Email Print Share

OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

October 2, 2003 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

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

Members Absent

Joann Stock, Geology and Geophysics, California Institute of Technology

OPP Senior Staff Present

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

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 2, 2003. The OAC had agreed in pre-meeting planning that one day would be sufficient for this particular meeting.

divider line

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Welcome and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 a.m. The minutes from the May 2003 meeting were approved. Dr. Anandakrishnan briefly went over the agenda and thanked Dr. Peter-Noel Webb for chairing the Committee of Visitors (COV).

OPP Director's Report

Dr. Karl Erb welcomed the Committee and informed the members that after the COV finalizes its report, the report will be forwarded to OPP. OPP will then prepare a written response to the OAC and these documents will be forwarded to the Director of NSF and placed on a public website.

Dr. Erb discussed the FY 2003 Budget and the fact that with Congressional approval, NSF had reprogrammed funds from other Directorates to OPP in order to partially defray additional costs incurred due to the unusually difficult ice conditions in McMurdo Sound. An extra $6 million was spent on these operations. Dr. Erb also discussed the FY 2004 Budget Request, which represents a 2% increase for OPP.

Dr. Erb reported that Dr. Jane Lubchenco, President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and a member of the National Science Board, was at a meeting at NSF with Dr. Thomas Rosswall, ICSU's Executive Director. During this meeting, Dr. Rosswall made an articulate presentation outlining ICSU's support of the International Polar Year (IPY) and emphasizing that associated science efforts should be of the highest quality, multidisciplinary, new, and bipolar in nature.

Dr. Erb noted that he had participated in a workshop in Canada at which that country considered how to implement its national Antarctic program following the country having become a full member of the Antarctic Treaty System. Participants also discussed how Canada might participate in IPY and whether the IPY effort should be bipolar or separate. Canadian scientists working in both Polar Regions expressed great interest in building stronger connections with the U.S. communities. They consider issues impacting the native communities in Canada as important topics for investigation during IPY and intend to work actively with the communities to facilitate research on those top ics.

Dr. Erb noted that a delay in opening South Pole Station is expected due to required inspections on all LC-130s. Mr. Erick Chiang and Dr. Scott Borg are working together to evaluate the consequences. There have been a number of discussions concerning the Polar Class Icebreaker situation with the Office of Management and Budget and the Coast Guard. The Polar Sea and Polar Star are both badly in need of very expensive renovation to ensure their reliability and availability for opening the channel to McMurdo. There is a sense that the Coast Guard and the White House want to solve this problem, but it is going to take some time. There is also the possibility that the Canadian Coast Guard may be willing to enter into occasional partnerships for shared use of the Louis St. Laurent Icebreaker in Antarctica.

OPP personnel changes mentioned by Dr. Erb include:

  • Mr. Frank Brier, Project Manager of South Pole Construction, retired — Mr. Pat Haggerty will fill in temporarily.
  • Dr. Joyce Jatko, Environmental Officer, is now working for EPA — Dr. Polly Penhale will represent the U.S. on the International Treaty activities concerning Antarctica. The position will soon be opened for applicants.
  • Dr. Scott Borg was selected as Section Head of Antarctic Sciences — Dr. Rama Kotra, USGS, will temporarily assist with the Antarctic Geology & Geophysics program.
  • Dr. Marie Bundy joined OPP as an Associate Program Manager for the Antarctic Biology & Medicine Program, replacing Dr. Deneb Karentz who returned to the University of San Francisco.
  • Dr. Dana Lehr, AAAS Fellow, has completed her fellowship, but will continue at NSF in the Division of Astronomy.
  • OPP will announce a search for a program manager for Ice Cube.
  • Ms. Veronica Vallejos is with OPP for three months as an exchange scientist under the American Fellows program. She is with the Chilean Antarctic organization.
  • Dr. Dennis Conlon, ONR, is going to be with OPP for two years working on sensors and related activities in the Arctic Sciences Section.
  • Dr. Bill Wiseman joined OPP from Louisiana State University as an Associate Program Manager in the Arctic Natural Sciences program.
  • Mr. George Blaisdell from CRREL has been hired as Operations Manager in PRSS.

