Director's Weekly Reports
Monday and Tuesday were consumed by the annual merit reviews of the whole of the scientific staff - an important but tiring process where I, along with the Associate Directors, go through every activity report and discuss relative merits and accomplishments.
I attended a very grand dinner on Tuesday evening at the Bollinger residence to recognize the nine CU honorary degree recipients - our good friend and generous benefactor Jerry Lenfest was among the honorees. It was enjoyable but I had to stay up way way past my regular bed time! (Wednesday was commencement in case you missed it!)
Thank you to all who attended the ceremony this afternoon to honor this year's recipient of the Observatory's Excellence in Mentoring award. It was an activity designed to emphasize the importance of mentoring our junior colleagues - helping them succeed in the tough competitive environment in which we all live. Everyone who was nominated for this award deserves our recognition and thanks - so if you see Juerg Matter, Nick Christie-Blick, Doug Martinson, Alexey Kaplan in the next few days thank them for their important contributions to the quality of our work environment here at Lamont. These folks along with all the previous recipients of this award - Gordon Jacoby, Bob Anderson, Marc Spiegelman, Kevin Griffith, Sid Hemming - all deserve our sincere thanks...
The very first rumblings from NSF are being heard regarding implementation of their plans to disburse stimulus funding - we all wait with great expectations!
Little bits of information are trickling out about the all important President's request for FY2010 - more complete data will be available next week - but let me share a few numbers.
The FY10 request for NSF Geosciences is $909M versus the FY08 Actual of $758M - a healthy increase of 19.9 per cent. This is very good news. NOAA did not fare so well - only a 1.5 per cent increase (relative to FY08 actual) for OAR and for NASA science a decrease of 4.9 per cent. But the real story on this, and its impact on Geosciences I am sure lies in the next level of budget detail which we will not see till next week. Remarkably, Science at DoE has an FY10 request of $5813M relative to an FY08 actual of $4080M - an increase of an amazing 42.5 per cent...
Despite the glorious weather last Sunday afternoon, Brendan Buckley's talk at the Spring Public Lecture series, the last for this season, attracted a good audience - this was the first event of many during the week. Brendan told a wonderful story about how he is linking the history of past droughts in SE Asia (reconstructed from tree rings) to the disappearance of ancient civilizations in the region. Every year attendance at this lecture series increases - a couple of years ago we
had to start charging an entry fee to control the numbers somewhat - but still the pressure grows - Lamont owes a great debt of thanks to all this year's speakers - thank you Michael Studinger, Dorothy Peteet, Nick Christie-Blick and Byrdie Renik (and of course Brendan).
On Monday evening there was a recognition of Provost's Alan Brinkley's many contributions to the University - he will be stepping down at the end of June - a very plush, and well-attended reception in the Rotunda of the Low Library. Notably one of the Alan's accomplishments that President Bollinger recognized in his speech was that of creating the
Research Professorships at Lamont. We all certainly owe Alan a great deal of thanks for that...
Last Sunday we held a meeting of the Alumni Association Board prior to a very well-attended lunch for members of FOLD (Friends of Lamont-Doherty) - almost forty folks attended - and its success was only eclipsed by the excellent public lecture (the third in this years series) that followed the lunch. Nick Christie-Blick and Byrdie Renik talked about Continental Stretching to a near capacity crowd in Monell.
Wednesday afternoon was spent with our Advisory Board. They were treated to a tour of the "Seismology Museum" in the basement of the cafeteria, thanks to Art Lerner-Lam and Won Young Kim, before engaging in one of the best attended and most active meetings we have had. The central agenda item was that of improving Lamont's visibility, and Kevin Krajick and Kim Martineau gave a great overview of the impressively large amount of diverse press coverage that we have been receiving in recent months. Robin Bell was the featured science speaker and told the great story of the recent expedition to Antarctica that she led with colleague Michael Studinger.
We had the annual budget meeting with the Provost on Tuesday - this is the annual event at which Edie and I try to convince the Provost Alan Brinkley and the CU Chief Financial Officer that we can afford to run the campus for the next fiscal year. This is done with Steve Cohen and the Earth Institute of course (as our budget is tightly integrated with that of the EI). It was tough this year - we have significant reductions in our endowment income and major growth in costs over
which we have no control. Our financial situation next year is tighter than it has ever been since I have been Director. Of course we are all hopeful that when the stimulus dollars begin flowing from NSF, that the institution will get some relief because of the increase in indirect cost recovery, but I fear we will not see that until well into 2010. (And rumors aside, I still have no reliable idea of when stimulus funds will reach the program level within NSF - some have said that program managers will hear today - but I really do not know.) Anyway - enough with the negativity...
