UCAR 2001: A MID-COURSE ASSESSMENT
2001--A Strategic Outlook for the University Corporation for
Atmospheric Research was published by UCAR in May of
1992 after two years of discussion among the UCAR Board of
Representatives, sponsors, other community leaders and UCAR
management. About half of the period considered in that strategic
document has passed, and it would be appropriate on that score alone
to engage in reconsideration of the strategic goals of the
Corporation. In addition, recent changes in national politics and
budgets, and the overall arena in which science and technology must
operate today, make such a reexamination imperative.
Accordingly, UCAR has reviewed its mission and the progress toward
its goals and objectives to determine their timeliness, validity, and
appropriateness, and to modernize and change them where needed.
The overall, long-standing principle that UCAR's purpose remains
today as it has been always-to extend and support the capabilities
of the university community-sets the context for the reexamination.
The constituency of Members, Trustees, sponsors and others who
developed the original strategic plan and endorsed its contents was
involved in the reexamination; notable milestones in this review
were discussions throughout 1995 at each Board of Trustees
meeting, with the
Relations Committee of the UCAR Members at its meetings on
22-23 May and 6-7 November 1995, with the UCAR Trustee Budget
and Programs and Executive Committee on 4-5 May 1995, and finally
with the UCAR Members at the October 1995 Annual Meeting.
2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Four general conclusions resulted from the reexamination. First and
fundamental is the conclusion that the UCAR mission as stated in
UCAR 2001 continues to be valid and appropriate:
to support, enhance, and extend the capabilities of the university
community, nationally and internationally; to understand the
behavior of the atmospheric and related systems and the global
environment; and to foster the transfer of knowledge and technology
for the betterment of life on earth.
The underlying principle for UCAR to pursue this mission is to
support and broaden university-based research and education; while
the environment has evolved and will continue to do so, the principle
is today more valid than ever and essential.
Second, the six goal areas identified in UCAR 2001 remain
worthy, consistent with UCAR's mission, and relevant to its
constituent community. These goal areas are: science; research
facilities; education and training; advocacy, public policy, and
communication; technology transfer; and research and operational
partnerships. And finally, good to excellent progress has been made
toward the objectives laid out within each of these goal areas,
while lessons have been learned from some programs which changed
dramatically or evolved out of existence.
3. WHAT PROGRESS HAS THERE BEEN?
It would lengthen this paper unacceptably to recite all the activities
and programs that together lead us to conclude that "good to
excellent" progress has been made in all six goal areas and
their related objectives. Alternatively, we have selected a very
limited number of examples under each goal area as demonstrative
of that progress.
UCAR advances its goals through the National Center for Atmospheric
Research (NCAR) and the UCAR
Office of Programs (UOP), and with
collaborators in the U.S. and throughout the world that extend UCAR's
broadly based programs well beyond the geographic confines of Boulder,
Colorado and the physical facilities located there. UCAR comprises a
world-wide community of scholars, students, technicians, engineers and
other professionals engaged in research and education. Each and every
one of the accomplishments asserted here-and all of those not included
as well-depend on that community's involvement.
And finally, these achievements depend on the sponsorship by the
Federal agencies that supported the work of UCAR's activities and its
partners in research, education and technology around the world.
Absent these sponsors the work would not have been possible. Sponsors
include: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA), the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), the Department of Energy
(DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), the
U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, and counterpart agencies in other
3.1 Progress in the six goal areas
Science: Foster a broad scientific program of highest quality to
address present and future needs of society
As a result of intensive, focused development at NCAR, the first
version of the Climate System Model (CSM) will be released for
community use in the spring of 1996. Mesoscale, cloud scale, large
eddy simulation, upper atmosphere, turbulence, and chemical transport
models developed by NCAR and its collaborators are currently in use by
hundreds of scientists and students around the world. The
international Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Program Coupled
Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) was
successful in every aspect-scientific, facility support, logistical
arrangements, and data archiving. MLOPEX, the
Mauna Loa Observatory Photochemistry Experiment, involving researchers
from NCAR and many universities and laboratories, is providing new
insight into the global distributions of important trace chemical
species and how they are transported and interact with one another.
The U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) has been revitalized to
become a high-priority, multi-agency scientific program that is
addressing the crucial issues of short-to-intermediate range
forecasting, adaptive sampling, forecasting the landfall of
hurricanes, and quantitative precipitation forecasting. The Advanced
Stokes Polarimeter, now operating routinely at the Sacramento Peak
Observatory, is an international scientific success providing
unprecedented measurements of the sun's magnetic fields.
