1999 October Follow-Up Site


UCAR Forum Followup Information

Maintaining Environmental Quality

Board of Trustees
Meeting Presentations


Members' Meeting Presentations

University Relations Committee (URC) Presentation


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Protecting Life & Property | Maintaining Environmental Quality |
Enhancing National Economic Vitality | Strengthening Fundamental Understanding |

Maintaining Environmental Quality
Break-out Session #2
12 October 1999

Co-chairs: Linda Mearns (NCAR); Ken Demerjian (SUNY Albany)

Co-chair plenary summary of the breakout session

Following are paraphrases, not direct quotes, of the discussion.

Speaker #1: Seems there are three areas especially important to our group: CFCs and ozone, greenhouse gases and global change, aerosols, role of the atmospheric sciences in environmental issues. Questions for us to consider are: (1) How can we contribute (and what’s preventing us from contributing); (2) What facilities do we need; (3) Key education and HR issues; (4) Key issues related to leadership, government, administration [from BASC report].

Speaker #2: NSF has failed to structure the funding of interdisciplinary projects.

Speaker #3: Local/regional impacts are very important in our area; we need strong interactions among disciplines. The current NSF setup does not allow for funding projects in this area.


Speaker #4: We’re not hearing what other people [other disciplines] have to say.

Speaker #5: So the consensus is that there are programmatic issues at NSF that get in the way of interdisciplinary research. Are there also academic issues?

Speaker #2: Yes, but NSF is not meeting the leadership challenge.

Speaker #4: It’s also our problem. We like neat, disciplinary proposals.

Speaker #1: What about NOAA and EPA?

Speaker #2: The problem is system wide. Let’s put effort into figuring out how we (and NSF) can evaluate interdisciplinary proposals.

Speaker #6: NSF is looking to the community for leadership, not providing it. NSF needs more leadership and guidance from us.

Speaker #7: We need clear goals in the community. We must articulate the important science issues that we need to work on.

Speaker #8: NIHS (?NIH?) does well at this, prescribing within its RFPs.

Speaker #4: The community comes together when there’s a specific problem to solve. NSF is not a mission agency, so mainly it doesn’t define problems for the community to work on.

Speaker #5: We have a history of bringing scientists together to solve fundamental problems, not interdisciplinary problems.

Speaker #9: He was involved in SHEBA and commented on the difficulty of getting the scientists to focus on a common goal. Each one wanted to use the experiment to solve his own pet problems. It took strong guidance to make the group work together.

Speaker #5: The key element in NSF for environmental issues is assessment. [I think he meant assessment of proposals.]

Speaker #2: Also the possibility of making environmental predictions.

Speaker #5: He was just involved in NARSTO assessment. It’s a scientific toolbox you bring to the table. (A good model.) Points out that NASA is getting out of atmospheric chemistry because of its budget problems. Would it be possible for all agencies to come together and make coordinated plans on what to fund to avoid overlap? For example, NSF’s environemntal initiative will affect EPA.

Speaker #10: We need to present them with our priorities. Look how well TOGA worked; that was a bottoms-up initiative. ONR/NASA/NOAA/NSF shared funding and review process.

Speaker #6: USWRP is another example.

Speaker #1: Yes, but these are interdisciplinary within the physical sciences only. There may need to be a different structure for wider interdisciplinary efforts.

Speaker #11: The existing approach only works for little problems.

Speaker #12: Would like to propose that UCAR foster regional focus groups to work on environmental issues. An existing institution would become known as the focus site, and people from many disciplines would collaborate there.

Speaker #7: How could we assure uniform standards?

Speaker #5: Could foster development of regional modeling tools.

Speaker #4: Would also like UCAR to foster interagency exchange of data, including data from state agencies. Right now these are hard to get. People will come together if there’s a resource they all want to use.

Speaker #5: What else could UCAR/NCAR offer? E.g., interdisciplinary data bases.

