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OPP Office Advisory Committee

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

November 5-6, 2001 • Arlington, VA

Members Present

Mary Albert, Physical Glaciology, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Geophysics and Physical Glaciology, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
John Carlstrom, Astronomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Jody Deming, Chair, Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Amanda Lynch, Atmospheric Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Douglas MacAyeal, Glaciology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center, Columbus, OH
John Priscu, Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
Joan Stock, Geology and Geophysics, California
Igor Krupnik, Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Members Absent

Elaine Abraham, Education, Alaska Native Science Commission
Dave Hofmann, Atmospheric Chemistry, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO

Invited Participant

Robin Bell, Chair, Polar Research and Science Support Committee of Visitors

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

The fall meeting of the Office of Polar Programs Advisory Committee (OAC) was held at the National Science Foundation (NSF), in Arlington, Virginia, on November 5-6, 2001.

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Monday, November 5, 2001

Welcome and Introductions

Dr. Jody Deming called the meeting to order at 8:20 a.m. The minutes from the May 2001 meeting were approved.

Dr. Deming reminded the Committee that two of their responsibilities during the meeting would be to review and comment on the recent Committee of Visitor (COV) Report on OPP's Polar Research Support Section (PRSS) and to prepare the OAC Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Report, which is due to NSF by December 1, 2001.

Dr. Karl Erb thanked the Committee for their participation and informed them that the impact of their work was continuing, not only on OPP activities, but also on NSF-wide activities. He particularly complimented the Committee's contribution to developing a better understanding of NSF's merit review criteria.

Dr. Erb discussed recent personnel changes in OPP, the status of South Pole Station Modernization, and the status of the FY 2002 Budget.

Dr. Erb commented on the COV review of the performance of the Polar Research Support Section (PRSS) during the FY98-FY00 period. The review took place in September, chaired by Dr. Robin Bell. Dr. Bell noted the concerns of come members of the science community that IceCube could absorb resources needed by other scientific activities. Mr. Erick Chiang and his staff prepared a projection of LC-130 access to show out-year planning for flights. Dr. Erb noted that the tight logistics should be relieved in FY04, where up to twice as many flights could be available for science. Dr. Erb also noted that OPP has begun the development of traverse capability for remote field science and carrying fuel to South Pole, which could also make additional flights for science available. Dr. Erb also mentioned ongoing discussions on increasing the size of the South Pole Station from 110 to 150 persons due to increased science demands. Dr. Erb said that any comments the Committee had on this would be useful to OPP.

Dr. Erb continued by noting that a proposal was submitted by the Polar Research Board to hold a workshop on Frontiers in Polar Biology, an activity in which the Directorate of Biology has also shown interest. He also informed the Committee that several Treaty nations responded to SCAR's concerns about the collecting and auctioning of Antarctic meteorites and that the Treaty system had passed a resolution that every country should take steps to assure that Antarctic meteorites would not be lost to science. NSF legal staff, after discussions with NASA, NOAA and the State Department, has concluded this issue should be addressed through the Antarctic Conservation Act. NSF will issue a regulation that would require anyone collecting meteorites to make them available to the science community and to take curation measures in accordance with scientific procedures. There will be a draft regulation in the Federal Register, which will request input from interested parties. The OAC agreed that this activity should be regulated.

Arctic Update

Dr. Tom Pyle gave a brief update on the following Arctic research opportunities/issues:

  • Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge Expedition 2001 (AMORE)
  • Use of the Healy
  • Social Sciences
  • International Cooperation
  • Research Support and Logistics
  • Explorations

Several questions emerged from the Committee on use of the Healy and its schedule. Dr. Pyle noted that the plan is to use the Healy in the western Arctic for Shelf Basin Interactions every other year. In alternate years the Healy would be available for work in the eastern Arctic. The cost for use of the Healy is paid for out of the research support and logistics budget of the Arctic Section. Dr. Erb also added that OPP identifies Healy costs as a need in the budget to Congress.

