Report sets new goals for US Antarctic Program


first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe U.S. research in Antarctica needs fresh initiatives and better equipment, a new report by a committee of the National Academies concludes. But how to afford them remains a conundrum.The report—commissioned by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds the United States Antarctic Program (USAP)—is the third major assessment of the program in 5 years, aiming to streamline the program in an era of relatively flat budgets and rising infrastructure costs. It builds on a 2011 report by the National Research Council, which identified important areas of future research for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. This time, NSF asked the committee to lay out a strategic vision for research on the continent over the next decade, identifying specific research priorities while taking into account the program’s logistical needs. NSF and its Division of Polar Programs invest about $70 million a year in science and about $255 million in infrastructure and logistics. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country “Earlier reports were blue-sky,” supporting curiosity-driven research on the continent without setting priorities, says Robin Bell, a co-chair of the report and a glaciologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The new report, which takes into account input from more than 450 scientists in the Antarctic research community, does call for continuing a “core program” of such investigator-driven research. But it also advocates for the creation of three priority research initiatives.The Changing Ice Initiative would fund research addressing both what’s driving Antarctica’s ice mass loss and its future course, as well as how it could contribute to global sea-level rise. The Antarctic Genomics Initiative would take stock of the uniquely isolated and adapted life in the region. “It’s a perfect lab for looking at organisms in extreme conditions, and for how they’ll change in a changing environment,” Bell says. The third priority area would create a new, next-generation Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Program to probe deeper into the origins of the universe. A follow-on to the research already conducted at the BICEP telescope at the South Pole, the proposed program would include a family of telescopes at the South Pole and Chile.In choosing these priorities, Bell says, the committee looked for topics with  compelling science, high potential for societal impact, and high “partnership potential” both within NSF, between NSF and other agencies, and with international partners. Projects that would require too many resources were rejected. In particular, the report notes that a proposal to build a second-generation IceCube neutrino observatory fell to concerns that it would overwhelmingly siphon off logistical support from other projects.Indeed, the priorities closely overlap with six overarching research priorities outlined last year in Nature by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), a group of scientists and policymakers from 22 countries. “Overall there’s a great confluence of thinking, within the U.S. and internationally, about Antarctica and Southern Ocean science priorities,” says Chuck Kennicutt, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University in College Station, who is also a former president of SCAR.But Kennicutt notes that it’s not clear how these projects would be funded within NSF’s constrained Antarctic budget. And parceling out funds between the new theme-driven proposals and principal investigator-driven projects will be only one part of NSF’s looming Antarctic challenge. Conducting research in Antarctica is already expensive—and infrastructure upgrades are sorely needed. In 2012, a blue-ribbon panel convened by NSF identified multiple areas of Antarctic infrastructure requiring improvement.The new report adds to this sense of urgency, calling for better weather forecasting, improved overland and air access to remote field sites in the deep interior of the continent, and greater information technology capabilities. Data transmission capacity from the South Pole station is already inadequate, and the proposed next-generation CMB  program will increase the station’s bandwidth needs further. And then there’s ship support: Now, the United States has only one heavy icebreaker, the 40-year-old Polar Star, capable of clearing thick ice from McMurdo Sound to deliver supplies to the station there. The U.S. program has had to rely on foreign icebreakers for this in some past seasons.But the priority setting should help researchers make the case for more investment. Last year’s SCAR report and the new Academies report, Kennicutt says, are forcing researchers to “decide what’s important” and to justify their work to a broader audience. “These reports lay out why this is compelling science, why we want to spend the money it costs to be in Antarctica,” he adds. “They show that the community is organized.”center_img Email Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*)last_img

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