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of severe weather have improved steadily over the years. Yet there is a realization that the practical application of research achievements to the improvement of operations (a complex process loosely called transitioning research results into operations) is often less efficient and slower than it could be, resulting in a loss of return on the research investment (NRC, 2000a; GAO, 2002; Hertzfeld and Williamson, 2002). For example, it took more than 25 years after the launch of the first infrared (IR) sounding sensor to successfully use the data operationally (see Appendix B, “Case Studies of Transitions from Research to Operations”). The reasons are as complex as the transitioning process itself, and a number of other studies have addressed this and related issues (see Chapter 2, “The Research-to-Operations Context”).
This report, building on previous studies, looks at the transitioning process in the context of the current fiscal and technological environment and suggests ways to improve that process. It focuses on weather and climate because of the rich history of transitioning atmospheric research into weather forecasts and warnings, the great impact of weather and climate on society, and the large amount of resources invested in weather and climate research and operations. In response to the needs of the study’s sponsors, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the report focuses on the transition of NASA satellite research to NOAA operations. However, the lessons learned and the recommendations made are likely to be applicable to a wide range of environmental issues as well as to the mission and operational needs of other government agencies and the private sector.
The Committee on NASA-NOAA Transition from Research to Operations recognizes that an important part of NASA’s mission is to carry out fundamental research on Earth and the universe—research for which there are no immediate or known applications. However, the emphasis of this report is on the many NASA missions that have both a fundamental research component and the potential for applications to benefit society and on ways in which the research results from these missions can be more effectively transitioned into operations.
Chapter 2 sets the research-to-operations context by reviewing previous studies related to the charge of this committee, the research-to-operations process in general, and the missions and roles of NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Many of the recommendations from the related studies (see Appendix A) are directly relevant and appropriate for this study, and they should be reviewed, considered, and responded to by policy makers.
Subsequent chapters consider the increasing impact of weather and climate on society, provide examples of the progress in understanding and predicting weather and climate over the past several decades, and describe the increasing applications and users of weather and climate information. Chapter 3 presents a vision for the next 25 years—an Earth Information System (EIS)—in which quantitative, geo-