Governance Update

The October meetings and follow-up activities

Extensive discussions on the future of UCAR, NCAR, UOP, and the atmospheric and Earth sciences in general took place during a full week of meetings in Boulder from 11 to 15 October. Below are a few highlights. The box below gives details on a follow-up Web site for the October meetings. Many of the meeting presentations are linked as PDF files directly from this site.

UCAR Board of Trustees

Richard Loft (NCAR Scientific Computing Division) addressed the board on the outlook for computing resources at NCAR and in the broader community over the next decade. Trends in computing technology are leading to increased space, power, and cooling requirements, straining the infrastructure of the 30-year-old computing center at the Mesa Lab. NCAR will explore options for relocating the computing facility over the next few years.

Along with annual reports from UCAR, NCAR, UOP, and NSF, the board received an update from April Burke and Joel Widder (Lewis-Burke Associates) on federal funding for atmospheric and related sciences amid a polarized political climate and keen budget pressures.

On the second day of its meeting, board members assembled at NCAR’s Foothills Lab campus for the official groundbreaking of a new chemistry lab.

UCAR Board of Trustees
(effective February 2005; new and re-elected members in bold)

Eric Barron (Pennsylvania State University)
Rosina Bierbaum (University of Michigan)
Frank Cushing (Cornerstone Government Affairs)
Kelvin Droegemeier, chair (University of Oklahoma)
Barbara Feiner (Washington University in St. Louis)
Rana Fine (University of Miami)
Eugenia Kalnay (University of Maryland)
Neal Lane (Rice University)
Shirley Malcom (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Ronald McPherson (American Meteorological Society)
Franklin Nutter (Reinsurance Association of America)
Leonard Pietrafesa (North Carolina State University)
Mary Jo Richardson (Texas A&M University)
Steven Rutledge (Colorado State University)
Soroosh Sorooshian (University of California, Irvine)
Lynn Talley (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego)
Orlando Taylor (Howard University)

UCAR Annual Members Meeting

More than 100 university faculty (two each from UCAR’s 68 member institutions) assembled at UCAR’s Center Green auditorium for the annual meeting of member representatives. At the heart of this year’s meeting was a four-part forum that focused on the roles of UCAR and NCAR in the future of the geosciences.

• The global environment. In an opening address, UCAR president Richard Anthes outlined worldwide stresses—from overpopulation to growing consumption—that add urgency to a twofold task: observing, understanding, and predicting the Earth system more completely and accurately over the next decade, and communicating the seriousness of the global situation to the public and policy makers.

• NCAR management. In 2008, for the first time, NSF will conduct a competitive bidding process to determine the management of NCAR over the following five years. Kelvin Droegemeier (University of Oklahoma), chair of the UCAR Board of Trustees, led a discussion on this process. Droegemeier drew on parallels from other federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), recent trends in FFRDC management, and the strengths of the UCAR management model. Clifford Jacobs (NSF) provided the foundation’s perspective. See the sidebar below for additional details, including a Web site developed by UCAR to help answer community questions about this process.

• The role of a national center. A panel discussion led by John Merrill (University of Rhode Island), chair of the University Relations Committee, examined how NCAR specifically, and national laboratories more generally, serve the geoscience research enterprise. Topics ranged from openness, accountability, and the risk of “mission creep” to the increasing demands placed on national centers, particularly in interdisciplinary work and cyberinfrastructure. Panelists included:

Kaye Howe (National Science Digital Library)
Tim Killeen (NCAR)
Neal Lane (Rice University)
Sepideh Yalda (Millersville University)

• A view from the tenure track. Early-career scientists commented on the UCAR-university partnership in a panel led by James Hansen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The panelists gave NCAR high marks for balancing core research strengths with extensive community resources and support for interdisciplinary work that is often difficult to conduct in a university setting. Concerns included balancing support for climate versus weather modeling, keeping observing systems flexible, and ensuring the availability of those systems for smaller institutions and projects. Panelists included:

John Cassano (University of Colorado)
Gregory Hakim (University of Washington)
Daniel Marsh (NCAR)
Rebecca Morss (NCAR)

Later in the meeting, Al Kellie, Richard Carbone, and Mohan Ramamurthy presented strategic plans for NCAR’s Scientific Computing Division, the new Earth Observing Laboratory (see page 12), and Unidata, respectively. Attendees also renewed the terms of six UCAR members (the universities of Denver, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Oklahoma; Old Dominion University; and York University) and elected four new UCAR trustees (see sidebar).