Dr. Deming commended Dr. Pyle on the proactive work on international cooperation. Dr. Mary Albert congratulated Dr. Pyle and Mr. Simon Stephenson for their role in Arctic logistics support, which she said is of the same level and quality, under VECO, as logistics support in Antarctica. Dr. Albert also mentioned that the quality of communication and the knowledgeable professional staff at VECO is to be commended.

The Committee asked if staff could elaborate on the structure of ARCSS. Dr. Pyle and Dr. Mike Ledbetter explained that ARCSS is organized around groupings such as OAII, LAII, and LAII, each with its own science steering committee or a management office. The current thinking of the community is that a thematic approach would be a better way for ARCSS to be organized, and ARCUS has identified five themes: Biogeochemical, Hydrology, Arctic Climates, Detecting Change, and Arctic Ecosystems and Societies. This thematic grouping will allow each of the former components of ARCSS to better contribute to understanding the whole Arctic system.

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

Dr. John Calder, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provided a briefing on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). The latest documentation can be found at The ACIA is sponsored by three organizations, two groups from the Arctic Council as well as the International Arctic Science Committee. The purpose of the climate impact assessment is to summarize knowledge on climate variability, climate change, and increased UV radiation, which can be used by scientists, government organizations, and the people who live in the Arctic. The report will follow the IPCC model and will involve scientists from all eight Arctic countries for geographic and national balance. The Committee encouraged the involvement of the native community to get their perspectives and observation on what is happening in the Arctic environment.

There will be three documents produced: State of Dollars Report, State of the Arctic Environment, and a summary document that brings it all together in laymen terms. Once these are completed, the Arctic Council will draft a policy recommendation document and present it to the ministers of the eight Arctic nations. Dr. Erb stated that he was very impressed with the work and hoped this would help influence future research and inform public policy.

Dr. Erb thanked Dr. Calder for briefing the Committee.

Antarctic Sciences Update

Dr. Dennis Peacock discussed opportunities and issues in Antarctic research, including:

  • Long Duration Ballooning, Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica and IceCube
  • Southern Ocean GLOBEC, Victoria Land, Extended Season and Polar Genomics<
  • ANDRIL and SHALDRILL, Aerogeophysics, Field Camps, Antarctic Search for Meteorites and Ship-Based Research<
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet project, Pine Island Bay, and Subglacial Lakes, and Overland Traverse<
  • Ross Island Meteorological Experiment, CLIVAR and Ship-Based Research

The Committee discussed the importance of prioritizing science projects to be supported because the logistics are constrained; ice coring was mentioned specifically as an area that needs attention.

USAP logistics and science support update

Mr. Erick Chiang updated the committee on the following opportunities and issues:

  • Status of Operations
  • Enhance the Efficiency of LC-130 Operations
    • Preparation of the Pegasus Runway
    • Blue Ice Runway (emergency divert field that accommodate wheeled aircraft)
  • Major Infrastructure Outside of South Pole<
  • Science Support Issues<
  • Ice Coring Drilling for FY02<
  • Overland Traverse

Mr. Chiang noted that OPP is examining the future for high band-width communication capability rom South Pole and the possible options include: NSF owning its own constellation of satellites, using old satellites as they rotate out of orbit, and using fiber optic cable. The cost of NSF owning its own constellation of satellites would be enormous. The use of old satellites is less attractive because it makes it difficult to plan for the future. Use of fiber optic cable is being explored as it could be a reliable option to provide the required bandwidth.

Dr. Albert congratulated Mr. Chiang on his many years of successfully finding different solutions to challenges presented by the program.

Discussions with Rita Colwell, Director

Dr. Rita Colwell, Director, NSF thanked the Committee for its work, particularly with respect to merit review criterion 2. Dr. Colwell discussed the NSF FY02 Budget and the outlook for FY03. She mentioned that NSF is maintaining its priority areas and initiatives in the FY03 budget while ensuring that funding for the core disciplines is maintained. Dr. Colwell noted that NSF's support for research related to events related to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and terrorism provides a powerful statement of the value of fundamental research. Dr. Colwell also discussed the planned questionnaire for the research community on grant size and duration

The Committee discussed with Dr. Colwell the issue of balancing the support for newly emerging areas of research with support for long-term investments. Dr. Colwell said the advisory committees play an important role in advising the Foundation on this issue.

Dr. Colwell thanked the committee for its work on both merit review criterion 2 and the RISE document.

COV and GPRA Orientation

Ms. Altie Metcalf briefed the committee on GPRA and COV requirements and the Committee’s role in meeting these requirements.

COV Report

Dr. Robin Bell presented a detailed review on the COV process for reviewing the Polar Research Support Section (PRSS). The six major recommendations from the COV are:

  1. Streamline the Logistics Planning Process<
  2. Take a Leadership Role in Implementing the Antarctic Environmental Protocol<
  3. Upgrade Deep Field Science Infrastructure<
  4. Create a Recurring Repair and Replacement Account<
  5. Consolidate Aviation Contractor Management Functions<
  6. Improve the Committee of Visitors Process

The COV particularly noted that the science community was concerned about the impact of South Pole Station Modernization on science. The group encouraged OPP to consider any ways possible to make more flights available as soon as possible for science support. Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan, a COV member, added that overall the COV thought that PRSS was doing an excellent job and had been very successful over the three-year period in carrying out its mission.

Discussion of the Report

In response to the recommendation to streamline the logistics planning process, Mr. Chiang explained that OPP would not want to attempt to forecast which proposals are likely to be funded so that advance planning for their support could be undertaken earlier. Dr. Erb agreed that OPP should not be preempting merit review recommendations on proposals, but that there could be opportunities to streamline. The Committee agreed. The task of analyzing the process to see if there are ways it could be streamlined has been assigned to Mr. Brian Stone, who will work with the Science Program Managers on a possible solution.

In response to recommendation on OPP taking a leadership role in implementing the Environmental Protocol, Dr. Erb informed the Committee that Dr. Joyce Jatko has been named the U.S. Representative to the Committee on Environmental Protocol which operates under the Antarctic Treaty. The Committee agreed that OPP should continue to play a proactive international leadership role.

In response to the recommendation to upgrade deep field science infrastructure, Mr. Chiang stressed that PRSS resources are used to support science recommended by the Antarctic Science Section. He also noted that the needs of any one part of the science community must be considered in the larger framework of all the science being supported. The PRSS commitment to developing an overland traverse capability will expedite improvements in deep field infrastructure.

In response to the recommendation to create a recurring repair and replacement account, Dr. Erb noted that the U.S. government does not have a way of setting up an account of this nature. OPP will continue to work with NSF management and OMB to acquire the funding to meet the needs of the Program.

In response to the recommendation to consolidate aviation contractor management functions under NSF, OPP agreed that this is an important issue and will analyze available options for management of private aviation contractors.

The last recommendation was for OPP to improve the COV process. The Committee of Visitors needs more summary information as it does not have time to read and digest an extensive set of documents. Dr. Erb commented that the COV had a difficult and far-ranging job. PRSS is more complicated to evaluate than are typical proposal-granting programs. Dr. Erb said OPP would work to assure that subsequent COVs are provided the information necessary for them to thoroughly undertake their review.

Opportunities in Polar Biology

Dr. Albert and Ms. Chris Elfring briefed the Committee on the Polar Research Board's proposal on Frontiers in Polar Biology and the plans for a workshop. Ms. Elfring noted that input from the OAC would be useful in developing the workshop.

Dr. Polly Penhale updated the Committee on Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) initiative. Dr. Penhale mentioned that OPP is not seeing a tremendous amount of interest—in terms of proposals submitted—in BE from the Polar community. Dr. Deming remarked that one possible reason is the low success rate for the BE proposals.

Dr. Erb requested feedback on whether there was a substantial community interest in genomics and protein expression of organisms existing in harsh climates. Dr. Deming commented that NOAA supports collaborative efforts between industry and microbial research, but with only small-scale links to local industries.

