As discussed in Chapters 2 and 5, effective transitioning of research and technology to operations requires a supportive organizational structure and culture; effective planning, communication, and coordination; a strong scientific and technological foundation; a balance between research “push” and operational “pull”; and adequate infrastructure and financial and human resources. Case studies show that complete transitions of environmental measurements have often taken a decade or more, although there is considerable variability (see Chapter 5, the section entitled “Case Studies and Lessons Learned,” and Appendix B). Partial transitions—typically involving measurements acquired by research missions that are then incorporated into operations (e.g., scatterometry)—have occurred frequently. There are also examples in which instruments have been flown routinely on operational satellites prior to completion of the data reduction algorithms and the development of techniques for assimilating the measurements into operational prediction models.
The committee recognizes that there are many different ways to accomplish transitions and that valuable transitions would continue without any changes to the present system. However, to speed up the rate of transitions and thereby increase the return on the research investment, there is need for a more organized and focused mechanism for transitioning NASA research into NOAA operations. Specifically, the transition process could be dramatically improved by a mechanism that is systematic and transparent (i.e., has well-understood processes and structures), robust (i.e., can influence and drive the transition), and universal (i.e., may be applied to a diverse set of scientific opportunities, technological capabilities, and operational requirements rather than being case-specific).
The elements and building blocks for successful transition architectures described in Chapter 5, in the section entitled “Transition Pathways and Processes,” constitute the criteria against which a candidate transition architecture can be evaluated (see Figure 6.1). To be valuable, any proposed architecture must provide a comprehensive solution to the problems imposed by the valleys of death and lost opportunities, in effect establishing a reliable bridge over which the transition from research-to-operations can proceed in an efficient and coordinated manner. Furthermore, the architecture must address the relevant transition communities from end to end, including the research community, the sensor systems community, the data-analysis and data-assimilation community, and the users. (See Box 6.1 for a descriptive analogy of research-to-operations transition pathways.)
The committee considered several approaches to improving the end-to-end transitioning process. After evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, the committee found that one approach best addresses the objective of establishing a mechanism to develop effective transition architectures without introducing new and equally challenging issues. The committee has identified the need for the creation of an Interagency Transition Office that will both support the research and operational efforts in NASA and NOAA and strengthen the transitioning process.