Letter from the USAC Chair



July, 2007


Dear Colleagues:

At the U.S. Science Advisory Committee (USAC) July meeting, we received updates on IODP activities, including the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel (SODV) conversion project and the ongoing adjustments of the program to the financial challenges.  We also met with NSF, JOI, and CORE personnel so that we could better understand IODP funding within the broader national science funding context.


The purpose of this letter is to provide you a summary of the USAC meeting and of our planned activities, and to give you a heads up on the ways in which you can help support and participate in IODP.


As you have heard, the SODV conversion is moving along in large part due to the dedication of those involved in this project. U.S. scientist community input has been an important part of the conversion project over the last seven years or so, beginning with the Conceptual Design Committee.  Please join me in extending special thanks to our fellow scientists who serve on the Independent Oversight Committee.


As with the SODV conversion project, the participation of U.S. scientists in the program is critical to its success.  One of USAC’s overarching goals is to facilitate U.S. science community participation in all aspects of IODP.  As the program adjusts to the fiscal realities, USAC is working to ensure that the U.S. community has a strong voice. In our advisory role to JOI, USAC is providing advice to NSF and JOI on how best to support U.S. participants of expeditions within new budget constraints.  At this moment of transition and planning for less than 12 months of operation of the SODV, the Science Advisory Structure (SAS) committees, which are all populated by scientists, are intimately involved in defining scientific priorities for IODP.   For example, the SAS are evaluating the impact of different funding models on scientific outcomes and are defining focused scientific goals.  Many decisions have yet to be made, but USAC will continue to ensure that U.S. scientists are involved in decision-making processes.  If you do not currently serve on a SAS panel, I encourage you to contact your colleagues on those panels (or on USAC) with your questions and input.


Much of the July USAC meeting was focused on the future.  Specifically, we recognize the need for the U.S. scientific community to become stronger advocates for the value of IODP science to the nation.  We are developing an advocacy plan that will rely heavily on community support and hard work.  Recognizing the diversity of skills, talents, and interests, the core of the plan consists of a ‘toolkit’ to be distributed to the U.S. community that provides concrete (but certainly not comprehensive) suggestions for a variety of ways that you can support scientific ocean drilling.  We must work together to showcase the accomplishments of IODP and broaden our community through enhanced outreach and participation in national conferences that reach diverse audiences and the media; to develop educational tools that include geoscience concepts and define new science pedagogy; to join a national effort to advocate for enhanced competitive research federal funds through letter writing campaigns and increased contact with congressional representatives; to better connect IODP science with national priorities in Ocean Sciences research.  We will be working with JOI over the next months to develop and distribute parts of the ‘toolkit’, and we look forward to your input, suggestions and participation.


Finally, JOI News will be condensed into a shorter newsletter, and there will no longer be a column from the USAC chair.  As such, I will be in touch with you through letters like this one, posted on the web.  USAC welcomes, encourages and needs community feedback in order to do our job as your representatives.  Please contact any USAC member if you need more information and to discuss you ideas.


Best Regards,


Christina Ravelo
Chair of USAC


Contact Information for USAC Members