Lamont Weekly Report, March 9, 2012

The week opened with a wonderful luncheon for Ken Hunkins, organized by Margie Turrin and Barb Charbonnet, with new friends, old friends and old new friends attending. We were able to present Ken with the original map - now mounted and preserved - showing the tracks of all of the drifting ice stations that revolutionized exploration of the Arctic, beginning with Ice Station Alpha during the International Geophysical Year.

A good way to start the week.

The consequences of congressional action on the federal debt ceiling and budget deficit, combined with ongoing program and facility commitments within the science agencies, are now being felt at the proposal level. Several programs within NOAA and NSF/GEO/OCE have notified some of you about funding constraints even before the review panels have met. While we are all familiar with the effort that goes into writing proposals and the collective uncertainties associated with current federal budgets, the best way for individual PIs to navigate the situation is to discuss it with the program officers. Please let me know what you learn, so that this office can aggregate the information and act accordingly. We have
several ways of interacting with the agencies and with our representatives, and a fact-based approach is the most useful.

On Tuesday next week, you will have a chance to hear from Ben van der Pluijm, Program Officer for the NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability program. (There will be pizza.) On Thursday, Kuheli has organized a workshop with Jennifer Wade - also from NSF - on navigating the NSF system. Not sure about pizza.

We are deep into the Observatory's budget development for the next fiscal year and are preparing for discussion with Low Library in about a month. Our best estimate of federal grant revenue is one of the inputs to the budget. Another input is our endowment. It is doing very well, and we are modeling a 10% increase in endowment income next year. We have a number of other variables to consider, some trending positive and some negative. All of this can be managed, and we will meet our commitments. The other schools at Columbia are similarly affected, and it was encouraging to hear our new Provost, John Coatsworth, argue for the importance of coupled long-term fiscal and academic planning at this week's Council of Deans meeting.

Finally, as many of you already know, space is a constant discussion topic these days. So, it's a pleasure to amplify Pat O'Reilly's announcement that the renovation of the second floor of the New Core Lab to house new biogeochemistry labs will commence next Monday, March 12, at 7AM. Please remember that the road between the Geoscience Parking lot
and the Core Lab will be closed for the duration. NSF is providing funds for the renovation through an ARRA (Stimulus) award. The first trade on site will be the hale and hearty workers from Central Jersey Wrecking. We promise to guide them to the right building.