U.S. Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel Report
In 2011, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation initiated a major review of the U.S. Antarctic Program to examine U.S. logistical capabilities likely to be needed in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean during the next two decades and to seek ways to enhance logistical efficiency to support world-class science. The Panel conducted an independent review of the current U.S. Antarctic Program to identify and characterize a range of options for supporting and implementing the required national scientific endeavors, international collaborations, and strong U.S. presence in Antarctica.
Now, the 12-member Panel has released its report, More and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness. The report is a comprehensive document based on several months of research, containing numerous specific recommendations for the U.S. logistics system for improved support of scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
"The Antarctica Blue Ribbon Panel encourages us to take a hard look at how we support Antarctic science and to make the structural changes, however difficult in the current fiscal environment, that will allow us to do more science in the future," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "I am grateful to the panel for committing to such a vital review, and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations for securing and improving U.S.-led research in Antarctica."
The report is the result of the second phase of a two-part independent review of the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is managed by NSF. A 2011 report issued by the National Research Council asserted that in the next few decades, enhancing science in the Antarctic region will require substantial organizational changes, broader geographical spread, increased international involvement, and a growth in the quantity, duration and networking of observations.
NSF manages and oversees funding to support the entire U.S. Antarctic Program. NSF directly supports research in astrophysics and geospace, organisms and ecosystems, earth science, glaciology, ocean and atmospheric sciences, and integrated system science. It also provides infrastructure and logistical support for all other U.S. federal agencies and other organizations conducting research on the continent, as well as partners internationally to leverage U.S. Antarctic research, infrastructure and logistics investments. NSF maintains three year-round stations on the continent, two icebreaking-research vessels and more than 50 distributed field sites, along with the transportation platforms needed to support them, including channel-clearing icebreakers, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and traverse and other vehicles.
The Blue Ribbon Panel report notes that logistical and financial barriers must be overcome and human resource investment adjusted to continue the success of the U.S. Antarctic Program. International engagement is also paramount in continuing this important globally relevant research. Streamlined logistics processes with a dedicated funding stream to support capital improvements will ensure that more dollars will be put to use in field research to the world's benefit.
The results of this review and the panel’s recommendation are published in the report More and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness. Links to the report are at the following URLs: