UCAR 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 Trustees, Members 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 University 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.


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.


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 countries.

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 scientific research facilities for the atmospheric and related scientific community

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 research.

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 and training, with emphasis on women and minorities

The long-standing and successful Summer Employment Program has led to 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 across the country. With the assistance of the universities of Colorado and Michigan, Skymath will develop, test and disseminate an atmospheric-based module for teaching mathematics to sixth through eighth graders. Unidata is exploring the possibility making its capabilities for data delivery, now accomplished via the Internet, available to a wider range of disciplines in the geosciences. COMET (Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training) has taught 24 residence courses, offering 92 weeks of instruction to 500 U.S. and foreign weather forecasters, and has published and distributed worldwide 14 computer-based learning modules for in-service and college-level instruction in weather forecasting techniques. COMET modules are generating increasing interest in the use of multi-media technology for teaching meteorology at the undergraduate level; to support this interest, COMET has created an educational resource laboratory to assist college and university teachers in adapting this technology to their classrooms.

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

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 Academic Affiliates 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, transfer 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 geosciences.

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.




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 clearer.

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 sound.


Susan Friberg <friberg@ucar.edu>
Last modified: Mon May 20 01:26:37 1996