The view from NSF

Network News Spring 2013, Vol. 26 No. 1
NSF News

Greetings to the LTER community from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Headquarters in Arlington, VA. 

As of this writing, Congress has not yet passed a budget for the current fiscal year, and we do not yet have final budget numbers for the LTER program.  As you are all undoubtedly aware, a federal law known as the “sequestration” has gone into effect, cutting the budget of virtually every federal agency.  NSF, of course, is no exception.  In a letter to the community ( outgoing NSF Director Subra Suresh indicated that, in response to this law, NSF will protect our core mission and maintain continuing grant increments on existing awards at the expense of up to 1,000 fewer new awards.

The good news is that all continuing increments on current LTER awards, upon approval of annual reports, have been going out as planned.  New awards that were to begin in the current fiscal year have not been affected either.  In response to the sequestration, the program will not issue a call for supplements this year beyond those required for anticipated cost-of-living adjustments, or to provide the  $40,000 for LTER schoolyard and REU students if not yet a part of a site’s regular award base budget. 

Over the coming year Drs. Diane McKnight (MCM) and Tim Kratz (NTL) have agreed to chair a working group commissioned by the LTER program to provide input on the future structure and function of an LTER Network Office. We also intend to fund a series of workshops comprised of early-career researchers to get their input on the LTER program with respect to the latest directions in ecology and ecosystem research.

The LTER program plays a leading role in NSF’s environmental science portfolio. As a flagship program for the BIO and GEO Directorates, LTER is one of the best examples of research and education that is uniquely supported by NSF. This was highlighted in a special issue of BioScience in April, 2012, and in the recent publication of a booklet of ten collected NSF LTER Discovery articles by Cheryl Dybas in NSF’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs.

Another opportunity to highlight LTER activities is a mini-symposium held annually at the Foundation. This year’s event (NSF Forum: The Globalization of Long Term Ecological Research), held the morning of February 28th, focused on international aspects and the International LTER (ILTER) Network. The half-day symposium was followed by an afternoon meeting between the LTER Executive Board and a group of program officers and senior administrators involved in LTER program management.  This meeting featured lively discussion about ILTER activities, progress with data management and the PASTA/NIS software developed by the Network Office, interactions between LTER and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and ongoing synthesis activities.

For the second year in a row the mini-symposium event was accompanied by a stunning exhibit of artwork, “Ecological Reflections,” that will remain on display at NSF until mid-June (see NSF exhibit highlights Ecological Reflections from 11 LTER sites).  Those of you who have an opportunity to visit NSF before then should be sure and drop in on the third floor of the Stafford I building to view the exhibit.