R2-Whoa: Challenges and solutions for executing best practices in transferring NOAA's research to NWS operations

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings
Jordan Gerth, CIMSS/Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Handout (1.9 MB)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has both research and operational missions. Critical to the success of the organization is the necessity to ensure that operational requirements drive NOAA's research portfolio, but also that research byproducts are assured a permanent pathway to operations following an iterative cycle and successful demonstration. Recently, the concept of a proving ground has evolved as a conduit for research to operations (R2O) tasks to flourish.

NOAA funds cooperative institutes to undertake a large but diverse set of research tasks. Recent efforts have focused on better aligning research with operational priorities. For example, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R) and Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) programs utilize the National Weather Service (NWS) Operational Advisory Team (NOAT), consisting of regional Scientific Services Division (SSD) chiefs, to develop operational needs and review research proposals pursuant to those needs. Those proposals are asked to include a NWS collaborator that assists with the proposed plan to transition the research to operations.

While this alignment seems ideal for closing the R2O gap, the implementation of it has proven more challenging. The most significant challenge is sustaining an increased level of effort and focus on both sides. In addition, NOAA's R2O process requires operational leadership to become decision makers about research priorities. While operational leaders are attune to the priorities of their organization, their backgrounds and experiences generally do not immediately enable them to establish reasonable expectations for deliverable research.

In contrast, the research side is frustrated with devoting time and funds to a transition process that is complicated with information technology hurdles and misunderstandings about how their research byproduct may be used. For example, as part of the proving ground, cooperative institutes are asked to support their research byproducts in the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), a complex software package not readily available in research environments, during pre-operational demonstrations. Even after a successful demonstration, it takes substantial time before a product graduates to routine production and operational monitoring, essentially completing the R2O process.

GOES-R and JPSS have invested in satellite liaisons to help bridge the gap. However, while these liaisons play an important role in teaching the operational meteorologists about new GOES-R and JPSS science products and organizing product demonstrations, their alignment is closer to the operations side where their offices exist. The role of the satellite liaison is also new and evolving to fit the needs of operations, where satellite meteorology subject-matter expertise is currently lacking.

This presentation will discuss longstanding challenges with the R2O process, particularly from the satellite meteorology research perspective, including solutions for averting R2-Whoa scenarios. Accomplishments and best practices from the GOES-R and JPSS satellite proving ground are highlighted, and future potential directions promoted, based on pitfalls from the past. The intent is to build a robust R2O process between and within NOAA and its partners.