We have just completed the fall meetings of the SERDP Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).  I don’t know if it is generally recognized how valuable the SAB is to SERDP so I want to spend a little time this week expanding on that premise.

The SERDP Statute specifies that SAB members “shall be appointed from among persons eminent in the fields of basic sciences, engineering, ocean and environmental sciences, education, research management, international and security affairs, health physics, health sciences, or social sciences,”  Our SAB members are that and more.  Each of them brings years of experience in the various topics that comprise the SERDP portfolio and a willingness to apply that experience to shaping and improving SERDP.

We have a continuum of interactions with the SAB over the course of the year.  Each June we have an extensive planning and strategy session with the SAB in which we discuss the upcoming Statements of Need (SONs), environmental issues on the horizon, and trends in research management and funding.  These sessions help us finalize the next year’s SONs and begin to prepare for calls in the future.

The next stage is the individual project briefings for proposed new starts.  This year the SAB heard 46 new start briefings over six days in September and October.  Many of our Principal Investigators look on this briefing as one more box to check on the way to funding but we see it as much more.  SAB members often offer suggestions that sharpen projects, identify needed expertise missing from a project team, or point out potential extensions of the effort missed by the PI.  All of this makes for a better program.  I go away from each SAB meeting tired but pleased with the results.

One reality of the SAB is that terms are limited and we regularly have to say goodbye to members.  This October, we bid farewell to our chairman, Dr. Joe Hughes, and member Dr. Gary Saylor.  Both Joe and Gary will be greatly missed.  They have been very active on the SAB, have always made valuable comments on projects in all the SERDP Program Areas, and have been a ton of fun to interact with over the years.  All of the SERDP staff, and me particularly, will be poorer for their departure from the SAB.

P.S. We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the 2017 SERDP and ESTCP Symposium.