OFAP Meeting Activities

The Observing Facilities Assessment Panel (OFAP) meeting is an integral part of the FARE/LAOF review process. While the OFAP Members play a critical role in the meeting, input and expertise from the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations is also a vital aspect of the review process and integrated into the OFAP meeting discussion. The information below outlines the activities that take place before, during, and after each OFAP meeting. The final deliverable from the meeting is a 'Facility Request Review Package' that is shared with NSF for their consideration.

Parallel activities by the NSF Program Officers also occur during the OFAP meeting activities, such as conducting peer-review of the science proposals.


FARE/LAOF Partner Organization Responsibilities

Feasibility Assessments: Once a facility request has been received, representatives of each requested facility work on their portion of a feasibility analysis study. Feasibility assessments focus on aspects such as instrumentation and payload issues, project scope, operational constraints, scheduling conflicts, project risks, and any other issues that may arise. While preparing these documents, the project manager of a facility may call the PI to clarify aspects of the request, provide suggestions to improve the experiment design, or raise any issues s/he may see. Once the individual portions of the feasibility assessments have been created, the documents will be merged and reviewed by the appropriate Facility Managers and the FARE/LAOF Request Coordinator. The ultimate goal of each Feasibility Assessment is to declare a project feasible or not.

Feasibility Summary Presentation: Once the Feasibility Assessments are completed, one or two staff from the relevant FARE/LAOF Partner Organization will be assigned as “Project Facilitator.” The Project Facilitator is usually a scientist, engineer, or project manager who is familiar with the technical characteristics of the requested instrument and the scientific objectives to be accomplished. This person will be responsible for summarizing the outcome of the Feasibility Assessment in a short presentation that will be used to introduce the operational and technical aspects of the request to the entire OFAP before the project is discussed (see below).

Cost Estimates: At the same time, facility administrators will work with facility staff to prepare a cost estimate for the proposed project. Costs for deploying FARE/LAOF will be charged to the NSF Deployment Pool, a fund that is dedicated to the exclusive support of expenses directly associated with the deployment of the FARE/LAOF for NSF-supported research.

Global Feasibility: Once the Feasibility Assessments and cost estimates are completed, the FARE/LAOF Request Coordinator, in consultation with the other FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations, produces a Global Feasibility that lays out all possible project combinations. In addition to assessing obvious scheduling conflicts, the Global Feasibility also looks at needed staffing and facility resources, potential funding shortfalls, and planned development and maintenance efforts to provide as complete a picture as possible.

The Global Feasibility, together with the individual Feasibility Assessment and cost estimates, are forwarded for review to NSF approximately one month before the OFAP meeting. At the same time, the FARE/LAOF Request Coordinator provides electronic copies of the request material and facility-prepared documentation to each assigned OFAP member.

OFAP Responsibilities

Review Preferences and Conflicts-of-Interest: Once the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations receive all facility request, the FARE/LAOF Request Coordinator will query the Panel Members for their review preferences and Conflicts-of-Interest before they are assigned as “Resource Persons'' for requests in their area of expertise. EOL management assigns at least three and preferably four Resource Persons from the OFAP for each major request. One of the assigned Resource Persons will be declared the “Lead Project Reviewer,” who will be responsible for introducing the scientific objectives of the project to the entire Panel by using the PI-provided Science Overview Presentation.

Project Reviews: Once Panel Members receive copies of their assigned review material, each Resource Person is asked to evaluate their assigned request on the basis of a set of predetermined criteria. The review material provided includes the facility request, portions of the science proposal, the facility-prepared Feasibility Assessment and cost estimates, and other information that may be relevant to each assigned facility request. The review criteria to be covered include the importance and uniqueness of the project, experiment design, proposed operations, platforms and instruments requested, project planning, management, and implementation, data management and dissemination, safety and security, resources, cost and qualifications of the proposer, and educational use of the FARE/LAOF. Each Resource Person must provide a short summary of his/her comments electronically to EOL a few days ahead of the OFAP meeting. These comments are shared at the start of the executive session with the Panel, NSF representatives, and FARE/LAOF Partner Organization representatives.

