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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

Summary

Antarctic science is providing critical insights into how Earth and the universe operate. The cold dry atmosphere offers an unparalleled location for astrophysics research, and the extreme cold and arid conditions with prolonged dark-light cycles have resulted in unique evolutionary solutions by terrestrial and marine organisms. The Southern Ocean plays a prominent role in the global carbon cycle and sea level rise. As evidence of shifts in Earth’s climate grows, the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in climate change is becoming increasingly important for understanding expected changes.

The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) supports scientific research and related logistics on behalf of the United States and is managed by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Office of Polar Programs (OPP). In 2015, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released the consensus report A Strategic Vision for NSF Investments in Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research (NASEM, 2015). The report recommended continued support for “a core program of broad-based, investigator-driven research” and highlighted three strategic research opportunities:

Priority I. How fast and by how much will sea level rise? The Changing Antarctic Ice Sheets Initiative

  1. Understanding why ice sheets are changing now and how they will change in the future, and
  2. Using multiple records of past ice sheet change to understand rates and processes.

Priority II. How do Antarctic biota evolve and adapt to the extreme and changing Antarctic environment? Decoding the genomic and transcriptomic bases of biological adaptation and response across Antarctic organisms and ecosystems.

Priority III. How did the universe begin and what are the underlying physical laws that govern its evolution and ultimate fate? A next-generation cosmic microwave background (CMB) program.

The recommendations of the 2015 study have become an important touchstone for the NSF OPP Antarctic Sciences program.

To track its progress toward these strategic priorities, NSF requested that the National Academies conduct a mid-term assessment of the 2015 Strategic Vision recommendations. The committee was tasked to assess progress in addressing research goals outlined in the 2015 report and identify significant advances in scientific understanding or technical capabilities that present important new opportunities in addressing the mission of NSF’s Antarctic Sciences program. For the three priority research areas, the committee was asked to address any current implementation challenges in advancing these research areas and suggest strategies

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

to overcome these challenges. In this mid-term assessment, the committee was not asked to revisit or redefine these scientific priorities or to recommend new priorities. The committee was also not tasked to formally assess progress toward the other recommendations of NASEM (2015), such as infrastructure, logistics, and data management. The full statement of task is provided in Chapter 1.

This review took place between July 2020 and October 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This global public health crisis has posed many challenges to the NSF Antarctic Sciences program because of safety and logistical concerns for the scientists and contractors in this extremely remote location. As a result, the committee primarily focused its mid-term assessment of progress toward the strategic priorities on efforts between 2015 and March 2020, knowing the significant impacts the pandemic has posed on the science enterprise overall, and especially on Antarctic field science. The committee was not charged or constituted to address pandemic logistical and public health strategies for Antarctic science, and given the continually evolving health risks and country-specific strategies, the committee judged that any near-term recommendations for pandemic response would likely be outdated by the time of report release. Instead, the committee focused its recommendations broadly on the remaining 5 years of the decadal strategic vision, understanding that NSF will need to consider these recommendations in the context of pandemic conditions that are continuing to evolve. The major conclusions and recommendations of the committee’s review are provided in the following sections.1

PRIORITY I: HOW MUCH AND HOW FAST WILL SEA LEVEL RISE?

In Chapter 2, the committee evaluates progress toward the Priority I strategic vision and discusses key impediments to and opportunities for progress.

Priority I science questions are urgent, complex, and essential to global adaptation planning, requiring research initiatives that are ambitious in vision and funding. Priority I research addresses how fast and how much sea level will rise, including a focus on both current rates of ice sheet change and studies of past major ice sheet retreat episodes to better understand current events. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is a large, multinational research initiative that is making important progress, with a focus on understanding current ice sheet and ocean interactions as drivers of ongoing ice mass loss at the Thwaites Glacier and Amundsen Sea region in West Antarctica. Research progress in understanding the rates of ice mass loss and sea level rise associated with past ice sheet collapse events is proceeding at a slower pace. Despite the important progress to date, the potential magnitude of the threats to humans posed by Antarctic ice sheet collapse demands a more aggressive, comprehensive, and ambitious research approach; the

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1 This paragraph (and related text in the body of the report on pages 5, 7, 22, 56, 74, 94, 95, and 97) was added to explain how the committee considered impacts of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic after a prepublication version of the report was provided to NSF.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

scientific response to this immense challenge should be commensurate with the task at hand.

