Click for next page ( 22


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 21
~2 Management Strategy and Structure As noted earlier, the organization of the Arctic Sciences Section was de- signed in response to a variety of management pressures and as a counterpart to the Antarctic Sciences Section. Both manage approximately the same amount of research dollars about $30.5 million although the arctic budget supports both research and research logistics, while antarctic logistics are covered separately. Figure 3-1 is an organizational chart for the Office of Polar Programs, current as of February 1998. Several differences in staffing and structure between the two science sections are apparent. For example, the Antarctic Section has 16 posi- tions, including one section head and seven science program managers plus a number of other staff directly involved in managing the research portfolio. (The Antarctic Sciences Section is also supported by 17 staff members and various contractors in the Polar Research Support Section, which provides a variety of logistics services.) Although the position terminology between the two sections is not parallel, the Arctic Sciences Section had 12 positions, including one section head and seven people involved in managing the research portfolio. (This in- cludes one person added to the ANS staff in late 1997 after the committee began its work.) For science management in the Arctic Sciences Section, there are four tem- porary (or "rotating") positions, including the section head and the Arctic Natural Sciences (ANS) program manager, and only two permanent positions, one of which was added to support the ANS program during the course of this assess- ment. In comparison, the Antarctic Sciences Section has six permanent science program managers and a permanent section head. Given the similarity of their 21

OCR for page 21
22 I} c, ~ I .e o .~ in =5 O C o _ 1 C PI WHO I- .111 ~ ; 0- In L 1 - . ___ L___ go, . ;~ 3~:1[g jaI111~1 ~ i::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::~. ~ 3~0 .. .. . . . .. . ~ .. . ... 1 ~ 1 ~ 1 1 o, 1 1 ~ 1 1 ~ 1 1 o 1 1 ~ 1 . ~ I c F ;^ o Cal Cal it_ o .~ .5 o Cal Cal o ~0 o a rim

OCR for page 21
MANAGEMENT STRATEGYAND STRUCTURE 23 science budgets, the Arctic Section is understaffed and, moreover, is character- ized by a high number of temporary employees. Although there are benefits to rotating employees, including the influx of new ideas, the high number of temporary staff in the Arctic Sciences Section has implications for continuity of programs and implementation of strategic thinking. Short-term employees are likely to be less effective at certain tasks because it takes time to get up to speed in such a diverse program (in terms of scientific issues and the communities of researchers involved); furthermore, they end up leaving just as they become knowledgeable and effective. Because of the rigid timing of the proposal request cycle, short-term staff will be less able to develop and implement a vision of where the program should head. Short-term employ- ees also may have more difficulty knowing and coordinating with the many other people within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and in other federal agen- cies with arctic research programs, and such coordination should be an important part of the job for ANS staff. Finally, lack of permanent staff in key program manager positions could be perceived as a lack of long-term commitment to science in the Arctic at the Office of Polar Programs. EVALUATION OF CURRENT STRUCTURE AND SCOPE Strengths Although this committee has many suggestions for improving the effective- ness of how OPP manages the arctic side of its portfolio, we should to note that overall the current OPP Arctic Sciences Section has done a credible job of sup- porting arctic science within the structure imposed upon it during its formation. Although we must inevitably find ways to segment and define scientific catego- ries, or its management becomes overwhelming, science in general is moving away from the neat disciplinary boundaries of the past. Thus the move away from this in the Arctic Sciences Section is not unreasonable. As for the ANS program, it has shown in its short history some distinct strengths: . The Arctic Natural Sciences program provides a home for a broad range of potential research issues dealing with the atmosphere, biology, geology, and oceans in the Arctic. The program' s breadth and flexibility allows it great range in selecting important research. Arctic research benefits from these topics being collected together into a single program, because this provides a potential mechanism for scientists from different disciplines to act collectively. The ANS program is funded at an adequate level to carry out its mandate, and funds during the first years of operation seem to have been distributed appro- priately.

