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OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

October 7-8, 2002 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Geophysics and Physical Glaciology, University of Alabama
Julie Brigham-Grette, Geosciences, University of Massachusetts
John Carlstrom, Astronomy, University of Chicago
Martin Jeffries, Glaciology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Igor Krupnik, Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution
Paul Mayewski, Glaciology, Climate Change, Glaciochemistry, University of Maine
Joshua Schimel, Ecology-Biology, University of California
Joann Stock, Geology and Geophysics, California Institute of Technology

Members Absent

Elaine Abraham, Education, Alaska Native Science Commission
Jody Deming, Past Chairperson, Oceanography, University of Washington
Dave Hofmann, Atmospheric Chemistry, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Amanda Lynch, Chair, Atmospheric Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder
John Priscu, Ecology, Montana State University
Peter Schlosser, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

OPP Senior Staff Present

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

The fall meeting of the Office of Polar Programs Advisory Committee (OAC) was held at the National Science Foundation in Arlington (NSF), Virginia on October 7-8, 2002.

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Monday, October 7, 2002

Welcome and Introductions

Due to Dr. Amanda Lynch's absence, Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan agreed to act as Chair. The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m. The minutes from the May 2002 meeting were approved. Dr. Anandakrishnan requested short introductions from the Committee members and the audience.

OPP Director's Report

Dr. Karl Erb welcomed the Committee and introduced new members of the committee. His report to the committee included:

  • FY02 and FY03 budget
  • mechanisms for regulating collection of meteorites
  • commercial bioprospecting in Antarctica
  • possibility of use of research vessels in both the Arctic and Antarctic
  • LC-130 and overland traverse capabilities
  • ice core and ice drilling development in inland West Antarctica
  • education and outreach — Polar Fellowship Program
  • Frontiers in Polar Biology workshop report, and
  • 2003 Committee of Visitors (COV).

Arctic Update (Arctic Research Opportunities/Issues)

Tom Pyle introduced Anna Kerttula, new Program Manager for Arctic Social Sciences, and announced that Neil Swanberg will be acting Program Manager for ARCSS. A replacement for Dr. Robin Muench, ONR Liaison, is being recruited. Dr. Pyle briefed the Committee on a number of issues:

  • the budget has doubled in six years since 1995, a rate averaging over 10% a year
  • Arctic Research Support and Logistics supported 200 projects and 750 scientists in the field this year
  • six cruises were supported by the Healy and the Polar Star
  • Toolik field station supported 30 projects/100 scientists and Barrow supported 40 projects
  • a new cooperative agreement has been signed with the Alaska Native Science Commission
  • there has been improved coordination with NSF’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
  • the first SEARCH competition was announced in FY02 — Arctic Freshwater Cycle
  • guidelines for improved cooperation with native communities have been developed
  • TEA supported seven teachers
  • there is an LTER schoolyard program in Barrow
  • international coordination with Japan, Sweden, Canada and Russia is being pursued.

Dr. Pyle asked the Committee to view Arctic Logistics Information Access System (ALIAS) web site and to give OPP or ARCUS some feedback or comments.

Antarctic Update (Antarctic Research Opportunities/Issues)

Dr. Dennis Peacock briefed the Committee on activities in the Antarctic Sciences Section:

  • The 2002 USAP Proposal Workshop for New Investigators was successfully held.
  • $3.669M was provided for OPP awards from the Major Research Instrumentation account.
  • $15M was appropriated in the FY 2002 Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Account for IceCube startup activities.
  • NSF and NASA will now manage an integrated U.S. Astronomy and Astrophysics program. A joint committee — NSF-NASA National Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee — has been established to provide advice on issues in astronomy and astrophysics of mutual interest to NSF and NASA.
  • NASA approached NSF about Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program. Although providing no funds, OPP was willing to participate in the panel review.
  • Long-Duration Ballooning has been an issue because the facility has nearly outlived its useful life. Presently, two launches per year are being supported for NASA, but NASA would like OPP to support three launches per year. This issue continues to be discussed.

USAP Logistics and Science Support Opportunities/Issues

Erick Chiang briefed the Committee on the South Pole Station Modernization (SPSM) schedule for FY-03 and related cost issues. The current estimated cost is $133.44 million, compared to the original estimate of $127.9 million. The current estimate includes expansion from the original 110-person capacity to 150. A revised cost-to-complete is currently being reviewed.

Other activities include:

  • The Greenwave is being replaced by the Arctic Tern, which has a 60% greater capacity.
  • The McMurdo Wastewater Treatment Plant should be operating by the end of January 2003.
  • Phase I of the new Science Support Center, which replaces the old mechanical equipment center, has been completed. Phase II will include the Byrd Field Center.
  • The Deep Ice Core Drill concept design study has started.
  • Tele-medicine now provides on-site medical personnel with specialist in the U.S. and capabilities to allow video teleconferencing, digital imaging and ultrasound usage.
  • A team was formed to assimilate information, procedures and techniques from the French, who are successfully traversing from Dumont D'Urville to Dome C, to help inform the development of the USAP traverse capability.

