2nd Town Meeting on the Arctic Natural Sciences Program

4 February 1998


Dear Colleague:

A committee has been charged by the Polar Research Board to provide
guidance on setting future priorities for the Arctic Natural Sciences
program within NSFs Office of Polar Programs. The committee intends to
represent the needs of the Arctic research community and hence solicits
input from active Arctic researchers. In this context, you are invited to
attend the second town meeting to discuss OPP Arctic Natural Sciences
Program. The first meeting was held in December at the Fall AGU. The second
town meeting will be held during the 1998 Ocean Sciences Meeting on:

Wednesday, February 11
Padre Room
Town & Country Hotel
San Diego, CA

More information and background material is provided below.

James Morison
Polar Science Center
Applied Physics Laboratory
University of Washington
1013 NE 40th St
Seattle, WA 98105
206-543-1394 / FAX-206-543-3521


NSF's Arctic Natural Science Program funds research in a diverse range of
disciplines, from atmospheric science and space science to biology,
geology, glaciology, and oceanography, and thus serves an enormous research
community. At the request of the National Science Foundation, the Polar
Research Board formed the Committee on NSFs Arctic Natural Sciences Program
to examine the Arctic Natural Science Programs operation and current
research priorities and provide input on how the program can set priorities
and maintain a balanced portfolio given the diverse scientific issues that
fall within its purview. The study will consider the programs management
strategy, suggest ways to compare proposals in diverse fields, and suggest
how to judge which proposals are best suited for the Arctic Natural
Sciences Program versus other, related NSF programs. The study will also
seek ways to improve the programs approach to interagency and international

To gather information for this evaluation, the committee has met with staff
from a variety of relevant NSF programs, we have reviewed documentation of
the ANS program over its first two years, and we are talking with members
the Arctic research community. As one part of this, we are posting a brief
questionnaire on an Internet site (the Polar Research Boards homepage at
<http://www2.nas.edu/prb/>) beginning December 1, 1997 and closing February
10, 1998. We hope to hear from a broad range of researchers who are or
stand to be affected by the ANSP. You are welcome to contact any of the
committee members; their names are listed below.

Committee on NSFs Arctic Natural Sciences Program:
John Andrews (chair), University of Colorado, Boulder
Susan Avery, University of Colorado, Boulder
Marianne Douglas, University of Toronto, Department of Geology
Bernard Hallet, University of Washington-Seattle
Paul A. Mayewski, University of New Hampshire
James H. Morison, University of Washington-Seattle
Kim Peterson, University of Alaska Anchorage
Donald B. Siniff, University of Minnesota
Roger W. Smith, University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Issues and questions to consider and help prepare you for the town meeting.

Some people have argued that the ANSP is too broad and unfocused, and thus
it is relied upon as the place to send things when no other home is
obvious. Others have wondered how the program can maintain balance and set
research priorities given its diverse portfolio. The following questions
address these issues (skip this section if you have no direct experience
with the ANSP).

What areas of research do you think should be funded within the purview of
ANSP? (Provide examples if you can.)

In your opinion, is there an area of Arctic research that is not now
covered by the ANSP, ARCSS, or other NSF programs?

Given the diverse discipline for which ANSP is responsible (space science,
atmospheric science, biology, geology, glaciology, and oceanography), how
do you think the program should ensure a balanced portfolio?

How should research priorities be determined and implemented?

Provide any suggestions you have for improving the effectiveness of the ANSP:

If, for management reasons, it was decided that the ANSP should be
subdivided into research areas or categories, what should they be? (e.g.,
oceans/atmosphere/terrestrial or

What would be the advantages and disadvantages of your categories? Would
they provide enough breadth of opportunity or opportunity for
cross-disciplinary work?

Do you believe that ANSP should follow a thematic focus or continue as now
accepting proposals in a wide array of areas?

Many NSF programs select key research themes and encourage proposals that
respond to those themes. To your knowledge has the ANS program suffered
from a lack of a unifying research theme? If so, what theme(s) that might
be used to focus and drive the program, given the diversity of disciplines

More Background Material from NSF's Web Page


Listed below are the principal NSF research programs which support arctic
research. There are three integrated programs in OPP: Arctic Natural
Sciences, Arctic Social Sciences, and Arctic System Science. These
programs and their disciplinary components are described below together
with other relevant NSF programs.

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

The OPP Arctic Natural Sciences Program is a multidisciplinary program
within OPP which supports research in the atmospheric sciences, biological
sciences, earth sciences, glaciology, and oceanography. This program
provides core support for disciplinary research in the Arctic and
coordinates arctic research with the Directorates for Geosciences and
Biological Sciences. Additionally, the program helps facilitate OPP
multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and bipolar projects. The scope of
Arctic Natural Sciences Program is described below for each disciplinary

Atmospheric Sciences

Traditionally, research interest in arctic meteorology is focused on
stratus clouds, tropospheric chemistry, radiation balance, arctic lows, and
arctic haze. Support of research on past climates and atmospheric gases as
preserved in snow and ice cores have also been supported in the Arctic as
has atmosphere-sea and atmosphere-ice interactions.

