BOX 2.1 From Research to Operations in Weather Satellites and Numerical Weather Prediction: Crossing the Valley of Death—A Brief Summary

A recent NRC report, From Research to Operations in Weather Satellites and Numerical Weather Prediction: Crossing the Valley of Death (NRC, 2000a), is highly relevant to the present study. The earlier report discusses the need for improved transitioning of research and development in the areas of numerical weather prediction and environmental satellites. It notes the increasing sensitivity of many sectors of society to weather and climate and therefore the increasing value of accurate weather and climate information. It discusses the difficulties of transitioning research results to operations across the “valley of death,” which is a metaphor for the barriers and obstacles separating research results and operational applications. The report notes that successful transitions require an understanding of the importance and risks of transition, the development of appropriate transition plans, adequate resources for the transitions, and continuous communication and feedback between the research and operational communities. The 2000 report makes a number of important recommendations (see Appendix A in the present report) to NASA and NOAA with respect to improving the transitioning process. The Committee on NASA-NOAA Transition from Research to Operations supports those recommendations, and builds upon them.

Several previous National Research Council (NRC) studies have addressed the issue of transitioning research results into operations, or technology transfer (see Box 2.1). Appendix A presents some of the findings and recommendations from these studies, which are generally consistent and emphasize the importance of improving the technology-transfer process. In addition, they recognize that there is no unique way to effectively transition research results into operations; the process is complex, often inconsistent, not formalized, and consequently depends very much on the individuals in various leadership positions during the process.

This chapter describes the mission and roles of NASA, NOAA, and DOD and then discusses research-to-operations transition pathways in general.


In order to meet the present and future needs of the growing number of users of satellite observations of the Earth environment, it is necessary to continually develop satellites that can reliably provide the observations necessary to support the information database for the envisioned Earth Information System and the growing capability for predictions. Satellites and the data products that are developed in conjunction with them have historically been outgrowths of research programs that develop new sensor technology and make new kinds of observations. In the federal government, these research programs are usually the responsibility of NASA. The operational use

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