The International Continental scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) funding process – part 2 by Melanie Leng

The UK became a member of the ICDP in 2012, this enables us (UK geoscientists) to apply for funding for deep scientific drilling projects, as well as having representatives on the three committees that oversee ICDP funding allocations. Melanie Leng sits on the Executive Committee and here explains her first experience of the panel which met in Sendai, Japan, last week.

Mel in Japan

Last week I represented the UK’s geosciences community at the 18th ICDP Executive Committee (EC). In a previous blog  I explained what I understood of the process, including what happens at the Science Advisory Group (SAG). The reviews from the SAG were passed to the EC members, and we looked at both the proposals and the SAG reviews prior to the meeting. Last week the EC had 14 proposals to discuss which had been submitted to the ICDP in January this year. These were divided up into 9 workshop (and technical) proposals and 5 full scientific drilling proposals. Ten of the proposals were new, while 4 were invited resubmissions from the previous year. It was good to see that 10 of the proposals had UK principal investigators. The total requested funds were over $7.5 million USD.  

The EC discussed all the proposals, along with the recommendations from the SAG. The proposals that were deemed excellent and suitable for funding were then prioritised bearing in mind the funding available and their potential outputs and impact. The decisions made by the EC then went to the Assembly of Governors (AoG) who met directly after the EC. The final decisions will be made available from ICDP over the next few months.

A few more details:

Workshop proposals
These were vetted for a number of key criteria. For example the balance of scientists from member countries and the number of “local scientists” (from the region where the drilling was proposed) especially in developing nations. It is preferable to leave “invitee” spaces in the workshop proposals for other scientists to apply to join the research proposal (once approved and advertised on the ICDP web page) or to fill obvious science area gaps within the proposed research (that might be suggested by one of the committees for example). Workshops were also vetted for the amount of time for discussions, versus presentations and fieldtrips. Value for money was also a criteria, including efforts to obtain co-funding, or funding in kind. 

Full science proposals
Proposals were carefully vetted by the SAG and EC. It is clear that resubmitted proposals have the greatest chance for funding since the proponents have had the opportunity to address any apparent weaknesses. Also those proposals from proponents that have had detailed discussions with the ICDP Operations Support Group (OSG) fared better. Many proposals had been submitted several times, seldom is there outright rejection (although even rejection does not preclude resubmission). Multiple applications prior to funding appears to be the norm.  

Post committee field trip

The ICDP Executive Committee and Assembly of Governors members at Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant. Special thanks to our Japanese hosts headed by the Japanese EC member Shin’ichi Kuramoto from CDEX/JAMSTEC.

Between the EC and AoG meetings, our Japanese hosts look us to see some of the amazing impact that geological knowledge has done for Japan. We visited the Matsuo Neutralization Plant, where exceedingly high pH surface waters (as a result of earlier sulphur mining) is mitigated through knowledge of the water chemistry. The mine water (pH = 2.2) used to result in the Matsukawa River being described as a dead river, through the remediation the river is healthy again supporting the pre-mining fauna and flora. At the Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant we saw how an active volcano magma chamber is tapped for steam to provide electricity and hot water. Matsukawa was Japan’s first (and the world’s fourth) geothermal power plant and it has been providing energy and hot water to the region since 1966.

(you can also follow me on twitter @MelJLeng, the ICDP-UK hashtag is #ICDPUK)


Wasn't Sendai the closest mainland point to the epicentre of the 2011 quake? How is reconstruction going?
$7.5 million for a year? Distressingly small, from my perspective in the oil industry.
Yes Sendai was at the centre of the 2011 Earthquake, the reconstruction is going well and the City is looking very well. ICDP would always consider oil industry sponsorship. Thanks