The successful launch of the GPS/MET (Global Positioning System/
Meteorology) satellite and subsequent retrieval and analysis of data
from that satellite are demonstrating how the Global Positioning
System can be used to derive atmospheric variables, such as the index
of refraction, water vapor, and temperature. Work is now underway to
determine how these global measurements can be used to improve weather
prediction and enhance climate studies.
Research facilities: Develop and acquire state-of-the-art
research facilities for the atmospheric and related scientific
Within the past five years, NCAR's Atmospheric Technology Division (ATD) has replaced a large
fraction of the observational facilities it operates with next
generation systems. Older aircraft have been retired to make way for
the more capable C-130 and WB57. The C-130 was placed in operation in
1994, and the WB57's first research mission is planned to occur in
1996. The Electra Doppler Radar (ELDORA), aboard the Electra, proved
its incredible worth as an airborne research tool during VORTEX
(Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment).
General computing capacity has grown steadily. Special emphasis has
been placed on meeting the computing requirements for climate
modeling. The Climate Simulation Laboratory (CSL), a distributed
laboratory of dedicated computing resources has been established,
greatly enhancing the computing power available for climate
Because of their wide-spread use and the community's involvement in
their development, many of NCAR's models are in fact community
facilities. Two examples, The Community Climate Model (CCM)
(MM5) are available through the World Wide Web (WWW). These and
other NCAR models are constantly being improved in close collaboration
with universities and other laboratories.
Education and training: Devote significant attention to education
training, with emphasis on women and minorities
The long-standing and successful Summer Employment Program has led
SOARS--Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and
Science. SOARS will provide a combination of graduate fellowships and
summer research employment to a targeted group of undergraduate
minority students. SOARS is expected to increase significantly the
number of people from underrepresented populations with graduate
degrees in the atmospheric and related sciences. In another area of
education, Project LEARN (Laboratory Experience on Atmospheric Research
at NCAR) has created a cadre of 40 middle school teachers in four
states who have gained new expertise in science teaching, developed
hands- on laboratory lessons, and taken responsibility to train other
teachers in these techniques.
Another example is
Project Skymath, which is based on the success of Unidata
and its delivery of real-time weather data to over 150 campuses
country. With the assistance of the universities of Colorado and
Skymath will develop, test and disseminate an atmospheric-based
teaching mathematics to sixth through eighth graders. Unidata is
exploring the possibility making its capabilities for data delivery,
via the Internet, available to a wider range of disciplines in the
Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training)
has taught 24 residence courses, offering 92 weeks of instruction to
U.S. and foreign weather forecasters, and has published and
worldwide 14 computer-based learning modules for in-service and
instruction in weather forecasting techniques. COMET modules are
increasing interest in the use of multi-media technology for
at the undergraduate level; to support this interest, COMET has
an educational resource laboratory to assist college and university
in adapting this technology to their classrooms.
Advocacy, public policy, and communication: In cooperation with
institutions, play a strong role in developing enhanced and more
methods of communication among scientists, policymakers, and the
in order to foster the use of science in the service of humankind
Although UCAR identified this as an important goal area in 1992, when
UCAR 2001 was published, conflicting messages were being sent
to the scientific community about how scientists should communicate to
elected government officials. While many recognized the importance of
general communication to the public, directly and via the media, some
scientists were reluctant to become active advocates of science
through direct communication with the administration and Congress.
Now, however, spurred by serious threats to the federal funding of
science, the message from the administration, Congress, and
professional organizations such as the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) is
clear: scientists must become involved directly in the advocacy
process. UCAR, through its national academic network has responded,
with others, by coordinating a more effective advocacy effort.
UCAR has taken advantage of the dramatic advances in electronic
networking and communication over the past few years to establish
timely communication with the UCAR community on issues of importance
to that community. Using the Internet especially the WWW, it is now
possible to reach colleagues across the nation virtually instantly on
matters of urgency. This capability has been especially useful in the
past two years, a time of an uncertain and threatening budget and
political situation in Washington. Through timely messages from the
UCAR Office of Government Affairs (OGA) and the UCAR President,
representatives of the 61 UCAR universities and the 18
are encouraged to communicate with the administration and Congress
about issues of importance to science and education.
Another dramatic change in UCAR's advocacy and communication
activities has occurred with the strengthening of partnerships with
other professional organizations, particularly the American
Meteorological Society (AMS), the AAAS, Coalition for National Science
Funding (CNSF) and the National Association of State Universities and
Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC). Again, using the Internet, these
organizations share, easily and quickly, timely information, such as
speeches, budgets, and plans. The partnership with these
organizations leverages the limited resources available to each for
the benefit of all.
