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
directors 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
SN: Youve 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 dont know yet whether the process
may change. What Ive 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 theyre 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
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 divisionsin
a less formal wayin science-related discussions. What I would like
to see, for instance, is for us to enjoy each others scientific
company more and, in some way, to revitalize the scientific communication
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? Im 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.
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workshop on Hiaper instrumentation
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Ramamurthy selected as Unidata director
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