Category Archives: Academic Departments

NSF’s Narrow View Of The Climate Issue – Climate Is Much More Than “Climate Change”

I received a notice of opportunity from the National Science Foundation. There is much in there that could fit with the bott0m-up, resource-based perspective that we present in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press. 

 I was quite disappointed, however, to see this NSF e-mail identify climate change rather than climate generally as a focus point. NSF is too fixated on changes in climate statistics rather than the threats that already exist from observed historical and recent paleo- climatic events.  If the NSF would just delete the word “change” from “climate change” in their text, it would be a much more inclusive and scientifically better posded document.

I have highlighted their use of “climate change” in the e-mail that is reproduced below.

Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2011 16:51:53 -0400
From: NSF Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Science
To: AS email list
Subject: Announcements from NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences

Dear Colleague,

I hope that you are well.

I am sending you this message because it contains announcements of opportunity from the National Science Foundation that I think you may find of interest.

Best Regards,

Dr. Michael C. Morgan

Director, Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences

National Science Foundation

________________________________

Subject: NSF-USAID Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research

Dear Colleagues:
In July, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Agency for
International Development launched the Partnerships for Enhanced
Engagement in Research (PEER) program:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=121003&org=NSF&from=news .

PEER is a competitive grants program that will allow developing country scientists to apply for funds to support research and capacity building activities in partnership with their NSF-funded U.S. collaborators. Areas targeted for support include:

*         Food security topics such as agricultural development, fisheries, and plant genomics

*         Global health issues such as ecology of infectious disease, biomedical engineering, and natural/human system interactions

*         Climate change impacts such as water sustainability, hydrology, ocean acidification, climate process and modeling, and environmental engineering

*         Other development topics including disaster mitigation,biodiversity, water, and renewable energy

The National Academies has been contracted by USAID to administer PEER, and has recently put program details on their website: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/dsc/peer/index.htm .

NSF and USAID Jointly Launch International, Interagency PEER Program to Advance Science Collaboration With the Developing World

July 7, 2011

View videos showing the six PEER pilot projects and soundbites and talks by the keynote speakers at the “PEER” event.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) today launched an international joint initiative to address global development challenges.

PEER, “Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research,” capitalizes on competitively-awarded investments to support and build scientific and technical capacity in the developing world.

NSF Director Subra Suresh, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren spoke at an event held at the National Science Foundation this morning to celebrate this innovative partnership and to roll out the PEER program.

“I am delighted to see these two agencies collaborating to further President Obama’s goals of strengthening America’s science and technology enterprise and applying its outputs to challenges both domestic and global,” said Holdren, assistant to President Obama for science and technology. “This partnership will help particularly with the application of science, technology and innovation to accelerate global development, with huge benefits for industrialized and developing countries alike.”

“This is a win-win partnership,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh, “The U.S. scientific community benefits from more robust international partnerships and an increased awareness of how research can be used to address global development challenges. Our foreign partners benefit from the expertise and enthusiasm of the U.S. scientific community, the engagement of U.S. universities, and an understanding that science can build bridges.”

Six USAID-funded pilot projects through PEER explore research challenges related to ecosystems, climate change, seismology, hydrology and biodiversity in Tanzania, Bagladesh, Mali, Kenya and Burkina Faso and are linked with NSF investments.

The principal investigators of one project–Michael Steckler from Columbia University and his international collaborator Syed Humayun Akhter from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh–attended the program launch and described their project, which explores life on a tectonically-active delta employing a convergence of earth science and geohazard research.

The attached video slideshow spotlights all six PEER pilot projects.

PEER will employ a merit review process similar to the one used to evaluate proposals by NSF when it chooses among proposals to fund extraordinary science and engineering. USAID announced that it has selected the National Academy of Sciences to administer the PEER program and has allocated $7 million for the initiative.  This will be strategically coupled with merit-reviewed, NSF-funded research at U.S. institutions to address challenges at the interface of water, renewable energy, food security, climate change and disaster mitigation with an expected leveraging of $25 to $50 million.

“We’re trying to actually change the way people think about what development is, what it could be and how we can create the kinds of solutions that inspire others to care and to address the needs of the billions of people who live without the benefits of two centuries of science and technology,” said Shah. “And with the success and lessons learned from our six pilot projects, and the strength and expertise of those assembled here today, one can be sure, we’re well on our way.”

