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Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document (2014)

Chapter: Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document

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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
www.national‐academies.org/basc
500 Fifth Street, N.W., Keck W603
Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: 202‐334‐3512
Fax: 202‐334‐3825

July 16, 2014

Dr. Scott G. Borg
Acting Division Director
Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Dear Dr. Borg:

In the summer of 2013, Michael Morgan, Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS), approached the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC) to ask for a review of an upcoming AGS draft goals and objectives document. These goals and the objectives are for the years 2014–2018. BASC assembled a committee of eight members and charged it with addressing the following questions with respect to the draft document provided on March 7, 2014 (See Appendix A for the committee’s complete statement of task [SOT]):

  1. Are the goals and objectives clear and appropriate?
  2. Are there any content areas missing from the draft that should be present if AGS is to achieve its overall vision and mission?
  3. Are there adequate mechanisms for coordinating and integrating issues that involve multiple disciplines and multiple divisions within NSF and other agencies within the atmospheric and geospace sciences enterprise?

AGS also asked the committee to organize a public workshop and engage the atmospheric and geospace sciences community to provide feedback on the draft. The discussion‐oriented community workshop was held on March 31‐April 1, 2014 at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, DC. More than 45 experts from academia and AGS participated in the 1.5‐day workshop. The committee developed the agenda and selected participants who took part in plenary and small group discussions. The workshop was designed to seek specific input on the draft by asking invited workshop participants to share their views in the context of the questions listed above. The majority of participants also wrote “mini reviews” of the document to prepare for the workshop discussions1. These mini‐reviews and the discussions at the workshop were helpful to the committee in formulating the views expressed in this letter report.

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1 These mini reviews were shared with AGS and are available through the Public Access Records Office.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
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The committee also considered information gained in discussions with AGS leadership and from the relevant literature when writing this report. The committee had two meetings (including the workshop) to deliberate and review the goals and objectives document (hereafter referred to as “the Document”) based on the SOT questions. The committee reviewed the Document as an initial draft and hopes that the suggestions offered here will aid in revisions leading to the final product.

In the review of the Document, it was clear that later sections (pages 21‐28), which offer a flavor of program achievements and resources available to the community, are incomplete and only broadly sketched out. It is feasible that this material could be incorporated into the descriptions of the goals as described earlier in the Document (e.g., examples of past activities and progress; key current and near-future investments). However, the purpose of these later sections is not clear because no context or introduction is provided. Furthermore, there is no clear relationship between the goals and these sections. The committee did not review these sections in detail since they do not have any actual or perceived influence on future AGS activities nor are they directly relevant to the three questions in the SOT.

First, this report discusses two key missing pieces from the Document that should be present to help AGS achieve its overall vision and mission [SOT question #2]: (1) clarification of the context and purpose of the Document and; (2) the role of AGS in the context of the national research portfolio. Second, the report makes some observations and recommendations regarding document organization and the definition and articulation of the individual goals. For each goal, the report addresses its appropriateness and identifies missing content [SOT questions #1 and #2]. Finally, the report makes recommendations on how the Document can more clearly articulate collaboration within AGS and NSF, as well as nationally and internationally [SOT question #3].

CONTEXT AND PURPOSE OF THE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES DOCUMENT

As noted by AGS leadership at the workshop, a strategic planning document that sets forth missions, long‐term goals, and means to achieve those goals, has not been developed for AGS in decades. They referred to a 2007 NRC report that provided guidance to NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences (ATM, the former name of the AGS Division) on its strategy for supporting research to achieve the nation's scientific and education goals in the atmospheric sciences. They highlighted a single conclusion from that report: “…the strategic plan itself will be useful to ATM, but the process of producing it may prove even more valuable, particularly if it is conducted with ample and transparent community engagement.” Furthermore, the strategic planning process serves as a mechanism for the community as a whole to participate in an active conversation about the direction of the field and where best to use resources, while remaining sensitive to the societal expectations of that research (NRC,2007).

This committee commends AGS for taking initial steps toward strategic planning, as recommended in the NRC 2007 report, Strategic Guidance for the National Science Foundation’s Support of the Atmospheric Science, by drafting a goals and objectives document and engaging in a community workshop to discuss it.

It was clear from discussions with AGS that the Document is not intended to be an AGS strategic plan. However, in the committee’s view, the revised Document could serve as a first step toward the development of a formal AGS‐wide strategic plan while also informing the Directorate of Geosciences

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

(GEO) Strategic Plan. An AGS strategic document would need to be forward‐ looking and provide a timeline for accomplishing the goals and a means for assessing progress. It would also help AGS achieve its overall vision and mission. The committee recognizes that undertaking such a task would require a significant investment of human resources and time.

The Document states that the purpose is to provide input to the GEO Strategic Plan. However, AGS also identified several additional disparate purposes at the community workshop: as a communication tool to orient potential and new investigators; as guidance for the new AGS director; as planning guidance to the National Center for Atmosphere Research (NCAR)2; as a tool to foster more coordinated thinking across AGS programs; and as a benchmark for assessing near‐term AGS activities. It bears noting that there is an apparent mismatch between the timeline for finalizing the Document and some of the intended purposes. For example, the timing of the release of the Document likely will not serve planning purposes outside of NSF, and possibly even outside of AGS, until 2015.

The multiple purposes of the Document should be distinguished in order of priority, as text suitable for one purpose might not be suitable for another. Are the goals intended to reflect the current research portfolio, to predict the future research portfolio, or to guide the future research portfolio? Is the Document's purpose descriptive or evaluative?

It was challenging to review the Document in this context and determine the appropriateness of the goals and identify missing content. Thus, some advice found in this report might be more relevant than other suggestions, depending on which purposes take priority. For example, in the following section, the committee suggests that the Document provide context on the structure of AGS and the various ways it funds research. This context is not essential if the Document will solely be used as input into the GEO strategic plan. However, if the Document will be used to orient new investigators, then this context would add value.

Finally, serving multiple audiences can dilute the impact of the Document. Clearly stating the intended audience and how the Document was created is essential in establishing the context of the remainder of the Document.

AGS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH PORTFOLIO

Discovery‐Driven Science at AGS

AGS supports research to add new understanding of the behavior of the Earth's atmosphere and its response to the sun. AGS research focuses on: (1) studies of the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of Earth's upper and lower atmosphere and its space environment; (2) research on climate processes and variations; and 3) studies to understand the natural global cycles of gases and particles in Earth's atmosphere. AGS leadership used the following statements to describe the mission and vision of AGS.3

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2 For more information on NCAR, see a later section of this report: NCAR’s Role within AGS

3 These are not official Mission or Vision statements.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

Mission of AGS

To extend intellectual frontiers in atmospheric and geospace sciences by making responsible investments in fundamental research, technology development, and education that enable discoveries, nurture a vibrant, diverse scientific workforce, and help attain a prosperous and sustainable future.

Vision of AGS

To excel at being the “home” for support of curiosity‐driven research in the atmospheric and geospace sciences while also being responsive to community‐vetted, national science priorities.

Including the vision of AGS in the introductory section of the Document would help establish the motivation for the goals. Additional background information about the structure of AGS and the various ways in which it funds and supports research and education is also needed, especially if the Document will be used to orient new investigators.

The Document does not provide sufficient context about the range of research supported by AGS and why it is important. AGS is unique among other Federal agencies that support atmospheric research. As articulated in the mission and vision above, AGS is focused on the discoveries that transform our understanding of the atmosphere. Other Federal agencies that support atmospheric research, such as the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), are mission‐driven, and their research is therefore largely applications oriented (though all fund some basic research in direct support of their missions). A strong AGS is one that continues to focus on new discoveries and knowledge that can be translated to support solutions to a variety of socio‐economic problems while also recognizing the leveraging capabilities of the other atmospheric agencies. The committee endorses the recommendation from NRC (2007) that “ATM preserve opportunities for basic research, especially projects that are high risk, potentially transformative, or unlikely to be supported by other government agencies.”

The university research portfolio supported by AGS relies almost solely on investigator‐driven research. AGS prides itself on the fact that it issues no solicitations for individual and small group investigator projects and conducts few panel reviews, relying instead on the innovative and transformative ideas that come forth from individual or small teams of scientists. This policy is attractive in its reliance on the strength of grassroots ideas to frame and form the AGS program. Nevertheless, decadal surveys, NRC reports, and strategic plans that are undertaken by GEO or other relevant federal and international agencies provide AGS and the PI community a sense of national and international priorities. Setting the context of AGS within these larger efforts could be addressed by discussing the relative importance within AGS of PI proposal driven research versus targeted requests for proposals, and funding for centers and research infrastructure and facilities.

The Document fails to clearly articulate the diverse approaches AGS supports to successfully conduct research in the context of national and international research priorities.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

NCAR’s Role within AGS

A significant part of AGS’s budget is allocated for the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) called the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In 1958, an NRC Committee on Meteorology recommended the establishment of a large research center that would work in conjunction with US universities to take on ambitious projects and provide the advanced instruments, observing platforms, computers, and facilities needed to push atmospheric sciences forward (NRC, 1958). This recommendation led to the development of NCAR.

Throughout its history, NCAR has been intimately connected with both university and private sector research activities that utilize the observational facilities and modeling capabilities it has developed and maintained. However, the Document does not adequately present the symbiotic relationship between NCAR and the broader AGS research community. Although NCAR is a significant portion of the AGS portfolio, the Document does not clearly describe how NCAR activities contribute to and are integrated with the AGS goals and objectives. How does AGS view the role of NCAR in a strategically integrated Division? Furthermore, NCAR is currently developing its own 2014‐2019 strategic plan.4 How will the NCAR strategic plan coordinate with the goals and objectives for AGS?

Rather than a simple enumeration of the many contributions made by NCAR, the Document should discuss the strength, breadth, and scalability that AGS gains by virtue of its FFRDC’s support of the university and private sector research communities.

DOCUMENT ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE

The individual sections of the Document are inconsistently organized with uneven levels of detail. Large differences in length might be appropriate if they correspond to differences in budgets and sizes of research portfolio, but that does not seem to be the case.

Likewise, sections addressing individual draft goals are not written in a consistent style and have different structures and levels of detail. Each goal generally contains several subsections (e.g., Rationale, Implementation, and Future Investments) as well as a descriptive subsection for the goal. The Document is unclear about what information each of these subsections is intended to convey, and the subsectional organization differs from goal to goal. The Implementation subsections are organized in bullet format and other subsections are written in narrative format. All subsections include specific areas for potential investment, with no obvious reason for placing an area in a particular subsection. The Implementation subsections tend to contain a finer level of detail and appear to be intended to describe current activities. The Future Investment subsections describe planned changes of emphasis, while the descriptive subsections seem to contain overviews of the field or descriptions of past NSF investments. There is little mention of coordination mechanisms for each of the goals except for a listing of interagency partners.

The organizational structure of the Document is weak and the presentation of the material is not balanced. It would be improved if the discussion of each goal contained the following:

  • scope, importance, and rationale for the goal
  • examples of past activities and progress

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4http://ncar.ucar.edu/directorate/documents/ncar‐strategic‐plan‐2014‐2019

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
  • key current and near‐future investments
  • anticipated future areas of emphasis
  • discussion of partners and coordinating mechanisms

SPECIFIC COMMENTS ON AGS GOALS

In general, goals are broad statements about desired achievements. Objectives are specific supporting achievements that can be accomplished within the plan timeline.

The six main goals that serve as the section headers are not formulated as goals that can be achieved in a four year window, but as research, educational or capability development themes5 under which multiple goals can be articulated. They reflect activities supported by AGS and the degree to which research priorities arise from the research community rather than simply being dictated by AGS staff.

Some questions that could be asked of more specific goals include:

  • Why are the goals relevant to the period 2014‐2018? Are these goals different from AGS goals heretofore? Will they change after 2018?
  • How is progress toward the goals to be assessed? Are there metrics, or even notional measures of progress? Are all elements of the goals to be met, or just some?
  • How is prioritization accomplished within the goals?
  • What are the challenges and impediments associated with achieving the goals? How will they be addressed?
  • How do the goals evolve as unanticipated discoveries are made during the relevant period 2014‐2018?

Given that most AGS investments are proposal‐driven, the Document cannot be all encompassing, and does not represent the broad spectrum of research that AGS funds. This fact is not made clear in the Document. Several of the goals use the term “understand” which is ambiguous, and replacing it with more specific wording would reflect the quantitative nature of the science.

The three science goals on climate, atmospheric composition, and sun/earth coupling appear to be linked to specific AGS programs and sections (e.g., the Climate and Large‐Scale Dynamics program, the Atmospheric Chemistry program and the Geospace section, respectively). On the other hand, the extreme events and high hazards science goal clearly spans many AGS programs. Workshop presentations and discussions involving AGS staff strongly indicate they had intended all four science goals to cut across large portions of the AGS research portfolio. The Document should emphasize that several AGS (and GEO) programs contribute to each goal. Some common integrative themes related to AGS research in atmosphere and space science emerged from the workshop discussions: couplings between disparate spatial and temporal scales; interconnections across regional and physical boundaries; and utilization and interpretation of large‐scale observational and numerical simulation data sets. Furthermore, the last two goals on infrastructure and workforce should link to and complement the science goals.

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5 To be consistent with the document under review, this report still refers to them as “goals”.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

Expanding the four science goals to reflect their cross cutting integration of major efforts within AGS would reflect a more forward‐looking, integrative approach that unifies research activities across the Division.

The following sections are comments about the appropriateness and clarity of each goal put forth in the Document as well as missing content.

Goal: Observe, Understand, and Model Extreme Events and Associated Relevant High Impact Events

This goal clearly engages multiple AGS and other NSF programs. However, its Implementation subsection is very uneven. Some bullets encapsulate large amounts of general research, while others identify very specific items that do not seem to rise to the level of high priorities. Lake‐effect snow research is highlighted even though other topics such as tropical cyclones, analysis of data from the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (VORTEX2), and analysis of cases of hazardous geospace events are not adequately addressed. Other items that appear overly specific to the topic of hazards include gravity waves, the Thermosphere Ionosphere Electrodynamic General Circulation Model (TIE‐GCM), and the Cyber Experimentation and Test (CSET). The remaining subsection includes material that other goals break into two subsections. For consistency and as recommended in the previous section, a similar structure and level of detail should be employed here.

The discussion of the goal would be strengthened if it included a definition of extreme events and high impact hazards that encompasses the full spectrum of hazards from the ground through geospace. This includes events that occur on multiple time scales, such as air stagnation/pollution, heat waves, and extreme space weather. Examples of research on hazards could include:

  • underlying interdependent physical processes that give rise to such hazards;
  • space and time scale interactions such as seasonal prediction of extreme weather, and the study of hazards aggravated by a changing climate;
  • human interactions with hazards;
  • assessment and communication of risk; and
  • understanding of vulnerability, risk, and resilience.

Goal: Advance the State of Knowledge and Understanding of Earth’s Climate

This goal is generally appropriate and clear. It provides the right level of detail describing certain facets of implementation, current activities and accomplishments, and future investment. However, the Rationale subsection does not sufficiently articulate the societal benefits of NSF‐supported fundamental climate research. Including a more compelling description of the national and international importance of research on climate variability and change would strengthen the Document. For example, the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and the most recent articulation of the goals of the U.S. Global Change Research Program compel NSF to help inform and enable timely decisions on climate change adaptation and mitigation (USGCRP, 2013). The description of this goal is also an opportunity to highlight the impact of climate on society and conversely the impact of human activities on climate.

The goal is particularly well suited for a systems approach. However, in general, climate is discussed in the Document as an isolated atmospheric phenomenon that does not include the ocean, land surface,

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

sea ice and glacial ice sheets, the geospace environment, and solar radiation, all of which influence climate change. There should also be an acknowledgment of the critical dependence of the climate modeling enterprise on software development, visualization, documentation and maintenance, as well as high‐end computational resources.

Although there are several important activities and programs mentioned as examples of AGS investments, there are several aspects of fundamental research on climate that have not been included in the Document. Such research includes:

  • the importance of paleoclimate studies, both for providing a better understanding of Earth history and as context for climate variability and change;
  • the challenge of measuring and modeling the water cycle;
  • the relevance of and potential role that is played by the Arctic in both amplifying global climate change and interacting with weather and climate in the lower latitudes (NRC, 2014; links directly to Polar Programs division of GEO);
  • important unresolved climate change questions (e.g., the causes of the current global warming hiatus and whether the probability distribution of climate variables is shifting or changing shape); and
  • the seamless nature of weather and climate, including both processes and methods for measuring and modeling that are common to both. The seamless approach has the potential to advance predictability of regional climate variability and change on seasonal to decadal time scales (e.g., Brunet et al., 2010; Hazeleger et al., 2010; NRC, 2010).

Additional missing content in the Document includes:

  • Examples of specific processes that are climate‐relevant, e.g., formation and dissipation of low-level clouds; interaction of radiatively active species with natural variability; the role of the stratosphere in large‐scale atmospheric dynamics; and the influence of biota on atmospheric composition and the impact of chemical and dynamical fluxes on climate.
  • How AGS will support interactions of climate scientists with social scientists and societal stakeholders to promote better communications, greater transparency, free and open data access, contributions to national and international assessments, interactions with relevant organizations, and decision support.

Goal: Expand Knowledge of Earth’s Atmospheric Composition and Behavior

The Rationale for this goal focuses on aerosols and their effects on climate, and oxidants that determine the lifetimes of greenhouse gases (e.g., methane and hydrohalocarbons). It should include air quality in addition to chemistry‐climate connections. The Implementation lacks a coherent framework. It lists several field programs and numerous research sub‐topics in a somewhat disorganized manner (e.g., two overlapping subsections on nitrogen) and in more detail than is needed. The Implementation is too long and could be shortened by using selected examples with more of a high level overview. It should follow from the topics called out in the Rationale.

Although several important research areas are discussed, the Document does not articulate key areas of uncertainty. It appropriately considers several key research modes used in atmospheric chemistry, namely field measurement programs, laboratory studies, quantification of fluxes, and elucidation of

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

transport mechanisms. The Document calls appropriately for analysis of results from recent field programs.

To make this an AGS‐wide goal, the title should be revised and the subsequent discussion should be expanded to include investigating the processes that influence the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, including the mesosphere, thermosphere, and geospace.

The discussion of the goal would be strengthened if it included:

  • The utility of field data for model evaluation and development, or of models for interpreting field data in a larger context. Models are hardly mentioned in the context of this goal, even though they are used to integrate understanding of the mechanisms affecting atmospheric composition and how it has changed and may change in the future.
  • The two‐way nature of the interaction between atmospheric composition and climate. There is no mention of chemistry‐climate modeling, the interdisciplinary research field that investigates this two‐way coupling. For example, the frequency and severity of pollution episodes are affected by climate, and changes in stratospheric ozone affect large‐scale circulation (Jacob and Winner, 2009; WMO, 2010).

Goal: Understand the Sun and Geospace Environment as a Coupled System.

The goal is appropriate, however the title should reflect the need to investigate the Sun, geospace, and the atmosphere environments as coupled systems. The description of this goal does an excellent job of integrating the objectives of the Geospace Section. As written, the goal explains how the various programs within the Geospace Section work together to study a complex coupled system. It also has an appropriate level of detail and is a suitable length.

The discussion of the goal would be strengthened if it included a description of how the work of the Geospace Section is coupled to and integrated with the rest of AGS. Currently one bullet in the Implementation focuses on the coupling of the lower atmosphere to the geospace system. The two-way coupling between the lower atmosphere and the near geospace environment as well as the coupling between the Sun and geospace system should be included in the broader descriptions of this goal that appear in the Rationale and Future Investment sections.

Goal: Build a Competent and Diverse Scientific Workforce

This goal represents long‐standing and important portions of the AGS portfolio. The educational challenge of ensuring the coming generations of researchers in AGS fields are both highly competent and represent the full range of our nation’s diverse population are NSF‐wide charges to all research areas supported by the Foundation. US geoscientists have historically been well trained and highly productive; however women and most minorities have not been adequately represented, presenting AGS with a serious challenge.

The Rationale for this goal is clear. The Implementation is mainly focused on existing programs supported by AGS. Overall these are quite comprehensive, and aimed at expanding the workforce to include women and under‐represented minorities and advancing the development of researchers at many stages of their careers. Some of the Implementation items require further detail. For example,

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

“Identify and remedy bottlenecks and ‘leaky pipeline’ issues” ‐ how does AGS intend to do this? The section on Competent and Diverse Workforce is largely a repetition of the prior Implementation list, and it is not clear what this adds to the Document. Finally, the section on Future Investment is focused mainly on undergraduate education, though it is not articulated why this is the priority for future investment over the other areas of career development.

This goal is quite comprehensive, with a long list of ongoing activities. However, the discussion of the goal would be strengthened if it included:

  • An assessment of the effectiveness of the different existing programs including those that were designed to broaden participation by women and under‐represented minorities.
  • A description of AGS activities and priorities in the context of growing needs for a scientific workforce with capabilities in new model development, new instrument development, the use of large datasets (analysis and visualization), and science communication.

Goal: Provide Research Infrastructure to Advance Understanding

AGS develops, provides and supports, in many cases through its support of NCAR, a great many observational facilities, cyber infrastructure, and computational models. Atmospheric and solar/geospace sciences are global activities requiring major observational platforms and instrumentation, as well as computational software and hardware, well beyond the capacity of individual research groups and even most academic and research institutions.

The research infrastructure goal reads as a list of existing facilities and is not forward looking nor does it provide a sense of priorities. In the current restricted funding environment choices between operational support for existing observational and computational facilities and the development of new facilities are difficult, but vitally important.

The discussion of the goal would be strengthened if it included:

  • A description that views the observational and computational facilities as a coherent suite that provides the means of observing the entire sun‐geospace‐atmosphere system, modeling the coupled system and its component parts on a variety of space and temporal scales, and analyzing both the observations and model outputs. This perspective will allow a clearer view of gaps and duplications and aid in formulating a coherent plan for deciding priorities between maintaining existing infrastructure and developing new facilities.
  • An identification of current gaps, and how these may be addressed by AGS activities in upcoming years (e.g., miniaturized sensors, ruggedized sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, ship‐ and airborne radars, and an expanded CubeSat program.).
  • Plans that more fully and transparently involve the research community in evaluating the existing observational and computational facilities and the potential value of future facilities.

COORDINATION

All of the goals have components that are inherently interdisciplinary and often would require interagency cooperation as well as interdivisional and inter‐directorate work within NSF itself. Thus, addressing coordinating and integrating science efforts is central to an effective strategic plan for AGS.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

Each goal description (except for the one on workforce) simply lists other agencies that may cooperate with AGS to attain identified goals. Such a list does not give adequate specificity to be actionable in an AGS planning document. The goal to “understand the sun and geospace environment as a coupled system” is the most comprehensive of all the goals in describing coordination mechanisms. It includes a description of the interdisciplinary and interagency aspects of solar‐terrestrial research and space weather efforts that will be needed in the future, as described in the 2013‐2022 Decadal Survey in Solar and Space Physics (NRC, 2012).

The committee recognizes that AGS and NSF have informal mechanisms for collaboration. AGS staff communicate with one another and are aware of activities in other parts of NSF as well as other agencies relevant to their program. However, it was clear from comments made at the community workshop that there is a perceived lack of transparent mechanisms for properly evaluating interdisciplinary proposals that cross programs within AGS and GEO. As discussed in the workshop, AGS has a policy of taking pains to fairly evaluate interdisciplinary proposals by involving program managers from multiple sections, and possibly outside AGS. However, mechanisms for evaluating and co‐funding interdisciplinary proposals within NSF are not clearly articulated in the Document.

The Document would be strengthened if it explicitly identified the mechanisms by which AGS cooperates, collaborates, and integrates among the individual sections at AGS, with other parts of NSF, and with other agencies of the Federal government.

There are four levels of collaboration that should be addressed using Division‐wide principles of collaboration: within AGS, within NSF, among Federal agencies, and among nations. First, individual investigators need guidance on how AGS handles interdisciplinary proposals that cut across aspects of the portfolio of research supported within AGS. Second, there are large group projects that may include proposals for a Science and Technology Center, or an Engineering Research Center, or an unsolicited proposal from a large group of investigators. Often, these large group efforts have well‐established NSF rules of engagement and a more extensive review process; however, the Document should acknowledge the challenge of large projects that do not necessarily fit into the established categories.

A third level of collaboration involves coordination of efforts between AGS and other federal agencies. An earlier NRC report, Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions (NRC, 2011), provides guidance about such collaborations. Applying the “touchstones” from NRC (2011) could be useful in deciding when AGS should collaborate or more fully cooperate with other agencies. In particular, that report recommends an evaluation of the rationale for collaboration in comparison with separate efforts, the potential for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts, the unique aspects or level of support that can be gained from the partner agency, and the nuts and bolts of implementing the collaboration. The Document would be strengthened by adding a description on how AGS can work with other divisions, with senior NSF leadership, and with OMB/OSTP to develop a supportable vision of cooperation and collaboration in the national interest.

A fourth level of collaboration involves international programs. There are many such programs whose activities intersect with AGS interests: Future Earth, the Belmont Forum, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, the World Weather Research Programme, the World Climate Research Programme, other programs of the World Meteorological Organization, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, and the International Council of Scientific Unions. Although international

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

coordination is also addressed in NRC (2011), the Document should include a summary of principles that guide leveraging international opportunities in a coordinated way.

Interagency and interdivisional collaboration is crucial to future AGS success and clear examples of collaboration modes should be cited for each goal in the Document.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS OF AGS

There are a number of areas where AGS can provide leadership on future integrated research challenges, but where potential roles for AGS are not articulated in the Document. The future challenges not only cut across sections within AGS, but also link with other parts of NSF and other federal agencies. Box 1 includes examples of the cross‐cutting and/or high‐level issues that might be included in the Document. These examples are illustrative and not intended to be representative of all the research AGS supports. They reflect just a few of the cross‐cutting issues that were discussed at the workshop6.

As noted in NRC 2007, AGS is operating in a research environment that is ever more multi‐disciplinary, interagency, and international, making a more strategic approach necessary to manage activities in a way that actively engages the atmospheric sciences community. Since the beginning of basic research programs in atmospheric and geospace science, the science has evolved dramatically from single process studies to the examination of the Sun and Earth as an interconnected system. This has been enabled by enhanced observations and informatics techniques in addition to advances in complex numerical simulations. The goals and objectives document has the potential to reflect a more forward-looking, integrative approach that captures the future research challenges and unifies the Division.

Sincerely,
Susan K. Avery, Chair
On behalf of the Committee to Review the NSF AGS Draft Science Goals and Objectives

____________________

6 Other cross‐cutting issues that were raised at the workshop are included in the recap which was provided to AGS.

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×

BOX 1
Cross‐Cutting Issues

Science at interfaces: It was clear from the workshop discussions that a large number of the science questions facing the community involve multiple components of the Earth‐Sun system (e.g. air‐sea interaction, exchanges between the land surface and atmosphere, interactions between the atmosphere and the cryosphere, and influences of the Sun on the Earth’s atmosphere and surface). The Document does not articulate the role of AGS in ongoing and future research at these critical interfaces. AGS is in a unique position to take a “systems” approach to addressing some of these issues, and the committee encourages AGS to adopt this approach when describing the Division’s goals and objectives.

Weather and climate across time and space scales: A recent well documented trend is the recognition that the same processes, observing systems, and modeling methods are relevant to both weather and climate research (e.g., Palmer and Webster, 1995; WCRP, 2005; Hurrell et al., 2009; NRC, 2010; Hoskins, 2013). With its portfolio of community models, and access to a rich observing network that includes both operational and research observing systems, AGS is in a unique position to address the issue of spatial and temporal scale interactions within the atmosphere and geospace. Migrating global models to higher and higher resolution is one approach; another approach is integrating high resolution global models with expertise and infrastructure in regional modeling (NRC, 2012). Examples of the latter approach include the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP)7 and the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX).8

Model hierarchy: NRC 2012 recommends: To support a national linked hierarchy of models, the United States should nurture a common modeling infrastructure and a shared model development process, allowing modeling groups to efficiently share advances while preserving scientific freedom and creativity by fostering model diversity where needed. The Document emphasizes the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, both of which are state‐of‐the-science models heavily used within the community of AGS researchers, but this emphasis on two models does not fully address the strategy advocated in NRC 2012. The Document presents an opportunity for AGS to address how the community modeling efforts it supports can be broadened and linked with other modeling, data assimilation, informatics, and visualization efforts to nurture the recommended “linked hierarchy.” For example, how can the model development efforts better link with those in NOAA and the Navy?

____________________

7http://www.narccap.ucar.edu/

8http://wcrp‐cordex.ipsl.jussieu.fr/

Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
Page 13
Suggested Citation:"Review of the National ScienceFoundation's Division on Atmosphericand Geospace Sciences Draft Goalsand Objectives Document." National Research Council. 2014. Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Document. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18887.
×
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Review of the National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Draft Goals and Objectives Documents is a letter report by an ad hoc committee reviewing the AGS draft goals and objectives. It addresses the following questions: Are the goals and objectives clear and appropriate? Are there any content areas missing from the draft that should be present if AGS is to achieve its overall vision and mission? Are there adequate mechanisms for coordinating and integrating issues that involve multiple disciplines and multiple divisions within NSF and other agencies within the atmospheric and geospace sciences enterprise?

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