NSF Responsibilities

Scientific Grant Proposals: NSF is responsible for conducting the review of the scientific grant proposal through the NSF merit review process once the individual science proposals are submitted to NSF. 



The OFAP meets twice per year at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Meetings are held every year in spring (April/May) and fall (November) over a two- to three-day period. The primary purpose of the meeting is to evaluate all facility requests received for a given deployment time frame. As time allows, discussions may also include information items from NSF and the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations and technical/scientific briefings on past field programs and new observing system developments and upgrades.

NCAR/EOL is responsible for handling all organizational, logistical, and clerical support for the meeting. In this capacity, EOL coordinates and distributes all materials, maintains the facility request webpages, develops the meeting agenda, maintains and updates long-term facility request schedules, and assists the OFAP Chairs in conducting the meeting. All responsibilities are carried out in consultation and close coordination with the NSF FARE/LAOF Program Director, NSF Program Officers, the OFAP Chairs, Facility Managers, and others as appropriate.

OFAP Meeting Process

Request Evaluation Process: All facility requests are evaluated in closed sessions. Participants in the deliberations usually include OFAP members, the NSF FARE/LAOF Program Director, NSF Program Officers, Facility Managers, and selected FARE/LAOF Partner Organization staff.

If necessary, the OFAP Chairs adjust the order in which the requests are introduced, considering such factors as Conflicts-of-Interest, availability of Resource Persons, and effective use of the Panel's time.

The science of each facility request is introduced by the Lead Project Reviewer in a neutral and unbiased manner, using the presentation slides provided by the PI. The science overview is followed by a summary of the Feasibility Assessment prepared by the Project Facilitator(s). Each assigned Resource Person then presents his/her evaluations using the criteria listed above before the discussions are opened to all attendees (including facility managers, project facilitators, and project managers). If a question arises that requires clarification, the Project Facilitator contacts the PI for details.

In situations where major scheduling or funding conflicts exist among the requests under consideration, NSF provides priority guidance to the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations. If NSF has decided not to support a project or if a project has failed to receive the endorsement of an NCAR Associate Director or Science Division Director, it will be removed from formal consideration by the OFAP. However, suggestions for improvement or other helpful comments from the OFAP are still appropriate.

OFAP Assessment: The OFAP considers all NSF pending requests before finalizing its findings. For each request, the OFAP provides a written summary to the FARE/LAOF Partner Organization management regarding the deployment of a requested facility. The OFAP summaries will focus on, but are not limited to, a specific allocation of facility usage (e.g., days in the field and/or the number of flight hours), the amount of deployment funds, suggested adjustments to the experiment design (e.g., alternate flight plans, scan strategies, increases/decreases of flight hours) and possible schedule modifications, if necessary.



Requestor Review and Comments: Immediately following the meeting, the OFAP-provided assessments and Feasibility Assessments are shared with the requesting PIs. The requestors are invited to review the documentation provided and have two weeks to comment on any issues raised in written form. 

Facility Request Review Documentation: Within one month of the OFAP meeting and once the PI feedback is received, EOL will provide a "Facility Request Review Package" containing all documentation provided by the PIs and Facilities to the NSF FARE/LAOF Program Director and relevant NSF Program Officers. 

Funding Decision: While the OFAP assessment is an integral part of the facility allocation decision, the funding decision for a field deployment is solely the responsibility of the individual NSF Program Officer and is dependent on the successful review of the supporting science proposals. Once a decision has been reached, NSF will first inform the PIs about the outcome of their request status before informing the facility providers. The FARE/LAOF Program Director will then notify the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations about the NSF's decision to decline or support a campaign. If NSF has declined a research proposal, then the deployment pool funding request is also automatically declined. 

Allocation Email: Once the FARE/LAOF Partner Organizations receive positive notice from NSF about a funding decision, an email is sent to the requesting PI informing him/her about the project allocation. The email includes details about the amount of resources allocated, the time frame for the project, the name of the responsible facilities project manager, and any other pertinent information.