UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes > July 2000 Search


July 2000

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 geosciences–the least diverse of the nation's science and engineering disciplines–as 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.