-NSF-

source of image

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Filed under Academic Departments, Climate Science Misconceptions, Uncategorized, Vulnerability Paradigm

Guest Post ” Notions At The Intersection Of Climatology And Renewable Energy” By Jeremy Fordham

 Notions at the Intersection of Climatology and Renewable Energy by Jeremy Fordham

 It’s quite common to hear renewable energy lauded as “America’s last saving grace” these days—after all, how else will the U.S. relieve its dependence on foreign oil imports? How else will the nation engage in macroscopic sustainable practices that will ultimately preserve the environment and stop us from regurgitating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? It’s still uncertain when renewable technology will attain economic parity with traditional methods of energy use, but there’s no doubt that these technologies are a lot cleaner.  There’s also no doubt that progress in this sector is heavily dependent upon the analytical data provided by climatological studies.

  NASA has extensive databases full of information on surface meteorology and solar characteristics available online. In turn, engineers use this data as a set of parameters for installing things like solar panels and wind turbines in a given location.  The effectiveness of photovoltaic (PV) technologies, for instance, is measured in part by a region’s insolation characteristics. How much direct sunlight does a place receive in a given year? How does a region’s insolation change over a decade, and what factors affect this oscillation? The answers to these questions come from climate scientists, of course.

 While chemical engineers of all specialties work to improve the electronic capabilities of PV cells, their work could easily be rendered null if these improved devices are stationed in places with erratic insolation tendencies. Climatological data is so important to the economic optimization of renewable technology that without it, it would make little sense to fund the improvement of these devices.

 While online PhD programs in renewable energy have yet to come to fruition, many institutions around the world have developed long-distance programs that are geared towards addressing advanced issues at the intersection of technology development, climatology and energy economics.  Loughborough University offers online distance learning curriculum that leads to a Master of Science in Renewable Energy Systems Technology, and numerous other universities, especially in Europe, are offering a significant amount of courses related to these subjects online. As universities in the U.S. continue to realize the importance of interdisciplinary study in general sustainability, more programs focused understanding climatology’s relationship to technology development are sure to gain popularity.

 However, climate science doesn’t just influence the technical development of energy systems. It’s also a very important part of energy policy creation and is essential to an objective analysis of the societal parameters associated with climate change.  A course taught by meteorologist David Eichorn as part of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry seeks to blend web-based climate change media with outside opinions in order to

 “…enable students to continue their exploration of personal and societal climate change solutions…”

 It’s difficult for one person running their electric car to significantly affect a region’s greenhouse gas levels, but all it takes is a single example to spark larger trends. It is courses like David Eichorn’s that inspire informed opinions and dialogue between people who might potentially be making policy decisions in boardrooms in the future. More universities need to recognize the importance of interdisciplinary integration when it comes to climate science. Sure, it involves a lot of differential calculus for those heavy math-lovers, but it is also very much a social discipline that deserves examination through various critical lenses.

  It’s very difficult to get a handle on what sustainability actually is, but a common thread that runs through most of the official definitions is that it doesn’t have distinct ties with a specific field. Engineers can be “sustainable,” but so can policy makers and architects and even businesses. The idea of “being nice to the environment” or “reducing carbon emissions” or “creating processes that ensure the longevity of future generations” is almost impossible to put into a single concept. The very idea of sustainability arises from the principles of multi-disciplinary collaboration—that includes government leaders, janitors, manufacturers, writers, scientists, doctors … and the list continues. Will any of these professionals have a truly appreciative understanding of sustainability if they’re not exposed to the principles while studying in school?

 It would be wise for universities to take a less-standardized approach to sustainability education. Climate scientists should have the opportunity to learn how their work can influence public policy.  Engineers should have to know why the implementation of a multi-megawatt solar infrastructure is only to be improved by a deep knowledge of a region’s climate. In the long run, leveraging this interconnectedness will ultimately lead to better, more optimized solutions in the space of “green energy” while giving graduates with this knowledge an edge over their competition.

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Job Announcement Western Kentucky University

WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY KENTUCKY CLIMATE CENTER RESEARCH SCIENTIST

Western Kentucky University, Kentucky Climate Center (KCC), housed within the Department of Geography and Geology and a charter member of the Applied Research and Technology Program (ARTP) is seeking applicants for a Research Scientist position in Applied Meteorology and Climatology. This person must have a strong background in both atmospheric modeling and data analysis (both modeled and observed). The department also has a strong program in Geographic Information Science, and the KCC has an established record of collaboration with other units within WKU and with other institutions. Research performed in this position will involve significant use of the Kentucky Mesonet data, along with other atmospheric datasets, which would lead to development of a wide variety of decision tools. Opportunities for collaboration will be available and encouraged.

