weather prediction research capabilities to NOAA operations.3 While the relationship between NASA and NOAA is “excellent,”4 both agencies recognize that current processes for transitioning research capabilities to operations could be improved.


The committee examined 10 case studies of transitions, the details of which appear in Appendix B, “Case Studies of Transitions from Research to Operations.” These case studies were chosen because they contained lessons learned in transitioning research to operations. A summary of the lessons learned is presented in Table 5.1. (Obermann and Williamson [2002] discuss other case studies and similar lessons learned.)

A common theme of these studies was the need for a management structure and a formal set of processes that could speed the transition of research to operational use. In the case of the early days of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), an efficient, compact management structure and process allowed the program to far exceed expectations and outpace parallel efforts in NASA. In the case of the infrared sounder, NOAA did not fully exploit this instrument’s potential for more than 25 years after the sounder first flew, because of resistance to change and lack of knowledge about how to use the observations effectively in numerical modeling. In the cases of the Volcanic Ash Mapper (VOLCAM), lightning detection, and the Solar X-ray Imager (SXI), no plan was in place to make the transition to operations until very late in the process, if at all. In the cases of the Special Sensor Microwave/ Imager (SSM/I), Very High Resolution Radiometer (VHRR)/Advanced VHRR, and Tropical Rainforest Measuring Mission (TRMM), the involvement of the research and operations community early in the process was extremely important to their success. The value of research advocacy and operational involvement was evident in the ocean altimetry and scatterometry cases. Throughout all of these cases, the need for oversight at the highest levels of the transition process cannot be overemphasized.

From these case studies, some general conclusions about transition pathways and their associated processes can be drawn. These are discussed in the following sections.


Presentation by Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator, NASA Earth Science Enterprise, to the Committee on NASA-NOAA Transition from Research to Operations, January 2002, Washington, D.C.


“NASA-NOAA Transitions from Research to Operations,” presentation by G.W. Withee, Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information Services, to the Committee on NASA-NOAA Transition from Research to Operations, January 2002, Washington, D.C.

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