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September 2006

Competition News: Interview with Rick Anthes

Rick Anthes

As many staff are already aware, over the next year UCAR will compete for the continued management of NCAR. This interview of Rick Anthes, UCAR president, conducted by Lucy Warner, director of communications, is the first in an ongoing series in Staff Notes Monthly to keep staff apprised of news of the competition process as it unfolds. We also welcome your questions, which can be addressed to Kathy Strand. We will include answers to questions of general interest in future columns.

Lucy Warner: Why is the National Science Foundation [NSF] asking us to compete for the first time in our history?

Why did NSF decide to compete the management of NCAR?

The following excerpt is taken directly from NSF's "Frequently Asked Questions" document regarding the competition. The document can be downloaded from the NSF Web site by following the link under "On the Web."

The competition is being held in accordance with the NSF policy on recompetition, as stated in the National Science Board's resolution 97-224: "expiring awards are to be recompeted unless it is judged to be in the best interest of U.S. science and engineering not to do so. This position is based on the conviction that peer-reviewed competition and recompetition is the process most likely to assure the best use of NSF funds for supporting research and education."

Rick Anthes: When our current Cooperative Agreement was signed with NSF in 2003, they gave strong indications that at the end of the agreement they would most likely have an open competition for the management of NCAR. Essentially, it's standard procedure according to their policy to recompete expiring awards. NSF feels that peer-reviewed competition is the most effective way to assure the best use of NSF funds, and I agree. It's a healthy process and one that we can use productively to focus on doing an even better job supporting NCAR in the future.

[To read NSF's formal answer to this question, see sidebar and "On the Web."]

Lucy: Who will be competing against us?

Rick: We don't know yet. It's still early in the process, but we haven't heard anything about competitors.

Lucy: How is this going to work?

Rick: We've already submitted what's called a "statement of capabilities." That was an optional stage of the process. It just established that UCAR is capable of managing NCAR—no surprise there! Next NSF will be asking for a short, preliminary proposal outlining our vision and our approach to managing NCAR. They will ask for it around the end of October and the proposal will be due at the end of January.

Lucy: When will we know if anyone else is planning to compete?

Rick: We'll hear back around mid-May, and only the organizations that are successful through this stage will be invited to submit full proposals, due in August. Presumably we'll know at that stage.

Lucy: How worried should we be about this?

Rick: We don't want to take anything for granted, of course, but we've got an excellent track record and we'll submit the best possible proposal. A big part of that proposal will be the excellent quality of our staff, and the best thing all of us can do is keep doing the great work we're doing.

Lucy: Are you worried personally?

Tentative timetable for recompetition

Full solicitation from NSF outlining the competition process,
October 2006

Preliminary proposal due to NSF,
January 31, 2007

Notice of outcome of preliminary proposal process, mid-May 2007

Full proposal due, August 1, 2007

Decision by NSF, TBD

Rick: Well, on some level I have to be worried because not winning would have very negative consequences for UCAR, and I believe for NCAR and the universities as well. So I take the competition very seriously. At the same time, I have a lot of confidence in our abilities and our record, and I don't have any doubt that we can win this.

Lucy: You said this was standard procedure. Who else has had their management competed?

Rick: Some of the DOE labs—Los Alamos, Brookhaven. And other NSF labs—NOAO [National Optical Astronomy Observatories and the National Solar Observatory] and NAIC [the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center–Arecibo Observatory]. It is becoming pretty commonplace.

Lucy: Sounds like this will be occupying us for the best part of the next year. Will many staff be directly involved?

Rick: I don't think most staff will be affected—we'll try to keep the process as painless as possible. My own staff and some of Katy [Schmoll]'s staff will be involved. Developing our new strategic plan with the University Relations Committee, the Board of Trustees, and a lot of UCAR, NCAR, UOP, and EO staff has been a great experience in preparing for the competition. We have many plans and reports to assist us in writing the proposal. The UCAR President's Council and some members of the UCAR Management Committee will be involved, of course. And the Board of Trustees will play a major role in the proposal development.

On the Web

Information on the Competition for the Management of the National Center for Atmospheric Research

In this issue...

Drifters at work

Competition News: Interview with Rick Anthes

Commuter of the Year: Jaime Shuey

2006 Up-the-Hill Races

UCAR named one of the best companies to work for in Colorado

Random Profile: Kyle Holden

Delphi Questions: Flag display at CG, EAC sponsorship

Just One Look


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