Community Updates from NSF Arctic Town Hall Meetings

Arctic Sciences (ARC) Division Director Simon Stephenson and Arctic Natural Sciences Program Director Hedy Edmonds led a Town Hall meeting on 5 December 2012 during the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. The Town Hall provided a forum for open exchange on NSF activities and directions. Stephenson and Edmonds updated attendees on recent ARC developments including staffing changes, the organizational realignment at NSF, budget overview, funding opportunities, and related issues.

New Staff: Recently appointed to ARC staff within the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) in rotator positions are Ming-Yi Sun, Arctic Natural Sciences Program Director; Robert Max Holmes, Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program Manager; and Marco Tedesco, Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program Director. In other staffing news Celeste Carter joins ARC part time from the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources to help lead activities related to the integration of research and education. Peter West will remain in Polar programs coordinating public outreach. The community is requested to alert him regarding publication of research results.

NSF Realignment: On 1 October 2012, as part of a Foundation-wide realignment at the start of fiscal year 2013 (FY13), the Office of Polar Programs was moved from the Office of the Director to the Directorate for Geosciences. Stephenson noted that this realignment is consistent with the prior organizational structure—Polar Programs was in the Directorate for Geosciences prior to 1993—and that the community can expect ARC program operations to continue as they did before the merger. He commented that conversations with the arctic research community, rather than the realignment, is the real driver of change and progress. Ongoing opportunities for community input include the NSF website and two town hall type meetings per year. An updated NSF organizational flow chart is available here.

Budget Overview: In recent years, funding for NSF's Arctic Sciences Division (ARC) has been relatively stable. $107 million was allocated in FY11, slightly less was allocated in FY12, and flat funding levels were extended for FY13 (prior to the recent sequester). In general approximately 60% of the ARC portfolio is available for research grants and 40% for research support and logistics. The NSF administration's FY14 budget request is based on the FY11 allocation. Further information about recent funding levels for NSF, the Office of Polar Programs, and the Arctic Sciences Division is available in Witness, Winter 2012.

Funding Opportunities: Several funding opportunities were mentioned during the meeting including several competitions within the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative including Arctic SEES, Coastal SEES, Earth System Modeling, and Ocean acidification; the Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE); and the new INSPIRE II solicitation. ARC Principal Investigators are encouraged to think of ways to contribute to these cross-foundation activities and to discuss ideas with Program Officers.

Also highlighted during the meeting were the issues of risk management in field research and program evaluations. NSF encourages the research community to put greater emphasis on field safety and will offer significant support and guidance to that end. Program evaluations will also have higher emphasis at NSF, especially in the ARCSS and Arctic Observing Network (AON) programs. For example, NSF has implemented revised merit review criteria intended to provide more clarity to the process. To review resources and guidance on how to incorporate revised criteria in proposals submitted after January 2013, go to NSF's merit review webpages.

Directorate of Geosciences News: Roger Wakimoto was named by NSF to serve as Assistant Director for the Directorate for Geosciences. He assumed the post in February 2013. Wakimoto is immediate past director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

For further information about the Arctic Sciences Section, contact Simon Stephenson (sstephen [at] nsf [dot] gov) or Hedy Edmonds (hedmonds [at] nsf [dot] gov).