All of UCAR's external and internal communications products have been
revamped to reflect today's need for modular, concise and timely
information for the public, sponsors and staff members. Electronic
distribution via the Internet is been employed with ever increasing
effectiveness. The UCAR home page on the WWW is a gateway to useful
information about all UCAR programs and activities as well as to the
global community of atmospheric scientists and educators.
Technology transfer: In conjunction with the UCAR Foundation,
appropriate UCAR technology to the public and private sectors
A prime example of technology transfer at UCAR is the work of NCAR's
Research Applications Program (RAP) in conjunction with
the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (MMM). Through RAP, research
products and services have been applied to the field of aviation
weather hazards. Operational windshear detection and warning systems
have been furnished to the FAA, the sponsor of this work, for use at
approximately 50 U.S. airports.
Through the UCAR Office of Intellectual Property, commercialization
rights to UCAR technology have been transferred to the public sector
and to the UCAR Foundation and its subsidiary, Weather Information
Technologies Incorporated (WITI). In addition, WITI is employing
these NCAR technologies and expertise in a commercial contract to
design an operational windshear warning system for the new Hong Kong
airport at Chek Lap Kok, has performed a weather safety hazards
analysis at the new Macao airport, and is consulting with the Taiwan
government on aviation safety hazards in that country.
COMET computer-based learning modules are furnished to Federal
sponsors and also are being sold nationally and internationally to
various users of weather information. The modules are currently being
produced in CD ROM formats and this is expected to increase sales.
Licensing of NCAR Graphics to the university community at the cost of
reproduction continue as do sales to commercial customers. A total of
16 commercial and research licenses for hardware developments have
been issued to date to various industrial and university groups.
Notable among these are licenses for two advanced technologies
developed in NCAR's Atmospheric Technology Division. The NAVAID-based
lightweight digital dropwindsonde is widely used in support of
mesoscale research studies and hurricane reconnaissance The PC
Integrated Radar ACquisition (PIRAQ) system provides personal
computers with sophisticated cost-effective radar signal processing
and display capabilities on a plug-in printed circuit board.
All of UCAR's commercial activities return revenues that support
research and technology development in UCAR programs, either as direct
funding of associated research work or profit-sharing.
Research and operational partnerships: Strengthen the relationship
between the operational and research communities in the atmospheric
and oceanic sciences
COMET has contributed very strongly to increased interactions between
university research and teaching faculty and operational weather
forecasters through its in-residence courses as well as outreach and
partners programs (which fund collaborative efforts between scientists
at weather service forecast offices and nearby universities). UCAR's
Visiting Scientist Program (VSP) is credited
by the director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction
(NCEP-formerly the National Meteorological Center) with providing the
NCEP with an influx of "new blood and new ideas." In
operation since 1985, VSP-supported scientists have contributed to
documented improvements in operational forecast models.
RAP, sponsored by the FAA, is a model of close collaboration among
researchers, federal operations and users, leading to improved
aviation safety at U.S. airports. The chief scientist for the USWRP
is at NCAR and has led the planning effort which appears finally to
have garnered funding and agency support. The GPS/MET
proof-of-concept experiment provided a stellar example of cooperation
between the public and private sectors. The low-cost GPS/MET
satellite system proved the feasibility of using the radio signals
from GPS navigational satellites to obtain soundings of refractivity
index (and, in turn, temperature and even perhaps water vapor
pressure) from near the Earth's surface to approximately 80 kilometers
above the surface. This experiment and other applications of GPS
technology to meteorology have shown how UCAR can stimulate
cross-disciplinary transfer of technology and know-how within the
3.2 The Other Side of the Coin
There are also examples of programs or activities that have ended or
evolved significantly for various reasons, and these were examined to
see if there are general lessons to be learned. Programs had
difficulties if one or more of the following characteristics
pertained: the quality of the program was not high enough; there were
leadership and/or management weaknesses; difficulties with the sponsor
or the university community existed; or the need for the program
changed or vanished. Examples of programs that ended or dramatically
evolved during this period include the Institute for Naval
Oceanography (INO), the Southern Oxidants Study (SOS), the Office for
Interdisciplinary Earth Studies (OIES), the Corporate Affiliates
Program (CAP), and the Roberts Institute.
In spite of having concluded that the fundamental precepts defined and
expressed in UCAR 2001 are valid and that good to excellent
progress has been made in all areas, there are some changes or
mid-course corrections called for. Some of these are strategic in
nature, others tactical. Effecting these changes will be an important
test of the institutions ability to evolve.
