3. Challenges and Opportunities for the Atmospheric and Related Sciences in the 1990s

UCAR's strategy to achieve its mission and to meet the scientific, technological, and educational challenges faced by the atmospheric and related sciences community must consider the changing scientific and technological environment, the fiscal and human resources environment, and UCAR's many-faceted constituency.

3.1 The Scientific and Technological Environment

Progress in the atmospheric and related sciences has always depended on an appropriate balance of research carried out in different ways: by individual scientists, by collaborative teams that vary in size and degree of organization, and through large national and international programs entailing significant coordination, focus, and management. UCAR neither expects this blend of activities to change nor believes that it should. Rather, UCAR expects that new connections among disciplines, sectors of society, institutions, and countries will be created.

Many of the most important, challenging, and intellectually exciting research issues involving atmospheric, oceanic, and related scientists during the next decade will be found at the interfaces among the atmospheric and related sciences. The interactions among the oceans, biosphere, solid earth, atmosphere, and human society are central to the evolution of the climate system, and human activities are becoming increasingly important in bringing about changes in each of these components.

Study and prediction of the weather events that most directly affect humankind in the short term--mesoscale meteorology--also are of paramount importance. The Doppler radars and atmospheric wind and thermodynamic profilers being installed as part of the NWS modernization plan will complement the global satellite network, together creating a stream of high-resolution data that will create opportunities for improving understanding and prediction of these events. It is clear that meteorology is entering an era when prediction of small-scale weather systems is poised to move forward at an accelerated pace, much as did the prediction of synoptic-scale systems in the 1950s.

In spite of the widely recognized societal impacts of weather, climate, and global change, and the readiness of the atmospheric and related sciences to engage in the studies and programs required to elucidate these phenomena, difficult challenges must be overcome in the 1990s before the full potential of the science and technology can be realized. The observational, and to some extent the computational, facilities available to the atmospheric sciences community in universities are on the verge of becoming, or are already, obsolete. The means to acquire, operate, maintain, and upgrade the next generation of facilities needed to make scientific progress must be found. Techniques must be developed to transform the almost unimaginable amounts of data that will be collected from satellites and other observational systems, and generated by advanced models of the earth system, into information that can be readily interpreted and used.

Effective interdisciplinary science and successful partnerships among communities with historically different roles and traditional patterns of interaction will depend on new attitudes on the part of scientists, managers, and sponsors, as well as on innovative, flexible institutional arrangements. Demands from policy makers for simple and unequivocal answers to complex questions will require the research community and government agencies to work much more closely with the policymaking structure than in the past, not only to provide the best answers possible but also to help shape the questions. Industry--vital to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life throughout the world--and the scientific community must forge new partnerships to find solutions to the many pressing environmental issues that exist. And finally, any significant, long-term progress in solving the array of major environmental problems hinges on educating the world's youth, both to develop the intellectual talent required to find solutions and to ensure public understanding of the local, regional, and global impacts of human activities.

3.2 The Fiscal and Human Resources Environment

Two significant challenges in the next decade for atmospheric and related science are to gather and deploy the requisite fiscal resources and to ensure that people with the needed talents and skills are entrained and nurtured. UCAR's strategy is to pursue diversity in both arenas. UCAR will continue to work with its traditional funding partners but will identify and pursue other avenues of support for its programs. Vigorous action to expand the traditional pools of people who can contribute will also be taken.

Extensive and competing demands on the federal budget, coupled with the national deficit, will make real growth in government-supported research difficult to achieve in the next decade. The cost of resources needed to exploit fully existing scientific opportunities greatly exceeds the capability of a single federal agency. Hence, a broad and creative funding strategy is needed to secure and sustain the incremental resources required to accelerate scientific progress on global environmental problems.

Of fundamental importance to the health of science and education in the United States is the NSF's traditional and unique responsibility to support basic research activities in the universities, colleges, and centers, and to promote educational activities that will lead to a fully developed scientific and technological base for this country. NSF has historically been a major supporter of basic atmospheric science research in the United States and has been the dominant sponsor of UCAR programs.

