NCAR reorganization plan moves ahead

NCAR director Tim Killeen is leading NCAR through its first major reorganization in over 15 years. In support of NCAR's strategic plan (see "On the Web"), Killeen and his management team have set out to help the center place a greater focus on broad, interdisciplinary initiatives and make it easier to manage this research with partners in the university community.

The plan, which received approval from the UCAR Board of Trustees in February, organizes NCAR into five large sections, or laboratories (see sidebar).

It also enhances NCAR's educational activities and creates new institutes to facilitate collaboration among different parts of UCAR and with the university community.

One of the new labs will comprise several of NCAR's science divisions. Two other labs will help NCAR's servicedivisions continue to offer high-quality facilities and support to the community while drawing on emerging technology more readily.

"The reorganization will allow us to respond to the changing world of atmospheric sciences in a way that will best serve the community and the nation," says Killeen. Through the reorganization, he adds, NCAR will build on its disciplinary strengths and increase its efforts on interdisciplinary science that can be carried forward in full collaboration with university-based atmospheric researchers.

New institutes

In addition to restructuring current activities, the reorganization will create institutes that provide connectivity and leadership in key areas across NCAR and the research community.

The Institute for Mathematics Applied to the Geosciences (IMAGe) will build on existing geophysical statistics and geophysical turbulence programs and a strategic initiative on data assimilation.

"IMAGe will be a home for visitors who have a background in mathematics," according to Douglas Nychka, one of the institute’s founding planners. "Right now there are many good connections for these people at NCAR, but no home, no place for them to come to."

Nychka and his colleagues envision IMAGe as a visitor-oriented program, including everything from short-term stays to postdoc and multiyear appointments. "We aren’t talking about a big, permanent scientific staff," says Nychka. "Instead, IMAGe will serve as a 'terminal,' where people are coming through, changing directions a little bit, and going back out to the universities." The institute’s founders plan to work closely with two similar groups: the Statistical and Applied Mathematics Science Institute in North Carolina’s research triangle and the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Institute for the Study of Society and the Environment (ISSE) will incorporate and build on the long record of internationally recognized research conducted by the present Environmental and Societal Impacts Group (ESIG). It will include expanded visitor programs and new relationships with centers of excellence in the social science community.
The development of ISSE has been under way for some time, driven by an increasing recognition that atmospheric processes—such as airborne dispersal of pollutants, extreme weather events, and long-term climate change—need to be examined in the context of other environmental and societal stresses to fully understand their impacts and interactions. Addressing this challenge requires the creative integration of physical and social science methods and approaches. Moreover, bringing interdisciplinary science to bear on societal issues requires new approaches for understanding the context in which information is used, and forging feedbacks to the conduct of research itself.

ESIG director Robert Harriss is overseeing the creation of ISSE while NCAR searches for a director of the new institute. "ISSE will become an integrative force across the newly reorganized NCAR, and hopefully contribute to a transformation of the science-society interface," says Harriss.

• Also on the drawing board, The Institute for Multidisciplinary Earth Studies (TIMES) would provide leadership and promote interactions so that new and current initiatives associated with multidisciplinary earth studies (including biogeosciences, wildland fire, and the water cycle) can be fostered and integrated.

The reorganization will be phased in over a period of about 12 to 18 months, beginning in June. "We’re going to do this very carefully," says NCAR deputy director Larry Winter. "This is an opportunity to make our organization more efficient, as well as more focused on major scientific themes."

• David Hosansky and Bob Henson

The new laboratories

NCAR's five new laboratories are organized in a thematic way to align with the center’s mission. Each laboratory will have primary, but not exclusive, responsibility for a specific aspect of NCAR's mission; all laboratories will participate in every mission area to some degree. Below are the five laboratories, along with the current NCAR divisions and activities (in blue) and newly formed or proposed institutes (in green) that each will incorporate. NCAR will continue to seed cutting-edge work through its strategic initiative process.

Advanced Studies Education and Training—Support and enhance NCAR's role in atmospheric and related science education

Advanced Study Program, including new graduate research fellowships
Institute for the Study of Society and the Environment
, which will build on the long-standing ESIG to create a broader program

Sun, Weather, and Climate Laboratory—Plan, organize, and conduct atmospheric and related research programs in collaboration with universities and other institutions

Atmospheric Chemistry Division
Climate and Global Dynamics Division
High Altitude Observatory
Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division

Earth Observing Laboratory and Computational and Information Systems Laboratory—Provide state-of-the-art research tools and facilities to the atmospheric sciences community

Atmospheric Technology Division
Scientific Computing Division
Institute for Mathematics Applied to the Geosciences

Scientific Applications Laboratory—Transfer technology to both the public and private sectors

Research Applications Program
Development Testbed Center
The Institute for Multidisciplinary Earth Studies


Also in this issue...

A new line of research catches fire

Initiatives in Brief: Data Assimilation Initiative (DAI)

President’s Corner - Pathways to careers in the geosciences: GEO Forum 2004

Web Watch - A current-weather site for specialists as well as generalists

Science Bit - Humidities drop while moisture climbs at upper levels

Science Bit - More evidence for snowball Earth

UCAR Community Calendar