October 31, 2012
In September, members of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate briefed their report, Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None, to a packed House Science Committee hearing room. At the conclusion of the panel, I proposed a concept to move our community forward: the establishment of a weather commission. At that time I shared a vision that a commission has the potential to bring together and strengthen the entire community and enable the public, private and academic sectors to agree upon shared roles and responsibilities, set priorities, and infuse the latest science and technology into our products and services.
A few weeks later, in Boulder, I discussed the weather commission idea with the Board and Members of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which represents a significant portion of the university community. In D.C. and in Boulder, the call for a weather commission elicited great interest, robust discussion, and a positive reception for both its need and potential. With interest continuing to grow, I am writing and asking you, the leaders of the weather community, to weigh in and to help us build a weather commission the right way--from the ground up.
At a time when the enterprise is growing rapidly in diverse ways, when the fundamentals of how we do business are shifting, and when unprecedented fiscal uncertainty threatens the sustainability and integrity of our core services and products, a weather commission can deliver clarity and direction. It can bring together the different sectors and institutions of our community to deliberate, debate, and finally agree on a unified path forward. It can enable us to better leverage our collective expertise for the public good and safety. It can highlight the critical value of our community to the nation and elevate our standing before Congress, the Administration, and the science agencies.
To ensure that the commission is structured and designed in a way that will lead to the best outcomes for the weather community, it is critical for us all to have a say in its development from the beginning. This commission must be larger than any one sector, agency, company, or institution. Ultimately, it will be the entire enterprise's commission and for the nation and the public we collectively serve. We can only move forward with your full input, and that input can be constructive or critical.
It can be difficult to develop consensus among the many different parts of the weather enterprise. The academic community is focused on research and education. The public sector is focused on using the science being generated to carry out its mission related to lives and livelihoods. The private sector is focused on providing products and services in a highly competitive environment. Different constituencies and different objectives drive each sector – yet each is dependent on each other in a variety of ways. A weather commission would go a long way towards bridging the differences within the enterprise and get us closer to being able to convey our views in a more strategic and impactful manner.
To that end, I invite you and your colleagues to actively join in a community conversation over the next month about the goals, design, and powers of a weather commission. What are the major questions a commission should address? How should such a commission operate to ensure full and open participation? What kind of outcomes, final report, and action plan should the commission produce, and how should this outcome be integrated into the public policy process of the Administration and the Congress?
We have built a dedicated message board to provide an open and public venue for your inputs, opinions and guidance. It will open for comment at http://weathercoalition.org/commission/ on November 1, 2012. We have designed the message board to facilitate dialogue and the open sharing of ideas and views. This forum will be useful to those in the Congress and Administration should they decide to support the concept, and we hope active use by the community over the next month will serve these ends.
I encourage you to forward this open letter to your colleagues in the community who you think might want to participate in this dialogue, including those who rely on our services. At the end of November, we will sort, organize, and compile comments into a format that can help inform and steer the weather commission effort moving forward.
Until then, I look forward to your participation in this important community-wide endeavor and to following your conversations on the message board.
Thomas J. Bogdan
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research