To more fully address the major science objectives of Priority I, NSF should consider expanding initiatives beyond the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration to include the Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica. Multiple studies since 2015 have demonstrated that parts of East Antarctica are rapidly losing mass and have a greater potential for contributions to sea level rise than West Antarctica. East Antarctic research initiatives at the scale of the ITGC supported by new collaborations with foreign agencies as well as domestic partners such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could provide critical information to inform the understanding of current and future sea level rise.

Given the scientific urgency of Priority I, NSF should take a leadership role in initiating additional international and interagency partnerships to enable ambitious Priority-I–focused terrestrial- and marine-based science campaigns to progress, in parallel, in both West and East Antarctica. The ITGC and International Polar Year collaborations demonstrated that multidisciplinary projects that involve airborne, ship-based, drilling, and ground-based work are best addressed (scientifically and logistically) by developing international and interagency collaborations. International partnerships can also help address existing logistical constraints.

NSF should expand and continue international Thwaites Glacier region research. ITGC efforts are advancing well, despite COVID-19-associated challenges, and promise important and essential scientific advances on the physical processes driving the retreat of this sector of Antarctica, thereby reducing uncertainties in projections of sea level rise from Antarctica. This highly innovative collaboration is challenging, but it provides significant benefits in terms of discovery and impacts on the science of sea level rise. It is very difficult to envision, however, that most of the key scientific questions will be addressed with only a couple of field campaigns to a sector of Antarctica that is changing very rapidly and has never been investigated at this level of detail. Additional years of study of this sector by an expanded international community are warranted given our current state of knowledge of the underlying processes and rates of ice sheet loss. Detailed study of the evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet will remain important for decades to come to significantly reduce uncertainties of sea level rise projections. Increased investments in new technologies, such as underwater robotics, will provide critical data and enhance the understanding of ice–ocean interactions at grounding lines.

NSF should issue a specific call for proposals directed toward increasing knowledge of past ice sheet behavior, rates of change, and climate forcings—information essential to place ongoing environmental change in context and accurately predict future sea level rise. The committee and community perceive a lack of urgency from NSF toward funding and supporting Priority-I.ii–focused research. This perception arises from the slow pace of progress in drilling the Hercules Dome ice core, the limited NSF Antarctic Sciences involvement in preexpedition planning, logistical support, and post-expedition scientific funding in

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

support of the three 2018-2019 Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Antarctic Margin expeditions, and the limited number and scope of funded projects studying past episodes of ice sheet loss (either within or outside of the ITGC). A focused call for proposals could increase attention to this important science area.

Limited logistical support capacity and funding are slowing implementation of Priority I. Aging infrastructure—specifically the LC-130 fleet and the limited polar icebreaker and research vessel capacity for science support—and increasing costs of logistics are having a negative impact on access and support provided to research, particularly affecting deep-field sites. These constraints force NSF to make difficult decisions on distributing the limited logistics resources among various science teams. Increasing access for science, cargo, and fuel into the deep field would significantly increase research progress toward Priority I objectives. The seagoing capacity and capabilities of U.S. Antarctic science need to be enhanced to provide critical access to the oceanic margins of the Western and Eastern Antarctic ice sheets and to address Priority I questions in a timely way. Recommendations to address cross-cutting logistics issues are discussed in Chapter 6.

NSF should increase support for interdisciplinary research and modeling efforts to advance progress toward Priority I objectives. Specifically, NSF should continue support for research to improve coupled atmosphere–ocean–ice–earth models, which need substantial additional development and data to improve parameterizations of important processes into an Earth system modeling framework. Specific calls for workshops and other initiatives that bring together terrestrial, marine, and modeling communities interested in studying past and ongoing change in key marine-based catchments in both West and East Antarctica are also recommended.

