NCAR and UCAR celebrate their 40th
Colwell's whirlwind weekend
Rita Colwell (far right) was joined on her tour of Jeffco by (left to
right) UOP director Jack Fellows, assistant NSF director for geosciences
Margaret Leinen, and ACD/ATD associate scientist Teresa Campos.
NSF director Rita Colwell topped the list of dignitaries on hand for the
40th anniversary weekend. She paid a visit to the Bubble and Balloon
Festival on Sunday and stopped by Jeffco for a VIP tour later that
afternoon. The next day, NCAR scientists briefed Colwell on wildfire
research and other hot topics. At a town meeting, Colwell and NSF
assistant director for geosciences Margaret Leinen gave staff an update
on NSF's activities and priorities.
Colwell said the foundation has "increasingly become the government's investor
for basic nonmedical research." The federal share of all U.S. research and development
has dropped from roughly 60% in 1970 to around 40% today. NSF now awaits approval
of a proposed budget that would include the largest dollar increase in its history.
Although NSF pays for over half of all the nation's mathematics research, Colwell
described the field as "underfunded" (math grants average $25,000 each). More
social-science research is also "badly needed." At the same time, too much energy
is being siphoned into the "treadmill" of grant writing, she said, noting that
NSF processes some 250,000 proposals a year. "My biggest challenge," she added,
"is to pursue emerging areas while keeping [core research] robust and vital."
Following Colwell, Leinen outlined the agenda for the NSF geosciences directorate
and stressed the human-resources dilemma that will face the geosciencesthe
least diverse of the nation's science and engineering disciplinesas the
nation's ethnic makeup shifts in the decades to come. Colwell capped the day
with an evening presentation at CU's Old Main Chapel on NSF's polar research.
With the help of photographs, paintings, and quotes from artists who documented
the Arctic and Antarctic, Colwell described the beauty of the polar ecosystem
and explained its importance to the global environment.