URC Meeting

UCAR University Relations Committee Meeting
11 October 2000
Boulder, Colorado

The University Relations Committee met in Boulder on 11 October 2000. Prior to that meeting, the URC participated in the UCAR Members’ meeting held on 10-11 October.

Committee members present:

Eric Betterton, University of Arizona
Chris Bretherton, University of Washington
Kelvin Droegemeier, University of Oklahoma (Chairman)
Matt Hitchman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Everette Joseph, Howard University
Kenneth Pickering, University of Maryland
Eugene Takle, Iowa State University

UCAR Trustee Liaison:

Ron Smith, Yale University

UCAR/NCAR resource people:

Mary Barth, Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division
Ginger Caldwell, Scientific Computing Division
Maura Hagan, High Altitude Observatory
Charlie Martin, Atmospheric Technology Division


Bernard Grant, Financial Operations Specialist, UCAR & Lower-Atmosphere Facilities Oversight Section
Cliff Jacobs, Head, UCAR & Lower-Atmosphere Facilities Oversight Section
Jarvis Moyers, Director, Atmospheric Sciences Division

Others present for all or part of the meeting were:

Richard Anthes, President, UCAR
Rena Brasher-Alleva, Director, Budget & Planning Office, NCAR
Maurice Blackmon, Director, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, NCAR
Mike Coffey, Atmospheric Chemistry Division, NCAR
Al Cooper, Director, Advanced Study Program, NCAR
Walt Dabberdt, Associate Director, NCAR
Steve Dickson, Director of Special Projects & Internal Audit System, Finance & Administration, UCAR
Janet Evans, Budget & Planning Office, NCAR
Jack Fellows, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Director of UOP
Brant Foote, Director, Research Applications Program, NCAR
Susan Friberg, Administrator, UCAR
Dave Fulker, Program Director, Unidata Program Center, UOP
Bob Gall, Director, Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Division, NCAR
Bob Harriss, Assoc. Director of Strategic Planning, NCAR
Bob Henson, UCAR Communications
Tim Hundsdorfer, Budget & Planning Office, NCAR
Sharon Hurley, Budget & Planning Office, NCAR
Al Kellie, Director, Scientific Computing Division, NCAR
Dale Kellogg, Executive Assistant to the Director, NCAR
Tim Killeen, Director, NCAR
Michael Knoelker, Director, High Altitude Observatory, NCAR
Bob Roesch, Director, Human Resources & Employee Relations, UCAR
Jeff Stith, Manager, Research Aviation Facility, ATD, NCAR
Susan Warner, Executive Assistant, UCAR


1. Regular Business Items

Chairman Kelvin Droegemeier welcomed the committee and guests. After he reviewed the URC agenda, the draft notes from the April 2000 meeting were reviewed and approved with no changes. Droegemeier introduced UCAR President Rick Anthes, who in his welcoming remarks, reiterated that universities have a responsibility to NCAR and vice versa. Anthes also reviewed the last portion of the Members' Meeting during which, in plenary, the Members discussed graduate student recruitment, and in particular, growing undergraduate enrollments and declining graduate enrollments. The question was asked why are students being turned off to the field.

2. Non-core NCAR and UOP Proposal Report

Chairman of the Subcommittee Chris Bretherton, along with members Ken Pickering and Mingfang Ting, reviewed the last six months of submitted NCAR and UOP non-core proposals. Bretherton reported that all of the proposals adhered to the spirit of the guidelines and that the subcommittee was pleased with the increasing number of letters of collaboration. Bretherton reviewed the issue of cosponsorship and added that further clarification was received from NCAR and UCAR on a few proposals. Because of the success of this review process, Bretherton recommended to the committee that this process be scaled down. This recommendation was discussed later on in the meeting. In conclusion, the URC approved the subcommittee's report on their review.

3. Future Role of the University Relations Committee

    1. NCAR Director Tim Killeen's Remarks

Tim Killeen discussed future roles for the URC: using the URC as a sounding board for new ideas that can be shared early in their conceptual stages (e.g., strategic planning); seeing a new level of interaction with the URC in addition to the "watch dog" function; and setting the stage for future interaction with a presentation on early thoughts about the Strategic Plan. Killeen emphasized that he wants the Strategic Plan to be based on adequate input from the entire community.

