1999 October Follow-Up Site


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Enhancing National Economic Vitality

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Protecting Life & Property | Maintaining Environmental Quality |
Enhancing National Economic Vitality |
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Enhancing National Economic Vitality
Break-out Session #3
12 October 1999

Co-chairs: Bob Harriss (NCAR) and Jerry North (Texas A&M)
Rapporteur: Tim Spangler

Co-chair plenary summary of the breakout session

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

Harriss kicked off the session by noting the primacy of the economy in the national mind. In the recent NAFTA meeting on transportation there were signs of industry recognition of the centrality of environmental science-environmental variables are rising to the top of issues lists in a dramatically changing global economy. Business are now regionally integrated and globally linked. Business issues are changing, from cost in the 1970s, to quality in the 1980s, to speed in the 1990s. Thus the current focus on transportation and the interest in weather forecasting, air quality, and climate. Other business issues include workforce skills. Precision agriculture is an example of the need to integrate science, technology, and business.


Speaker #1: When industry people go to Congress and say "We need this research" the impact is much more powerful than when scientists say "Look what we've done."

Speaker #2: It was really useful to show the fuel and cost savings to airlines from winds research, for example. So many of us have so little knowledge of business. "What are the economics of this?" is an important question.

Speaker #3: What can the weather industry offer to the business sectors and vice versa? It's important to get dialogues going.

Speaker #4: The interaction between outside users and the government happens through the private sector, which is too indirect. The government and universities should work together to tell the story directly.

Speaker #5: There's a third group out there. You've got users and forecasters, and the parameters of the forecast rarely reflect what users want. So this third group (private sector) targets their forecasts to specific sectors. Transportation and agriculture have different time-scale needs, and they're both different from hydropower's needs.

Speaker #6: A project at Iowa State is taking the seasonal forecast and turning it into decision-making tools for farmers. John Dutton's old and new decision-making models apply here. There are lots of opportunities but we'll have to work with economists, livestock management people, etc.

Speaker #7: There's a need for customized information, integrated research.

Speaker #5: Private industry is beginning to support university programs for this in the agriculture, energy, and re-insurance sectors.

Speaker #2: There are industries engaged in trading weather futures, or weather derivatives. Of course, a perfect forecast would eliminate the need for weather derivatives.

Speaker #9: I haven't heard yet about better forecasts affecting the public sector, i.e., leading to better policy, better codes.

Speaker #1: Another question: What training do we give our students?

Speaker #7: There's a growing demand for universities to provide customized training at the master's level. Monsanto, DuPont, agribusiness are asking for this. Why are atmospheric science departments dropping agrometeorology?

Speaker #3: Building interfacial tools between science and problems is really like an engineering problem. We in atmospheric science push understanding over making the system work. But there's so much variability in weather and climate systems that we need long time scales to try out tools. Some of the reanalysis work is yielding data sets for testing.

Speaker #6: We've been apologetic about forecast inaccuracies, but check with the economists about their accuracy. We should be putting our forecasts forward.

Speaker #7: Corporations are shifting from long forecasts to near-real-time data.

Speaker #8: Do you have specific courses in agrometeorology or start teaching econometrics? There's going to be a transformation of traditional roles.

Speaker #10: Our textbooks are not describing real problems. We need to articulate our science in real-need terms to communicate our science. A single farmer is not deciding what to plant based on a seasonal forecast, but an agroconglomerate can use probabilistic forecasting-it's a regionally integrated industry.

Speaker #2: The value of the human being is dropping out. Computers are doing it better with QPF. At COMET we're not training forecasters in QPF because they're not going to do it anymore.

Speaker #7: Let me try to summarizing some of the themes I'm hearing in this discussion so far. One is, How can we tell the story better? Another is, There are some things we're not doing well, for example, customization.

Speaker #11: Maybe we need to change our perspective and ask our clients and users how they understand and use atmospheric science knowledge. A key idea in industry is knowledge transfer. We focus on knowledge creation and don't focus on transfer. So, (1) we need a good assessment of how industry views climate and weather information-a larger assessment, and (2) we should consider using a business model to attract users.

Speaker #7: That builds on Speaker #3's earlier discussion. We need more understanding-the nature of business and industry is changing so rapidly and continuing to change.

Speaker #12: The National Assessment regional forums are doing this.

Speaker #7: But that was fairly ad hoc. It's a good start, but not enough.

Speaker #4: The AMS could do a study, "by tomorrow" (laughter).