OPP Updates

Arctic Sciences - Dr. Tom Pyle

The VECO Polar Resources current logistics contract will expire in 2004 so OPP is in the process of requesting approval from the National Science Board to release an RFP for these services. The Abisko (Sweden) Jubilee Workshop celebrated it 100th anniversary of research at that site, focusing on plans to better the coordination and cooperation among some of the premier world-class research stations. A draft agreement between U.S. and Russia is being circulated through the appropriate U.S. agencies for comments. Discussions have started with the National Academy of Science/Polar Research Board on a Blue Ribbon Panel on Arctic Observations. Dr. Pyle also noted that the Section plans to participate in NSF-wide ITR and Sensors and Sensor Network competitions.

Antarctic Sciences - Dr. Scott Borg

An international panel met on the ANDRILL program and made recommendations to continue to move forward for two out of the five drilling projects. The earliest drilling, proposed for the 2005/2006 season, involves four countries. Dr. Julie Palais and Mr. Brian Stone are now responsible for the technical oversight of the Ice Coring and Drilling Services (ICDS) contract. ICDS is in the process of selecting a Project Manager. The Europeans are using drill fluid that is a type of CFC, which is banned by the U.S. OPP is reviewing this issue to see if some other type of chemical can be used. WAISCORES proposals are expected to come in during the June 2004 and 2005proposal cycles and the first drilling is expected in the 2006/2007 Antarctic season.

Dr. Erb commented that both Germany and France offered to provide technical expertise through whatever mechanism works out to be most advantageous to both to their programs and OPP's to assist in ice core drill development. OPP is building links with the European ice core community on a technical basis in order to expedite development of a drill for the planned U. S. WAIS project and is sponsoring a workshop to explore interest in forming an international partnership to develop more advanced drills for future shared projects. Dr. Anandakrishnan commented that it would be valuable to have an apprenticeship or observational activity for U.S. scientists or graduate students to work with the European drilling operations to obtain the knowledge in how the Europeans conduct their operations. Dr. Anandakrishnan asks for OPP's support in this. Dr. Erb expressed optimism that arrangements could be worked out with the Europeans.

Antarctic Science Support and Logistics - Mr. Erick Chiang

Ten aircraft require inspections of their fuel pumps resulting in a week's delay in opening South Pole Station. The Air Force is doing all that they can to assist the 109th in getting the inspections completed. The goal is to get a minimum of three aircraft inspected and sent south immediately; four additional aircraft will follow and all seven should be available for Antarctic operations this season.

A concept drawing of the new generation polar research vessel has been developed. The ship could be ready by 2010 to 2012; the current contract for the Palmer expires in 2012. In a two-day workshop that was held, science and operational requirements were provided to the design team. Mr. Chiang emphasized that this new ship would be an ice-capable research vessel but would not have the icebreaking capability of the Coast Guard icebreakers.

As construction of the new South Pole station nears completion, it is expected that the number of LC-130 missions available for other purposes could double if funds were available to support those missions. Meanwhile, missions available for science would increase from 76 in 2003 to 114 in 2004. Additionally, a proof of concept of a McMurdo to South Pole surface traverse has begun that would ultimately provide the ability to deliver up to two million-pounds of materials to the South Pole from McMurdo. This coming season, the intent is to cross the McMurdo Ice Shelf and proceed up the Leverett Glacier. If this capability proves successful, this would add another 130 missions that could be reallocated to science or other purposes, pending the availability of funding.

Work consistent with the McMurdo Long Range Development Plan is ongoing and includes eventual removal or replacement of 47 out of 97 structures, some dating to 1957. The priorities that are established are based on safety and environment; reliability and obsolescence; science capability and efficiency; operational capability and efficiency; and community service and amenities. The total facilities investment for projects considered the highest priority is approximately $60 million.

