The Collaborative Science Technology and Applied Research Program (CSTAR): The First Decade

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Samuel P. Contorno, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and J. S. Waldstreicher

The Collaborative Science Technology and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program was initiated by NOAA and the NWS in 1999 to improve local forecast and warning services by exploiting science and technological advances.  The concept was to accelerate the transition of research to operations through applied research and education projects involving collaboration between operational forecasters and university scientists.  These projects, funded through a competitive grant process, address national, regional or NCEP-related science and operational forecasting needs and priorities.  This program is complementary to the COMET Outreach program which also supports collaborative projects.

Over the last decade, the CSTAR Program has funded 24 collaborative projects of 1-3 years in duration with a maximum funding level of $125K per year.  This presentation will demonstrate how the relatively modest investment in CSTAR has yielded considerable advances in scientific understanding, and development of a myriad of conceptual models, forecast techniques and applications.  Substantial improvements in forecasts and warnings has resulted from these efforts across a wide range of hazards including winter storms, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, heavy precipitation and flooding, and hurricanes.  These successes have not been the only benefits of CSTAR.  The collaborative nature of these projects enables university faculty and students to directly interact with the operational forecasters, helping them more fully experience and appreciate the impacts of their research work.  For the students, this experience often provides them with unique insights into potential future careers, and has resulted in more than 4 dozen CSTAR “alumni” subsequently being employed within NOAA.  For the operational forecasters, the collaborative nature of the CSTAR projects has enabled forecasters to influence research directions important to their operations.  This increases "buy in," and thereby increasing the likelihood of forecasters embracing the research findings and integrating them into their operational procedures.  The overall result is  bridging of the "valley of death" that traditionally exists between researchers and operational forecasters.