The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) was founded over 30 years ago by 14 universities, under sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to enhance and extend the capabilities of the university atmospheric sciences community through the management and operation of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Since UCAR and NCAR's creation, there have been enormous changes in the world. Human activities, driven by a doubling of population during this period, are significantly changing the composition of the atmosphere and characteristics of the earth's surface, and there are increasing concerns that these changes may affect regional and global climate and weather in ways that will have profound impact on humans during the decades ahead. Growth and shifts of population have made society increasingly vulnerable to severe weather phenomena such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, thereby increasing the need for improved forecasts and warnings of these extreme events.
Atmospheric sciences have also evolved fundamentally and significantly since the early days of UCAR and NCAR. In order to understand the interactive earth system, atmospheric scientists have recognized the critical need to work with scientists from neighboring disciplines, including biology, chemistry, ecology, engineering, geology, geography, hydrology, oceanography, and the social sciences; atmospheric sciences have necessarily become increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. Significant new methods and tools have emerged for studying and predicting the atmosphere and its relationship with the sun and with other components of the earth system. These tools include supercomputers, satellites, radars, instrumented aircraft, and advanced instruments capable of measuring infinitesimal quantities of gases and particles in the atmosphere and oceans. The revolution in telecommunications has facilitated collaboration among widely distributed scientists and research groups and has made possible rapid dissemination of data.
Understanding the atmosphere and its interactions with the earth system and developing methods for predicting its behavior on time scales ranging from minutes to decades represents an enormous intellectual challenge. This challenge assumes equal practical importance in meeting (a) the immediate needs of society for better weather predictions and warnings, and (b) the long-term needs of policymakers and leaders in all nations for predictions of future environmental change and data on how their policies and actions might mitigate--or even take advantage of--the impacts that result.
The universities, UCAR, NCAR, and other research institutions have evolved over the years in response to new scientific opportunities and social responsibilities. UCAR's role in serving the universities and the nation now includes, in addition to the governance and management of NCAR, other research and education activities, leadership and initiative to coordinate and implement community programs, advocacy and communication, and transfer of technology. In all of these roles UCAR helps to build and strengthen partnerships among the universities, national laboratories, federal agencies, industry, and policymakers.
Because addressing many of the most important questions in the atmospheric and related sciences requires a multidisciplinary approach, UCAR must continue to broaden scientifically in appropriate ways--ways that build upon and strengthen UCAR's fundamental base in the atmospheric sciences. This continued scientific broadening of UCAR is the foundation for its strategic planning for the remainder of the decade and into the 21st century. The broadening of UCAR, however, must extend beyond neighboring scientific disciplines into other dimensions. The work force must be broadened to include more significant participation from women and minorities. Partnerships and team efforts among academia, the federal government, industry, and related professional associations must be developed and strengthened. The political base and the public- and private-sector advocacy for science must be enhanced through the cooperative efforts of UCAR and other organizations with similar goals. And finally, UCAR, which already has an important presence in international science, must extend its efforts in appropriate ways in the planning and carrying out of international scientific programs.
UCAR's programs will strive to achieve goals that can be summarized in six general areas:
Science--foster a broad scientific program of highest quality to address present and future needs of society
Research facilities--develop and acquire state-of-the-art scientific research facilities for the atmospheric and related scientific community
Education and training--devote significant attention to education and training, with emphasis on women and minorities
Advocacy, public policy, and communication--in cooperation with other institutions, play a strong role in developing enhanced and more effective methods of communication among scientists, policymakers, and the public in order to foster the use of science in the service of humankind
Technology transfer--in conjunction with the UCAR Foundation, transfer appropriate UCAR technology to the public and private sectors
Research and operational partnerships--strengthen the relationship between the operational and research communities in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences.
Of these six areas, science and research facilities are the highest priority. The other four areas, important in themselves, will be developed in a manner that supports advances in science and facilities.
To enable UCAR to fulfill its mission and to help achieve the above goals, UCAR has established four management goals: ensure the continued high quality of all UCAR programs, increase UCAR's communication and visibility, broaden the membership and governance of UCAR, and design and implement a comprehensive staff development program in order to create a stimulating and nurturing environment at UCAR that is conducive to productivity, diversity, high morale, and employee advancement.