OCR for page 21
24 . FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM The ANS program is well suited to fund individual and small team initiatives because it is not tied strongly to any thematic program. Such initiatives are increasingly difficult to fund elsewhere. . Given its solid funding and flexibility, the ANS program offers a good op- portunity to accommodate new and sometimes even large ideas. Some cau- tion is necessary in the future, however, as new and perhaps costly opportunities like the new ice-capable research ship (U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy) come into service. Weaknesses This committee was charged with evaluating the ANS program so we can provide guidance about future directions, and thus our focus inevitably falls on problems and areas where improvement is possible. The committee notes that the ANS program, and in particular its relationship to other programs within OPP and NSF as a whole, is in some ways still an "experiment in progress" that can benefit from candid feedback. In this vein, we offer the following observations: . Although the antarctic/arctic split seems irreversible, there is no science- based reason for separating the poles in administration of polar research. What was lost in the process is some focused disciplinary support. More importantly, management and dedicated funding for the logistics of polar science were divided up, to the detriment of the arctic side. . There is some overlap between the ANS and Arctic System Science (ARCSS) programs. At times, the conditions for inclusion in ANS seem to be "if it's not ARCSS, it's ANS," but this can lead to some confusion. The current size of the ANS program and broad diversity of subject matter covered are too great for the staff allocated (although some changes to ameliorate this problem have occurred as this report was being written). The lack of perma- nent staff in key positions and lack of parity of permanent positions between the Antarctic Section (where most positions are permanent) and Arctic Section (where few positions are permanent) are problems that need to be addressed, albeit within the broader NSF context because of overall limitations on staff levels. It is and will continue to be difficult to set priorities for funding when subject matter is diverse. Similarly, it is difficult to use a normal review panel to help in ANS-wide decisionmaking, unless multiple panels are used or special effort is made to design a multidisciplinary panel. Review panels were not universally liked by the town meeting participants, so some thought should be given to how they are used if this route is followed. Given the great breadth of subject matter considered in the ANS program, it is and will always be difficult to find staff who can deal fairly and competently with the full range of proposals received. Arctic research can be constrained by the lack of logistical support. New .

OCR for page 21
MANAGEMENT STRATEGYAND STRUCTURE 25 ships are likely to be a heavy burden on the program in the future; this is dis- cussed further in Chapter 5. . The relationship of the ANS program to other programs that also fund work in the Arctic is not entirely clear to prospective researchers. At one point, it was proposed that there be a group known as "Arctic Affiliates," that is, a group of NSF staff with arctic interests that would meet periodically to provide advice and help review proposals. It would include key staff from the Arctic Section and from units outside the OPP, such as the Earth System History program (ESH), Atmospheric Sciences Division (ATM), and Earth Sciences Division (EAR). The Arctic Affiliates concept has not been taken full advantage of, although an informal approach has developed where the program manager seeks specific input from specific people as necessary. This informal approach seems most useful when the underlying personal relationships are good, and less useful with- out that foundation. If such a group was operating, consideration might be given to adding members from other agencies funding research in the Arctic, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to assist in coordination with these agencies and benefit from their links with international activities. EVALUATION BY 1997 COMMITTEE OF VISITORS Periodic assessments of program success and problems are extremely impor- tant for ensuring sound program management, and the Arctic Sciences Section is to be commended for taking steps to evaluate and modify the ANS program while it is still evolving. Other mechanisms, too, can provide periodic input and guid- ance. One such mechanism, although not targeted exclusively on the ANS pro- gram, was a 1997 Committee of Visitors that was charged with evaluating the OPP science program (NSF, 1997b). (Also see Box 3-1.) The report of that Committee of Visitors provided an overall assessment of OPP and looked specifi- cally, albeit briefly, at each OPP program. The following comments from the Committee seem particularly relevant: . "The Committee [of Visitors] found the science programs within OPP to be in excellent shape . . . some issues require attention, and areas of improvement have been identified. But the strong impression that the Committee formed after two and a half days of examining material is one of a professional, efficient, and hard-working group." . "OPP is unique within the [National Science] Foundation in that it is not organized along scientific disciplines, but rather along geographic areas. This presents both challenges and opportunities. The challenges include, for example, a dauntingly broad mandate, from astrophysics to microbiology, from ancient climate change to social science. Constant communication among Program Man

