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
the line. Readers with questions about the database or the assessment
can contact Metz, Sawyer,