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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
International Workshop on Neutrinos and Subterranean
Science (NeSS) 2002
Washington Hilton & Towers
Washington, DC
8:30 am

September 19, 2002

Good morning and welcome to this robust assembly - one that brings together so many of the world's leading figures in underground research.

I want to thank the organizers from the University of Maryland and the international steering committee for their dedication and hard work in shaping the proceedings. We're looking forward to the presentations, and to the perspective they will provide.

The National Science Foundation derives much of its strength from listening constantly and carefully to the community. This gathering is part of that ongoing effort. But we are also supporting it in fulfillment of a pledge made seven months ago. Our budget request for Fiscal Year 2003 includes the promise to underwrite "a major workshop" on neutrino research and other underground science applications.

Judging from the extraordinary roster of participants and expertise assembled at this event, I think we can safely call it "major."

There are many reasons why this convocation is of such significance and value to NSF and to the Nation, but two in particular stand out.

The first is the remarkable range of science and engineering issues under discussion, which extends from particle physics and cosmology to national security, geosciences and engineering, and the study of microbial life miles below the Earth's surface . . . and perhaps others not yet imagined. The list includes some of the most important and fascinating topics ever to challenge the human intellect.

Diverse as they may seem, they share a common element: depth. Not just depth of scientific interest and complexity, although those are certainly apparent. But literal depth.

All of the current and proposed investigations to be discussed here must take place in special environments hundreds or thousands of meters below ground level. Conducting research in those conditions often entails substantial complications, large infrastructure expenses, and multi-year obligations.

And that brings us to the second and equally important reason why this workshop is so significant: Namely, the nation's urgent need for authoritative and objective advice on potential science and engineering research and education investments.

For federal science policy in general, and for NSF in particular, this is an era of competing and occasionally contradictory demands.

On one hand, the Foundation's mandate to support discovery at the outmost frontiers of knowledge requires that we fund numerous state-of-the-art tools and visionary programs that will advance understanding dramatically.

On the other, we recognize that we live in a period of severe budget constraints, and that each of our investments must be considered in the fiscal context of America's war on terrorism - a war that, sadly, promises to be long and costly before it is ultimately won.

So it is particularly essential now that the community formulate and express its best counsel on emerging opportunities and make the most cogent and convincing arguments for potential new expenditures.

As NSF reviews the proceedings, it will, as always, do so with particular attention to those ideas that integrate research and education, and that will have the greatest impact on the next generation of scientists and engineers. In that respect, we are pleased to see that so many of the projects to be discussed at this meeting have multidisciplinary aspects, and that their planners have incorporated education and outreach components from the beginning. Some have interagency and international dimensions.

There have been several meetings on related subjects over the past few years, and NSF has followed their progress. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences has undertaken a study of the worldwide needs, priorities and capabilities in subterranean research. The Academy panel, too, will be watching this week's presentations, and will factor the results into their deliberations.

Meanwhile, NSF will continue -- in partnership with the community -- to do what it does best: Namely, to evaluate each opportunity exclusively on its merits, and to make difficult, responsible decisions about which ideas have the maximum potential for progress in research and education.

That is never easy when working at the frontier, where there are few, if any, precedents, and no one knows exactly what to do. In those circumstances, we have to evaluate scrupulously the entire spectrum of advice and listen carefully to the varied voices that arise.

Many of the topics and projects that you will be discussing this week have already developed broad and highly motivated constituencies. That is all very well. In fact, it is inevitable in a democracy. But NSF's rigorous, multi-stage procedure for determining the value of any particular investment obtains throughout. Large-scale expenditures for facilities face an exceptionally tough assessment process.

Any candidate proposal for NSF's limited pool of facility funding must first survive critical peer review, and must show extraordinary intellectual merit and considerable potential for broader impacts.

Then it must demonstrate that it has the determined support of the community. And then it must be convincing that it is worth a sizable fraction of NSF's resources.

Candidate projects are examined in meticulous detail through several stages at NSF and eventually by the National Science Board.

If approved at all steps, NSF then will include the project in an annual budget request, which is produced in extensive negotiations with the Office of Management and Budget. And finally, when and if the proposal becomes part of the President's budget, Congress may or may not decide to fund it.

From start to finish, this course of review can take many months, or even years with every step focused on intellectual merit and a project's value to the Nation's science and engineering research and education.

Thus, we are keenly interested in hearing the presentations and dialogue at this workshop. On behalf of the Foundation, I want to thank each of you for your willingness to provide indispensable expertise, insight, and excitement. We all look forward to a successful and highly productive discussion.

Thank you.



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