Killeen reported that NCAR is a bit top heavy now and this problem will be addressed by adding up to four new Scientist I positions per year for the next two years. He added that female and minority participation has been low and flat, and that NCAR, as a national center, should lead the effort in transforming the demographics of the field. ASP will assist in the selection process of the Scientist Is, and that will also be the first step in expanding their role at NCAR. NCAR is not necessarily looking to achieve a particular distribution among divisions.

Bretherton asked about technical staff and possible commensurate increases there as well. Killeen noted that the Diversity Task Force is looking at this issue, and that with regard to software engineering, the Strategic Simulation Plan will be making a big push to shore up weaknesses. NCAR is essentially having the same sorts of problems in this area as other institutions.

Killeen reported that NCAR also is looking at "inverse sabbaticals"—ways to encourage university scientists to visit NCAR and vice versa. Killeen continued his report by saying that The Strategic (10 year) Plan will be a "bottoms up" plan. He posed the question if this is an opportunity to adopt a PACI-type approach for certain types of initiatives like community models? Perhaps this could be done with corporate sponsorship, or targeted toward new funds available from the NSF, i.e., targeted initiatives. Killeen cautioned that NCAR must be careful to avoid turning into a funding organization. The Plan will be based upon BASC, Geo2000, and the new NRC report on Grand Challenges as well as the UCAR-at-40 document.

He pointed out the emerging themes: a) Information technology for high-performance simulation and knowledge management—developing an adaptive and evolutionary Earth System Modeling framework; b) Developing collaborative tools for integrative problem solving in the geosciences; and c) Assembling knowledge management toolkits for the geosciences. The NCAR Strategic Plan for High Performance Simulation, which came out of the Code Assessment Panel, is NCAR’s first major step in this direction. Currently a number of ITR proposals, many with university partnerships, are being developed and also a distinguished visitor position in computer science has been announced out of the Director’s Office.

Killeen said his view of NCAR is as an integrator and its role as advancing fundamental knowledge of the Earth system through research partnerships. The many themes of this area are broad and cross several disciplines, e.g., understanding environmental and societal consequences of the transition to an urban society, evolution and fate of planets. Killeen asked for comments about integrating themes.

A major section is connecting discovery to societal needs, and this brings RAP into the picture as well as ESIG. One of the major issues is vulnerability and societal response, both in the short- and long- term. The MIRAGE project is an example of what NCAR does best in terms of collaborating in a major way with a large number of universities.

Core research programs are key components of the new Strategic Plan, and this includes support persons for software development, instrumentation and facility support, etc. Metrics will be developed to measure institutional progress, and NCAR is launching a major initiative for internet-based capabilities, e.g., mass storage facility, portals to various knowledge systems for environmental science, etc.

Killeen envisions the role of the URC in the Strategic Plan as a co-developer of the plan and a sounding board for ideas. He noted that an annual forum isn’t enough, and suggested that the URC may even meet in early winter to discuss the plan. The URC also will be a primary liaison for university groups and their concerns, and be a co-developer of workshops, symposia, and meetings that will be necessary to effectuate the strategic plan. Killeen concluded by saying the timeframe for completion of the Strategic Plan will be March-April 2001.

b) Open Discussion on Roles for the URC in the Strategic Plan

Robert Harriss, NCAR Associate Director for Strategic Planning, noted that the astronomy community has been able to organize around emerging themes very effectively and command the resources necessary to do the science. He continued by saying that it is necessary to prioritize what can be done within the context of available resources and make strategic thinking part of NCAR’s regular activity.

The question was asked: Will the current collaborative infrastructure be effective to achieve the goals outlined for the future? The possibility of developing a major funding initiative that would allow for new, special collaboration among the NCAR-UCAR-university community was discussed. Cliff Jacobs, ATM/NSF, endorsed the concept but noted that big announcements are difficult for NSF to handle–partly because they’re so broad! Director of ATM, Jarvis Moyers, cautioned the committee that the first order is to create a strategic plan. It was questioned if the vision is constrained by the realities of funding mechanisms and collaborative arrangements? It was added that we shouldn’t be reactive to the agencies, but be true pioneers in creating new ideas that push the agencies forward in their thinking.

Ron Smith asked if this plan is an NCAR/UCAR plan with university advice, or a plan for the geosciences as a whole and consistent with where the NSF is heading. Is this vision shared by the universities? Killeen replied that we’re entering uncharted territory and the community as a whole needs to be involved—a national center should reflect the desires of the community/universities.