PRIORITY II: GENOMIC AND TRANSCRIPTOMIC BASES OF BIOLOGICAL ADAPTATION

In Chapter 3, the committee reviews the progress of Priority II, which continues to be a compelling and realistic scientific objective. The application of “omics” (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, and others) to analyze the biology of evolutionary diversification, functional response, and cold adaptation is central to understanding Antarctic ecosystems and organisms and their sensitivity or resilience to climate change. High-profile science results over the past 5 years indicate substantial research opportunities ahead given the rapidly evolving and maturing omics technologies.

Progress falls short of the original Priority II strategic initiative envisioned by NASEM (2015). Outreach to the scientific community about NSF support for Priority II research was limited and slow. To date, NSF-sponsored omics research is generating advances in understanding Antarctic organisms and ecosystems through grants to individual investigators and small teams. However, genomics is, by its nature, collaborative research, because different skill sets are

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

needed to sequence, assemble, annotate, and verify genomic products. Additional skill sets are needed to use that information in a (typically comparative) physiological or evolutionary context to connect organismal biology to both the environment and genomic mechanisms. The pace of progress (evaluated between 2015 and early 2020) is inadequate to reach the scale and scope of the transformative vision of Priority II by 2025 unless NSF stimulates this initiative through community and partnership building, multidisciplinary training, and resource sharing.

NSF could advance progress toward Priority II through a targeted call for proposals that clearly defines the research objectives. With an emphasis on genetics, the 2019 Dear Colleague Letter did not match the intended scope of Priority II as laid out in the National Academies’ 2015 report. NSF should support coordinated projects that stimulate an Antarctic Genomics Initiative in a coordinated call that makes progress in the three areas of emphasis identified in the 2015 report. This will require (1) sequencing the genomes of phylogenetically informed, ecologically important groups of organisms and assemblages; (2) sequencing transcriptomes of key organisms and assemblages both to assess their functional responses in natural and experimental settings and to obtain the expressed genome for taxa with exceedingly large genomes; and (3) support for advanced omics technologies (e.g., metabolomics, proteomics, and epigenomics) that can accelerate hypothesis testing derived from genome-enabled efforts. A call for proposals with clear and updated objectives, emphasizing the use of omics technologies to understand diversity, adaptation, and evolution in the context of environmental change, could expand interest both inside and beyond the Antarctic sciences community—particularly if larger, coordinated, multi-investigator submissions are encouraged.

NSF should evaluate opportunities to enhance access to organisms, samples, and data to advance Priority II science and address logistics challenges that limit access. Efforts to improve access to biological samples will attract a broader research community to Antarctic sciences. Four key opportunities have been identified, each with different benefits and challenges:

  1. Improvement of collection, curation, and U.S.-based sample storage for researchers not in the field (analogous to sediment and ice core collections);
  2. Creation of additional facilities to cultivate and maintain Antarctic organisms in the United States;
  3. Enhancement of temporal and geographic access to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, which necessitates improvements to and better utilization of logistics infrastructure, especially research vessels; and
  4. Upgrades to Antarctic research facilities and vessels to allow real-time genomic analyses to inform ongoing experiments and to facilitate more process-oriented research of biota in their environment so that evolutionary adaptations can be understood in context.
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

In all cases, additional attention to data management is needed to improve access to omics data, metadata, and associated contextual information. NSF should actively engage the larger research community in an evaluation of these opportunities to improve access to samples and data to advance Priority II science.

Emphasis on community building and partnerships is needed to meet the transformative science opportunities in Priority II. NSF can encourage and stimulate community building through a specific call for workshops focused on developing collaborative, multi-investigator omics research projects. Development of research communities requires effort both by science champions in the community and by proactive NSF efforts to encourage the community to address needs, opportunities, and impediments. OPP partnerships with other NSF directorates, other government agencies, international research organizations, and nongovernmental genome advocacy organizations could be leveraged to enhance the funding and outcomes of Antarctic omics.