In 1987 the NSF-UCAR Long-Range Planning Committee noted that meeting the opportunities and challenges of the 1990s would require significant new resources as well as reprogramming of existing resources. The Committee recommended an increase in the NSF Atmospheric Sciences Division (ATM) budget by a factor slightly greater than a doubling for the period 1989-94. In fact, the NSF-ATM budget has declined in real dollars during the past several years, as shown in Figure 5. As a result, there has been a serious erosion of support in both the university grants program and NCAR for fundamental areas of atmospheric science, including solar physics; physical, dynamic, and synoptic meteorology; and climate.

UCAR's overall funding strategy is to seek a broadened base of support from a diversity of sources. Agencies other than NSF now constitute more than half of the total funding for atmospheric sciences in the universities, NCAR, and other UCAR programs (see Figure 6) and there is a great potential synergism between NSF and other-agency programs in the atmospheric and related sciences. Figure 7 shows the current distribution by funding source of support to UCAR activities, and distribution of these funds among the programs within UCAR.

UCAR will also work to enhance the three-way partnership among the federal government, university and UCAR programs, and the private sector, in order to augment overall funding levels. Success in involving these partners will leverage the resources of all participants. The enhanced transfer of technology from basic and applied research to industry generated by these partnerships will ultimately contribute to the improvement of the nation's competitiveness across a broad front. At the same time, revenues generated by this transfer of technology will form an increasingly important supplemental source of support for UCAR's basic research activities. In addition, UCAR's Development Office will seek private philanthropic funds to augment other sources. The new partnerships with the private sector and the mission agencies are being developed in ways that support basic science and education and do not conflict with the free exchange of scientific results and technologies among members of the UCAR community.

Effective use of human resources is another challenge for UCAR. The 1990s will witness a steady, significant increase in the racial and cultural diversity of the U.S. work force. Women and minorities are currently significantly underrepresented in science and engineering, as documented in Table 4. Social conditions in the United States have not been conducive to these populations' choosing careers in science and engineering and discrimination has often kept female and minority scientists and engineers from career advancement. The impending shortage of science and engineering professionals in this country is a catalyst for increased scientific literacy for, and participation by, all people if the United States is to maintain its competitive role in science and technology. UCAR will encourage young people to enter the fields of science and technology, will aggressively recruit women and minorities, and will create and maintain a working environment that encourages its female and minority professional staff to achieve positions of the highest level. UCAR will establish special programs and positions toward this goal.

3.3 The Constituent Environment

UCAR serves, as do its university partners, diverse constituencies which often have competing demands and interests. UCAR's five major constituencies are: the scientists and students in the university community; the employees of UCAR; the federal sponsors of UCAR programs (and, through this federal sponsorship, ultimately the public); the private sector; and, increasingly, the international scientific community.

Over the years, UCAR has supported a variety of scientific, educational, and service programs in the atmospheric and related sciences, arguing that such efforts are in the best interests of the public. UCAR has also served the university community, its own scientists, and federal agencies by providing mechanisms for setting priorities within its own broad scientific program. One of the most fundamental responsibilities that the university community exercises through its governance of UCAR is to determine priorities among UCAR's research, facility, and service programs and among competing scientific initiatives. While these priorities shape UCAR programs to reflect university interests, they also have a broader effect in influencing national funding priorities for the atmospheric and related sciences.

Setting of priorities has been a particular source of tension since the consortium was founded. The many individuals and institutions within the constituent communities have well-justified interests and priorities of their own. When UCAR's priorities differ from these, even though arrived at through consensus building, tensions rise, both within the UCAR research organizations and among UCAR's constituents. UCAR cannot hope to eliminate these tensions; it can and will work to ameliorate them through wise management of its community interactions.


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Contents
Mission Statement
Preface: The UCAR Vision
Executive Summary
1. The Global Environment
2. UCAR--Past and Present
3. Challenges and Opportunities
4. Corporate Goals for the Decade
5. A Look Ahead
Acronyms