Lamont Weekly Report, November 18, 2011

I'm pleased to introduce Emily Soergel, who is joining us in the Director's Office as a Program Analyst.  Emily holds an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from SIPA, and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida. She will assist us in our long-term financial and programmatic planning. Emily's position is supported with funds from the Earth Institute.

The federal government has been on continuing resolutions since the start of the federal fiscal year FY12 on 1 October, with funding for the science agencies frozen close to FY11 levels. The House and Senate passed appropriation bills for FY12, but they differed in their funding levels and thus had to be resolved in conference. Fortunately, the conference bill - known as a "minibus" because it combines several departments and agencies - includes appropriations for science
accounts close to or above last year's levels. The bill passed the House yesterday afternoon and the Senate last night. The allocations are significantly below the President's FY12 request, but in this budget climate, small increases are a signal of strong bipartisan support. While the top line budgets look ok, the outcomes for the core research programs in NSF, NASA and NOAA are mixed. NSF still has to make internal decisions about research vs. major facility funding. NOAA funding for the Joint Polar-orbiting Satellite System cuts into external research support, and the proposed NOAA Climate Service remains unfunded. NASA has been given money for the James Webb Space Telescope, and Earth
Science is funded 2.5 percent above FY11. NIH funding is not yet out of conference committee.

What this means is that Columbia, Earth Institute, and Lamont institutional support will be as important as it has ever been in facilitating competitive proposals to the federal agencies. And of course we must continue to find ways to broaden our extramural funding portfolio, with increasing emphasis on foundations, philanthropy, and other sources. The corpus of our endowment, which gained an Ivy-high 24% last year, still lags behind our aspirations. (The income from our
endowment, by the way, is filtered through a multi-year running mean, which kills both positive and negative spikes in returns.)

All of this will be discussed at OMG and Excom meetings in the coming months, as we identify mid-year budget adjustments and prepare the FY 13 campus operating budget for submittal to Low Library in March.

Most of you will have seen a message from Peter deMenocal, DEES Chair, stating that Arts and Sciences has accepted Lamont Research Professors automatically as potential advisors of record (formally, "approved dissertation sponsor"), and that DEES has resolved that the responsibilities of the advisor of record include both academic and research advising. This is very good progress and further reduces the distinction between instructional and research faculty as it pertains to graduate student research. It is the culmination of a two-year effort by Steve Goldstein and Peter that, with other moves, elevates recognition of Lamont's excellence on Morningside.

Some time ago, when I was chair of the Columbia University Press Publications Committee, the group had a running argument about the future relevance of Columbia's English Department. As someone whose only exposure to English Departments was freshman Shakespeare, this was relatively amusing. Sententious pith abounded, from "So-and-so is so
brilliant that no one understands her" to "Our Department has been around for more than 200 years and will be around for another 200." So it is with pleasure that I see that Peter Kelemen has triggered a bit of research that unearthed some paleo-scrolls in the DEES office. They date the start of geology at Columbia to 1785. It's a fun read: we'll get them up on our website. En garde, Anglais.