PRIORITY III: HOW DID THE UNIVERSE BEGIN?

In Chapter 4, the committee reviews progress toward Priority III, which recommended a next-generation cosmic microwave background (CMB) program, partly located in Antarctica, to study the origins of the universe.

CMB research at the South Pole has been flourishing for many years, contributing to our understanding of the origin of the universe, and strengthening the scientific leadership of the United States in this field. There are two major existing CMB experimental programs at the South Pole: the South Pole Telescope (SPT) and the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP)/Keck experiments. NSF succeeded in enabling groundbreaking research from one of the primary CMB sites in the world. High-impact results are anticipated from the continuation of these experiments. The BICEP Array, which is midway through construction, will provide a substantial step forward in sensitivity, and coordinated data analysis with the SPT will further enhance this sensitivity by reducing distortion of light by gravitational fields. A replacement three-mirror anastigmatic (TMA) telescope for the SPT has been proposed, which is designed specifically to enhance a coordinated data analysis effort between the TMA and the BICEP/Keck collaborations.

The scientific community has made significant progress in the design of CMB-S4, considered the global future of CMB research. The next-generation CMB experiment, CMB-S4, which is a central component of Priority III, includes telescopes at both the South Pole and in Chile. CMB-S4 will provide another order-of-magnitude step forward in the search for the imprints of gravitational waves from the expected inflationary origin of the universe. The technological advances in telescopes and instrumentation that have been made by the SPT and BICEP Array experiments are paving the way for CMB-S4. This is a long-range project; the

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

scientific community has set an installation target of 2029, and NSF has played a critical role in supporting the design.2

Inadequate levels of funding and planning for logistical support pose a threat to the rate of progress of ongoing Antarctic CMB research and the pace of construction of the Antarctic CMB-S4 components. The leaders of both major ground-based efforts report scaling back their plans each season to match the transport and personnel allowances offered to them by NSF. Additional design work and effort by the scientific team are expended to work around delays in maintenance and upgrades to the existing towers and buildings. These issues are an even larger concern for CMB-S4, which would require the efficient deployment of new towers and telescopes and substantial upgrades to the South Pole power plant. Details of how to transport the key components of this program to the South Pole and how to assemble them are a necessary part of the CMB-S4 planning and design process. Any uncertainty in the ability of the South Pole Station to support this effort or uncertainty in the approaches for equipment transportation could be a major hindrance of the CMB-S4 development process. Effective communication and collaboration between NSF logistics and the CMB-S4 planning team will be essential for future timely implementation. Principal researchers of the ground-based Antarctic CMB experiments and of the CMB balloon efforts report that the logistics discussions are not adequate, which hampers planning. NSF should support timely two-way communication between NSF logistics planning teams and scientists, in which trade-offs between support options are explored. These discussions need to occur earlier in the experiment planning process so that effects on research plans and designs can be incorporated in a timely way.

SUSTAINING A BROAD ANTARCTIC RESEARCH PROGRAM

In Chapter 5, the committee evaluates the state of OPP’s broad, investigator-driven research program.

NSF appears to have sustained a broad-based core research program, although logistical constraints have affected the available support for science. The committee could not detect a clear change in the breadth of or funding for Antarctic science outside of the three strategic priorities, although the program in the past 3 years has trended toward larger but fewer projects. However, prior to the pandemic, several supported projects experienced serious delays, and scientifically highly rated proposals have been declined due to logistical constraints. Communication of logistical constraints often comes late in the process after proposals are submitted, with limited options to adjust the scope to reduce the logistics footprint, and delays or rejections are particularly challenging for early-career researchers. Specific

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2 After sharing a prepublication version of the report with NSF, edits were made to this sentence and on pages 80, 81, and 85 to more accurately reflect the status of CMB-S4 within the design, review, approval, and funding process for CMB-S4.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

recommendations to address these issues, including improved communication and planning early in the proposal process, are discussed in Chapter 6.

