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Strategic Guidance for the National Science Foundation‘s Support of the Atmospheric Sciences
Given the critical role of the atmospheric sciences in society’s wellbeing, it is important to cast as wide a net as possible in attracting the next generation of atmospheric scientists. Because many colleges do not offer atmospheric science degrees, undergraduates may not be aware of the field. There are opportunities to locate talent that would not otherwise be attracted to our field, for example, students from minority-serving institutions, those with backgrounds in the liberal arts, first-generation students, and students from junior colleges. Women and those students who belong to underrepresented minority groups should be sought out in particular. The geosciences are recruiting a smaller percentage of minority students than other scientific fields. Attracting undergraduate students to summer, hands-on programs supervised by scientific mentors is a valuable pipeline for potential talent in the atmospheric sciences. Better communicating the potential career opportunities afforded by a degree in atmospheric sciences, both within the field and in other careers that require strong analytical and technical skills, may also attract students to the field. Likewise, lectures given at minority-serving institutions, liberal arts colleges, and junior colleges can help find and attract talented students who would not otherwise know about the opportunities in the atmospheric sciences.
Most U.S. atmospheric science departments are relatively small compared with the extensive subject matter that constitutes the atmospheric sciences. Also, many tools are valuable in state-of-the-art atmospheric sciences research, but they are unavailable in many atmospheric science departments. Thus graduate students in the atmospheric sciences may not have access to courses or opportunities to learn about important subject areas. The situation is particularly challenging for observational tools, as discussed above. Another example is the use of reanalysis products developed based on modern data assimilation techniques. Learning about the methods used in data reanalysis would help students understand the proper use of these reanalysis products and decrease the potential for their misuse. Other examples in the area of research tools might be graphical techniques or modern statistical methods. It would benefit the U.S. atmospheric science education effort if collaborative instructional materials were available to universities that do not have in-house capabilities to teach such material.