2. UCAR--Past and Present

2.1 Background

UCAR's original mission was to extend the capabilities of the university community in their research, teaching, and service activities by creating a national center of excellence in the atmospheric sciences, broadly defined. Preliminary Plans for a National Institute for Atmospheric Research, the so-called "blue book" prepared for the National Science Foundation by the University Committee on Atmospheric Research in February 1959, states:

There are four compelling reasons for establishing a National Institute for Atmospheric Research:

  1. The need to mount an attack on the fundamental atmospheric problems on a scale commensurate with their global nature and importance;

  2. The fact that the extent of such an attack requires facilities and technological assistance beyond those that can properly be made available at individual universities;

  3. The fact that the difficulties of the problems are such that they require the best talents from various disciplines to be applied to them in a coordinated fashion, on a scale not feasible in a university department;

  4. The fact that such an Institute offers the possibility of preserving the natural alliance of research and education without unbalancing the university programs.

The internationally recognized success of NCAR and its lively and productive partnership with the universities are compelling evidence that UCAR is fulfilling its original mission. NCAR, with its university colleagues, has an established record of planning, organizing, and carrying out focused research of the highest quality on the critical problems in the atmospheric sciences. Table 1, taken verbatim from The Atmospheric Sciences: A Vision for 1989-1994, Report of the NSF-UCAR Long-Range Planning Committee (July 1989), lists some of the important scientific accomplishments of NCAR and its university collaborators.

The partnership between the universities and NCAR is further documented statistically in Figures 1 through 4, which show that approximately 50% of the resources that flow to the Center support university activities; scientific visitors to NCAR in recent years have numbered over 1,000 per year; the number of visitor Ph.D.-scientist-years (over 100 annually) is equivalent to the number of NCAR resident Ph.D. scientists; and each year, approximately half of all refereed NCAR publications are coauthored by NCAR and university scientists. The unique and synergistic relationship between UCAR and the universities was recognized by the NSF-UCAR Joint Planning Committee:

The partnership between the university scientific community and NCAR, forged through the UCAR consortium with NSF support, has been a signal accomplishment and a stimulus to progress in the atmospheric and related sciences. NCAR fosters a research program that attracts university collaboration and provides outstanding community-wide facilities--a combination that will be even more important as the science turns to global issues and to the detailed examination of complex atmospheric processes and phenomena.

Consistent with the intent and vision of the founders of UCAR and NCAR, the atmospheric sciences in the universities have thrived in the past three decades. By 1991, UCAR members numbered 59, compared to the original 14. The population of professors in the atmospheric sciences increased from approximately 100 to more than 1,000, while the annual number of Ph.D. graduates grew from approximately 10 in 1959 to approximately 90 in 1990.

During UCAR's first 20 years, management and operation of NCAR was UCAR's only role. In 1982, under then-President Robert M. White's leadership, the UCAR Board of Trustees and members urged UCAR to broaden its scope and to develop other programs that served the university community. This mandate has led to new programs and corporate activities as shown in Table 2. The present state and future plans of the programs currently managed by UCAR are described in a document entitled UCAR in 1991 (available on request).

2.2 UCAR's Mission and Roles

UCAR's mission today is to support, enhance and extend the capabilities of the university community, nationally and internationally; to understand the behavior of the atmosphere and related systems and the global environment; and to foster the transfer of knowledge and technology for the betterment of life on earth.

UCAR's roles in fulfilling this mission are listed below; each is expanded upon in the following pages.

2.2.1 Governance and management of long-term research and facility institutions and community programs

UCAR's oversight and management of research and facility institutions is a fundamental role. As a neutral governing consortium of universities, and through the process of developing a consensus within the university community, UCAR ensures that its programs remain balanced, high in quality, in tune with and responsive to the broad interests of the university community, and genuine extensions of university capabilities in research, education, and service. The prime example of this role is UCAR's management and operation of NCAR and the university governance of the center that is realized through UCAR.

2.2.2 Leadership and initiative to coordinate and implement community programs

UCAR plays a leadership role in developing initiatives and, through the fostering of consensus, helps set priorities for the atmospheric and related sciences. One example of this role was the collaboration of UCAR and NSF in sponsoring the Joint NSF-UCAR Planning Committee, which set priorities and optimal funding levels for the atmospheric sciences. In another effort, UCAR collaborated in 1989 with the American Meteorological Society (AMS) to prepare an "awareness paper" for President Bush's incoming administration; this exercise will be repeated for the 1992 presidential election. In a third effort, again in collaboration with the AMS, UCAR conducted a thorough study and assessment of the state of observational science and facilities in the community. The result was a widely distributed report, The Study on Observational Systems, which identified areas of instrumentation and observational systems in the university community and at NCAR that need strengthening.

UCAR has also exerted its leadership in association with the universities, NCAR, and federal sponsors in the establishment of several programs. Examples include the University Data Program (Unidata), with the universities and NSF; the Office for Interdisciplinary Earth Studies (OIES), with several federal agencies (NASA, NOAA, and NSF) and the global change community; the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education, and Training (COMET), in which NCAR and the NWS were primary initiators; and the Climate System Modeling Program (CSMP), with the universities, NCAR, and the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) agencies.

2.2.3 Advocacy, public policy, and communication

UCAR's growing activities to improve communication among scientists and policy makers in the federal and private sectors are carried out through several programs, such as OIES and the Office of Government Affairs (OGA). UCAR serves in this capacity as a neutral forum to bring members of the federal, scientific, industrial, policy, and educational communities together to debate, plan, coordinate, and implement programs and activities in the atmospheric and related sciences. In its advocacy role, UCAR highlights the overall importance of the atmospheric and related sciences to the nation's welfare, rather than promoting specific institutional interests. In the public policy arena, UCAR programs translate the results of basic and applied research into information required by policy makers in the federal and private sectors.

2.2.4 Partnership building

An emerging role for UCAR in recent years is that of building partnerships among universities, research laboratories such as NCAR and the Institute for Naval Oceanography (INO), federal laboratories and agencies, industry, and private philanthropies. Coordination of efforts among many institutions and countries is needed today more than ever as recognition of humanity's global connectivity spreads. In this era of limited resources, partnerships leverage the resources of each partner to the advantage of all. In addition to NCAR's strong history of international collaboration, activities by UCAR programs such as OIES and the Joint Climate Projects/Planning Office (JCP/PO) contribute to this role.

One partnership that needs particular strengthening is that between the operational and research atmospheric sciences communities. COMET has this aim, as do the UCAR Visiting Scientist Programs.

2.2.5 Education

UCAR's contribution to education has traditionally been expressed through NCAR activities such as visitor programs, graduate research assistantships, postdoctoral appointments, colloquia, seminars, and workshops. These continue to be appropriate extensions of university responsibilities to educate the next generations of scientists, engineers, and scholars in general. Recently UCAR's education role has broadened through programs such as Unidata, the UCAR Visiting Scientist Programs, COMET, CSMP, and UNAVCO.

2.2.6 Transfer of technology to the private and public sectors

Basic research and science education are critical foundations for the nation's economic competitiveness. UCAR participates in this arena by transfering research results and knowledge into practical applications. Successful transfer has occurred through NCAR's Research Applications Program, whose research and development have led to decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration to instrument airports across the country with downburst detection-and-warning systems. The UCAR Foundation and the Office of Industry Relations are systematically examining all UCAR programs for other opportunities. Technology transfer activities are being developed in ways that will strengthen the basic science and education programs in the universities and NCAR, without interfering with the scientific objectivity of UCAR or the free exchange of ideas, scientific results, data, models, and technologies through the community.

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