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President's Corner

Fall 1997

Alliance for Capacity Transfer

Last year Bob Duce (Texas A&M University) and Roland List (University of Toronto) approached UCAR with a suggestion that it should be possible to exploit more fully the capabilities of the World Wide Web, to the benefit of scientists, operational meteorologists, and faculty and students in the atmospheric and related sciences worldwide. Over several discussions, which broadened to include many other participants along the way, a concept emerged that we are calling the Alliance for Capacity Transfer (ACT). In one sense ACT can be described very simply, as I just did. But bringing such a sweeping concept to reality is quite another matter.

Bob and Roland both have key positions in the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS), serving as president and executive director, respectively. IAMAS is a part of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), which Philip Wylie (UCLA) currently serves as president. Two other key players in the widening net of ACT collaborators are Patrick Obasi, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and John Zillman, WMO president and director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The careful and complete discussions of the past two-plus years culminated recently with two important events: the June 1997 meeting of the WMO Executive Council and the July IAMAS symposium in Melbourne. The WMO Executive Council endorsed the ACT concept, and at a plenary session in Melbourne several of the key players named above, or their representatives, spoke of their support for and interest in ACT. And so the international, formal stage is now set to begin ACT's implementation.

One could imagine elaborate and costly ways to meet the expanded ACT goal statement: "to stimulate and expand voluntary collaboration and exchange of information and data, within and across the boundaries between national meteorological and hydrologic services, the university community, and the scientific community at large through the use of the Internet and the WWW." However, our plan is to start small and smart, and to exploit many of the current resources that exist in many institutions and throughout the Web. We will model our efforts after the UCAR Unidata paradigm, where the participating institutions assume responsibility to create and maintain up-to-date information and thus contribute to the overall program.

We began the process of engaging institutions in ACT at Melbourne with a small but energetic gathering of some of UCAR's International Affiliates. We will continue at the October UCAR meetings of members, academic affiliates, and the UCAR University Relations Committee, where we plan a demonstration of a prototype ACT Web site. Discussions in other fora (at the IAMAS planning meeting in Birmingham, for example) are also continuing. The WMO plans to survey forecast offices around the world to learn what would be most helpful to them.

A real challenge will be to exercise judgment and discrimination with respect to what linkages are created for the Alliance Web site. The difficulty is the abundance of information easily available on the Web, rather than a dearth of material. But to ensure its utility and effectiveness across a broad spectrum of users (highly wired to barely wired) will require thought and deliberation.

I look forward to discussions with you over the next months, as UCAR joins with IUGG, IAMAS, and the WMO to bring Roland List and Bob Duce's brainchild to maturity.

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Tue Apr 4 14:38:45 MDT 2000