The View from NSF

Network News Fall 2014, Vol. 27 No. 3
NSF News

This summer has been a busy one at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and our management team in charge of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program looks forward to ongoing conversations with the LTER community on several issues over the coming year.

For the first time, in 2014, the LTER program benefitted from dedicated NSF support staff. Andrea Sojda spent much of her time compiling histories of proposals, panel summaries, and mid-term reviews for each LTER project. We are currently using this information to identify common strengths and concerns raised by peer reviews of LTER projects as well as to refine and revise NSF's expectations for LTER renewal proposals. The recent LTER renewal panel stimulated intensive discussion here about these issues as well as about existing NSF policies for managing LTER proposals and awards. These topics will be the focus of a discussion that Peter Groffman is planning between LTER investigators and NSF in November and will continue throughout the year at various venues.

As some of you know, Andrea left NSF in June. We currently have great support from Shannon Jewell, who will fill Andrea's position for at least four months.

We are developing the solicitation for a national LTER communications and collaborations office. This new office will support the key functions needed by the LTER network to foster collaboration and communication across all LTER projects, work with the Science Council to formulate and implement future plans for the network, coordinate education and outreach activities, facilitate meetings and workshops, and promote the LTER program to diverse stakeholders both nationally and internationally. The solicitation is in draft form, and we plan to publish it in late 2014. This timing should provide for continuous operation of the LTER network office. 

We are also discussing the possibility of adding one or more sites to the LTER network. Our plans are a long way from being concrete. We need to obtain permission to develop one or more solicitation(s), but there is considerable excitement at NSF about opening a new competition. This is especially true following decisions to phase out the Short Grass Steppe and the Sevilleta projects. We hope this will ease concerns that the LTER program is gradually being reduced in size. Nothing is further from the truth. The number and focal areas of the potential new sites have not been decided, but possibilities suggested to date include biome transition zones, arid lands, and coastal ecosystems.

NSF will conduct eight mid-term reviews in 2015. Shannon has started to book dates for these reviews, and we will soon be sending out the first of several communications about preparing for the reviews themselves.

In other news, the Directorate for Biological Sciences will welcome a new Assistant Director, Dr. James Olds, in October. Dr. Olds is currently director of George Mason University's Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study where research examines the intersection of neurobiology, cognitive sciences, and computer science. Both he and our recently announced Deputy Assistant Director, Jane Silverthorne, are new to LTER, so it will be important for LTER researchers to meet with  them to describe LTER and its strengths in your own words and with your own examples. The LTER management team will arrange this meeting in consultation with Peter.

Last but not least, congratulations to all of the LTER researchers who recently received NSF Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) awards, to Plum Island LTER for its engaging video, and to the urban evolution group for an exciting new journal volume.