to the media and the public.  As an example, OLPA has put together a group of media officers at various agencies and has launched an interim web site site ( to provide a place where partner agencies can provide contact information on who is doing what for IPY, and to highlight press releases and education programs

Mr. West provided advice on getting the media to report their work.  A PI doing ship work, for example, may find that bunk space is available for a media representative.  Mr. West suggested that the time of application for funding is not the time to discuss this, but rather to include as part of their broader impacts statement that they hope to have media available.  He noted that it is always best to advertise these opportunities as widely as possible and as fairly as possible.  Mr. West also encourages PIs to contact OLPA when they want to involve the media.    

Dr. Erb added to Mr. West’s comments that resources are provided by taxpayers, and that NSF has a fiduciary responsibility to allocate those resources and that it cannot delegate that responsibility to PIs in the field.  Dr. Erb noted that the process described by Mr. West is a merit review process – it assures transparency and a fair chance for everyone, and it also takes advantage of opportunities that come to our attention.  Thus, if PIs see an opportunity, they should bring it to NSF’s attention and NSF will work with them. 

Dr. Bershad commented that although there is a lot of work being done to address the problem of saving the planet, the media on the Poles is about how technology is killing the planet, and the materials are difficult for the average person to understand.  In contrast, after both Katrina and the Tsunami, the big news was about using cyberinfrastructure to solve the problem.   Mr. West responded that NSF does press releases about this very thing; as an example, a sensor network in the Arctic as part of IPY.  The word could be spread by, for example, inviting the media to a field camp where part of the network is being installed.

Dr. Raphael commented that she did not notice any links to comments from readers on the web site, and that this would be a way to find out what people are interested in.  Dr. Erb noted that his local paper has local interest stories and he suspects that all of the members’ hometown papers have something similar.  In addition, institutions have media offices that are responsible for getting the results of the PI’s work out to the communities that are interested in it.  OPP has always asked PIs to bring newsworthy items to their program officer’s attention for discussion with Mr. West and the OLPA staff.  By making common cause, an otherwise local release may get broader distribution.  

Dr. Erb noted that Ms. Kim Silverman is OPP’s Outreach Officer and designed the IPY poster that has antecedents in the International Geophysical Year poster from 50 years ago. 

Arctic Data

Dr. Swanberg noted that one of the legacies of International Geophysical Year was a plethora of data centers around the world that were largely disciplinary in nature.  Science has moved into more interdisciplinary work.  This is why he got interested in data, partly because he had oversight responsibility for major interdisciplinary efforts before, but also because his program, Arctic Systems Science, is interested in synthesis and taking a look at what we know about the Arctic.  Doing this requires looking beyond their data collections and beyond any given discipline.  Dr. Swanberg stated that in order to optimize the use of the data that is being collected, there needs to be a better way to deal with it, and that one of the best legacies that could come from IPY would be a good mechanism for managing the data that is generated in a way that optimizes its use, and that managing the data and using the data are two different things.

Dr. Swanberg discussed various internal and external data policy documents as well as various data centers.   In the SEARH implementation workshop, data experts were included.  It became clear that a distributed data management system was needed.  A suite of recommendations was made and included in the SEARCH plan.  Unresolved issues have to do with other agencies in the U.S. and international data sharing.

Dr. Erb added that there are two separate issues that both have to be addressed:  access to data and intellectual property rights.  Dr. Erb noted that similar issues were under discussion in the IceCube project, which is totally different from AON:  there are ongoing discussions about who owns the data, who can access the data and how, where it should be stored, where it should be analyzed, and so forth.

Several committee members discussed data handling challenges and opportunities in their communities.  Dr. Bershad asked whether the portal concept would be useful to scientists outside of IPY and the polar community. Dr. Erb commented that a portal that could connect the Arctic and Antarctic databases would be beneficial not just to the polar community, but to external communities as well.  Dr. Swift observed that there is a lot of interest in this issue, and said that he may ask over email if they should consider forming a subcommittee to address IPY data oversight and offer constructive advice to OPP.  Dr. Erb responded that if the AC wants to form a subcommittee, OPP would work with them to develop tasking.

United States Antarctic Program Resupply Update

Mr. Chiang commented that the AC’s report helped to focus the issues and that the recommendations are forming the basis for budget requests.  Of the six recommendations, most are in active development, with developments in commercial heavy-lift aircraft and lighter-than-air technologies being monitored.  Mr. Chiang gave an update on the status of each of the recommendations in active development:  South Pole wheeled runway; South Pole traverse; increased fuel storage at McMurdo; and reducing the McMurdo footprint.

NSF issued a Request for Information (RFI) for icebreaking services on January 4, 2006.  Eight firms responded, identifying ten ships from the U.S. and outside the U.S., but none of the ships identified is capable of doing the McMurdo Station resupply on its own.  A follow-on RFI seeking information on an integrated resupply package is in draft.  USCG estimates that a replacement polar class vessel would cost $300M; the bridge-to-SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) and depot maintenance for the existing vessels requires an additional $60M; and commercial construction is estimated at $250M for one vessel plus $1M for the acquisition process.  Dr. Erb added that NSF does not have a way to validate these estimates. 

Wrap-Up Discussions

Dr. Swift thanked those members whose services end today and expressed appreciation for their help in keeping the business going and his head clear.  Dr. Swift also recognized Ms. Teresa Cushman and Ms. Kimiko Bowens-Knox in OPP for their help, thanking them, Dr. Erb and OPP for their preparations and for providing information to the committee.
Dr. Erb also thanked the members, adding that in case it is Dr. Hartline’s last meeting (Dr. Hartline is currently a member of the CEOS AC), he also wanted to thank her for many years of good service. 

The meeting was adjourned at 2:35 p.m.

See Agenda for this meeting.

Last Updated

October 2006

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