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December 1998

Transition time for the Outstanding Performance Awards

At this year's holiday party on Friday, 11 December, a select group of staff will be recognized with the institution's most prestigious honors, the annual Outstanding Performance Awards. The ceremony is traditional, dating back to the awards' inauguration in 1967, but the selection process this year is a new one. It's part of a two-year transition meant to raise the profile of the awards and bring them more in line with the realities of how science is conducted today.

Dale Kellogg, executive assistant to NCAR director Bob Serafin, has been overseeing the award revamp. She formed a task force that included division directors, senior administrators, scientists, and engineers to review the current policy and practices. The task force recommended a two-tiered process of change to update the policy and raise the visibility of the awards. The President's Council endorsed the recommendations from the group and initiated the first stage--the creation of a single jury to review the nominations and make the awards.

Dale launched the effort for several reasons, one of which was the effort required each year to recruit people for the five different review committees (one for each of the five awards). These committees looked over the nominations submitted through division and program managers each fall.

"The old process left the review committees isolated," says Dale. "Because many people only wanted to serve once, you got a lot of new employees without a long-term institutional context." This year's jury of 17 people was drawn from across NCAR, UOP, and UCAR. Selected by divison and program managers and confirmed by the President's Council, the jury includes scientists, technical experts, administrators, and education-program managers. Each jury member will read every award nomination.

Because review of some of the nominations requires special expertise, the jury broke into subgroups not unlike the review committees of past years. However, these subgroups can be wider-ranging than their predecessors. For example, an administrator and a scientist might join with engineers to help evaluate the Technology Advancement nominees. The entire jury will receive reports from the subgroups and vote on the final award choices.

This year's jury registered strong support for the single-review-panel concept. In 1999, the Human Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC) will examine past policy and get feedback on this year's experience from jury members and others. The HRAC will then propose refinements to the new approach, which should be finalized by the President's Council in time for the 1999 awards.

One of the HRAC's tasks will be to update the nomination criteria in light of modern science practices. "Are the criteria flexible enough? Do they reflect the way we do things now?" asks Dale. For instance, the current policy limits teams to five members, but some recent awards have gone to working groups that encompass many more folks. Other policy issues include a few unwritten traditions, such as the inclusion of letters of recommendation, which need to be spelled out more clearly in the nomination guidelines (UCAR policy 2-5-2). The HRAC will also consider the possible establishment of one or two new award categories to recognize young scientists or exceptional achievements that do not fall neatly within any of the existing categories.

Finally, the task force would like to see the awards get their rightful share of attention. Dale notes that, "Aside from the holiday-party ceremony, there currently isn't much fanfare." •BH

On the Web:
1998 Performance Award nominations

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall