New fiscal year brings ESSL restructure, management shifts

Three months ago, NCAR director Eric Barron challenged the nearly 300 NCAR staff who have been part of the Earth & Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL) to define a new laboratory structure that would better enable NCAR science and improve management while maintaining the ability to foster interdisciplinary science.

Eric announced on September 29 that several changes to ESSL would occur starting on October 1. NCAR will maintain the identity of its divisions, but the structure of ESSL has been modified. Three of ESSL's four divisions (MMM, CGD, and ACD) will define a laboratory, yet to be named, focused on the Earth system and characterized by a coherent budget, personnel, and planning structure. HAO now reports directly to the NCAR director as a separate unit.

Greg HollandGreg Holland, interim director of the new NCAR laboratory replacing ESSL.

ESSL was formed in 2004 to help foster more interdisciplinary work among NCAR's traditional science divisions. However, there were persistent tensions between that goal and the budget and management challenges accompanying a new layer of administration. In his e-mail to ESSL staff, Eric noted "a profound difference of opinion" on how best to restructure ESSL, with many scientists and managers weighing in. A particular challenge, Eric said, was finding a way to maintain the culture of the original divisions without jeopardizing the moves toward interdisciplinary science that ESSL had fostered.

"It is my judgment," said Eric, "that NCAR is best served by a lab that focuses on the Earth system, based on a coherent budget and personnel system, while maintaining the strong programs and scientific leadership embodied in its three divisions."

Greg Holland will serve as interim director for the new lab for the next year. Rich Rotunno will be replacing Greg as MMM director. The executive group for the new lab includes Greg, Rich, ACD director Bill Randel, CGD director Bill Large, and Mike Moran, who will stay on from ESSL to serve as administrator for the new lab. This group is now gathering input and fleshing out the new lab's structure.

"We expect it to take at least a year before everything is stable," says Greg. "I don't want to rush. As we make each decision, we want to make it properly." Greg says that the new lab will be responsible for the strategic planning, budgeting, and large-scale management activities, although he emphasized that there were many details yet to be worked out.

Among other staff in the former ESSL office, NCAR associate director Guy Brasseur is now based in Hamburg, directing the new Climate Service Center within Germany's GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht. While there, he retains a quarter-time appointment as an ACD senior scientist. Annick Pouquet also remains an NCAR senior scientist. ESSL executive assistant Barb Petruzzi is now supporting the ACD directorate.

Other news from the divisions and labs

Michael Knölker has stepped down from the HAO directorship after 14 years. His tenure and accomplishments were toasted at a gathering on September 25 at Center Green. Now on a year-long sabbatical that will include visits to several institutions in Germany, the Canary Islands, and the United States, Michael continues as a senior scientist in HAO. Stan Solomon is serving as acting HAO director while a search is under way for Michael's replacement.

Several new deputy directors have been appointed across NCAR in the last few months. Long-time MMM scientist Chris Davis will serve as that division's deputy, while Sue Schauffler has moved from her former role as ACD deputy to take the same post in EOL (her ACD position has yet to be filled). Keith MacGregor replaces Stan as the new HAO deputy. And in CISL, Anke Kamrath, a new arrival from the San Diego Supercomputing Center, follows the recently retired Tom Bettge as director of operations and services.

With the restructuring of ESSL, there are now seven units reporting to the NCAR director, with their leadership serving as members of the NCAR Executive Council:

The new Earth system lab, incorporating CGD, MMM, and ACD, to be named in the next few weeks (234 employees, excluding visitors and casual employees)
RAL (202 staff)
EOL (147 staff)
CISL (147 staff)
HAO (53 staff)

In addition, ASP hosts 37 postdoctoral fellows and graduate visitors placed around the institution, and the new Integrated Study Program (ISP) works with NCAR labs to promote a range of interdisciplinary efforts that extend the strengths of NCAR core programs.