Running even a modestly funded research program will require that a significant portion of the budget, or additional support from partner agencies, be devoted to administrative matters and scientific guidance (such as directing peer review the synthesis of information, data management, and so on). The current members of the Scientific and Technical Committee, highly qualified as they are, all have full-time positions with other agencies. As a result, they cannot always focus their full attention on the science needs of the plan, and their agencies have responsibilities beyond the AYK SSI. In addition, a committee is not normally the best mechanism for providing executive leadership. To provide coordination, vision, and leadership, this committee concluded that a fulltime science director should be hired as part of the SSI initiative. The science director’s duties would be to ensure coordinated research projects; to manage the various review processes required, including developing RFPs; and to provide scientific leadership for the AYK SSI’s research and restoration program. The director should not have other duties unless they are very strongly related to the direction of the research program, and she or he should not be in a position to compete for research funding from the program. Although providing the science director’s salary will reduce the funds available to support research directly, the committee concludes that the net result will be an improvement of the research program.
As in all research-funding programs, it is important for the AYK SSI’s program to avoid the appearance and the reality of any conflict of interest. The NRC committee was troubled that persons primarily responsible for preparing the draft research plan, and especially the initial RFPs, also were competing for (and receiving) some of the research funds. Even though the research community in Alaska is smaller than it would be for nationwide competitions for research funds, this committee concludes that it nonetheless is large enough that such conflicts of interest can be avoided without jeopardizing the quality of the research and restoration program. In addition, of course, RFPs should be open to competition from outside Alaska. Having a full-time science director for the AYK SSI would help to alleviate the problem of conflict of interest,