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Rounding up facilities


This Gulfstream-V aircraft is among the newest NSF/NCAR facilities available for community use.

If you’re looking for a particular instrument or measurement capability for your next field campaign, it’s possible the best choice is out there unbeknown to you. A major effort is now under way to catalog the many observing tools for atmospheric science on hand at government agencies, universities, national laboratories, international organizations, and private firms.

On behalf of NSF, NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) is carrying out this facilities assessment. In order to succeed, it needs community researchers to help populate an online database over the next few weeks (see “On the Web”).

“We’ve never had a big-picture assessment of all the facilities available to atmospheric science in the United States,” says principal investigator and EOL assistant director Karyn Sawyer, whose official charge is to provide a formal assessment of the available facilities. The community will benefit from the online database, which will catalog each facility and instrument in a consistent, easy-to-read format. “We’ll also be looking for emerging technologies that could benefit from strategic investment,” says former NCAR director Robert Serafin, who is chairing the assessment.

Scientists can submit entries to the database any time, but project administrator Sara Metz hopes they will pitch in by early June in order to help organizers plan a September workshop in Boulder. That meeting, which follows the NSF Facilities Users’ Workshop, will examine gaps in the community-wide portfolio of facilities and measurement capabilities.

After the formal assessment is complete, EOL will maintain the online database and update it regularly, according to Metz. She notes that, while scientists are accustomed to using peer networks and common Web search engines to identify the tools and facilities they need, that process isn’t always effective.

“Google is fantastic if you know what you’re looking for,” says Metz. However, if a facility is outside one’s area of greatest expertise, or if its PI doesn’t keep good online records, then a Web search could prove fruitless. The new online catalog promises to help connect scientists to observing tools more efficiently, assuming the community populates the catalog as diligently as Metz and Sawyer hope.

The assessment leaders emphasize that adding an instrument to the database doesn’t commit anyone to making it available more broadly—“No one is obligated in any way, ” Sawyer points out—but it could lead to an unexpected and rewarding collaboration down the line. Readers with questions about the database or the assessment can contact Metz, Sawyer, or Serafin.

On the Web image2 image3

NSF Facilities Assessment

The database

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