Mr. Chiang noted that the use of ski-equipped Hercules airplanes (LC-130) used as an aerogeophysical platform were part of the many issues that needed to be reviewed and that OPP is reviewing a variety of aircraft that could bring different things to be used in the Antarctic. The use of the P-3 has been discussed, but no decision was made on future use.

Pat Smith added that Iridium communications have now opened up new possibilities parallel to maritime medical support in which many telemedical services are supported in this way. Dr. Erb noted that the issue of medical support for field parties was also a subject open to review.

Frontiers in Polar Biology

Dr. Joshua Schimel discussed the PRB-sponsored workshop on Frontiers in Polar Biology. The focus of the workshop was identifying high priority research questions that can benefit from new biological tools; discussing applications of genomic science and functional genomics to polar bio-disciplines; determining need for development of polar-specific technologies; recommending ways to facilitate and accelerate transfer of genomic tools to polar research; seeking ways to facilitate interaction between polar biological scientists and the broader community of biologist; and assessing impediments to polar genomics research. The final report will be delivered in December of 2002.

Environmental Research and Education (ERE) Update

Dr. Marge Cavanaugh, Staff Associate, Office of the Director, updated the Committee on ERE. By January 2003, Complex Environmental Systems -- Synthesis for Earth, Life, and Society in the 21st Century: A 10-Year Outlook for the National Science Foundation will be published. The report presents a ten-year outlook for environmental research and education and argues that NSF needs to develop environmental synthesis to frame integrated interdisciplinary research questions and activities to merge data, approaches, and ideas across spatial, temporal, and societal scales. Dr. Cavanaugh also gave the statistics on the FY-02 BE Competition.

Dr. Erb asked the Committee to identify a new representative to the AC/ERE because John Priscu will be rotating off. Since there were eight members present out of 14, the Committee felt that it would be better to wait until Sridhar Anandakrishnan, acting chair, discussed the issue with Amanda Lynch.

ARCSS: Status of Planning Discussions

Neil Swanberg briefed the Committee on the current structure of ARCSS and the All-Hands ARCSS meeting held to discuss the future of ARCSS. The new structure of ARCSS could be organized around broad themes: Predictability, Sustainability and Feedbacks. Dr. Swanberg noted that the ARCSS Committee is still working on the details. Committee members commended the transition because they thought the program could benefit from this type of streamlining. It was also mentioned that as acronyms (i.e., previous ARCSS focus areas) start to disappear from the ARCSS program, there should be some kind of mechanism to help people know where their proposal fits in while the synthesis is going on. Dr. Erb noted that the Committee provides input to NSF, but that NSF also welcomes input from all interested parties in the process of structuring ARCSS for the future.

Next Generation Antarctic Research Vessels (R/V)

Al Sutherland discussed the status of Antarctic research vessels with the N.B. Palmer contract due to expire in 2008 (with a possible extension to 2012). Replacement must be considered early enough to incorporate new technologies into the vessel design. Several workshops indicate that there is a need for a larger ship that could accommodate 50 scientists and technicians, longer cruise duration, greater ice-breaking capacity and support for AUV's and geotechnical drilling using moon pools. OPP is considering an MOU with the Maritime Administration that oversees the building and buying of government's ships for assistance.

Mr. Sutherland noted that the cost of the new ship has not been estimated yet, but could cost more than the Palmer. Dr. Mayewski commented that one of NSF's mandates is to integrate research and education and suggested that OPP could take a small amount of funding that is dedicated to the ship and involve faculty and students from the country's maritime academies in the planning of the vessel. Dr. Erb agreed that this was a great idea.

Alaskan Regional Research Vessel (ARRV)

Mike Reeves, Section Head of Integrative Programs Section, Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE), briefed the Committee in detail on the planned ARRV and the operation of the fleet of U.S. research vessels by academic institutions. At the request of the National Science Board, the Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee (FOCE) produced a report in 1999 reviewing the academic fleet and its operation and funding. One of the recommendations was to undertake long range planning to prepare for replacement of the aging fleet of vessels. In particular, the Alpha Helix, which was built in 1966, needs to be replaced; the preliminary design for the replacement vessel has been completed. It is anticipated that a request for full funding of the vessel will be brought to the National Science Board for approval within the next few months.