I got back from DC late Friday night after a classic five hour long weather-related debacle with the Delta shuttle. The leadership of the US Implementing Organizations for the Ocean Drilling Program came into town on Sunday afternoon for a dinner that night and a day-long meeting on Monday. Most of the discussions were focused upon the many leadership changes that are occurring in practically every area of the program - except Lamonts - thank goodness. Texas A&M is recruiting a new Geosciences Dean (to whom ODP-TAMU reports) as well as a new Director of the program to follow-on after Jeff Fox. And Kyoshi Suyehiro of JAMSTEC is taking over from Manik Talwani as President of the international management office for IODP. While all this is going on JOIDES Resolution is drilling successfully in the Pacific, with a
major celebration planned in early May during the Honolulu port call - Arden Bement, Director NSF will be the keynote speaker.
There was a Council of Deans meeting on Tuesday - probably there will be only one more during Alan Brinkley's tenure as Provost. No convincing rumors are circulating re the identity of Alan's replacement - obviously a critical appointment for both Lamont and the Earth Institute.
This phenomena - of agreeing to some substantial commitment, because the date was sufficiently far into the future that you never thought it would actually happen - came home to roost for me this week. The week was essentially consumed in preparation for and the running of a major NSF Panel review of the Management practices of the IRIS corporation. IRIS runs the global seismic network among other things. When I agreed to do this last year I did not at all appreciate the magnitude of the commitment. So I have had three full days in DC - Tuesday night through Friday night chairing this panel - a job made easier by the exceptional quality of my fellow panelists.
Langseth arrives in Taiwan tomorrow, after her long Trans-Pacific transit. Rumor is that she will escorted into the harbor with fireboats spraying hoses and greeted on the dock with a traditional Dragon dance - it should be quite a photo op!
We welcomed Connie Class to ExCom this morning for the first time, as the new Geochem representative - she had a magical effect because for the first time in living memory we finished the meeting in under two hours! In the informal information-swapping session, Bruce Huber brought up something that I had not appreciated - something quite
impressive. Lamont has had six separate research teams working in Antarctica this (southern) summer - some on ships, some on the ice and some in the air - but six separate groups. Another Lamont first, I would guess.
I was driving back from Morningside early on Thursday afternoon, with the Leonard Lopate Show on NPR on the background, when I noticed that every sentence that the interviewee spoke in response to Leonard's questions began with the two words "Kelemen says". Needless to say this attracted my attention after a while, and I turned up the volume to find that a fellow by the name of Tim Folger was being interviewed.
He wrote a piece for NRDC's magazine 'On Earth' about Peter Kelemen's ideas on using the peridotites in Oman to take CO2 out of the atmosphere - based upon Peter's publication in PNAS last year. It was a good piece - about nine minutes long - but sadly - as far as I heard, Lamont was not mentioned.
Last Sunday was our first Spring public lecture of the year. We had a very good audience with very good questions for Mark Studinger's remarkable account of the recent Lamont-led international expedition to Antarctica - a wonderful account of technical accomplishment and great discoveries embedded in a story of adventure and survival under incredibly tough conditions. Our next Public Lecture is a week on Sunday - March 29th - when Dorothy Peteet will talk about the 7000 year long archive of climate change that is Piermont Marsh.
Almost six months into the fiscal year, the Federal agencies that support our research finally got their budgets. The president signed HR 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 on Tuesday. NSF gets 7.6 per cent above 2008 (and is directed among other things to spend $10M on Climate Change education); and NOAA gets an increase of 12
percent and there was this very interesting and important directive to NOAA:
"By not providing enough extramural research funding, NOAA risksg discouraging extramural involvement in NOAA's research programs and the concomitant leveraging of external funds in support of mission-oriented research. Thus, NOAA is encouraged to provide additionalg extramural funding in future budget requests"
I hope this week will be the last one in which Dick Greco and his crew will have to brave the winter's morning darkness to keep our Campus safe and accessible in the face of a particularly tiresome snowstorm on Monday. It was a tough call at 5 am that morning to make a decision about whether to stay open or close but it was the fact that we believed that we could keep the bus running from downtown that swung the balance. I hope everyone stayed safe and warm nevertheless.
I was on the 6am shuttle down to DC on Thursday morning, for a couple of days of Ocean Leadership meetings on the Hill. I am sitting in National airport writing this as I make my way home. In the old days (i.e. 6 months ago) National airport at 4pm on a Friday afternoon was absolutely chaotic with crowds and queues - but not anymore - even though this seems to be the only town in the US that has any money!
Lamont received a rare amount of coverage in the CU's Record this week - not only a great photo of Doug Martinson doing his "Ocean Station Obama" thing, but also a good write up on the passage of the Research Professorships though the Senate - marred only by its (incorrect) inference that this was an initiative restricted to the senior staff. Speaking of errors - I was wrong last week when I said that Lamont should be proud that we had won two outstanding student paper awards at the last Fall AGU - the truth is that we won three! I apologize to Jenny Arbuswewski for not previously recognizing her accomplishment - her paper was entitled "Towards a global calibration of the G. ruber (white) Mg/Ca Paleothermometer".
I spent five hours in four different EI meetings downtown on Monday afternoon and had eight appointments in my diary for Tuesday. And on Thursday enjoyed an excellent event in the Rotunda of the Low Library in honor of the great Benefactor and CU Trustee Gerry Lenfest. President Bollinger recognized him as fourth largest donor to CU of all time - and joked that given Gerry's competitive spirit he was sure that Gerry would want to become number 1! Anyhow I promised Gerry an opportunity to drive Langseth when she comes to the east coast - an offer of which he may take advantage!