In response to a COV recommendation two years ago to consider consolidating aviation contractor management functions, fixed-wing aircraft services will be handled by a contract managed directly by NSF instead of a subcontract under Raytheon Polar Services Company. This has the capability to be a bi-polar contract. Proposals are due October 7, 2003, and contract awarded by March 1, 2004.

Dr. Erb further commented that the McMurdo Long Range Development Plan, which represents an ongoing effort since 1979 and is periodically updated. This action addresses a recent recommendation by NSF's Inspector General.

Discussion of Icebreaker Capabilities - Drs. John Ruhl and Peter Schlosser

Drs. Ruhl and Schlosser had prepared a statement on icebreaker capabilities following discussions at the last OAC meeting regarding the status of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers and the need for polar icebreaking capabilities. The statement relates the level of concern and the Committee's encouragement for NSF to handle this as a priority issue. It was also noted that there are two aspects that need critical attention — the ability to open the channel to McMurdo station each year and the science capability on icebreaking platforms. The Committee expressed its concerns about how icebreaking capabilities could be maintained and continued should the icebreakers become inoperable or if there is a hiatus in service before any solution is reached. Members also asked if there had been a comprehensive evaluation of the availability of ice-strengthened research platforms to meet future polar research needs in general.

Dr. Erb said he was not aware of any recent study that integrated all of the factors on this issue and agreed to look into the issue and how best to address it. Dr. Pyle added that the Arctic Icebreaking Coordinating Committee (AICC) met and discussed the issue, but he had not seen a report yet.

Members commented that the Coast Guard vessels are not being used to their maximum capability (e.g., they do not operate at night in ice) and that science could be compromised because of inexperience of military personnel due to rotations. The suggestion was made that an apprenticeship be established that would allow an enlisted person and an Officer from the Coast Guard to go aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer so that they could see how the Palmer operates. Dr. Erb said he believed that the Coast Guard had shown that it is serious about developing a cadre of people experienced with the science missions and that the Coast Guard might be receptive to the suggestion made about an apprenticeship.

Overview of COV Process - Drs. Peter-Noel Webb, Beverly Hartline, and Martin Jefferies

A briefing was given to the Committee on the COV charges, the COV process, and outcome of the report. Dr. Webb thanked Drs. Erb, Pyle and Borg with getting the COV up to speed on OPP. Dr. Hartline added her gratitude that a number of people from OPP came in to assist the COV despite the fact that the government was closed due to Hurricane Isabel. Dr. Jefferies noted that the COV appreciated the data and statistics provided by OPP which were very useful and made the deliberations easy. The COV agreed that in terms of the program's processing and review of proposals is working extremely well. The process is operated with a high degree of integrity, and the process would stand up to an audit. Dr. Jefferies also noted that he was impressed with the "openness" of Polar Programs to the COV process and how much effort was made to help the COV meet their obligations and responsibilities.

A summary of concerns and questions from the COV included:

  • Template — while providing a structure, it excluded consideration of other subjects outside of the template. It imposed certain constraints on the COV.
  • Time Constraints — the group could not evaluate and assess the level of risk or the innovativeness of proposals because of time constraints.
  • Too many questions — 40 questions are too many. Fewer questions but with more specificity would have allowed to the group to better answer what was required.
  • Statistics sent in advance — would have allowed the COV to study them in more depth.
  • Adding another category to the template — The possibility that OPP add another category (D) or specific questions on what the Office would like some consideration on.
  • Lack of some data — as a result, the COV could not do its job as effectively.
  • Stats on FastLane — FastLane could be put to better use for statistics if it were not so limited, i.e., it could be used to track undergrad/grad students, etc.

