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An interview with scientist liaison Sasha Madronich

ACD senior scientist Sasha Madronich has begun a one-year term in the newly created part-time position of scientist liaison in the NCAR Directorate. He is working with Tim Killeen and scientist colleagues on a variety of projects, including disseminating a new report on the status of associate and project scientists and holding meetings about the review process for scientists III and senior scientists. He also serves as a point of contact with the NCAR Scientist Assembly. SN Monthly recently interviewed Sasha about his new role.

SN: Since scientist liaison is a new position in the NCAR director’s office, can you start by describing your main functions?

Sasha: The scientist liaison helps give Tim a perspective from the scientific staff in his regular meetings. This is a one-third time position. It will rotate from year to year among scientists in the different divisions. My objective is really to give the scientists more of a voice in setting NCAR’s direction.

SN: You’ve been working on the response to the report by the Associate and Project Scientists Review Committee. Can you tell us about that?

Sasha: The impetus here is the feeling that the positions of project and associate scientists have not been used uniformly across NCAR. Some divisions have one understanding of what those job categories mean, while other divisions have a different understanding. In fact, one of the strongest recommendations in the preliminary report, which came out at the end of July, was a more consistent usage of these job categories. The committee made a number of other recommendations and those are available on the Web (see below).

Tim has appointed a subcommittee of the directors committee, including myself, to formulate a response to the report from the management perspective by about the end of October. Certainly, more consistent application of these positions has met with broad support. But there are a number of issues here that do not have clear answers and need additional discussion.

SN: What about reviews of scientists III and senior scientists? At the moment, they are reviewed every five years. Is that likely to change?

Sasha: The short answer is I don’t know yet whether the process may change. What I’ve been doing is talking to a lot of people who have experience with the annual evaluation process and the five-year reviews. I also hope to get input from the Scientist Assembly.

SN: Why change the current system?

Sasha: The way it works now is that, every five years, the division directors have a retreat to discuss all the reviews of senior scientists and scientists III. This can be overwhelming because they’re looking at a lot of people in a short period of time.

Whether or not the evaluation process is changed, I should stress that the basic idea of the reviews is to promote professional development. Ideally, we would like each scientist to have an opportunity to receive constructive feedback from a very knowledgeable group, like peers and the division directors. It could be beneficial, to both the scientists and the institution, to take stock periodically of their scientific impact at national and international levels, as well as of their leadership role within NCAR.

SN: What else would you like to do during your year as scientist liaison?

Sasha: I would like to help engage the scientists more, across the divisions—in a less formal way—in science-related discussions. What I would like to see, for instance, is for us to enjoy each other’s scientific company more and, in some way, to revitalize the scientific communication process.

There is a tendency to become specialized, to work in smaller and smaller groups even when you are performing crossdivisional or multidisciplinary tasks. As a result, you do not know what other groups are doing. My goal is to have an interaction in which scientists exchange ideas with other scientists and find out what they are doing. What mechanism would accomplish this? I’m not sure. When I was at universities, we would have brown bag lunches and somebody would be appointed to speak. And the discussions that followed were really fascinating.


Also in this issue...

Learning from each other: Peer mentoring programs get off the ground

When in Rome . . .Up-the-Hill Races feature the fast, the slow, and the toga-clad

Sunny vacations? No way! RAP scientist leads tourists toward tornadoes

Hiaper workshop on Hiaper instrumentation

HAO models will give space weather forecasts a boost

Mohan Ramamurthy selected as Unidata director

Time to choose: HR announces annual enrollment period

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