In my ongoing thrust to build our relations with federal agencies, this September I again had productive meetings in D.C. with representatives. I offer here summaries – the “Bumper Stickers” are my take-home messages for us at OSU.

  • Department of Defense – Stu Wolf (Assistant Director (Physics) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering)

DOD 6.1 (basic research) funding is holding its own, and has enjoyed good support from Secretary Gates as well as the House and Senate.  There is some question, of course, on how much research Secretary Panetta will support, but clearly his history in the White House, Congress and the CIA suggest he will want to maintain strong research budgets in DoD.

Dr. Wolf shared that the Defense Sciences Board is preparing a strategic plan on Defense Basic Sciences.  This is something we should watch for, and be prepared to respond.  He also emphasized that we focus on several information sources and opportunities:


Annual solicitations for Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI)

•  Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) – incidentally, OSU has just submitted three proposals to DURIP

•  Industry briefings from DARPA – check the DARPA website



  • US Geological Survey

Marcia McNutt (Director) – Marcia was the Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, so it was nice to have a chance to talk briefly about some of the key issues in the oceanographic community (e.g. ship construction and operations).

LANDSAT - WHERE'RE THE BANDS ATWe spent a long time talking about the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, and the prognosis for sustained capabilities past the Landsat 8 launch scheduled for late 2012.  USGS is facing difficulties finding the resources (from somewhere other than out of hide), but apparently has good support from Congress to do this without penalty to the agency.  They are looking at a range of options, and may want some help from the academic community in assessing capabilities. Stay tuned.

Doug Beard, Chief of the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and Robin O’Malley, USGS NCCWSC Partnership and Policy Coordinator

I had a chance to catch up with Beard and O’Malley in their offices in Northern Virginia.  The last time we talked at any length was in the summer of 2010, when Phil Mote had organized their visit to Corvallis, while we were competing for the USGS Climate Science Center leadership (which Phil and Co. won!).  Getting USGS personnel on campus as part of the Center is a high priority for Doug Beard, and he indicated we can expect to hear an announcement of who will be the USGS Center lead “very soon” (before 1 Jan).  That will set in motion further activity to bring into the center at least two more USGS employees.Climate Science is about the Grass Roots

We also had a good discussion regarding coordination of various agency climate activities.  Doug and Robin made clear that their USGS priority for climate science is attending to immediate regional issues (rather than completing assessments, for example).


  • National Science Foundation –   Farnam Jahanian, Assistant Director for Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate


Dr. Jahanian shared his view that everything that CISE supports (and consequently their position in coordinating with the NSF “domain” sciences) should advance the frontiers in computer sciences and communications.  He emphasized a focus on exploiting advances in technologies in areas such as data access, broadband, and sensor development.  He added that, as with all of the Directorates at NSF, they are aiming at issues of sustainability, lifelong learning, health and security.  He indicated that while 70% of the CISE funding will go to core computer science and information science research, the remainder will be cross-cutting.  He cited as examples of the cross-cutting effort initiatives and programs: SEES, focusing on sustainability and energy security; and Smart Health and Well-Being, focusing on chronic health issues and aging populations. Going beyond NSF, Jahanian also discussed the emerging collaborations with NASA, NIST and NIH in the National Robotics Initiative.


  • U.S.  Department of Agriculture – Rich Guldin,  Director of Quantitative Science Research and Development, U.S. Forest Service

WHAT WE NEED IS REMOTELY USEFULWe were scheduled to meet with the head of R&D for the Forest Service, Jim Reaves, but he was called away at the last minute; Guldin is one of Reaves’ Deputies, working mostly on USFS remote sensing issues. So I used this opportunity to hear more about the USFS needs for Landsat data continuity (see above, for discussion with Marcia McNutt).  Their concerns with any changes in satellite sensor technology is that they would lose the bands that are critical to their applications. In connection with that discussion, I asked Guldin what his toughest challenges are in remote sensing.  In short, he said he needs work in site- and ecosystem-specific algorithm development, as well as improved capabilities for polygon definition to support evaluating categories of environments of interest. We also had a good discussion of the potential utility of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for USFS applications.  He stated that UAS are potentially valuable for forest inventories, especially where there is 10% tree cover or less.  For any readers who want to pursue this UAS discussion further, Guldin’s staff point of contact is Ken Brewer.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young (Acting Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture {NIFA})

When I last visited this office in the winter, I met with Dr. Roger Beachy, who was full of expectations about what he’d be able to do at NIFA.  Three months later, he left NIFA!

NIFA NEEDS SOME LIMELIGHTChavonda stated that work needs to be done to get Office of Management & Budget to see NIFA as a “real player in the science arena.”  She pointed out that NIFA’s leadership in some important technical areas (e.g. bioenergy, food safety and nutrition, environmental prediction) is not recognized.  She sees several opportunities for the community to address these misperceptions: getting ag people on President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, National Research Council NRC panels, etc.  It’s clear that she feels a strategic imperative is needed for NIFA, so much of what they do will be implemented with that in mind. “CAP grants will be awarded strategically,” she said.  In closing, she asked, somewhat rhetorically “What is USDA’s ‘Man on the Moon’?”


  • Environmental Protection Agency– Lek Kadeli (Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development {OED}), Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta (Acting Division Director, Environmental Public Health Division), Rick Linthurst (National Program Director for Ecology), Thomas D. Fontaine (Director, Western Ecology Division), Tony Olsen (Western Ecology Division) Seema Schappelle  (Special Assistant/Immediate Office of the Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development)

When my meeting with ORD Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas was cancelled last-minute, we had the wonderful opportunity to do a video telecon with Anastas’ deputy, Lek Kadeli and his staff from Research Triangle Park (RTP) and Corvallis. It turned into a great discussion on a range of issues. Tom and Tony talked about the vibrant relationship with OSU faculty (e.g. Robert Tanguay, Phil Mote, John Bolte and Jeff McDonnell), and expressed interest in pursuing other relationships, including perhaps renewing some of the old relationships with our Environmental and Molecular Toxicology folks.

I asked about what programs we should watch for and got some good intel.  Lek recommended we watch for an RFA on molecular design, aimed at risk mitigation (based on recommendations from an NRC report on sustainability, chaired by Bernie Goldstein, released last week).  Jennifer indicated they’d be redesigning a number of their programs around sustainability and that the EPA Science Advisory Board web site is a good reference for us to infer the direction they’re getting.  Tom talked about their emphasis on Pacific NW water features.

LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR, EPA IS THERESince I haven’t yet visited our Corvallis EPA neighbors, I wangled an invitation from Tom and Tony to come by for a tour soon.



  • Department of  Energy (DOE), Jose Zayas, Program Manager for the Wind and Water Program


This was a great opportunity to meet the new program director in charge of our wave energy program, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, run by Belinda Batten.  Jose’s been on the job just a few weeks, coming from Sandia National Lab.  He’s clearly a strong advocate for the program, and we had a good discussion about how we can help him sell the marine hydrokinetics program, and what he expects of us. He made two good points:

  1. We should become known well and uniquely for certain broad competencies (he used the example of U Maine’s recognized expertise in deepwater wind energy research).  He pointed out that this will require an even stronger within-campus coordination of what’s going on in engineering, oceanography and Sea Grant.
  2. Working together with the national labs is critical.  NREL, PNNL, Sandia, etc. must be seen as meaningful partners in our work.

I returned to campus encouraged and inspired.

– Rick Spinrad, Vice President for Research

“5 x 5” –
Radio terminology used to signify that the signal has excellent strength and perfect clarity – therefore, that something is fine.

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