CROSS-CUTTING RESEARCH-WIDE ISSUES FOR NSF

In Chapter 6, cross-cutting issues facing the NSF Antarctic Sciences program and its three strategic priorities are addressed.

Across all three strategic priorities and the core science program, logistical considerations are limiting the pace of research and the geographic breadth of science. NASEM (2015) identifies “key needs” including “over-snow science traverse capabilities, ship support for research in ice-covered coastal areas …, and improved aircraft access to remote field locations.” The report also recommended that NSF “prioritize the acquisition of a next-generation research icebreaker, and in the near term … work with foreign research vessel operators to provide critically needed field opportunities for U.S. scientists.” Increasing aircraft costs have recently contributed to a reduction in the number of missions and flight hours, creating challenges for deep-field access. The scientific community is deeply concerned about sustaining an adequate Antarctic science program over the next 5-10 years given these logistical constraints, the age of the USAP research vessels, and the lack of a polar-class research vessel. The recent announcement of planning for a new U.S. polar class research vessel, however, indicates a potentially improved capability in the future (by approximately 2030).3

NSF should conduct a transparent review of logistical support capacity for the Antarctic Sciences program. A review of anticipated resource demands from the three strategic priorities and other research initiatives relative to logistical capacity and expected infrastructure improvements would identify resource constraints and competing demands. This analysis would support OPP science planning and decision making at a program level while improving transparency with investigators and encouraging proposals aligned with logistical realities. Analyses with a 5- to 10-year outlook could motivate strategies, such as partnerships, to reduce logistical constraints and balance demands.

NSF should improve communication and coordination between OPP, logistics managers, and the scientific community. Logistical considerations and limitations are not fully transparent to Antarctic researchers, affecting projects of all sizes. Clear communication of logistical constraints would enable investigators—and especially early-career researchers—to develop more successful proposals. The recent proactive engagement of NSF OPP program officers via virtual office hours

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3 This paragraph and related text on pages 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 40, 45, 48, 83, 97, and 98 was edited after providing the prepublication report to NSF. Edits were made to clarify logistical challenges associated with advancing Antarctic science priorities, correct specific factual information or omissions, clarify the committee’s charge and study process with respect to logistics, and reflect the recent developments regarding planning for a new polar class research vessel.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

and participation in smaller workshops and conferences is an important step toward this objective.4 OPP should also consider developing a forum to engage the broad science community in discussions of logistical realities and facilitate scientific community input on priorities, support strategies, and trade-offs. Enhanced coordination efforts by NSF and the research community could also support logistical efficiencies.

To address serious shortfalls in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Antarctic Sciences, NSF should identify robust, evidence-based strategies and integrate DEI goals into funding and reporting requirements, thereby supporting systemic community change. Ambitious DEI goals will strengthen Antarctic science by bringing together a broad community of researchers with diverse perspectives to address strategic priorities. The committee applauds recent NSF and individual Antarctic science team efforts to address sexual harassment in field-based programs. To further DEI advances in Antarctic science, NSF should work with DEI professionals to promote diversity goals through clear expectations in funding announcements, reporting requirements, and the sharing of best practices. NSF should actively seek to broaden the pool of scientists working in Antarctica and support mentoring of early-career scientists and others new to polar science. Participation from all members of the Antarctic scientific community will be needed to accomplish systemic change in DEI.

NSF Antarctic Sciences should encourage organizational and collaborative activities within the science community to foster integrative and interdisciplinary advances. NSF can support community building through increased use of existing collaborative mechanisms such as workshops and focused activities at scientific meetings, such as the U.S. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Improved opportunities for collaboration will help nurture new integrative research initiatives to address priority science needs. NSF should also reinstate collaborative science funding programs, such as Antarctic Integrated System Science (AISS), which supported mid-sized, multidisciplinary, multi-investigator projects.