Dr. Albert will draft comments on opportunities in polar biology, distribute the comments to the OAC for comment, and then forward it to OPP/NSF.

Discussion on Draft GPRA Report and Formulation of OAC Report

Ms. Metcalf briefed the Committee on the requirements for the GPRA report. She reiterated that NSF reports the GRPA results as an aggregate for the whole Foundation and not directorate by directorate. Assessments in OPP's GPRA report were developed using input from Program Managers on FY01 successes.

One of the goals for NSF investments is using both merit review criteria in order to determine whether reviewers are using both merit review criteria and if Program Managers are using both in their recommendations. Samples show that 60% of the reviewers and 73% of the Program Managers clearly address both criteria. These results show OPP has improved from 1999.

The Committee began discussing OPP's GPRA report and other possible activities by polar researchers that could be added to the Committee's GPRA report.

Wrap-Up/Next Steps

Dr. Deming noted that the Committee needs to continue discussion on the GPRA report, including assigning different sections of the report to different members of the Committee.

The meeting adjourned at 6:00 pm.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2001

The meeting reconvened at 8:00 a.m. Discussions continued on the GPRA Report.

The Committee expressed surprise at OPP's low percentage of its budget defined as contributing to "People" since OPP funds many activities that support this GPRA goal. The Committee acknowledged that the definition of what is included in this category might be a factor, but the Committee recommended that OPP review its "People" contribution and consider whether this number is actually higher than is being reported. Dr. Erb noted that OPP would look into how this number is developed. Dr. Deming noted that the Committee would like OPP's contributions in all areas, including "People," to be accurately portrayed.

GPRA and COV Wrap-Up Discussion

The Committee revisited specific points that they wanted to make in a letter to Dr. Erb with their advice in response to the COV Report. The letter will reflect the Committee's deliberation. Dr. MacAyeal noted that the Committee thanked the COV for its work and agrees with the COV that the support of polar science is extraordinary. Dr. MacAyeal noted the following on the specific COV recommendations:

Major Recommendation #1 — Streamlining the Logistics Planning Process. The Committee was sympathetic with the workload problems generated by the need to review proposals for both science and support, but there was no agreement or consensus reached on how that would best be addressed.

Major Recommendation #2 — Take a Leadership Role in Implementing the Antarctic Environmental Protocol. The COV Report should be clarified to indicate OPP already takes a leadership role.

Major Recommendation #3 — Upgrade Deep Field Science Infrastructure. The Committee agreed that the science community needs to identify its long-term needs for OPP. There were some concerns that planning too far in advance can result in materials/equipment being ordered that will become obsolete before they are used in the field.

Major Recommendation #4 — Create and Recurring Repair and Replacement Account. There is no specific mechanism within the federal budget process to establish a recurring repair and replacement account, so OPP currently plans and funds facilities maintenance in a possibly less than optimum way. Nevertheless, the Committee complimented OPP for its effort to balance the attention to maintenance and rebuilding the South Pole Station as well as attending to the concurrent science activities.

Major Recommendation #5 — Consolidating Aviation Contractor Management Functions. There was general agreement that the reliability and effectiveness of flight safety procedures, such as that provided by OAS, should be continued.

The Committee discussed various issues related to science support, including the timeline for proposal review and award decisions. Dr. Erb added that there might be changes that could streamline and reduce the workload, and OPP is still considering possibilities. OPP is also challenging the new support contractor to find more efficient ways of doing business. Dr. Deming offered that the OAC can come up with some ideas for OPP to consider as OPP seek a solution.

The Committee discussed the issue of logistics driving science versus science driving logistics. Dr. Erb noted that one of the benefits of the New Investigators Workshop was that it informed potential proposers about USAP logistics capabilities and constraints. In most cases, PIs discuss potential projects with Program Managers, which informs the PI on what capabilities for support exist but also informs the OPP staff about where additional logistics capabilities are needed. This type of dialogue is important to PIs as well as OPP science and logistics managers and helps all parties understand the capabilities, constraints, and needs.

