Consensus Report

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

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The National Science Foundation's Division on Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) supports research to achieve the nation's scientific and education goals in the atmospheric sciences. At AGS' request, this letter report reviews an AGS draft goals and objectives document that sets forth missions, long-term goals, and the means to achieve those goals, for the years 2014–2018. The letter report's authoring committee commends AGS on taking initial steps toward strategic planning, and for participating in a public workshop organized by the National Research Council that engaged the atmospheric and geospace sciences community to provide feedback on the draft goals and objectives document. However, the letter report’s authoring committee found that there are two key missing pieces from the Document that should be present to help AGS achieve its overall vision and mission : (1) clarification of the context and purpose of the Document and; (2) the role of AGS in the context of the national research portfolio. The committee also made observations and recommendations regarding the organization of the document, and the definition and articulation of the individual goals. Finally, the report makes recommendations on how the Document can more clearly articulate collaboration within AGS and the National Science Foundation, as well as nationally and internationally.

Key Messages

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • The Document fails to clearly articulate the diverse approaches AGS supports to successfully conduct research in the context of national and international research priorities.
  • 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.
  • 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 scope, importance, and rationale for the goal; examples of past activities and progress; key current and near-future investments; anticipated future areas of emphasis; and a discussion of partners and coordinating mechanisms.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.