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Strategic Guidance for the National Science Foundation’s Support of the Atmospheric Sciences: An Interim Report
In considering future directions for the atmospheric sciences, the committee reviewed some aspects of the evolution of the atmospheric sciences over the past several decades. The body of the report also offers some preliminary analysis of the strengths and limitations of the various modes of support employed by ATM. On the basis of these analyses, the committee has identified the findings and recommendations discussed below. The order of the findings and recommendations presented here and in the main body of the report does not strictly reflect priorities, but rather is presented to aid the reader in following the development of the ideas presented. In these findings and recommendations, the committee aims to identify broad areas where additional attention by ATM is warranted; after further deliberation, more specific guidance will be provided in the committee’s final report.
EMPLOYING A DIVERSITY OF MODES TO MEET ATM OBJECTIVES
Having diverse modes of support available has benefited the atmospheric sciences.
Finding: The committee finds that the diversity of activities and modes of support is a strength of the program and of our nation’s scientific system. The approach and vision outlined in NAS/NRC (1958) and the “Blue Book” (“UCAR,” 1959), which together mapped out the complementary roles of a large national center and the individual investigator university grants program, has served the atmospheric science community well and is the envy of many other scientific communities. The newer modes of support (i.e., multi-investigator awards, cooperative agreements, and centers sited at universities) reflect the maturation and increasing interdisciplinary nature of atmospheric sciences. The community input received to date supports this multifaceted approach. The present balance is approximately right and reflects the current needs of the community.
Recommendation: ATM should continue to utilize the current mix of modes of support for a diverse portfolio of activities (i.e., research, observations and facilities, technology development, education, outreach, and applications).
It is essential to preserve opportunities for high-risk, potentially transformative research.
Finding: Among federal science agencies, NSF is a leader in its commitment to support high-risk, potentially transformative research (excluding satellite instrument development). This type of research is instrumental in making major advances in the field, as well as in sustaining the nation’s economic development and