Speaker #7: If Jerry North were here he would describe a collaboration going on now with [?Harriss?] and ENRON. There's a need to develop forecasting tools for trading gas, and for water, which will be more valuable than gas in the future. They're not finding the skill base in master's students they're looking for.

Speaker #5: GIS is going into county-level organizations. That's a way to get our information out to the public sector.

Speaker #4: The health sector needs our information.

Speaker #7: As Speaker #8 says, time scales are important here.

Speaker #9: It's hard to create interdisciplinary collaborations. Systemic change in universities is needed.

Speaker #7: At NASA the response to interdisciplinary RFPs was greater than to disciplinary ones.

Speaker #13: A power company in the desert wanted NEXRAD data. That user becomes a powerful advocate and lobbyist.

Speaker #1: What happened to the atmospheric science S&T centers funded by NSF involving multiple institutions? Didn't they have a strong knowledge transfer and public education component? We'll get a lot more mileage out of money invested here than elsewhere.

Speaker #10: This is not so much a science or technology challenge as a communication problem. It's incumbent on the discipline to learn the problems of larger communities. A few clear demonstrations of the economic advantages to be gained will result in economic support.

Speaker #7: But we still need S&T centers to build programs up.

Speaker #10: A modest proposal: Reallocate 5 or 10% of university department funds into new areas. Force us to get out of traditional-discipline mode. We're restructuring our department to meet students' needs in a new economy (internships with industry, for example).

Speaker #5: Maybe we need AMS to sponsor a new journal oriented toward interdisciplinary work and public policy (because it's not going to go into BAMS). A second point: What are the implications for promotion and tenure?

Speaker #7: It depends on the institution. Regarding new publication ideas, there's the example of Industrial Ecology. It does a lot of what we're talking about.

Speaker #14: Refocus the Journal of Applied Meteorology, perhaps.

Speaker #3: We need to be aware when we put out data sets, top ensure that they're truly available to outsiders. Even to the level of a Windows 98 interface.

Speaker #1: We could identify industry vice presidents to come to a workshop and talk about what they want from us. Why can't we have add-ons to grants for industry collaboration? Dick and Jewel are saying they think that's not currently true-that was mostly in engineering.

Speaker #7: Workshops are certainly the next step.

Speaker #3: The AMS is thinking about it.

Speaker #7: It has to be customized to attract the people you want.

Speaker #5: We need flexibility in training and education, based on what I'm hearing here. We need a survey that will encourage atmospheric science departments to think about how we might change.

Speaker #2: I'm hearing two themes so far: (1) the need to understand the needs of our users, and (2) the need to provide tailored products and services.

Speaker #3: Users also need to understand what we can provide. And don't ignore the tenure issue.

Speaker #7: And the venue for publishing. Industrial Ecology is the one case that's a model.

Speaker #1: We need to impress the community that it's an important thing to do.

Several unidentified speakers: The third theme is infrastructure issues, within universities and at the federal funding level. They need to be complementary.

Speaker #5: Provide the money and the good proposals will follow. Think about building partnerships.

Speaker #1: And to do that you have to have communication.

Speaker #5: And then you're not doing basic research-now you're applied.

Speaker #7: We want to avoid that dichotomy.

Speaker #1: Are you all familiar with a book called The Pasteur Quadrant, by Stokes? He puts basic and applied research on two axes. He says you can have both. He calls it "use inspired, understanding driven," and points out that many Nobel prizes have been use inspired.

Speaker #7: The insurance industry is bringing people together with atmospheric scientists in the climate change area. But it's now poorly defined as to how to go forward.

Speaker #9: We should include the role of education in the economic vitality of the nation.

Speaker #7: In Texas it's in crisis. We're seeing highly credentialed students with good SATs failing in the sciences. The skilled workforce issue is real.

Speaker #5: Before I got my Ph.D. I taught high school science for 15 years. Earth Science was taught at the junior high level. We need to enhance the role of atmospheric science in high school. And what about an earth systems science course instead of Biology 101 as the introductory university course?

Speaker #6: Teach a senior-level course in global change with 17 disciplines represented. Capture people who've opted out of the sciences early on and bring them back at the senior course level, so we can reconnect them with science. Students can get this after focusing on sociology or psychology. So they can articulate proper questions to ask in the future.

Speaker #7: In a list of important economic sectors we should include recreation and construction.

Speaker #8: Call them weather- and climate-sensitive industries.

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