11A.3 Shark Tank! Filling a Communications Gap between Research and Operations

Thursday, 11 January 2018: 9:00 AM
406 (Hilton) (Austin, Texas)
Lisa S. Darby, NOAA, Boulder, CO; and L. P. Rothfusz and B. Perry

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has formal mechanisms for research-to-operations (R2O) transfer, such as the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Capabilities and Requirements Decision Support (CaRDS) and the NOAA Testbeds and Proving Grounds programs. The use of these mechanisms to foster R2O requires that a new product, technique, or technology has reached a certain level of maturity, or readiness level (RL), and is poised to be demonstrated and tested in an operational environment. But what if a researcher has an idea for a new product they believe has the capacity to improve weather forecasting, but they have no easily accessible way to interact with an operational forecaster about it? How could they determine their product’s potential while their product is still in the early stages of development?

Members of the NOAA Central Region Collaboration Team recognized this communications gap exists and sought to develop an informal way to bring researchers and forecasters together to discuss potential new products. The team also recognized forecasters may have product ideas they would like to present to researchers for scientific input.

The result was two pilot events, one at the NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Dec 2016 and the other at the NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Feb 2017, where we brought together local researchers and forecasters to exchange ideas. The team wanted the events to be informal and fun, so we modeled the events after the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”

At both events, the Shark panel included one NSSL researcher, one ESRL researcher, two NWS Science & Operations Officers [one from a local Weather Forecast Office (WFO)], and a NWS Headquarters representative. From the local NOAA/Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) laboratory and WFO, federal scientists, Cooperative Institute scientists, contractors, and forecasters were invited to submit a Pitch to present to the Sharks. (The Pitch was defined as a concept, tool, product, model, innovation, or best practice and could be at any stage of development.) Organizers from the Central Region Team selected the Pitches for presentation. Pitches included innovative ideas addressing weather observations and monitoring, forecast verification, forecast communication, forecast model improvement, and forecasting tools.

For the NSSL event, eight people (6 researchers and 2 forecasters) were selected to present Pitches. At the ESRL event six people were selected to present Pitches (five researchers and one forecaster). Each Pitch was limited to 3 minutes, with a seven-minute follow-up discussion with the Sharks. The Sharks gave honest but respectful feedback on the merits of the Pitch, suggested ways to navigate R2O processes, and helped find ways to better connect NWS and OAR researchers. With presenters ranging from a WFO forecast intern to seasoned researchers, the Sharks heard a wide variety of Pitches, and lively discussion between the Sharks and presenters ensued. Audience members had time for Q&A with the Sharks and presenters, as well as networking time after the presentations. In the case of some presentations, sharks and presenters had post-event follow-up exchanges that proved helpful to the presenters.

At the ESRL event we also included an informational presentation about CaRDS and additional time for audience Q&A. This innovative model for bringing together researchers and forecasters, along with time for scientists in the audience to converse with Sharks and presenters, was well-received by NOAA management, and other NOAA Regional Collaboration Teams have an interest in applying this model. While we restricted participation at the pilot events to OAR and NWS (for simplicity), future Shark Tanks may include other NOAA line offices.

We will present an overview of the events, including the strategy behind how the events were organized, and why we thought the events were successful (including feedback from presenters). We also will provide information about future Shark Tanks organized by NOAA Regional Collaboration Teams.

Supplementary URL: http://www.regions.noaa.gov/central/index.php/noaa-shark-tank/

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