Updates from NSF’s Arctic Sciences Town Hall Meeting

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Arctic Natural Sciences Program Director William Wiseman hosted NSF's Arctic Sciences Town Hall meeting on 10 December 2013 during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco. Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program Director Marco Tedesco and Research Support and Logistics program contractor Jennifer Mercer joined Wiseman at the meeting to provide news from the Arctic Sciences Section, program updates, and an open forum for questions about NSF activities.

Arctic Sciences Section News Summary

Funding challenges in the Arctic Sciences Section include budgets that are based on earlier funding levels. As a result NSF budgets are likely to remain flat, at best. With recent efforts to reinvigorate the Arctic System Science (ARCSS) program (see: Witness the Arctic, Fall 2013) the Arctic Environmental Science competitions have been eliminated. The Arctic Section will continue to fund fieldwork, but researchers are encouraged to consider proposing creative activities that make use of existing and archived data.

NSF has openings for program officers in permanent positions and rotating positions through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignments. Additional and ongoing opportunities for developing Arctic Science Section programs are based, in part, on both the national priorities for understanding the Arctic and good inter-community communications. Wiseman reiterated the message that NSF Program Managers welcome questions and he encouraged community members to make contact by phone, email, or stopping to chat.

Research Support and Logistics Program News Summary

NSF sponsored a Research Support and Logistics (RSL) workshop in early October 2013 to solicit input from the community on future needs for Arctic research. As a preliminary outcome of the workshop, participants identified the need for more scalability and flexibility with facilities, more international collaboration, and increased cooperation and synthesis of data. ARCUS facilitated the workshop and is writing a report, which will be available in spring 2014.

Other RSL meetings include an Arctic Risk Management workshop scheduled for early February 2014 to address field safety and risk management (see here) and a Greenland/Summit Station Town Hall at AGU, which convened 11 December 2013, to discuss plans for redevelopment at Summit Station. Discussions were to address the long-term plans to mitigate the impact of air pollution at Summit Station such as moving non-clean air/snow research activities away from the Summit Observatory to a new operations site called Isi Station, located 5 kilometers north of the current station. Isi Station will also house a Smithsonian 12-meter telescope that will be situated on the Greenland ice sheet. Other plans include moving the NEEM camp closer to Summit in 2015 and travel to Nuuk to discuss NSF research activities in Greenland.

Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program News Summary

NSF sponsored a workshop on Cyberinfrastructure (CI) for Polar Sciences in September 2013 to promote the growth of a cyberinfrastructure polar community and to encourage community-driven design and architecture of a polar science CI that is aligned with the end-users' needs. A survey of workshop participants identified four high priority polar CI components: data as a service, education and training, communication and networking, and community building and community portals. (For more information about the workshop, see: "Cyberinfrastructure for Polar Sciences" in Witness the Arctic - Fall 2013).

One outcome of the workshop was the discussion about the formation of a consortium of Arctic and Antarctic data centers, with attention to understanding the needs of curating data and the meta-data landscape—or how to data centers "talk" to each other. Of importance are, among other things, the social and cultural barriers between the cyberinfrastructure and the polar science communities, including language barriers, which are often more challenging than the technical barriers. For example, the cyberinfrastructure community has many tools and needs to know how they would be used by the polar community—and the polar community, which is interdisciplinary in nature, needs to understand what tools are available to address their needs. To advance the related community building needs, the workshop participants encouraged the program to bring cyber people to the field to see how data is developed and collected and field people to the data management centers to see what tools are available. Another important aspect discussed at the workshop was the interaction between data curators and polar scientists during the life of a research project. Tedesco also called for involving more students and early career scientists in Polar CI community activities.

For further information about the Arctic Sciences Section and these programs, contact William Wiseman (wwiseman [at] nsf [dot] gov), Marco Tedesco (mtedesco [at] nsf [dot] gov), Jennifer Mercer (jmercer [at] nsf [dot] gov), or Renee Crain (rcrain [at] nsf [dot] gov).