Comments from the Program Director, 8 June, 2006

Rupturing Continental Lithosphere; Research Cruise Ship Time

The Rupturing Continental Lithosphere (RCL) initiative of the MARGINS Program has suffered a setback in recent months. Prevailing political and logistical circumstances forced the Marine Geology and Geophysics (MG&G) Program to make a critical decision about the efficacy of a major marine geophysical experiment in the Red Sea at this time. Many factors went into the decision to indefinitely postpone such an experiment. More critical of these were the currently worsening political climate in the area, the security concerns associated with research vessels working in the Red Sea, the ambiguous and still unclear fate of the gathered geophysical and other unprocessed data controlled by at least one bordering country, and the shorter term uncertainty of when an academic seismic research vessel can be scheduled to work in a remote area such as the Red Sea. Nevertheless, this does not preclude consideration of compelling new research projects for the Red Sea that do not require such logistics under the aegis of MG&G's core funding. Nor does it affect the ongoing research programs in the area. Thus, amending the status of Red Sea as an 'ancillary focus site' is entirely in line with these developments. Hopefully, not in the too distant future when the conditions are right, the MARGINS community will be able to go back to the Red Sea for the all important work in understanding the non-orogenic rupture of the lithosphere at this unique site.

The other issue that I would like to comment on is the status of ocean-going (i.e. ship using) field programs in general. The community is well aware of the decreases in available ship time for the larger research vessels used by the MG&G community. The cost of operation of the large ships has been escalating at over 9% annually for several years without concurrent increases in the budgets. Currently we can afford ~ 70% of the days at sea as we funded two years ago. This does not mean that the Program is deferring consideration of field programs for FY 2008 and beyond. However, as the costs escalate they will translate into keener competition for ocean-going research funds and more deliberate appraisal of actual ship-time needs for proposed work. Investigators are encouraged to more thoroughly justify their ship time (actual days needed to get the work done, rather than multiples of weeks) and other instrumentation (e.g., OBS) needs in their proposals as fieldwork plans will come under greater scrutiny by reviewers/panels and program officers.

Bilal Haq
MG&G Program
National Science Foundation

MARGINS is an NSF funded program

The MARGINS Office is Hosted by Columbia University

Last updated Thursday, July 19, 2007