In upper atmospheric physics, currently funded research includes auroral
studies, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, the plasmapause, and wave
particle interactions. Conjugate studies can be considered jointly with the
Antarctic Aeronomy and Astrophysics Program.

The Division of Atmospheric Sciences supports projects in aeronomy,
atmospheric chemistry, climate dynamics, large-scale meteorology,
magnetospheric physics, mesoscale dynamic meteorology, physical
meteorology, and solar terrestrial research.

Biological Sciences

OPP supports projects emphasizing the adaptation of organisms to the arctic
environment. Biological studies in the Arctic include support of research
in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial biology, organismal adaptation to
the arctic environment; ecology; ecosystem structure and processes; and the
biological consequences of ultraviolet radiation. Accelerated interest in
the Arctic as a source of natural resources has stimulated research on the
effects of human activities on the environment and in its protection and

The Division of Environmental Biology supports programs in ecology,
ecosystem studies, population biology and physiological ecology,
conservation biology, systematic biology, and biological research resources.

A special component of the program focuses on human factors research in the
Arctic and Antarctic in collaboration with the Arctic Social Sciences
Program (refer below) and the Antarctic Biology and Medicine Program.

Earth Sciences

Research supported by OPP includes all sub-disciplines of terrestrial and
marine geology and geophysics. Special emphasis is placed on understanding
geological processes important to the arctic regions and geologic history
dominated by those processes. Paleoenvironmental research and research to
understand interrelated physical and biological systems is supported by the
Arctic System Science Program. The Earth Sciences Division in the
Geosciences Directorate supports programs in tectonics, continental
dynamics, geology and paleontology, geophysics, petrology and geochemistry,
and instrumentation and facilities. The Foundation does not support
projects aimed at prospecting for mineral occurrences or deposits.


The Office of Polar Programs is the focal point for glaciological research
within the Foundation. Glaciological research is concerned with the study
of the history and dynamics of all naturally occurring forms of snow and
ice, including seasonal snow, glaciers, and the Greenland ice sheet.
Program emphases include paleoenvironments from ice cores, ice dynamics,
numerical modeling, glacial geology, and remote sensing of ice sheets.

The Climate Dynamics Program in the Division of Atmospheric Sciences and
Geology and Paleontology Program in the Division of Earth Sciences also
fund paleoenvironmental research related to glaciology.


Oceanographic research in the Arctic encompasses a variety of disciplines
whose goal is to develop knowledge of the structure of the Arctic Ocean and
adjacent seas, their physical interactions with the global hydrosphere, and
the formation and maintenance of the arctic sea-ice cover. Areas of
interest in OPP are the formation, movement, and mixing of arctic water
masses; the growth and decay of sea ice; the exchange of salt and heat with
the Atlantic Ocean and the Bering Sea; magnetic anomalies, heat flow,
sedimentary history, and gravitational values at the ocean floor; and the
role of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas in global climate. The
interdependencies of chemical and physical processes and marine organisms
and productivity are considered here and under biology.

The Division of Ocean Sciences supports programs in biological
oceanography, chemical oceanography, physical oceanography, marine geology
and geophysics, and oceanographic technology. The Foundation encourages the
development of remote sensing techniques and their use on remotely operated

Arctic Social Sciences Program

The OPP Arctic Social Sciences Program is a multidisciplinary and
interdisciplinary program encompassing archaeology; cultural, social, and
physical anthropology; decision and risk management science; ethnology;
history; geography; sociology; psychology; linguistics; political science;
law; economics; and related subjects. Interdisciplinary research themes of
particular concern are rapid social change, community viability and
human/environment interactions, including issues related to subsistence and
sustainable development. The Arctic Social Sciences Program has its own
review panel although joint review and funding with disciplinary programs
in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) is
pursued when appropriate. Special Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC)
funding opportunities may also be available together with the Arctic
Systems Science Program (refer below). Support can be provided for general
HDGC research, policy sciences research, and for research centers and teams
(Refer announcement NSF 94-166).

Research on human factors in the Arctic and Antarctic is supported in
conjunction with the OPP Antarctic Biology and Medicine Program. Relevant
themes include small group interactions, stress and adaptation, and
cognition and performance.

Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program

The ARCSS Program is an interdisciplinary OPP program, the goal of which is
to understand the physical, geological, 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.
ARCSS has five linked ongoing components: Greenland Ice Sheet Program
(GISP2), Paleoclimate of Arctic Lakes and Estuaries (PALE),
Ocean/Atmosphere/Ice Interactions (OAII), Land/Atmosphere/Ice Interactions
(LAII), and Synthesis, Integration and Modeling Studies (SIMS). In
cooperation with the Arctic Social Sciences Program projects on
human/environment interactions, system sustainability, and the HDGC are
supported (refer above).