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1 Introduction The polar regions provide unique research opportunities in a variety of scien- tific disciplines, from the geology of the deep ocean bottom to the plasma physics of the high atmosphere. The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Office of Polar Programs (OPP) plays a major role in funding and providing logistical support for research to enhance our understanding of the polar regions. Within OPP, the Arctic Sciences Section was established to gain a better understanding of the Arctic's natural and sociocultural processes and of the interactions of ocean, land, and atmosphere. The Arctic Section gives emphasis to an exception- ally rich arena for research: the Arctic is where environmental change is expected to be greatest and where a warming of a few degrees can profoundly alter the environment by transforming ice to water. It is an ideal place for the study of integrated global systems and of human dimensions. And it is a region with abundant renewable and nonrenewable resources. OPP's Arctic Section is divided into three main programs: the Arctic Social Sciences program (ASSP), the Arctic System Science program (ARCSS), and the Arctic Natural Sciences program (ANS). The ASSP is intended to support re- search in the full range of social sciences, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology, and related subjects. The ARCSS program is intended to focus on research related to selected interdisciplinary themes related to understanding the physical, geologi- cal, chemical, biological, and sociocultural processes of the arctic system that interact with the total Earth system and thus contribute to or are influenced by global change. The ARCSS research goal is to advance the scientific basis for 6
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INTRODUCTION 7 predicting environmental change on a seasonal-to-centuries time scale and to formulate possible policy options for responding to the impacts of global change. The ANS program is a multidisciplinary program that is intended to provide grants to support state-of-the-art research in the atmospheric sciences, biological sciences, earth sciences, glaciology, and oceanography in the Arctic. The program's broad mission means that it must coordinate its work with related programs in other parts of NSF, especially the Geosciences Directorate, and, ideally, take advantage of collaborations with other agencies and sometimes other nations. In its first few years of existence, the ANS program has had an annual budget of approximately $10 million and has provided funding for projects in a diverse array of fields. More details about the nature of the program are included in Chapter 2, which provides an overview of the program's portfolio, and in Appendix A. THE COMMITTEE'S CHARGE The ANS program was established in 1995 and began distributing grants in 1996; as a young program, it is still evolving in scope and management strategy. To seek ways to make the program more effective, OPP requested that the Na- tional Research Council (NRC) form a committee to examine the ANS program's management and research strategy and provide guidance on how to set research priorities given the diverse scientific issues that fall within its purview. In par- ticular, the committee was asked to: . suggest improvements to the program's management strategy, including ways to compare proposals in widely diverse fields; · suggest how to judge which proposals are best suited for the ANS program versus other, related NSF programs; and suggest ways to improve interagency and international collaborations related to the ANS mission. . . STUDY METHODS To conduct this study, the NRC appointed a volunteer committee of nine experts, each selected to bring appropriate expertise as well as the ability to take a multidisciplinary perspective. The committee's members have experience in many aspects of natural sciences as covered by the ANS program, including the atmospheric sciences, oceanography, glaciology, biology, geology, and geophys- ics. The full committee met twice, once to gather information about ANS history, function, and current management, and later to deliberate on and refine its final report. Considerable work was accomplished via e-mail, telephone conference calls, and an editorial subgroup meeting. Efforts were made to seek input from the arctic research community. A
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8 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM survey was designed and posted on the World Wide Web to solicit views on the ANS program and on funding for arctic research in general (see Box 1-1~. "Town meetings" were held in December 1997 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union and in February 1998 at a major meeting of ocean scientists (see Boxes 1-2 and 1-3~. Staff at NSF and at OPP in particular were helpful in providing background information, data, and analysis relating to the numbers and types of proposals received and funded and other issues. Outside review was conducted according to standard NRC procedures, and the reviewers provided useful insights that have been incorporated into the committee's thinking. ANS PROGRAM HISTORY Some sense of history is helpful in understanding the ANS program. What is today known as the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) began as the Division of Polar Programs, housed within the Geosciences Directorate. The unit was cre- ated, in large part, to help the National Science Foundation carry out its role of supporting a credible U.S. presence in Antarctica, a task