Perspective

Hats off to program managers: Three giants from NSF

President's Corner | Richard Anthes, UCAR president

14 August 2009  •  As a rule, the people who oversee scientific research for federal agencies get far less appreciation than they deserve. Science at UCAR and many universities would be impossible without the dedication of program managers at NSF, which is NCAR's sponsor and largest funder of NCAR and other UCAR programs. Roughly 60% of the UCAR support in recent years is made up of funds from NSF, whose hard-working professionals have to make many tough decisions.

President's corner“It’s a happy man who loves his work, and I love my work. Working on process-oriented field campaigns such as the Monsoon Experiment and the Indian Ocean Experiment, high-end climate modeling with the Community Climate System Model, and COSMIC, with its groundbreaking observational capabilities, have been some of the most gratifying experiences of my career. What have made these programs so successful are their extraordinary leaders and their equally superb teams of researchers, engineers, technicians, and support staff—people who I am proud to call my colleagues.” —Jay Fein (right, with UCAR president Richard Anthes)

Jarvis Moyers“The most important thing for me has been my role in enabling scientific advances, big or small, to take place. Shortly after I became the director of the atmospheric chemistry program in ATM the ozone hole was discovered, and supporting some of the key scientific studies related to this discovery was extremely stimulating and rewarding. I also find numerical simulations and how they contribute insights into how nature works exciting. Overall, watching and getting to know the people and work we support, and the advancement of science, makes our work at NSF worth everything! I especially get pleasure from watching younger people—students and postdocs—develop into mature scientists and contribute to the field. Helping them to succeed has made my whole career satisfying and worthwhile.”
—Jarvis Moyers

Clifford Jacobs“Privileged’ is a word I often associate with my oversight of UCAR/NCAR activities. I have been privileged to work at one of the best agencies in the federal government. I have been privileged to be associated with the atmospheric sciences community, which is one of the quintessential community milieus in all of science. I have taken more than I have given to this community milieu. Those who judge my tenure must fully acknowledge my successes are the result of the wisdom and devotion of community members as well as my colleagues at NSF, and they must recognize that my failures are because I did not seek or heed the advice of these colleagues with sufficiency.”
—Clifford Jacobs

Given finite budgets, they and their peers must choose a limited number projects to be supported among many viable candidates. NSF's program managers also work closely with UCAR and NCAR management to ensure that our core support is allocated wisely and that our university collaborations are cooperative rather than competitive. Their oversight, advice and review is essential to maintaining the highest quality scientific facilities and programs. This year, three outstanding scientific program managers and leaders at NSF—colleagues with whom we have worked for many years—are leaving their long-time positions. While primarily supporting research in the universities and at NCAR and UCAR, they have also served as critical links between the NSF research community and scientists in both research and operational settings at NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

It's time to acknowledge the essential roles these three public servants, and hundreds like them at NSF and other federal agencies, play in the research and operational weather and climate enterprise. This brief tribute is intended to celebrate and honor these largely unsung heroes.

JAY FEIN, director of the Climate Dynamics Program at NSF's Atmospheric Sciences Division (ATM) since 1986, will be transitioning to part-time project work in ATM after the end of this year. In 1976, Jay left the University of Oklahoma to become assistant program director for the Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP), which he directed from 1980 to 1985. Jay has helped lead many international field programs and has contributed to the development of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) and two highly successful satellite programs (GPS-Meteorology, or GPSMET, and the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, or COSMIC). For these efforts and others, he was awarded the American Geophysical Union's prestigious Edward A. Flinn III award in May.

I began working closely with Jay as the NCAR-led Community Climate Model effort (which evolved into the CCSM) began in the mid-1980s. Then, in the early 1990s, Jay and I discussed an innovative, high-risk concept of using radio occultation (RO) for remote sensing, and I was delighted when Jay took the U.S. lead in sponsoring the proof-of-concept GPS-MET experiment, which proved to be an incredible success. Jay later became the U.S. interagency leader of the COSMIC program, a constellation of six micro-satellites launched in 2006. Without Jay's leadership, GPS-MET would not have occurred and RO observations of Earth's atmosphere might still be only a dream.

JARVIS MOYERS, director of ATM since 1999, will be retiring on 1 October. Jarvis joined NSF as a trainee in 1967 and returned in 1976 as a program manager after holding research positions at the universities of Rhode Island and Arizona. As director of ATM's Atmospheric Chemistry Program from 1983 to 1994, Jarvis played a major leadership role in the Global Tropospheric Chemistry Program (GTCP), which was one of the earliest initiatives of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Jarvis worked closely with Ralph Cicerone, director of NCAR's Atmospheric Chemistry Division in the 1980s, as the GTCP was launched.

From behind the scenes, Jarvis has quietly but effectively led ATM and guided many investigators and other managers at ATM and throughout the community. Over the years, I have increasingly grown to appreciate Jarvis's wisdom, common sense, insights into the complex workings of NSF and other government agencies, and above all, his humility and willingness to credit others for ATM's many successes.

CLIFFORD JACOBS stepped down on 1 June from his position in NSF's UCAR and Lower Atmospheric Facilities Oversight Section (ULAFOS) to assume a new position in the Geosciences Directorate working with the Office of Polar Programs. Cliff joined NSF in 1984 after serving as executive vice president and senior research scientist at The Center for the Environment and Man. In 1995, Cliff became head of ULAFOS, which provides oversight of NCAR and Unidata. His responsibilities covered a wide range of topics, including atmospheric sciences, oceanography, technology use and development, and societal impacts of weather and climate.

As the NSF official with the most direct responsibility for UCAR and NCAR operations, Cliff took a very thoughtful stance, working as carefully as possible to separate oversight from management. He regularly reflected on the inherent and generally constructive tensions among the university community, NCAR, and NSF, all the while recognizing and supporting the value of NCAR and Unidata to the community and NSF and always trying to help make NCAR and UCAR better.

Jarvis, Jay, and Cliff have contributed in highly significant ways to the advances made by the atmospheric and related sciences for well over a quarter of a century. The sustained nature of their contributions is remarkable: together, they have provided a total of almost 100 years of leadership and service! They have worked countless hours beyond the normal 40-hour workweek, including many if not most weekends, dealing diplomatically and effectively with thousands of scientists, educators, and administrators (some of them not that easy to get along with !) from around the world. They have maintained the highest standards of excellence and integrity in sponsoring people and programs and carrying out peer review of the research they sponsored. They have nurtured a delicate balance between friendships and professional associations, always avoiding conflicts of interest, favoritism, and other pitfalls associated with being responsible for significant federal funds. In short, Jarvis, Jay, and Cliff are giants in our field, and our community owes them a huge debt of gratitude.