AS A RESULT OF BROAD DISCUSSIONS between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) about how to manage NICL in the future and how NICL relates to various mission goals of each agency, the agencies have concluded that it will be better to dissolve the past relationship. This means that NSF will begin a process to develop a new management structure for NICL that will entail leadership from the academic community. USGS has indicated to NSF that they will not provide support for the partnership beyond September 2010 but that it would be possible, at NSF's expense, to have the NICL physical plant remain at the Denver Federal Center as well as arrange for current NICL staff to remain with the facility.
For over a year, NSF and USGS have been discussing various options for the operation and management of the NICL facility. The situation can be summarized as follows: While both agencies viewed NICL as an important research resource, significant differences between the NSF and USGS approaches to the leadership and management of the facility had emerged in the discussions. For example,NSF had indicated that a dedicated ice core scientist should head the facility, following the intended management approach when NICL was first established at the Denver Federal Center. In contrast, USGS had indicated that the facility would be best managed as part of a broader core repository function that incorporates permafrost and rock cores in addition to ice cores, with a single scientist or curator responsible for all components. An important factor in the USGS position is that ice core science as part of a broader effort in climate change science is reasonably within their mission responsibilities, but that, in a strict sense, ice core science as a separate activity is not central to current or anticipated USGS scientific directions. Because of this divergence of views, and after considerable internal discussions, the USGS informed NSF that it cannot justify a dedicated focus to ice core science and so it desires to phase out of the partnership.
NICL-SMO will keep the community informed on developments relating to the new management structure at NICL.