LTER planning process

Network News Fall 2006, Vol. 19 No. 2
Network News

An update

The LTER Network planning process has been underway for over three years now, starting in earnest at the 2003 LTER All Scientists Meeting (ASM). The purpose of this effort is to:

  1. Generate a compelling scientific framework for socio-ecological research, Integrated Science for Society and the Environment (ISSE), developed and endorsed by the scientific community to serve as a cross-directorate budget initiative at NSF and perhaps other agencies
  2. Develop a research proposal for a new, comprehensive research program built around a set of core questions that is long-term, multi-site, and cross-disciplinary
  3. Stimulate development of synthetic proposals for existing funding opportunities. These activities require the Network to develop a strategic analysis and synthesis of our existing capabilities and achievements to date and, in the process, develop a plan of action for a one-of-a-kind Network-level science program that is truly long-term, multi-site and interdisciplinary

In August 2006, representatives from all 26 LTER sites and two additional programs met in Albuquerque, NM, in what was dubbed the "Program Representatives" meeting to begin the process of cross-site integration for Network-level science. At this meeting, the representatives began to "operationalize" the general research framework around the core question: How do climate change and variability, altered biogeochemical cycles, and altered biotic structure affect ecosystem services and human outcomes, and how do human outcomes and responses feed back to affect ecosystem processes and drivers?

The 2006 ASM in September included a plenary session on the planning process along with a series of open workshops that produced many new ideas that will be considered in the development of the comprehensive research program. Sites have been developing research ideas under the general framework and will be asked to produce short descriptions of proposed research by late January. These descriptions will provide the necessary input into the comprehensive research plan. Also during the ASM we began to transfer the development and management of the new research program from the Science Task Force and the planning grant PI's to the new LTER Science Council (SC). The SC voted to create a writing team that will work with the program representatives and the SC to develop a research proposal to request funding for the envisaged integrated, multi-site, long-term research program. We are aiming to have a relatively complete draft of this proposal by late summer 2007.

In October 2006, the Science Task Force (STF) comprising Scott Collins (SEV), Barbara Benson (NTL), Dan Childers (FCE), and Ali Whitmer (SBC), along with John Magnuson (Interim Chair, SC), Ted Gragson (CWT), Morgan Grove (BES) and Bob Waide (Executive Director, LNO), met with the STF Advisory Committee (chaired by Jerry Melillo) at NSF to get feedback on our progress to date and advice on our initiative and proposal writing plans. In addition, the STF and others had an opportunity to brief staff in the Geological Sciences, Biological Sciences and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorates, and the Office of Polar Programs about the ISSE initiative and our plans to develop a proposal for a Network-level comprehensive research program. As a result of the positive reception the ISSE received from NSF staff, the Foundation has requested additional briefings for several additional Directorates and Offices, which we hope to do in November 2006. Feedback from these briefings and from potential sponsors (such as scientific societies) is being used to revise and improve the ISSE. Our goal is to produce and submit to NSF what we hope will be the final version of the ISSE by early December 2006.

We envision that the outcome of the ISSE initiative will be a new funding opportunity and an enhanced cyberinfrastructure for environmental research designed to meet the socio-ecological challenges that exist today.

Scott Collins, Barbara Benson, Dan Childers, and Ali Whitmer are members of the LTER Planning Grant Science Task Force