- Reconsider how science is done at UCAR and NCAR. Emphasize
long-term strategic alliances, always with the aim of
leveraging all resources for the benefit of all parties in the
- Actively develop opportunities for strategic alliances, at the
local, state, regional, national and international levels, as
alternate paths toward the goals established in UCAR 2001.
- Maintain and strengthen where possible and with enhanced vigor:
- service to universities
- collaboration with universities and others
- In order to maximize available resources, continued close
coordination and planning with the universities, NSF and other
agencies is essential.
- Examine the organizational structure of the programs and
activities of UCAR, NCAR and UOP, to ensure that all aspects of the
structure are optimal and suit the way in which science will be funded
and conducted. Such examinations should include consideration of
policies, procedures, and other administrative aspects, as well as
interpretation and understanding of the cultures of current
sponsors and new ones, such as industry.
- Maintain a high degree of agility and flexibility so that new
opportunities can be effectively explored and developed.
- Continuously review practices for administrative efficiencies and
for cost containment measures, especially with respect to fixed costs
that limit flexibility.
TACTICAL AND/OR PRESENTATIONAL
- Examine and understand the fit of UCAR's strategic plans with
those of UCAR's sponsors, especially the National Science Foundation.
- Recognize and express explicitly UCAR's capacity to act as an
institution in a leadership role for the community, in addition to
the individual leadership, such as through participation in national
and international planning activities that occur routinely.
- Communicate the consistency of NCAR and UOP activities with UCAR's
mission and the six goal areas.
- In developing strategic alliances at regional, state or local
levels, ensure that UCAR universities and the relevant local agencies
are genuinely involved in the effort; seek and develop other sources
of support such as in the private sector.
- Sensible scheduling by the community of field programs is
important to maximize use of constrained resources available to
support such activities.
- Give priority to programs based on (listed alphabetically):
and if necessary make reductions in consultation with the university
community and sponsors.
- appropriateness for a national center
- scientific importance
- service to university community
- sponsor need
- Consider whether retraining of existing personnel is an option as
the environment and needs change. Make greater use of visitor and
term appointments; and in hiring, retaining and promoting staff,
- entrepreneurial qualities
- closeness of fit of skills and experiences with UCAR mission
- potential contributions to NCAR or UOP
- Implement the UCAR scientist appointment policy, revised by
management and the Board of Trustees during 1994-1995 to broaden the
criteria considered for advancement.
- Ensure that the willingness and ability to change is reflected
well in all representations of the institution, oral and written.
- Revisit the need to broaden the range of expertise on the UCAR
Board of Trustees and determine if there are reasonable and
appropriate means to achieve that breadth. (A step was taken to
implement this suggestion at the October 1995 Members' meeting, when
the Members endorsed the proposal to have a slate for election of
Trustees of now fewer than six candidates, rather than the canonical
eight that has been practice for over 30 years. )
- And, finally, issue and disseminate this mid-course assessment of
UCAR 2001, to reflect progress and changes for the future.
5. THE NEW CONTEXT AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Reference has been made several times to the new social, political,
and budgetary climate in which science in the United States must now
operate. The changes are abrupt, significant and not fully known or
understood. However, in the view of many, they are likely to be long
term. We see public and federal views of science that range from
disenchantment to outright hostility and disdain. We see sweeping
reform of organizations, and budgets being considered with little to
no attention paid to the impacts of that reform. Funding decisions
are uncertain, long-delayed, and hostage to political interests that
are more often than not unrelated to the programs at stake. The only
certainty as this document is being written is the high degree of
uncertainty in the decisions that affect UCAR as a part of the
national science community.
UCAR, working together with its Member universities and Academic
Affiliates, its sponsors, and its partners such as the AMS, NASULGC,
the American Geophysical Union, and the AAAS can help move the
political debate along and shape its outcome. UCAR of course must
also be able to respond well and nimbly as the environment becomes
In the face of current national instabilities and the sure and certain
conviction that more change is likely, UCAR must and will continue to
examine its role and its future with the aim of sustaining and even
enhancing its role as an important and contributing member of the
world's scientific community. We will do this in alliance with the
constituents we serve-the universities, our sponsors, other
laboratories and the citizens of the United States whose tax dollars
support us. We will strive always to look forward and to anticipate
important new directions for the atmospheric and related sciences so
that UCAR' s contributions are timely, relevant, and intellectually
Susan Friberg <email@example.com>
Last modified: Mon May 20 01:26:37 1996