Gene Takle noted that the private sector should be brought in, especially for environmental science research. CGD Director Maurice Blackmon added that people from other disciplines (e.g., plant biology) don’t have any other way to participate other than through what NCAR is doing, and of course what’s going on at other institutions. But the initiative is coming from atmospheric and the geosciences.

Smith brought up the need for some type of agreement about the balance of centralized versus distributed roles, values, and ownership. Shared ownership has to be rooted in decision making processes. Chris Bretherton pointed out another important alliance worth culling out, the operational community. WRF is working on this issue to some extent, but it should be included explicitly in the Strategic Plan. Also needed are alliances with industry and this concept could be the underpinning of the new Strategic Plan.

MMM Director Bob Gall commented on research needs of the private sector. He also noted that many WFOs are co-located with universities, and questioned if they’re being effectively integrated into university curricula and teaching activities. Could the URC play a role here? Takle noted that the environment at NOAA is much more conducive to this type of interaction.

Smith noted that while NCAR is getting input from high-level folks at NCAR, what about at universities? The URC is a small group, but it could be the mechanism for garnering input. Even though a high-level director’s advisory committee is being formed, it was suggested that a sounding board that would meet more frequently might be a role for the URC.

UCAR President Rick Anthes said that March-April may be an optimistic timeframe, and that the Board of Trustees will need to sign off on the plan. He cautioned that much iteration will be involved, and a structure will have to emerge.

Specific roles for the URC in the strategic planning process were discussed. One suggestion was to develop a tiger team composed of university participants and/or URC members. The URC would recommend university people to serve on the tiger team. The participants would work with Harriss on the plan and thus ensure alignment of objectives with the university community. The URC role beyond this would be one of strategic and tactical development. The composition of this team was discussed—mainly atmospheric scientists or broader representation. Killeen said that the topics are very broad ranging and will require involvement by people in other fields. He added atmospheric sciences is the vanguard of this type of work and, unlike other disciplines that don’t have a national center, is poised to lead the effort. It would be dangerous for NCAR to move beyond its roots.

Harriss, commenting on the composition of the "tiger team" said that the real driver is basic research, and the struggle is building upon this without sacrificing it in the process. He thought that it would be relatively easy to put together an interdisciplinary tiger team of meteorologists, biologists, etc. Harriss cautioned that we have to be realistic – we can’t assemble a plan for all of the atmospheric sciences and also include biology, etc. There seems to be some concern that NCAR may be trying to do too much, but it’s hard to draw back on creating a vision plan for the institution. NCAR should also say what it’s not going to do.

Jacobs suggested that we’re really talking about an interdisciplinary planning grant that could be submitted by NCAR and the university community. He pointed out that it could be done under bio-complexity and would engage a much larger number of people for several hundred thousand dollars. He cautioned that the disadvantage, of course, would be a tie to the bio-complexity funding track.

Anthes noted that we’re at a very early stage in all this, and it’s not clear what’s really going on. If it’s an NCAR plan, it should be led by NCAR, but with input from others. NCAR can best lead by having it’s own plan that has a great deal of university buy-in in a broader context. In so doing, the plan should focus on the role of universities. ASP Director Al Cooper added that in the development of the strategic plan the universities could be used to strengthen weak areas at NCAR.

In conclusion Harriss noted that everything concerning the Strategic Plan will be on the web.

c) Associate Director Walt Dabberdt's Remarks

Walt Dabberdt gave a presentation that included input from the NCAR division directors, on the strengths and weaknesses of current NCAR interactions with the URC and the broader atmospheric science community. There were three recurring themes: 1) communications, 2) knowledge transfer, and 3) collaborations. He overviewed the strengths and weaknesses in each of the three areas. He offered suggestions to improve interactions, such as improving the process for obtaining university inputs, strengthening the visitor program, creating an ombudsman for each NCAR division to receive and channel queries, and involving the university in NCAR's strategic planning.

After discussion on how to increase university interactions the following suggestions were given:

1) Creating presentation materials on NCAR and UCAR programs and facilities that will be updated periodically, for universities to use during their seminars, classes, etc.

2) Developing special sessions at the Annual AMS Meeting or other scientific meetings that would emphasize the science that is coming out of collaborations with UCAR/NCAR and the educational opportunities that UCAR/NCAR offer.

