Environmental Scan and Internal Data

The WMP EC and subcommittees (hereafter WMP Committee) organized a large data gathering effort (internal and external) in an attempt to identify trends, best practices, and areas where discussions should be focused. The survey included research, data collection and analysis, surveys, forums, and self-assessments. The WMP Committee identified the following sources and types of data as being important for input:

Internal External
Human Resources data and charts Peer institution survey results and summary
UCAR and NCAR policies and procedures Detailed data from peer institutions

Institutional metrics 

Web research on policies, procedures,
practices, and source documents

Survey/discussion with
directors and administrators

Diversity data
Workplace Climate Survey  
 Diversity data  


Critical aspects of this study were a survey of peer research centers and universities, and Web research on their policies, procedures, and practices. Representatives from UCAR, NCAR, and the UCAR Board of Trustees interviewed the leaders of 16 peer institutions ranging from universities (5) to nonprofits (2) and national and international government/research centers or labs (9).

The external survey revealed a wide variety of workforce policies and practices in areas such as salaries and benefits, diversity efforts, annual performance reviews, promotions, tenure or tenure-like policies, base and outside funding practices, and visitor programs. For example, some research institutes have a tenure-like system while others do not. Almost all of the centers/universities were clear about the percentage of time that should be devoted to research, teaching, and service. Some centers enforce strict limits on the number of tenured/secured positions. There appeared to be a wide spectrum of practices for annual performance reviews. Support staff were either externally funded, supported by the organization, or shared by the scientific/technical staff through a “pool” system. Approximately half of the organizations surveyed have implemented formal mentoring programs. The others simply assign senior staff to employees or support ad hoc programs. Most of the institutions had crafted a formal diversity plan, but a few had no such plans.

Our analysis of the diverse survey results brought us to an important overarching conclusion:

Conclusion: Successful institutions that have significant similarities to NCAR across the country and world have implemented a wide variety of workforce management practices and policies such that one best workforce management model does not appear to exist.

Surprisingly, none of the 16 peer institutions had a workforce management plan. As a result, this report is unique and not modeled after a similar effort. In fact, most institutions contacted expressed a great of deal of interest in obtaining a copy of our document when it was completed. An external survey of the community reveals an aging scientific and technical workforce and increasing competition to recruit the top people in the field. According to the National Science Board’s “Science and Engineering (S&E) Indicators 2008,”1 we can expect that the number of trained scientists and engineers in the labor force will increase, yet the average age of this workforce will rise because of the longevity of current workers. Forty percent of all S&E doctoral degree holders2 in the labor force are age 50 and older, and doctoral degree holders work slightly longer than the average worker. In fact, at age 69, 21% of those with a doctoral degree work full time (compared to 16% of those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees). Similarly, a review of NCAR’s population reveals that 26% of the current NCAR staff and approximately 40% of the current ladder scientific staff will exceed retirement age (defined as age 65) within ten years. These numbers suggest that we can expect a significant turnover of staff in the near future (Fig. 1). Accordingly, long-range planning is necessary to define the NCAR workforce of the future.



1 National Science Foundation, “S&E Graduate Enrollments Accelerate in 2007; Enrollments of Foreign Students Reach New High” June 2009, published by the National Science Board

2 The R&D labor force does not include just those in the S&E occupations. Of those who spent at least 10% of their time in R&D, only 45% were in S&E occupations.