July 7, 2004

Dr. Rodey Batiza
Dr. David Fountain
Dr. Bilal Haq
National Science Foundation
Divisions of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Arlington, VA

Dear Bilal, Rodey, and David:

Many thanks for sending the NSF-MARGINS Review Committee report, which has been circulated to the MARGINS Steering Committee (MSC) as a confidential document. We wanted to take a minute to respond briefly to the report and the review process. We were very pleased of course, to see the MARGINS Program described as a “unique and effective approach to studying dynamic earth processes” and were delighted with the prospect that “the multidisciplinary approach of the MARGINS program provides a model for how synergistic science could be conducted in the 21 st century.” We also agree entirely with the committee's emphasis on the need for continued joint funding of MARGINS between NSF Earth and Ocean Science divisions – we hope that efforts to secure equal fiscal participation by the cognizant programs can be given a high priority.

The Review Committee report and the self-review done by the MSC both recommend important steps for MARGINS to take in the next several years. The MSC recognizes the value of these recommendations, and feels that acting on them will greatly strengthen the scientific return from MARGINS and broaden its impact. Many of these, such as a wider range of event response studies, new education and outreach activities, and increased numbers of integrative workshops and theoretical institutes are scientifically exciting and allow MARGINS to reach and serve broader communities. That said, all require resources to be allocated from the program, as does the recommendation that MARGINS work toward a balance in funding of the different initiatives, including the two more recently established (S2S and RCL). We therefore want to emphasize that acting on this report in any significant, effective, and timely way can only be done with increased funding.

The report contains many good specific suggestions, for the individual initiatives and for the program as a whole, which we recognize and will act on. There are also a number of general themes to the report, which we view as providing important philosophical guidance. Most important is the emphasis on the need for increasing integration. For the longer-established initiatives (SEIZE and SubFac) this includes workshops focusing on transcendent processes and unified models, consideration of analogs from the geologic record and from other convergent margins, development of guidelines for integrated interpretive products needed, and sustained international cooperation. For S2S and RCL, the immediate need is to see that research projects now and in the immediate future build the research foundations developed in their science plans and thus form a framework that allows for subsequent integration. For S2S, we need to ensure that studies of the solute flux included already in the S2S science plan is accomplished (with cooperation with NSF Ocean Chemistry), that the terrestrial part of the source-to-sink system is fully integrated with the marine, and that the time-scales of study allow both rapid event-response (e.g. landslides) and comparison with the geologic record. The political issues affecting RCL have slowed progress; continuing thoughtful assessment of progress in the focus sites and thus of the viability of the RCL initiative is a very high priority for the MSC. We appreciate, and will act on the Review Committee's suggestion that the MSC include smaller sub-groups to evaluate progress and stimulate integration in each initiative, as well as between the initiatives.

While very time-consuming on all sides, we found the NSF review process to be very helpful. Community response to the call for research summaries (Nuggets) was strong, showed a lot of exciting science, and provided an excellent base for evaluating the most recent and current scientific accomplishments, and building upon them. We are very pleased to put the results of the MSC self-review on the MARGINS website, and open it to the community.

In conclusion, we want to extend our thanks to NSF and to the members of the NSF-MARGINS review committee. We realize that it required a great deal of work on their part to work through the science plans and review documents provided by the MARGINS Office and steering committee, and we appreciate their commitment. More importantly, we appreciate their insight and constructive criticism, which will strengthen the scientific impact of MARGINS. We on the MSC will do our part to build on the recommendations in this report.         

With Best Wishes,

Julie Morris
And the MARGINS Steering Committee

Geoff Abers, Fred Chester, Becky Dorsey, Greg Hirth, Garry Karner, Scott Linneman, Anne Meltzer, John Milliman, Mark Reagan,Tom Shipley, Eli Silver, Rudy Slingerland, Pat Wiberg

Cc: Jim Yoder, Herman Zimmerman, Bruce Malfait