Dr. Erb noted that an IG audit of COVs was critical of COV reports that had ambiguous conclusions (i.e., a response that did not clearly say yes or no in response to questions posed). Dr. Erb commented that in preparation for the COV, OPP went through the template and indicated on each question how the information could be obtained either by reading the jackets or by reference to the presentations that the Section Heads gave or by referencing the data tables. He agreed that it would be helpful if better data were available but commented that OPP was unable to provide data beyond those kept by the agency, most of which are provided in the grant proposal documents submitted by the universities. Dr. Erb said it might be helpful to discuss the issue of collecting additional data, for example on students, with administrators from universities to determine whether it is possible.

Dr. Erb thanked the members of the COV for their remarkable dedication, especially Dr. Webb for devoting his time with OPP in advance. OPP and NSF thanked the members.

Discussion of COV Draft Report - Drs. Webb, Hartline, and Jefferies

The OAC commented that some of the questions are complex and do not lend themselves to a simple yes or no; that some of the questions asked (such as riskiness, innovativeness) could really only be judged by reading the proposals — and there is not sufficient time to do that in real detail; and that the lack of statistics on some data, such as diversity of reviewers and data on students supported made it difficult to reach definitive conclusions.

Some points discussed were on the structure of the Arctic Section and the management of programs; the review mechanism in the ARCSS program; the Program Officer's justification for his/her recommendation; statistical data for the diversity of reviewers (NSF does not collect but requires the COV to review); expediting decisions for declines and notifying PIs promptly; implementation of NSF Merit Review Criteria; appropriate balance of high-risk proposals; program performance and areas in need of improvement and other relevant issues; and strengthening the COV process.

The members commented that this process was quite educational and it illustrates that OPP is doing a good job. Dr. Jefferies noted that this was his second term sitting on a COV and that it has helped him to understand the way NSF works, its organization, and how decisions are reached. He said that while it was a lot of work, he would recommend to anyone to serve on a COV.

Dr. Erb noted that the COV and the OAC has given OPP important issues to consider and that OPP needs to continue to work with the communities to continue to evolve our use of both merit review criteria.

Dr. Anandakrishnan and Webb said that any revisions resulting from this discussion would be reflected in the final COV Report.

Discussion with NSF Deputy Director - Dr. Joe Bordogna

Dr. Bordogna discussed NSF's FY 2004 Budget Request the Continuing Resolution, the multifaceted assessment and accountability activities, the NSF President's Management Agenda scorecard, and the NSF Strategic Plan.

The Committee noted that some of the questions on the COV template require more detailed responses than a yes or no. The members felt that this structure and requirement undermines the OAC's ability to give useful feedback. The OAC also noted the large number of questions asked on the template. Dr. Bordogna advised the Committee that the COV should continue to answer the questions they way they are doing. Dr. Bordogna was very receptive to comments made and encouraged the COV to forward recommendations for changes to the OAC. This provides the impetus for NSF to consider changes to the COV process.

Planning for IPY 2007 - Drs. Peter Schlosser and Igor Krupnick

A rough framework for IPY activities is that they should deal with changes in variability over time, enable new technologies, and decode polar processes. The OAC commented that without adequate international planning, there might be many countries with unrelated IPY programs — that there should be an internationally coordinated set of objectives; the U.S. has the majority of logistics in Antarctica and hat has to be taken into consideration in planning; IPY planning should take a decadal approach rather than a single year; and IPY activities should not adversely impact OPP core activities.

Other Business

Dr. Erb invited the Committee to discuss and comment on whether a one or two day meeting was preferred. There were mixed preferences, but agreed that the decision on the number of days should be based on the scope/agenda of the meeting. For the spring meeting, when there would be several new members, a two-day meeting would probably be more appropriate.

Drs. JoAnn Stock, Igor Krupnick, Amanda Lynch, and Elaine Abraham will be rotating off the OAC this term. Dr. Erb thanked them for their service to NSF and OPP by serving on this Committee and noted that Dr. Anandakrishnan will remain on the committee one final year as the past-chair of the committee.

The meeting adjourned at 4:00pm.

divider line

See Agenda for this meeting.

divider line

Last Updated

May 4, 2004

divider line

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!