NSF Antarctic Sciences should continue to develop and leverage international partnerships to increase science opportunities. NSF should lead the effort to establish international partnerships to support large experiments or to increase access to remote locations for small to large research efforts. NSF should develop cost-sharing mechanisms for multinational research and facilitate proposed science programs that would be logistically supported by other nations. Given that the research opportunities exceed current logistical support capabilities, international partnerships will be critical to achieving high-priority science.

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4 This sentence was added here and on p. 109 to better reflect NSF efforts in these areas after a prepublication version of the report was provided to NSF.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×

KEY MESSAGES

Strategic initiatives are critical to address large and important science questions and maintain NSF’s scientific leadership. The strategic science priorities identified in NASEM (2015) remain timely and urgent, but progress in advancing the priorities is uneven. Substantial progress has been made in Priority I, Component i (I.i) and Priority III; however, less progress has been made on Priority I, Component (I.ii) and Priority II, which received less emphasis and logistical support from NSF, compared to Priority I.i. Priority II has also suffered from a lack of community organization and collaboration in developing an integrated program. To help address shortfalls in progress, NSF could issue specific calls for proposals and develop strategies to foster collaborations. Expanding the scope of efforts under Priority I to include East Antarctica would also help address urgent science questions about the drivers of ice sheet change and sea level rise.

Overall, logistical capacity was a major impediment to the pace and scope of progress in all of the strategic priorities and the broad Antarctic Sciences research program. Strategic initiatives are crucial for NSF to address key scientific questions and maximize the efficiency of current logistical capabilities, but limited logistics capacity and aging logistical support infrastructure (e.g., airplanes and ships) are making it difficult to fulfill proposed Antarctic research generally and the strategic priorities in particular. Logistical support has declined over time, while aging logistical support infrastructure is increasing maintenance costs and reliability is decreasing. Lack of financial resources and aging infrastructure are the primary limitations on logistics, and NSF should conduct a review of logistical capacity for the three strategic priorities as well as broad Antarctic research to help illuminate strategies and priorities for addressing resource constraints. Additionally, NSF could be more transparent with the scientific community about limitations and seek input, improved collaboration, and coordination from scientists to optimize science and proposal preparation in an environment of constrained logistics.5

Significant advances necessitate dedicated resources, which can be facilitated by increased interagency and international collaboration. The success of Priority Ii and III points to the value of interagency and international partnerships and a cohesive scientific community to advance global scientific priorities. All priorities would benefit from diverse perspectives and increased evidence-based efforts led by NSF to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in Antarctic sciences.

___________________

5 Edits made to this paragraph after providing the prepublication report to NSF further explain the rationale for and clarify the type of logistical review suggested to NSF.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 1
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Mid-Term Assessment of Progress on the 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26338.
×
Page 10
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The Antarctic's unique environment and position on the globe make it a prime location to gain insights into how Earth and the universe operate. This report assesses National Science Foundation (NSF) progress in addressing three priority research areas identified in a 2015 National Academies report: (1) understanding the linkages between ice sheets and sea-level rise, including both a focus on current rates of ice sheet change and studies of past major ice sheet retreat episodes; (2) understanding biological adaptations to the extreme and changing Antarctic environment; and (3) establishing a next-generation cosmic microwave background (CMB) program, partly located in Antarctica, to study the origins of the universe.

NSF has made important progress understanding the impacts of current ice sheet change, particularly through studies focused on the ice sheet and ocean interactions driving ongoing ice mass loss at the Thwaites Glacier and Amundsen Sea region in West Antarctica. Less progress has been made on studies of past major ice sheet retreat episodes. Progress is also strong on CMB research to understand the origins of the universe. Progress has lagged on understanding biological adaptations, in part because of limited community organization and collaboration toward the priority. To accelerate progress during the second half of the initiative, NSF could issue specific calls for proposals, develop strategies to foster collaborations and partnerships, and commission a transparent review of logistical capacity to help illuminate strategies and priorities for addressing resource constraints. Such efforts would also help optimize science and proposal development in an environment of inherently constrained logistics.

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