OCR for page 21
26 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM

OCR for page 21
MANAGEMENT STRATEGYAND STRUCTURE 27 agers, both within and outside of OPP, is essential to managing such breadth. The opportunities, however, are equally impressive. The Office's experiment with the interdisciplinary organization of the Arctic Section, while some admin- istrative problems remain to be solved, is speeding the process of integrating physical and social sciences in the Arctic, a critical partnership needed to address society's interaction with, and adaptation to, global change." . "The use of temporary employees in the interdisciplinary arctic programs seems dangerous, as these Programs require the broader and longer term vision of permanent Program Managers. This situation seems particularly incongruous given the larger number of permanent Program Managers in the antarctic pro- grams, disciplines which lend themselves more readily to rotating positions. In particular, the use of one rotating person to manage all of ANS seems unwise. The Committee could not help but conclude that a fair distribution of grants among the widely varying fields represented in this Program is tremendously difficult, despite the considerable efforts of the Program Manager. Correcting this situation as soon as possible . . . should be a high priority in the Office." The Committee of Visitors went on to provide comments on each OPP science program, and regarding ANS the group noted that proposals were pro- cessed fairly and promptly and that the program was participating in special NSF cross-directorate research initiatives. According to the Committee, the program manager's recommendations were extremely well documented and were appro- priate in terms of scope of budget and duration of the project. It noted that the size and number of awards and subject matter distribution and diversity of princi- pal investigators was generally average for NSF, although ANS had an emphasis on smaller projects that seemed appropriate given that ARCSS is tailored to large projects. The Committee found it difficult to assess whether ANS was encourag- ing high-risk proposals, and noted that at times it was not clear whether a review panel had been consulted; given the interdisciplinary nature of ANS, the Com- mittee noted that use of large panels is commended. Regarding the appropriate- ness of how resources are allocated in the program, the Committee noted that the ANS program manager was trying hard and doing the "most difficult manage- ment job in polar programs." Regarding OPP programs overall, the Committee emphasized the need to take a leadership role in coordinating basic research in the Arctic and the need for better and quicker access to statistical information regard- ing proposals. DOES THE CURRENT ANS STRUCTURE MAKE SENSE? The issue of whether the current ANS structure makes sense can be evalu- ated by asking the question: Are there alternative structures that would better serve the community of researchers who now submit proposals to ANS? If there are, are they better structures, in the sense that they allow program management

OCR for page 21
28 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM to focus on smaller, more manageable pieces of the overall portfolio or make use of other mechanisms to adequately cover the entire breadth of the program? One obvious alternative model is to divide ANS into a series of disciplinary units, and thus make it parallel to the Antarctic Sciences Section. Within the Antarctic Section there is considerable sharing and cooperation between the pro- grams so that the boundaries of the programs are fairly transparent, which allows multi- and interdisciplinary research. To institute a disciplinary approach in the Arctic Section, however, would require a number of additional staff and could affect the ARCSS program, which is well-established. As noted earlier, it is a reductionist approach that is less well suited to today's issues than a systems approach. As currently constituted, the ANS program serves scientific objectives not readily addressed in other ways, and the virtues of any program restructuring must be weighed carefully against the confusion and costs of implementation. This committee, in our discussion of guiding principles for the program in Chap- ter 4 and our recommendations in Chapter 5, has tried to suggest realistic changes that might bring real benefits without wholesale restructuring of the Arctic Sci- ences Section or imposing staff or financial demands that are dramatically out- side what is currently available.