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President's Corner

UCAR 2001--
A Mid-Course Assessment

UCAR 2001-A Strategic Outlook for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research was published in May 1992. Nearly half the period it considered has passed, and with so many changes in the overall arena in which science and technology must operate, it is time for a reexamination.

Accordingly, during 1995, UCAR, the trustees, the members' representatives, and the University Relations Committee reviewed UCAR's mission and the progress toward the goals and objectives set in UCAR 2001 to determine their currency, validity, and appropriateness, and to update and change them where needed. This column is a summary of the results of that examination, titled UCAR 2001--A Mid-Course Assessment. The complete text of the original UCAR 2001 and the recent assessment are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ucar.edu/info/.

A fundamental conclusion of the review is that UCAR's mission is valid and appropriate and the six goals identified in UCAR 2001 remain worthy and consistent with UCAR's mission (see box, page 3). Good to excellent progress has been made toward each of the goals, and lessons have been learned from some programs that changed dramatically or evolved out of existence. UCAR 2001-A Mid--Course Assessment describes sample accomplishments that led us to these conclusions.

Several strategic adjustments were identified as appropriate for the rest of the decade:

  • Reconsider how science is done at UCAR and NCAR. Emphasize long-term strategic alliances, with the aim always of leveraging all resources for the benefit of all parties in the alliance.

  • Actively develop opportunities for strategic alliances, at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels, as alternate paths toward the goals established in UCAR 2001.

  • Maintain, and strengthen where possible, UCAR's leadership, service to universities, collaboration with universities and others, breadth, quality, and flexibility.

  • In an era of declining resources, maintain close coordination and planning with the universities, NSF, and other agencies.

  • Examine the organizational structure of UCAR, NCAR, and UOP to ensure that all aspects of the structure are optimal and suit the way in which science will be funded and conducted. Such examinations should include consideration of policies, procedures, and administrative aspects, as well as interpretation and understanding of the cultures of sponsors.

  • Maintain a high degree of agility and flexibility so that new opportunities can be effectively explored and developed.

  • Continuously review practices for administrative efficiencies and for cost containment measures.

    During our assessment, we were keenly aware of the new social, political, and budgetary climate in which science in the United States must now operate. The changes from even the recent past are abrupt and significant, and their effects are not fully known. However, they are likely to be long term. We see an increasing tendency for the public and government to view science with disenchantment and sometimes outright hostility. We see sweeping reform of organizations and budgets being considered with little to no attention paid to the impacts of that reform. Funding decisions are uncertain, long delayed, and hostage to political interests that are often unrelated to the programs at stake. The only certainty seems to be the high degree of uncertainty in the decisions that affect UCAR and its university colleagues.

    In the face of current national instabilities and the sure and certain conviction that more change is likely, UCAR will continue to examine its role and its future with the aim of enhancing its ability to be a contributing member of the nation's and the world's scientific community. UCAR, working together with its members, affiliates, and sponsors and partners such as the American Meteorological Society, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, can and must help move the political debate along, shaping its outcome in the process. We will strive always to look forward and to anticipate important new directions for the atmospheric and related sciences so that our contributions are timely, relevant, and intellectually sound.

    As we go to press . . . an open letter to Ben Santer

    Over the past several months there has been an apparently organized letter-writing campaign by a few individuals to the media attacking the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report Climate Change 1995 and the lead author of Chapter 8, Dr. Benjamin D. Santer. In response, the Executive Committee of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and UCAR Board of Trustees have written an open letter of support for Dr. Santer and the other scientists who have worked diligently through the IPCC process to arrive at the best possible scientific assessment of climate change and the possible role of humans in contributing to it. The open letter and related attachments are reprinted in this issue of the UCAR Quarterly; they are also being published in the August issue of the AMS Newsletter and the September Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

    The charges that have been made in the media and via electronic mail should not obscure a key, carefully worded and peer-reviewed finding of the IPCC:

    "Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long-term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." (Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers).

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    Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
    Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
    Last revised: Tue Apr 4 09:33:26 MDT 2000