UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

September 2003

Time for a realignment?

For the next couple of months, NCAR’s realignment committee will consult with staffers from across the organization over possible adjustments to the organization’s structure. The goal of a realignment would be to ensure that NCAR continues to deliver scientific research needed by the university community and policy makers.

"An institution has to evolve over time," says NCAR director Tim Killeen. "We’re facing significant interdisciplinary science problems of national importance. The question for the realignment is: How can we adjust our current configuration to address these problems optimally?"

One possibility that is likely to be discussed is the creation of new entities, or institutes, within the organization. One of the possible institutes, which committee members refer to as "Crosscutting Initiatives," would focus on NCAR’s strategic initiatives (interdivisional programs, such as biogeoscience, that get funding each year). Another, which is referred to as "Math in Geosciences," would work on new mathematical techniques to support science throughout the organization.

In addition, the realignment committee is looking into the possibility of expanding and renaming two of its existing divisions. The Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, which may be renamed "Coupled Human-Natural Systems," will bring on board more social scientists to study how decision makers can make the best use of the latest environmental research to help society. The Advanced Study Program, which may become the "Advanced Studies Institute," will bring in more scientific visitors and more graduate students.

The realignment committee, which consists of members drawn from every division, will present a plan to Tim by Thanksgiving. (See Realignment Committee membership.) NCAR may begin to implement the changes next year.


NCAR deputy director Larry Winter.

Why a realignment now? NCAR deputy director Larry Winter, who is chairing the realignment committee, explains that science is changing and NCAR needs to make sure it is properly positioned to tackle emerging issues. For example, advances in computation, remote sensing, and physical theory are enabling researchers to address increasingly complex problems that have myriad impacts on society, such as droughts, wildfires, and interactions among the oceans, land cover, and the atmosphere. The realignment will help NCAR put a stronger emphasis on these and other problems, which comprise the organization’s strategic initiatives.

"This is a natural evolution of the organization in directions that allow us to address the large scientific needs of the nation in regard to climate and weather," Larry says.

Spurring the realignment, a review panel set up by NSF recommended last year that UCAR and NCAR "should think carefully about the current UCAR/NCAR management structures in the light of evolving research needs and leadership role of NCAR and should determine whether structural readjustments or realignments could best meet these evolving needs."

The committee does not expect to greatly transform or eliminate any
of NCAR’s nine divisions. Tim acknowledges that change can be unsettling to staffers, but he stresses that the realignment does not represent a major organizational shift. "These are modifications on the theme of NCAR," he says. "It’s not a complete restructuring."

NCAR has undergone several realignments in the past. Most recently, in the 1980s, the organization split up the Atmospheric Analysis and Prediction Division, much of which landed in the newly created Climate and Global Dynamics Division.

Under the coming realignment, scientists could fall into one of three categories, Larry says. One possibility is for some scientists to remain entirely within the existing divisions; some would split their time between the divisions and the new institutes, and some would work entirely within the new institutes.
Larry stresses that the changes should create minimal disruption. “We hope to disturb the institution as little as possible,” he says.

The committee has formed several subcomittees to review the implications of a realignment. The subcommittees are looking at the budgetary and administrative impacts of a realignment, as well as fleshing out plans to bolster mathematics and put a stronger focus on strategic initiatives.

During the next couple of months, Larry and other members of the realignment committee will hold a series of meetings with staffers to discuss realignment plans. Staffers can also can e-mail Larry at lwinter@ucar.edu or Catherine Shea in the director’s office at cshea@ucar.edu, or they can talk with one of the other committee members. •David Hosansky


Realignment Committee

NCAR deputy director Larry Winter, chair
Peter Backlund (Director’s Office)
Maurice Blackmon (CGD)
Rena Brasher-Alleva (Director’s Office)
Rit Carbone (MMM)
Brant Foote (RAP)
Bob Gall (MMM)
Al Kellie (SCD)
Joanie Kleypas (ESIG)
Sasha Madronich (ACD)
Hanne Mauriello (HAO)
Kathy Morgan (MMM)
Annick Pouquet (ASP)
Bob Serafin (ESIG)
Catherine Shea (Director’s Office)
Britton Stephens (ATD)
Joe Tribbia (CGD)

More about the realignment process


Also in this issue...

In the thick of climate change

UCAR quilters stitch for babies

Up-the-Hill 2003

Random Profile: Michelle Travis

Recollections from Steve Dickson

Delphi Question: Nap room

Will tomorrow's cities have clean air?


about staff notes
past issues
favorite photos
communications home
UCAR home