Education and Outreach

New Investigator Workshop

Dr. Peacock briefed the Committee on the 2002 OPP/Antarctic New Investigato's Proposal Workshop. Dr. Peacock explained that a meeting of this sort was needed to help encourage new investigators with proposal preparation and the complexity of preparing for a field program. He noted that the workshop was triggered partly by NSF's strategic goals to fund more new investigators. Dr. Peacock thanked the Arctic Program Managers for giving up their time to meet with the participants who were interested in working in the Arctic and other Program Managers from the Divisions including Earth Sciences, Mathematics. The Committee asked whether a workshop like this should be held for Arctic researchers.

BASC Outreach

Dr. Pyle commended the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC) for a superb job in terms of outreach to the Alaskan native community. BASC has provided opportunities for OPP's investigators to share their research with the native communities as well as opportunities for the local students to work with researchers in the field. BASC has also acted as the liaison for visiting reporters. Dr. Pyle also noted that BASC has improved its capabilities and the ability to assist OPP and the researchers. Since most of the outreach is being done by scientists speaking English, BASC can provide translators where there is a small segment of the population that is not being reached, such as local Elders. Dr. Pyle noted that communication with the locals in their language is very important. Dr. Erb commented that these efforts impact the quality of education and conceivably even career choices. He and Dr. Pyle both agreed that it would be useful to have statistics tracking students and how they were impacted by this effort.

Future of TEA

Dr. Bob Wharton discussed the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and the Antarctic (TEA). There were no proposals submitted this year to continue the program past the current 5-year grant, which ends in March 2004. OPP and EHR have had discussions about the future of TEA, but there have been no final decisions made. Wayne Sukow, EHR/ESIE, added that although his program is tightly constrained by the budget, they wish to see TEA, or a “TEA-like program” continue, particularly if they knew its effect on teachers and the impact in the classroom. Dr. Erb agreed that OPP needs to decide if a program like TEA is worthwhile, what should its structure be, and what would be most effective. The Committee felt it might be effective to have the program linked to larger groups — science or teacher organizations or museums. Dr. Erb concluded that within a month or two a decision would have to be made.

The meeting adjourned at 5:35 p.m.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The meeting reconvened at 8:40 a.m.

Dr. Anandakrishnan reconvened the meeting at 8:35 a.m.

Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Dr. Wharton gave a briefing on the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program that OPP is considering for FY04. The Committee discussed possible goals and the structure of the OPP Postdoc Program, including whether awards should be made independently (followed by the recipient finding a principal investigator with whom to work) or to people who had already made links to researchers with existing research grants. Most thought the latter would make more sense. The Committee was pleased to see work on a postdoctoral program in OPP.

FASTDRILL Workshop and Ice Core Drill Developments

Julie Palais gave a brief update on the FASTDRILL workshop held October 3-6, 2002. FASTDRILL was an interdisciplinary workshop on polar research based on Fast Ice Sheet Drilling. The workshop provided a forum for discussion between scientists from the four major disciplines with interest in fast access drilling (geology, glaciology, paleoclimatology and biology) and experts in ice drilling, conventional drilling technology and downhole sampling systems. The workshop was prompted by recent advances in drilling technology that may allow the development of a mobile drilling system capable of rapidly drilling arrays of boreholes through 3-4 km thick polar ice sheets. Discussions at the workshop included the geologic and geophysical interest in sub-ice drilling, the glaciological targets that might be of interest, such as grounding lines of ice shelves and sub-glacial investigations of ice streams and the biological studies that could be advanced with fast access drilling, such as the exploration of subglacial lakes and the study of bacteria in both polar and non-polar ice. Other talks related more to the technology that might be involved such as various kinds of instrumented probes and down hole logging instruments as well as different types of drilling technology, such as coiled tubing technology and related topics (e.g., directional drilling, drilling fluids and proposed sampling systems for subglacial lakes). The outcome of the workshop will be a report that will include all the presentation abstracts as well as a summary of workshop discussions and recommendations. More information about he workshop can be found at:

Erick Chiang briefly discussed the status of development of a Deep Ice Core Drill. The possible options are to upgrade 5.2" drill, design a new drill, purchase a Danish drill or upgrade the European drill.

Dr. Erb recommended that a timetable be developed over the next 6 months, consider the engineering and science goals, and decide what could be done next year.

Workshop Input to Long-Range Planning

Dr. Wharton updated the Committee on OPP planning activities. Part of the planning process involved reviewing workshops that OPP has supported since 1994 to identify what has been acted on. As an example, Simon Stephenson described the 1997 ARCUS report on Arctic Logistics. The report contained 40 recommendations. Of those OPP has made good progress on 70%; some progress on 10%; and no progress on 20%. The work of analyzing logistics needs in the Arctic is an ongoing process, and ARCUS has a working group for this purpose.