The Committee noted that one of the biggest constraints in logistics is in LC-130 hours. Considering ways to free up the LC-130 hours for science, such as a compacted snow runway and overland traverses, are extremely important. Dr. Erb added that another constraint is lack of wide bandwidth communications, which would allow PIs access to instrumentation from their home institutions.

The Committee recommended that OPP and PRSS continue to concentrate strongly on examining feasibility of overland traverse capability.

Antarctic Treaty and Environmental Protection

Dr. Jatko briefed the Committee on the Protocol on Environmental Protection, also referred to as the Madrid Protocol. The Protocol has five annexes:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (Review of environmental issues and potential impacts from the projects)<
  • Conservation of Flora and Fauna (Apply for Permits)<
  • Waste Management (Requirements involving hazardous materials and waste)<
  • Prevention of Marine Pollution (shipboard issues)<
  • Area Protection (Special Protected Areas and the Specially Managed Area)

OPP is responsible for update of 12 of the protected area management plans. The review process for the Area Management Plans is designed to ensure that those needed to be involved participate and provide input into a draft plan. The draft then goes to the Polar Research Board and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), which is required to provide input to these as part of the advice to the Treaty system. At the same time, the plans go to the Committee for Environmental Protection, which has an advisory role on environmental issues for the Treaty system. The final plans are then submitted to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) for adoption. Five draft pans were submitted for review at the CEP meeting in July 2001 in St. Petersburg, Russia, starting a formal process for further comments, questions, and input. Once the changes have been incorporated, the final plan will go forward to the ATCM in Poland in September 2002 for final adoption. For the remaining plans that are being updated, the time line is that the draft plans will go out for review in time to have the final draft plan ready for the 2003 meeting.

The U.S. is also involved in development of two Specially Managed Area plans, one for Deception Island and one for the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The Deception Island plan is unique in that it combines scientific, historic and tourism interests. The Dry Valleys plan has been driven in large part by science community and represents a "success story" of effectively merging environmental and scientific interests

Report on the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (ERE)

Dr. John Priscu briefed the OAC on the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education's goal to develop an environmental portfolio for NSF across all Directorates. The members of the ERE/AC consist of representatives from all of NSF's advisory committees and a group of invited scientists. Environmental education, outreach and resources are also included in the environmental portfolio. The OAC expressed concern that OPP interests are not reflected explicitly in ERE documents. OAC members may send suggestions on this issue to Dr. Priscu who will forward a document on polar contributions to Dr. Deming.

Merit Review Criterion 2 — New Procedures

Dr. Albert briefed the Committee on the work that has been done on the issue of Merit Review Criterion 2. Dr. Erb noted that in the future, there will likely be a requirement that proposers address both criteria in their summary statements. He asked the Committee to get the word out to the community that it is very important to address both criteria in the project description of proposals, project reports, and in merit reviews. There have been discussions about the page limit being expanded to allow full discussion of both merit reviews, but no change has been made yet. This is an issue that has to be discussed by the National Science Board.

Other Business

Dr. Deming thanked the three out-going members of the Committee; Drs. Albert, MacAyeal, and Mosley-Thompson for their boldness in offering their opinions and helping the Committee reach consensus on the various issues the Committee has discussed. Dr. Erb added his appreciation of their contributions.

Dr. Albert thanked OPP for giving her the opportunity to be on the Committee and noted that she was impressed with the staff in OPP and their "can do" attitudes and holds the office in the highest respect. She encourages the Committee to identify and promote the research opportunities that exist that could help OPP, NSF, and the nation. Dr. Mosley-Thompson noted that the responsiveness of OPP impresses her. She also stated that the Committee's advice is appreciated and is taken seriously by OPP. As a result it is rewarding for those who come and serve on the Committee to know that it was time well spent. Dr. MacAyeal agreed as well.

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See Notice for this meeting.

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Last Updated

April, 2003

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