NCEP Review Executive Summary
Executive Summary of the 2009 Community Review of the NCEP Office of the Director1
Carried Out by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
NCEP Review Executive Committee:
Frederick Carr, co-chair
James Kinter, co-chair
This executive summary and the complete report from which it has been extracted are available, together with the detailed individual reviews of the nine NCEP centers, at: http://www.vsp.ucar.edu/events/NCEP_reviews_2009.html.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) was requested in November 2008 by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) to facilitate a thorough and thoughtful community review of the nine centers that comprise NCEP, as well as the NCEP Office of the Director. This report summarizes the review of the Office of the Director (OD).
The vision of “NCEP as a whole” being greater than the sum of its parts is being realized but is also a work in progress. NCEP is performing well in its primary mission of providing products and services in support of protecting life and property in a timely manner. Many of its service centers are recognized as world leaders in their particular missions. The interactions between centers are increasing, although improvement is needed in this area. The Review Panel commends the strong leadership of the NCEP Director and his staff members for the significant progress NCEP has made over the past decade. NCEP’s mission is unique in the U.S., and has been noted as a “national resource”; as such, it has the opportunity to leverage this leadership and respect to achieve higher goals.
This is a very crucial, perhaps watershed, moment for NCEP in which effective leadership and resources are essential if NCEP is to regain/retain its competitive advantage in the world. Important decisions are imminent on how to lead and resource a large number of key initiatives, possibly in competition with other agencies or even other National Weather Services (NWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) programs.
The fundamental challenge within NCEP is that it is under-resourced for its mission. Each center reported that it is providing more services and products, with additional requests in the pipeline, with roughly the same number of personnel since the last review. At the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) of NCEP, the numerous additional demands for improved or new modeling and data assimilation systems added to an already broad mission has precluded any one system from being considered “world-best.”
There is sentiment in the community that EMC is not equipped to fulfill its mission or realize its vision, i.e., it cannot deliver world-leading models with its current structure and broad mission, for which it is under-resourced. The EMC mission should be carefully evaluated and either reduced in scope to align with the resources or the resources should be increased to align with the broad mission. This should be done in combination with a comprehensive plan to initiate partnerships with other modeling groups within
NOAA, other federal agencies and the academic community. The latter is recommended owing to EMC’s reputation for being unreceptive to external collaboration, a perception that often (unfairly) characterizes NCEP as a whole. NCEP personnel are correct to note that the research community has a lack of appreciation of the constraints that are imposed by the requirements for timeliness, dependability and accuracy on any operational center. Nevertheless, better understanding and cooperation between operational and research scientists are absolutely essential for NCEP to fully achieve its mission.
For the NOAA numerical weather and climate prediction endeavor to serve the nation adequately and be comparable to those that are the best in the world, NCEP must:
Create a culture and work environment that attracts an extraordinary cadre of talented scientists skilled in various aspects of numerical weather and climate prediction. This will require innovative personnel policies, a much greater fraction of civil service positions, opportunities for advancement based on scientific and technological contributions, and systematic mechanisms and commitments for ensuring cooperation and collaboration with the national and international modeling communities.
Deploy computer capabilities that are comparable to or better than those of other major international centers. This will require a substantial increase in computer power and data management and storage facilities.
Provide adequate human resources to meet the stated operational mission.
Embrace an entirely new approach to model development and implementation. This will require a substantial effort to focus on creating a single, powerful, flexible, multi-scale atmosphere-ocean-land-surface modeling approach that can be specialized to specific resolutions and time scales. It should be an effort that involves the entire national weather modeling community and engages partners from other agencies, academia, and the private sector.
In addition to taking these steps toward achieving excellence, the Office of the Director should consider the following critical issues:
The National Centers for Environmental Prediction needs external advice on both scientific aspects of its mission and the further development of its products and services. To enhance its linkage to both the
research and private sector communities, NCEP should request from NOAA Headquarters that a science and services advisory board be established.
The large workload associated with the Office of the Director has grown significantly along with the NCEP mission and budget over the past decade. NCEP requires a Deputy Director who can handle the day to day operations of NCEP as well as many other internally-directed duties, freeing up the Director to think more strategically and forge new collaborations and partnerships within NOAA, the federal government, the US academic community, the private sector and abroad. Also, the vacancy in the position of NCEP Chief Operations Officer should be filled.
In order to preclude large periods of time transpiring before the next set of reviews, NCEP should formalize a periodic review process, to occur every 5–6 years.
These issues are more fully developed in section 5 of this report, and a detailed set of findings and recommendations that address the points above are given in section 6.