GPRA Update

Altie Metcalf and Dave Hofmann (by phone) gave an update on GPRA. Dr. Hofmann provided an extensive update on the meeting of the Advisory Committee for GPRA Performance Assessment (AC/GPA) created to provide advice and recommendations to NSF’s Director regarding the Foundation's performance under the GPRA. The AC/GPA was organized into groups focusing on People, Ideas and Tools. The quality of the GPRA reports the groups reviewed were highly variable, running from several pages with pictures and figures to a few sentences, making it difficult for the members to focus intelligently on the best outcomes of NSF’s research. Dr. Hofmann indicated the AC/GPA could not articulate how to improve the process other than doing a better job of writing the "nuggets."

Dr. Hofmann suggested that NSF should use some type of template or filtering system to make it easier for the Investigators to compose something that would be easy to understand. Ms. Metcalf added that NSF and NSF-supported researchers have to do a better job describing science in layman's terms.

Dr. Erb noted that the motivation for going to a separate committee was due to the fairly burdensome process for the advisory committees. In addition, there is concern that the process clearly be an independent assessment.

Antarctic Treaty Issue: Subglacial Lakes Exploration and Other ATCM Issues

Joyce Jatko described some of the difficult issues relating to subglacial lakes exploration– accidental contamination of the lakes and accidental penetration of the ice changing the pressure of the lake. Other smaller lakes might be better to develop and test technology to be used ultimately at Lake Vostok. The Subglacial Antarctic Lake Exploration Group of Specialists (SALEGOS) was chartered under SCAR to provide scientific advice and leadership within the international science community on the subglacial lake exploration issues. NSF has its own internal subglacial lakes steering group that is helping guide OPP's efforts in encouraging the U.S. community in its participation in this international effort. The Russians produced a Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation (CEE) for full penetration into Lake Vostok to an additional 50 meters of drilling in the accretion ice in the existing borehole. After discussions, the Russians agreed to hold off until next season, but plan to move forward after that. The issue with the additional 50 meters is accretion ice, which is above the surface of the lake by at least another 30 meters. There are unanswered questions and additional studies that are needed to determine whether drilling into the accretion ice presents potential contamination problems to the lake. The Russians have agreed to revise the CEE to include and address or consider the issues of accidental contamination and penetration of the lake. Dr. Erb agreed that future studies need to be done on this issue.

Discussion with NSF Deputy Director

Dr. Joseph Bordogna, Deputy Director, NSF, provided an overview of current issues at NSF, including an update on NSF’s Strategic Plan. NSF has been asked to sit on the President's Management Council, which focuses on implementing the President's Management Agenda. He also noted that the Bush Administration is changing the structure of the U.S. Global Change Program and is focusing on climate change research. Dr. Bordogna thanked the Committee and reiterated the importance of advisory committees to NSF.

IceCube Update

Jack Lightbody, Executive Officer, Division of Physics, briefly explained IceCube, its purpose and timeline. The neutrino observatory would permit studies of super high-energy neutrinos emitted in violent extra-galactic astrophysical processes. The overall project cost is about $250M including $40M of foreign contributions.

Biological Prospecting in Polar Regions

Joyce Jatko discussed the issue of patents being claimed on bacteria collected in Antarctica. Under the Treaty it is intended that scientific information be shared and non-proprietary. The question remains on how to deal with the issues of materials and data coming out of Antarctica that someone wants to patent; how does this fit with the basic spirit of the Treaty; how does it fit within the legal premise of the Treaty that information be shared. Polly Penhale noted that collecting a certain percentage of samples of very rare organisms could negatively affect the environment, so there are associated issues besides the patents that could be involved in biological prospecting. Dr. Erb wanted to raise this issue and asked for any input from the Committee. This topic is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Treaty partners in June.

2003 COV Planning

For those who have not been involved in the COV, Altie Metcalf gave a briefing on the COV's responsibilities and what the reviews cover: the quality and effectiveness of the merit review; the implementation of both the NSF merit review criteria; the selection of reviewers; and the resulting portfolios. Dr. Erb explained that traditionally, the COV had focused more on the management of the review process, but within the last two years, the focus was placed on GPRA and evaluation of outcomes. Dr. Anandakrishnan indicated he would discuss which two members of the OAC might serve on the COV.

Other Business

The consensus of the Committee is that the TEA program is a good program and that NSF should make every effort to support its continuing. Rotating off after this meeting will be Jodie Deming, John Priscu and John Carlstrom. Dr. Erb welcomed any input or suggestions of new members to add to the Committee, keeping in mind the need for balance — geographic, disciplinary, etc. He requested any input by mid-November. A new chair will also have to be chosen.

On behalf of NSF, Dr. Erb thanked the Committee for a very interesting meeting and thanked Dr. Anandakrishnan for stepping in and chairing the meeting so effectively.

The meeting adjourned at 2:40p.m.

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See Notice for this meeting.

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Last Updated

October, 2003

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