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Winter 2001

What's on your mind? UCAR Forum addresses university concerns

by Bob Henson

More than 100 university scientists and administrators, hailing from the 66 member institutions and 20 academic affiliates of UCAR, convened in Boulder on 9–10 October for the annual meeting of UCAR members. The meeting has long been a blend of official business, such as the election of trustees, and more informal mingling—a chance to share ideas and concerns with faculty colleagues from across North America.

Now part of the members' meeting is the UCAR Forum, a more structured way for attendees to discuss hot issues. This year's forum included four breakout groups on a variety of high- profile topics. Following an afternoon of small-group dialogue, the chairs for each group presented impressions and suggestions at the next day's plenary session.

Topics, co-chairs, and recommendations from this year's forum included:

  • Education and training (Eugene Takle, Iowa State University; Roberta Johnson, UCAR Office of Education and Outreach). The image of atmospheric science among students was a key theme. Many students see weathercasters on TV and don't realize meteorology is a rigorous science; thus, they often arrive at college ill prepared in math and physics. Later on, they may see graduates in computer science earning far more money and disregard the nonmonetary satisfactions to be had in atmospheric science. An alliance that includes UCAR, the universities, and professional societies such as the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society could develop content, encourage standards-based instruction, and reach as many K- 12 teachers as possible as early as possible, as part of a continuum of contact that begins while teachers are still being trained. Another suggestion was e-mail lists or a Web site to help keep university students and faculty informed of opportunities in education. Group members reacted positively to the idea of a summer leadership workshop for undergraduates. They expressed some concern about how much involvement in large NCAR-based education efforts was realistic for early-career faculty striving to make tenure.

  • Information technology (Kelvin Droegemeier, University of Oklahoma; David Fulker, Unidata; Al Kellie, NCAR Scientific Computing Division). In NCAR's upgraded Visualization Lab, the group participated in a live demonstration of AccessGrid. This collaborative, Internet-based tool allows groups of people at several sites to hear and see each other while sharing multimedia displays and presentations. Since the AccessGrid is not yet a turnkey system, university participation is limited by cost and maintenance issues. UCAR could play a role in demonstrating the AccessGrid to universities and facilitating its spread. In a broader sense, UCAR and the universities need to address the "five Ms" of the information revolution: making, moving, managing, merging, and mining digital resources. The group also discussed computer science training for future atmospheric scientists. Most undergraduate curricula require only onea or two programming courses, and it's still unclear how often the atmospheric scientists of tomorrow will be building their own code versus using programs written by others. The group expressed a desire for community models to be supported at the level of other shared facilities.

  • Observational facilities (Ronald Smith, Yale University; David Carlson, NCAR Atmospheric Technology Division). One way in which ATD might provide further assistance to the universities is by offering a chance to test instruments in the field apart from the demands of a field program. A break in the NSF/NCAR C-130 flight schedule has made this possible. The first round of open testing will be available to university researchers this spring (see ACE-Asia). The upcoming NSF/NCAR HIAPER aircraft (High- performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research) will provide an opportunity for instruments to be developed in concert with the new platform. NCAR is now exploring the use of interchangeable wing pods that could hold several hundred pounds of instruments each. As the Electra Doppler Radar moves to a Navy-managed P-3 aircraft, concerns need to be addressed about access for foreign investigators when field programs use military bases. UCAR and the universities could work together to help validate new satellite instruments, as is now being planned for the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment. Another UCAR role could be to help develop standard algorithms for extracting and manipulating the data gathered by community instruments.

  • Science thrusts (Christopher Bretherton, University of Washington; Tim Killeen, NCAR). This session focused on ways in which the research priorities of NCAR, UCAR, and the universities can be coordinated and sustained. Workshops hosted by NCAR are a proven success; next year a workshop will focus on data assimilation, an area of keen interest. Varying software protocols from different vendors have impeded universities from developing common standards for assimilation. One approach could be for NCAR to help create a "first-pass methodology." The assimilation workshop and others need to be as widely publicized as possible to open the door to new participants. There may also be other ways to use the connections that already link UCAR, NCAR, and the universities. The Community Climate System Model is one area where intensive university involvement is making a difference (see CCSM). NCAR is now exploring an Earth System Model Framework that could further enhance collaboration among university modelers.

    The 2002 UCAR Forum will explore issues pertaining to public- and private-sector interactions. If you have feedback or suggestions involving the forum, please contact Susan Friberg, friberg@ucar.edu, 303-497-1658.

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    Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
    Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
    Last revised: Thu Dec 20 16:42:17 MST 2001