Whenever I talk about Lamont I always try to remember to emphasize the essential role that our graduate students play in maintaining the quality of of everything we do. We received further testament to how exceptional our students are when we learned that for the SECOND time this year an AGU Outstanding Student paper award will be presented to one of DEES finest, Karen Wovkulich - for her paper entitled "Arsenic remediation enhancement through chemical additions to pump and treat operations" that was presented at the Fall Meeting in San Francisco. I doubt seriously that another institution in the US has received two of these awards this year. This is excellent - and many congratulations
The Federal stimulus package that the Senate-House Conference Committee has agreed to contains a total of $3.5B for NSF, including $2.5B for research and Related Activities (i.e. the Research Directorates), $300M for Major Research Infrastructure and $400M for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction. NSF has to spend this in 120 days (I think that's right) so I expect it will go to programs for which they already have fully reviewed proposals. It will have long term impact over the next 2-3 years as it will relieve pressure on programs - allowing managers to fund the backlog of
activities that have been held back for lack of funding. This is really important and very very good news for us all!
The House passed this earlier today - the Senate may vote as early as this evening. It is almost too good to be true!
So this was a very good week to receive a visit from Tim Killeen, the Assistant Director for the Geosciences at NSF - he had an excellent visit on Wednesday, and I believe went away impressed. Interestingly, he had never before visited Lamont.
Last Friday on the NPR Science Friday web site, the top three video stories, led by Rusty Lotti and Peter Demenocal talking about the Core repository - a great piece, were all Lamont. Many thanks to Kevin and Kim for engineering all this.
Public visibility for the importance of our science is so important - especially as we are (at this very moment, on this very day) fighting against an amendment to the Federal Stimulus package (put forward by Senators Collins and Nelson) to delete all funding for NSF from the Bill.
The visit by NSF Division Directors Julie Morris and Bob Detrick went very well today, though, not surprisingly, their schedules were extremely hectic. Next Wednesday, Feb 11th, their boss, Tim Killeen, Assistant Director for Geosciences at NSF will be visiting and will be giving a talk in Monell in the afternoon. Perhaps we will know about the Stimulus package by then.
As reported last week, I met with the CU Senate Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) last Friday. Earlier this week I was informed of the result of their vote on the Lamont Research Professorship plan. It was unanimously in favor. This is a major step forward. The FAC will now take this proposal forward to the next meeting of the full Senate - which takes place on February 6th (which creates a scheduling nightmare for me because that is the day that Julie Morris and Bob
Detrick are visiting from NSF). Nevertheless - there is nothing more important than this, so I will attend the Senate meeting in order to handle any questions that come up. If we clear the Senate, then the next step will be the drafting by the Provost's office of the formal language to be added to the University's statutes, establishing these new positions. This language will then have to be approved by the President and the Trustees.
Well - this is one of those weeks that started off very well - Obama's inauguration on Tuesday. And ended very badly (at least for me) because I had to squeeze in an emergency root canal on a very painful tooth - in between an interesting new donor visit on Thursday morning, a CU Council of Deans meeting on Thursday afternoon (at which was
announced the endowment payout rules for FY09/10 - sorry not public info til next week), and most importantly by far, on Friday afternoon (after the exciting root canal experience) the meeting of the CU Senate's Faculty Affairs Committee at which the vote was taken on the Lamont research professor initiative (I do not have the results yet but I believe them to be extremely favorable). This latter meeting caused me to miss the Faculty meeting this afternoon - which I really did not want to do.
The current version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 that will be chewed upon by the Committee on Appropriations within the House of Representatives over the next couple of weeks includes additional funding of $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $600 million for NASA Earth Sciences and $600 million for NOAA. Wonderful numbers of course, but this is a long way from becoming law. Nevertheless 'hope' is now a fashionable word - a
Presidential election was fought about it after all - so we should have some (hope that is!).
Speaking of Presidents, next Tuesday is the inauguration of Barack Obama, and this is clearly an historic event that we should not miss. Therefore it will be televised, starting at around 11 am, on the big screen in the Monell Auditorium. With concurrence of your supervisor everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the moment.
I write this from Concepcion Chile where I have been for the last three days at a meeting of the Partnership for Observations of the Global Ocean (POGO). Whenever you get Directors of Ocean Institutes from Russia, Japan, Korea, Germany, UK, Mexico, China, US (SIO and WHOI, as well as NOAA), Chile, South Africa, Canada - all in the same
room - there assuredly is some interesting conversation. The goal of the group is to build the international partnerships to advocate the national and international entities that will organize and support - establish and sustain - an operational global ocean observing system. It is a long and slow and difficult business. Unquestionably, the most rewarding part of the three days is the opportunity for one-on-one conversations with the interesting and diverse set of Directors - some are old friends and some I am meeting for the first time.