that has both scientific and political dimensions. The proposal evaluation process was administered by separate disciplinary science programs (i.e., aeronomy and astrophysics, biology and medicine, geology and geophysics, glaciology, polar oceans and climate systems) and there was a separate unit to fund and organize logistics. As the office grew and evolved in the 1970s and 1980s, requests for support for research in the Arctic increased and were addressed within the existing disci- plinary structure that is, proposals related to biology in the Arctic went to the Biology and Medicine Program, glaciology proposals regardless of location were handled by the Glaciology Program, and so forth. Still, the historic emphasis on the Antarctic gave at least the perception of inequity. Another aspect of context important to understanding the U.S. approach to research in the Arctic was passage of the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-373~. The Act defines what is to be included when we refer to the Arctic1 and establishes a number of mechanisms to "provide for a comprehen- sive national policy dealing with national research needs and objectives in the Arctic." Foremost among these are the Arctic Research Commission (ARC), charged to recommend an integrated national research policy in the Arctic and to guide federal agencies in implementing their research programs, and the Inter- agency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), charged to survey arctic research conducted by federal, state, and local agencies, universities, and other public and private institutions to help determine research priorities and work with 1 The U.S. Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 defines the Arctic to be all United States and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim rivers; all contiguous seas including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian chain.
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INTRODUCTION 9 the Arctic Research Commission on developing national research policy to guide the agencies. IARPC produces a regular 5-year plan for implementing arctic research policy. ARC is composed of seven members appointed by the President, including individuals from academic institutions, representatives of indigenous residents of the Arctic, and others familiar with the needs of private industry in the Arctic. IARPC is composed of representatives of the National Science Foun- dation, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of En- ergy, Department of the Interior, Department of State, Department of Transporta- tion, Department of Health and Human Services, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and others as deemed appro- priate. ARC and IARPC were established to be mechanisms for addressing arctic research policy and priorities and indicate the increasing importance of the issue. In 1995, OPP decided that to have a true long-term commitment to science in both polar regions, it needed to create a structure that gave explicit attention to arctic science, an idea encouraged by members of Congress. OPP was divided into three sections, an Antarctic Sciences Section, an Arctic Sciences Section, and Polar Research Support Section (although this is a misnomer, as the section serves Antarctic research exclusively). The Arctic Sciences Section was orga- nized into various programs: first the Social Science program (ASSP) and Arctic System Science program (ARCSS) were created, and then the Arctic Natural Science program (ANS) was added shortly thereafter. This committee was not asked to evaluate the past decision to split OPP into Arctic and Antarctic Sections, nor the subsequent decision to organize the Arctic Sciences Section into three subsections not based on disciplines, as was the tradition in the Antarctic Section. Although management needs and staffing issues were the likely motivation for this later decision, the move toward more multidisciplinary thinking is in keeping with current trends in science. However, the committee cannot help but note that many of the problems faced by the ANS program arise, at least in part, because of this structure. In particular, there is an inevitable overlap between the ANS program and the ARCSS program. Both are, by the normal usage of the phrase, "natural science." Because ARCS S is the more clearly defined of the two, addressing selected interdisciplinary themes related to understanding the arctic system and predictng environmental change, ANS has sometimes been seen as the place for things that do not belong in ARCSS, rather than having its own clear, inclusive definition. If logic alone were to guide structure, the Arctic Sciences Section might have two subsections, Arctic Social Sciences and Arctic Natural Sciences, and Arctic Natu- ral Sciences might have a subunit called Arctic System Science. But while such hindsight is interesting, it is not helpful in the current effort to improve the ANS program. Instead, in the following chapters the committee turns its attention to describing the existing ANS program's structure and its status and portfolio of projects. We then proceed to suggest improvements to the existing program design so it becomes better able to set priorities and maintain a comprehensive, balanced portfolio of projects.
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10 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM
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2 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR NSF'S ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES PROGRAM
Representative terms from entire chapter: