III. Structure of This Plan: Imperatives and Frontiers [] III. Structure of This Plan: Imperatives and Frontiers for NCAR

This plan is organized around a set of imperatives and frontiers for NCAR. The imperatives are the activities that NCAR must carry out to fulfill our role as a national center for the atmospheric and related sciences. They are based on our mission and our role in the atmospheric sciences community as it has evolved over nearly 50 years. All of the imperatives are top priorities, and we would maintain some level of effort in each even in the face of budget stress. Section IV of this document describes each imperative, followed by a set of action items, or specific activities for that imperative, in rough priority order. It is important to recognize that the action items are all deemed very important (and taken together they represent a subset of NCAR's overall suite of activities).

NCAR Imperatives

  • Promote innovation and creativity within our institution and across the community of atmospheric, solar, and related sciences
  • Provide capabilities for more accurate prediction and attribution of changes in climate, severe weather, air quality, and solar output, and the impacts of such changes on ecosystems and human well-being
  • Work with collaborators to advance world-leading numerical models of the atmosphere and Earth system, make them widely available, and support their use by the scientific community
  • Develop and provide state-of-the-art supercomputing and data services that will drive the advancement of the atmospheric and related sciences
  • Develop and provide state-of-the-art observational facilities that meet the needs of NSF, NCAR, and the atmospheric and related sciences community
  • Develop and transfer scientific applications, technology, and information products that address societal needs
  • Attract a diverse group of university students and early career scientists and engineers to the atmospheric sciences and provide them with exciting opportunities for educational and professional development

The frontiers are areas where we have identified opportunities to build out from and across existing efforts. The frontiers stress challenges associated with significant emerging societal needs. NCAR and the atmospheric sciences community can play a significant enabling role in advancing these frontiers by creating new partnerships; working to cross disciplines; and by providing an improved foundation to address issues associated with water, ecosystems, renewable energy and to connect to diverse stakeholders. Frontiers are extensions of NCAR work that require increased support to be fully and rapidly implemented. The five frontiers in the plan were derived from a much longer list of potential extensions suggested by NCAR scientists, divisions, institutes, and laboratories. They are in priority order. Progress in frontier areas is dependent on continued strength in the imperatives. Unlike with imperatives, budget stress could result in deferral of frontier activities.

NCAR Frontiers (in priority order)

  • Advance modeling and analysis focused on informing climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Conduct and enable studies of water resource availability, vulnerability, and adaptation planning
  • Develop and support new community tools for integrating Earth and Sun system measurements with models
  • Promote new grid-based computing technologies for interacting with universities and the broader science and education community
  • Develop methods to more accurately assess and predict wind and cloud cover in support of renewable energy industries. Understand the impacts of biofuels and other renewable energy technologies on water resources and regional climate

Prioritizing the frontiers and the action items under imperatives involved multiple iterations between the NCAR strategic planning council and NCAR senior managers. All suggested activities and frontiers had to meet thresholds of feasibility, affordability, and appropriateness to NCAR's role as a national center. The suggestions that met those criteria were then evaluated according to

  • scientific quality and excitement
  • broader impact and relevance to stakeholder needs
  • ambitiousness and vision

The priority rankings that resulted from this process are better thought of as a rough guide than a rigid template. Actual year-by-year funding decisions will be influenced by opportunities for cooperation and leverage, availability of funds vs. projected costs, and other factors. A lower-priority, lower-cost item might be funded in a given year if sufficient funds are not available for a more expensive, higher-priority item. Nevertheless, the order of action items and frontiers provides a good indicator of where NCAR would invest additional funding.