3) Using the NCAR/UCAR web site to educate the community on UCAR/NCAR opportunities— such as creating live web casts for town hall meetings or other novel ideas.

Anthes commented that the response rate to advocacy alerts is very low and therefore doesn't think that people will flock to the AMS meeting if they are not now engaged. He pointed out that the Members Representatives are the key, that they should care and should know what is going on. If you want to get people interested, talk about something that’s interesting to them. Killeen added that it is important to energize the Members Reps, not from a procedural point of view, but from areas that appeal to their scientific interests. We need to appeal to what interests people, and we need some vehicle to bring graduate students to NCAR.

In addition, the following items were discussed as vehicles to increase universities' knowledge of UCAR, NCAR and UOP.

1. Distribute Walt’s presentation to the URC and ask for modifications.

2. Create a program to bring graduate students to NCAR for "exposure" visits. Perhaps a broad initiative or goal that every graduate student, during their first year of school, visit NCAR/UCAR and be involved in something. It could then focus on the key parts of relevance to them.

3. Faculty should also be "required" to participate in UCAR/NCAR governance or visit NCAR/UCAR for some sort of interaction.

4. Have an education component at the Members Meeting where people go around and see things, not a science briefing per se, but rather focus on interaction. Could rotate among a few divisions each year. University people also should know how NCAR/UCAR fits into the bigger picture of funding and the entire community.

5. Send emails to the Member Reps to encourage them to direct students to the NCAR web site. Could include web stuff and presentations in senior capstone and professional development courses.

6. The sabbatical exchange program needs to be emphasized, and even short visits could encourage NCAR scientists to give talks about NCAR as well as their science. The key is exchange.

4. Non-core NCAR and UOP Proposal Report (cont'd)

The subcommittee's review of the proposals was discussed earlier in the meeting and formally approved. Bretherton asked the committee to approve the following recommendations. The first two were wording changes in the criteria:

1) Revise the guidelines to:
"All UCAR non-NSF proposals must satisfy both Criteria 1 and 2."

"All UCAR non-NSF proposals must satisfy either Criterion 3 or Criterion 4. It is not necessary that both criteria be addressed. However, where both Criteria 3 and 4 are addressed by the proposal, then the Advance Notice Form should provide suitable responses to both."

2) Modifying Criterion 4 to:
"Explain how the proposed activity would contribute to the development or support of community facilities, community models, or other community projects (such as field programs), or would provide a transfer of NCAR-developed technology or expertise to the community, and as such would have demonstrable benefit to the community."

The URC unanimously approved adopting the wording changes.

Next Bretherton proposed scaling down the review process by spot checking a few proposals rather than reviewing all proposals. Ken Pickering noted that this is a standard audit procedure. Jacobs reported that NSF looks to the URC for establishing the checks and balances, and they’re happy with the proposed process. He added that no problems have been reported for quite some time, and if problems arose, we’d hear about them—it’s a self-correcting process. The URC unanimously approved the spot checking of proposals.

Dabberdt proposed revising the current threshold for overseeing proposals from $25K to $50K. He explained that this change represents the effects of inflation in the early 90s. The URC unanimously approved revising the threshold.

5. NCAR Liaison Reports and Spring Meeting Planning

Bretherton, liaison to CGD, updated the group on this division and noted that part of the success of the CCSM is due to Jay Fein’s funding, but warned that the situation may deteriorate if this funding dries up. He reported that the models are essentially ported to the distributed memory machines at this point, morale is generally improving, and in general everything is going well in the division.

Because of outgoing URC members, ESIG, HAO and RAP are not represented by liaisons; the incoming URC members will be assigned to fill these vacancies.

Droegemeier thanked Dabberdt for his service at UCAR and NCAR and for all his work on the URC, and wished him well in his new endeavors in the private sector.

Droegemeier announced that the URC Spring meeting will be held at the University of Maryland. It was suggested that a visit to Howard University be incorporated into this meeting.

The committee adjourned at 8:00pm.

Questions regarding the meeting? Contact:
Susan Warner (swarner@ucar.edu; 303/497-1655) or
Susan Friberg (friberg@ucar.edu); 303/497-1658)

Questions regarding this website? Contact:
Michelle Flores <michelle@ucar.edu>