Preferred Options

Private Non Profit Corporations, Either Publicly or Privately Chartered

After careful consideration of many options, the Committee is of the belief that some form of hybrid non profit corporation is the best organizational match to the NoN circumstance. Hybrid non profits are capable of broad reach, considerable flexibility, and minimal statutory restrictions regarding interactions with a wide array of vested interests. Hybrid public-private organizations offer the best chance to establish and cement a true partnership among all levels of government and many species and sizes of organizations in the private sector. Privately chartered non profits often prosper under the rules governing 501(c) 3 organizations. This is a federal code that governs exemption from certain taxes for scientific and educational activities, among many others.

Several organizations related to geophysical observations and research have been created under the management of 501(c) 3 corporations. Among these organizations is the Earth Science Information Partnership (ESIP), which is sponsored by NOAA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and United States Geological Survey ( Since its inception it has grown through the contributions of data and sources both from the agencies as well as from other voluntary contributors. ESIP is governed by a parent 501(c) 3 corporation, the Foundation for Earth Science, which was established in 2001 to support scientific programs and organizations that collect, process, and analyze science-based Earth science information for a broad range of users. It is dedicated to bringing the most current and reliable data and data products to bear on the environmental, economic, and social challenges. The corporation is governed by a board of directors from academia, government, and industry.

Another example of a 501(c) 3 corporation is the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which operates several technical and scientific programs. Among these is Unidata (, which has been a force in atmospheric data distribution development and services. Some of the developments and services have been related to mesoscale data distribution and related networking issues. Through the UCAR 501(c) 3, Unidata was initially launched by the National Science Foundation for university-based atmospheric research applications, but now also draws support from several public agencies and some private sources for various applications, some of which are in operational meteorology. UCAR also operates the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). FFRDCs are often the principal motivation for establishment of 501(c) 3 corporations.

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