Speaker #1: DOE has started regional climate centers based on their labs that are supposed to be interdisciplinary, but they seem to be uncoordinated with other agencies. NASA has RESET [?], also not coordinated.

Speaker #10: ATD usually allocates facilities for a few weeks, but it’s increasingly hearing requests for seasonal/annual/15 months’ mesonets. Users need help demonstrating the value of these mesonets to their funders; using ATD equipment for this length of time gives them help.

Speaker #1: Observational issues these days are continuity and getting more bang for the buck [more different types of observations per project].

Speaker #13: There’s a great need for new instrumentation that meets the needs of more than one discipline. It starts with our graduate training where we don’t think about nuts and bolts.

Speaker #7: The ARM program came from an agency and led to an instrumentation improvement. However, he’s not sure radiation instrumentation was such a crying need. There’s no planning going on for what instrumentation we need most.

Speaker #9: ARM has led to some other types of instrumentation.

Speaker #14: Field projects are getting to be really big because they need so many types of measurements. This makes it harder to get them funded. There’s a limit to the size/length of a field project because the instrumentation can’t be maintained for more than six weeks and the people just get too tired and can’t go on. Another issue is that it’s hard to fund instrument development because the instrument may never work.

Speaker #5: We need to identify what we want to measure and how. This hasn’t happened; it’s a cultural problem. We can’t continue to have an EPA which spends $1 billion on monitoring but nobody wants the data. He thinks this situation is about to change. We’re beginning to recognize that we have fallen short in instrumentation development. This is where UCAR/NCAR can lead.

Speaker #13: In the URC she’s recommending that ATM begin an instrumentation program. ATM is one of the only NSF divisions that doesn’t have one.

Speaker #2: Also, we need to take responsibility for the useability of all the data we produce. Some work is going on at NCAR re making data accessible. Let’s expand that to other disciplines, present our data in some broader ways.

Speaker #15: With increasing computer power, can archiving keep up?

Speaker #16: We now have 200 terabytes archived at NCAR. We’ve made space for more archives but we’re adding 114 bytes permanently for every megaflop of computing. They’re forecasting that the cost of storage will outstrip the cost of computing in three years. SCD has prepared an algorithm to charge for storage; that’s never been done before. The problem with making data sets useful in other disciplines is metadata--that grows with each additional field.

Speaker #14: NCAR could help with quality assurance between instruments. Any program for instrumentation development should include it, and the information should go in the data base. Right now it’s hard to tell how reliable data are.

Speaker #1: What about human resource issues?

Speaker #13: The next generation of scientists may not be well versed in the science that leads to instrumentation development. See Takle study of what’s being taught. Also there are dwindling facilities to develop instruments due to financial constraints at the universities.

Speaker #7: The universities are depending more and more on the national facilities for instruments. We’re not teaching instrumentation.

Speaker #4: Also, maintaining instruments is expensive. He’d like to see wider measurements even if the instruments are not as high quality (these would be useful for climate modeling). Maybe that’s where the universities could step in, with lower-resolution instruments.

Speaker #7: We need a community-wide mechanism to decide what measurements need to be made.

Speaker #6: All this is true, but the community itself needs to get reinvolved in instrumentation. Don’t try to put the problem on others.

Speaker #4: I got no training in instrumentation when I was in school, so there’s already a generation of teachers without knowledge in this field. [Speaker #4 looks youngish.]

Speaker #5: University departments have moved away from getting involved in instrumentation development because it takes year of investment and you may only get one paper out of it. It doesn’t fit into the tenure model.

Speaker #10: If a national center had a traveling instrumentation class, would it be popular? [Consensus: yes, it would be great.]

Speaker #11: NCAR hasn’t made this a high priority in funding [implying that we didn’t know this was important to the community, not that we don’t think it’s important].

Speaker #17: You might be able to use distance learning in combination with a hands-on workshop in the summer.

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