University Relations Committee

In its second meeting of 2004, the URC finalized its latest review designed to ensure that NCAR does not compete unfairly with universities in soliciting research support beyond its core NSF funding. The URC’s proposal review subcommittee found no evidence of unfair competition for proposals submitted in the first half of 2004.

Katy Schmoll, UCAR vice president for finance and administration, reported on a project now under way to re-engineer the proposal submission process within UCAR in order to eliminate unnecessary work and improve the overall efficiency of the process.

NCAR director Tim Killeen led a continuation of previous URC discussion on a new Faculty Fellowship Program being launched by NCAR’s Advanced Study Program. These fellowships will provide opportunities and resources for faculty—particularly those from UCAR member institutions and those early in their careers—to spend time in residence at NCAR, and for NCAR scientists to spend time in academia, again with an emphasis on UCAR member institutions. The URC agreed to form a subcommittee to assist with the selection process.
UCAR University Relations Committee
(new and re-elected members in bold)

Kerry Cook (Cornell University)
Efi Foufoula-Georgiou (University of Minnesota)
James Hansen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Everette Joseph (Howard University)
David Karoly (University of Oklahoma)
Arlene Laing (University of Southern Florida,
now at NCAR)
John Merrill, chair (University of Rhode Island)
Michael Morgan (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
Richard Orville (Texas A&M University)
Kenneth Pickering (University of Maryland)
Eugene Takle (Iowa State University)
Lisa White (San Francisco State University)
S.T. Wu (University of Alabama at Huntsville)
Sepideh Yalda (Millersville University)

From UCAR:
Mary Barth (NCAR)
Ginger Caldwell (NCAR)
Joanne Graham (Unidata)

Academic Affiliates

Faculty from 11 of UCAR’s 17 academic affiliates convened over breakfast on 12 October. The group expanded on the previous day’s discussion from the members meeting on the role of a national center.

Several NCAR staff from the Societal-Environmental Research and Education Laboratory discussed the evolution of SERE and its plans to engage academia in multidisciplinary, collaborative work.

In addition:

• Gayl Gray (NCAR Library) presented options for how NCAR and academic affiliates might team to negotiate lower-cost access to online products that can be prohibitively expensive for smaller schools.

• Eron Brennan, UCAR supervisor of multimedia services, updated the affiliates on plans for UCAR-supported multimedia collaboration technologies and applications to serve the research community.

• David Fulker (UOP) introduced the UCAR Community Instrumentation Initiative, a proposal presented later in the week at the “heads and chairs” meeting (see below).

• John Helsdon (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology) invited input on a proposal to NSF for a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. Piggybacking on a facility proposed for researching neutrinos, DUSEL could include a kilometer-long chamber for studying cloud evolution.

Heads and Chairs

This biennial meeting of department heads in atmospheric, Earth, and space science was cosponsored by UCAR, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Geophysical Union.

Eugene Bierly and Ronald McPherson reported on university- relevant activities of the AGU and AMS, respectively. McPherson described an AMS initiative to help equip weathercasters more broadly as resident scientists for their TV stations. The effort includes a set of continuing-education courses to cover watersheds and other environmental topics.

Cathy Manduca (Carleton College) highlighted recent activities of the Digital Library for Earth System Education. One of DLESE’s latest additions is the Visual Geophysical Exploration Environment. This NSF-funded collaboration provides a five-dimensional, database-driven environment where undergraduates create animations and connect them to physical principles.

