C4 IN THE NEWS
A bi-weekly, semi-official and informal news brief from the NSF Center for
Clouds, Chemistry and Climate (C4)
This is your Newsletter. Contributions are needed and always welcome!
Please send yours to H. Nguyen at
September 3, 1996
INDOEX WORKSHOP IN PARIS
Scientists from seven countries, including England, France, Germany, India,
the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, will meet in Paris from
September 9-11 for a workshop on INDOEX. Participants will review the
status of various programs in different countries. Topics under discussion
include ozone and aerosol chemisty; aerosols, clouds and radiation; and
results of pre-INDOEX cruises.
A COUPLE MOVES AT C4
Dr. Igor Podgorny, a physicist from the University of Washington,
Seattle, has begun his postgraduate research at C4. Additionally, Dr.
William Collins has started a one year visit to the National Center for
Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
U.S. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTERS
PROGRAM RECEIVES VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
(Below is the main points of the press release on the availiability of the
COSEPUP study of the STC Program:)
When the Science and Technology Centers (STCs) program first was
created in 1987 in response to a State of the Union address given by
President Ronald Reagan, it generated much controversy among researchers.
Some expressed concern that this new National Science Foundation (NSF)
program would divert large amounts of funding away from NSF awards for
individual investigators and that the work of researchers funded by the
centers would be of lower quality than those scientists funded by
individual research grants.
Despite these concerns, NSF earmarked about $64 million a year for
11 years to test the experiment in 25 centers located nationwide. The
programs purpose is to explore complex research problems that require
focused collaboration among several investigators working long term.
Topics currently range from particle astrophysics and ultrafast optical
science to cognitive science and biological timing. The program also is
charged with enhancing the education and training of professionals and
students, and transferring knowledge to other sectors.
Now that this experimental program is reaching its end, NSF must
decide whether to continue it by providing researchers with an opportunity
to submit proposals for new STCs. Given apprehension about budgets that
are shrinking now and perhaps again in the future, the concerns of the past
need to be addressed anew to ensure that the limited funds available go to
the best science and engineering research. The NSF asked the Committee on
Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) a joint committee of the
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and
Institute of Medicine to evaluate the STC program and whether it should
exist in the future.
The first group of centers are scheduled to begin phasing out their
operations next year. The committees findings and recommendations will
help NSF determine if the program should be continued and, if so, in what
form, and whether the existing centers will be allowed to compete in future
In its report, the COSEPUP study panel determined that the original
concerns about the program were not realized. Most STCs are producing
high-quality world-class research, the panel concluded. The centers are
intellectual magnets and provide a model for encouraging creative
interaction among scientists, engineers, and students in various
disciplines across academic, industry, and other institutional lines. The
panel also found that most research conducted at STCs would not have been
possible without a center structure and presence. And, the funding for the
STC program is small less than 2 percent of NSFs research budget.
The panel noted, however, that the program has not been without
some difficulties, most of which stem from a variety of management problems
that occurred during the start-up phase. Strong technical and
administrative leadership at the center level is critical for success, the
panel found. In addition, the panel was concerned that NSF sometimes has
given conflicting messages to the centers about the programs priorities,
leading to an overemphasis on K-12 education at one center, for example.
The program also has been reviewed more than necessary; this process needs
to be better managed by the NSF.
The panel endorsed the continuation of the STC program and
recommended several changes, including the following:
Research and the undergraduate and graduate education linked to it
should be the paramount goals of the STC program, with K-12 educational
programs being of secondary importance.
In future solicitations, NSF should encourage but not require that
proposed STCs be multi-disciplinary. This reaffirms a recommendation made
in 1987 by a National Academy of Sciences committee in a report offering
advice on the launch of the program.
STC solicitations should be conducted openly across all fields by
NSF as a whole rather than within specific NSF directorates and existing
centers should be allowed to compete in this open process.
NSF should place greater weight on scientific and administrative
leadership in evaluating proposals for STCs and in the periodic review of
centers. Problems that have occurred were due more to shortcomings in
leadership than the scientific area being investigated.
The report is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.nas.edu.