David Fulker (UOP) discussed a proposal to NSF for a UCAR Community Instrumentation Initiative. Its goal is to employ resources from across UOP and NCAR to bolster university instruction with teaching aids that could include a workshop, an NCAR-based summer course, and online modules.

Mohan Ramamurthy (Unidata) described and sought feedback on a revised AMS statement that guides undergraduate students and faculty on courses needed for an expanding variety of career paths.

Rick Anthes described a new National Research Council study, which he is co-chairing with Berrien Moore (University of New Hampshire), to establish priorities in Earth science observations from space. Town meetings are being held at the AMS and AGU annual meetings, and a Web site has been created to describe the study and to provide an opportunity for community input throughout the study process. Anthes noted that broad and active participation by the Earth science community is essential for the success of this effort, which will affect the scientific research and operational communities, and society at large, for many years. He urged the community to think about new observational missions and scientific priorities.

Roberta Johnson (director, UCAR Education and Outreach) and Timothy Spangler (director, Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training) briefed the group on areas of university interest and opportunity, and NCAR associate director Larry Winter discussed an NSF report on complex environmental systems and plans for research now taking shape in that area.

Richard Hooper, executive director of the 97-member Consortium for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences (CUAHSI), provided an overview of the consortium’s activities. In 2005 CUAHSI hopes to help establish a National Center for Hydrologic Synthesis, providing a venue for cross-discipline collaboration. The consortium is also conducting cyberseminars and organizing support for hydrologic observatories, measurement facilities, and information systems. In education and outreach, CUAHSI is testing one-week hydrology field camps for undergraduates and producing a one-hour documentary on watershed science.

After these reports, two community-centered panel discussions took place:

• From Surviving to Thriving: Strategies for Advancing University Geoscience Programs in Times of Change (coordinated by Donald Wuebbles, University of Illinois)

• Cyberinfrastructure in the Geosciences (led by Kelvin Droegemeier, University of Oklahoma)

The attendees also passed resolutions

• asking AMS, in coordination with AGU, to develop and distribute resources that would assist atmospheric and related science departments undergoing programmatic review;

• asking AGU and AMS to compile information that would help geoscience faculty explain the value of their departments and disciplines to higher administrators; and

• asking the AGU to reduce institutional subscription rates for its journals.

PowerPoint presentations from the panelists and individual speakers can be found on the web. Further reports on the meeting will appear in AGU and AMS publications.

Committee on Strategic Guidance for NSF’s Support of the Atmospheric Sciences

NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences (ATM) has asked the National Academies to perform a study that will provide it with strategic guidance. The resulting committee, formed earlier this year, is soliciting community input over the next few months as part of a two-year study. Town hall meetings are being held at the annual AGU and AMS conferences (see sidebar).

In its 13–15 October meeting in Boulder, the committee held open sessions with panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions on the following topics:

• UCAR’s role in the U.S. atmospheric
sciences infrastructure

• NCAR as a major NSF-funded
laboratory

• NSF-supported computing facilities

• NSF-supported community modeling efforts at NCAR

• The NOAA perspective on NSF’s role
in the U.S. atmospheric sciences
infrastructure and NOAA-NCAR
interactions

A number of speakers from UCAR and the broader community contributed brief statements at an open-mike session. The committee also met over lunch with department heads and chairs on 15 October.

Resources and feedback

More on the October meetings: The follow-up Web site on UCAR’s October meetings includes links to presentations from this year’s meetings and extensive background on UCAR, NCAR, and UOP activities over the past year.

Town halls: Two town hall meetings are giving community members a chance to comment on issues being considered in the National Academies study on NSF/ATM support. One took place in December at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco. Below are details on the second meeting. The NAS Web site provides background on the study.

85th AMS Annual Meeting, San Diego
Tuesday, 13 January, 7:00 p.m.
San Diego Convention Center, Room 5B