The Kentucky Mesonet is a research grade operational network observing weather and climate in the Commonwealth. Continued employment is for several years pending budgetary approval and satisfactory performance evaluations.

The following duties and responsibilities are customary for this position.  They are not to be construed as all-inclusive, and therefore may be added, deleted and assigned based on management discretion and institutional needs.

  • Collaborates with primary supervisors
  • Interacts and collaborates with students, staff members, and other atmospheric and environmental scientists in the KCC and the department
  • Conducts applied research, collaborates with software developers for designing and creating interactive, web-based decision tools, writing papers for peer-reviewed journals, and writing grant proposals
  • Participates in grant writing as a PI or Co-PI

 Required Qualifications:

  • Doctoral degree in Atmospheric Science, Meteorology, Environmental Science, Geography, or a closely related field
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Strong background in Atmospheric Modeling (e.g., WRF, MM5, or RAMS or Climate models) and data analysis
  • Experience in working with both modeled and observational data
  • Strong background in programming (C, C++, FORTRAN, PHP, Perl, Java, JavaScript etc.) and data analysis and visualization software (GrADS, IDV, NCL, S-Plus, Matlab etc.)
  • Experience in working as a member of a research team
  • Ability to think creatively and perform research duties
  • Ability to move computers, connect computers with relevant accessories and upload software

Expected Salary Range:  $60,000.00 – $70,008.00 annually

Applications for employment will be accepted electronically only.  Interested candidates should submit a cover letter with statement of professional goals, and up-to-date CV including list of publications, and names, addresses and daytime phone numbers of three professional references.  Please refer to the following website to apply:  http://asaweb.wku.edu/wkujobs   Please reference requisition number S2897.  For further assistance please call (270) 745-5934.  To ensure full consideration please submit application materials by May 31st, 2011.  Position will remain open until filled. 

Western Kentucky University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or marital status in admission to career and technical education programs and/or activities, or employment practices in accordance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Revised 1992, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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Advertisement Of A Faculty Position That Focuses On Multi-Decadal Climate Predictions

The march towards a scientifically non-robust approach to climate science continues (e.g. for other examples see and see).   This position announcement is actually ironic since on a review of their program several years ago that I participated on, this was not a perspective that was recommended for them. They have outstanding faculty in this program at Cornell but the emphasis on future climate predictions is not scientifically robust, as I have posted on before on my weblog (e.g. see). I suspect the emphasis on these climate predictions reflects the heavy funding by NSF and other agencies on this topic, and Cornell wants faculty to explicitly seek those funds.  

Their announcment is below [highlight added].

FACULTY POSITION IN EARTH AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY

                                  The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) at Cornell University invites applications for an Assistant Professor in the subject area of extreme weather during climate change. The successful candidate will develop a high quality research program investigating the multi-scale processes linking climate to extreme weather phenomena such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical and extra-tropical cyclones, flooding, and droughts, and their impacts. The incumbent could take an Earth system approach to the subject, emphasizing the interactions of atmospheric, oceanic and land-surface processes in the climate system, including future climate change scenarios.  The incumbent will also be a committed educator, enthusiastically teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, advising undergraduate and graduate students, and supervising students at all levels in research.

The ideal candidate will be able to interact in teaching and research with colleagues having similar interests at Cornell University, particularly in the Colleges of Engineering and of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in which the Department of EAS is jointly located.  The responsibilities of the position will be 50% research and 50% teaching.

A Ph.D. in atmospheric science, Earth system science, or a related science or engineering discipline is required.  Please submit applications to extreme-weather-search@cornell.edu as a single pdf (15 mb maximum) that includes (1) a cover letter addressed to the Search Committee Chair, Professor Stephen Colucci, and providing the names and contact information for three individuals who are willing to write letters of recommendation;  (2) a curriculum vitae;  (3) a research plan; and (4) a statement of teaching interests.  Applications will be reviewed beginning September 1, 2011.

     Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York and is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer.  Women and members of underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

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Guest Post “Crisis in Academic Funding” By Toby N. Carlson

 Crisis in Academic Funding by Toby N. Carlson. Professor of Meteorology, Emeritus. Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802

 In recent articles (Carlson, 2006; Carlson 2008: Carlson 2010; see also Roulston, 2006), I described a growing crisis in academic funding brought about by (1) a shrinking financial support for research in real dollars; (2) an increase in the number of PhDs requesting funding; (3)  an increased emphasis placed by academic administrations on the importance of funded proposals, when making decisions for tenure and promotion,  and (4) the tendency for agencies such as NASA to require their own scientists to compete for funding with academic faculty. The search for financial support amongst university faculty has led to (1) an explosion in the number of proposals and research papers submitted to funding agencies or to journals, (2) a huge increase in the number of PhDs and post docs required to produce the research for professors who are generally too busy with the fierce competition for funds to have sufficient time for doing their own creative work (research by proxy), and (3) a declining quality of the proposals.  

Roebber and Schultz (2011) correctly point out that current strategy favors submitting as many proposals as possible, in the hope that perhaps one in five or one in ten would be approved.  However, Roulston (2006) also shows that each proposal engenders a ‘cost function’ which must be paid by stress on the faculty member and its attendant affects on his or her health and quality of life. Stress is also placed on the editors of scientific journals resulting from the increased difficulty in finding reviewers  and in the escalating costs and time invested in publishing thicker and thicker journals. Roulston also describes something he calls Nash Equilibrium (after the Nobel prize-winning mathematician. John Nash). In Nash Equilibrium an increase in effort by any one person in writing proposals yields no additional success once all parties invest the same effort in doing so.  A vicious cycle is therefore established, yielding decreased benefit to science and society , a decrease in the quality of  papers and proposals, and much reduced satisfaction by the individual in doing creative science.

I identify the problem as originating in both the funding agencies and the universities. For the former, it is a tendency to promote ‘top down’ science, in which motivation, if not ideas, is prescribed by contract monitors and politicians (and lawyers), as expressed in the Request For Proposal s (RFP), rather than at the grass roots level  by the working scientist. In other words research for hire. For the latter, it is a need to turn research into a mechanism for generating revenue.

 I suggest that increased funding is not the answer. Rather, I propose a more creative and possibly cheaper modus of doing scientific research at universities could be achieved by a different approach to academic funding, including a more ‘bottom up’ generation of ideas. Yet, I am not optimistic that academic deans and administrators in funding agencies would be willing to change their behavior, as it is in their interest to maintain the current system, however untenable.

Carlson, T. N., 2006a: Deficiencies in the present funding process in meteorology. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 87, 567-570.

Carlson, T. N., 2008: Current funding practices in academic science stifle creativity. Review of Policy Research, Dupont Summit Issue, 2008, 631-642.

Carlson, T. N., 2010: Science by Proxy. Opinion: Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 17, 2010.

Roebber, P. and D. M. Schultz, 2011: Peer review, program officers and science funding. Plus One, 6, 1-6.

Roulston, M. S., 2006: The scientist’s dilemma. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 87, 571-572.

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Filed under Academic Departments, Climate Science Reporting

Perceptive Article On The Sad State Of Research Funding By Toby N. Carlson

Toby N. Carlson of the Department of Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University has shared with me two article on the sad state of research funding. This sentiment fits with my impressions of NSF funding that I have posted on in my weblog; e.g. see

Is The NSF Funding Untestable Climate Predictions – My Comments On A $6 Million Grant To Fund A Center For Robust Decision–Making On Climate And Energy Policy”

The National Science Foundation Funds Multi-Decadal Climate Predictions Without An Ability To Verify Their Skill

The two articles are

Carlson, T. N, 2010: Science by Proxy. The Chronicle for Higher Education. October 17 201o.

and

Carlson, T. N., 2008: Current funding practices in academic science stifle creativity. Review of Policy Research (Dupont Summit issue), 25, 631-642.

In Carlson 2010, excerpts are [highlight added]

“The agencies are also at fault. They are bureaucracies that promote top-down science to suit political and administrative ends. To begin with, there is the application process itself. Often, an agency’s request for proposal, or RFP, reads like a legal document, constricting the applicant to stay within very narrow and conventional bounds, with no profound scientific questions posed at all. Many RFP’s are so overly specific that they amount to little more than work for hire. Those who know how to play the game simply reply to RFP’s with parroted responses that echo the language in the proposal, in efforts to convince the reviewers that their programs exactly fit the conditions of the RFP. Thus many RFP’s inhibit good research rather than encourage it.

Program managers—who are even further removed from the forefront of their fields than overburdened principal investigators—also favor large, splashy research projects with plenty of crowd appeal, like fancy Web sites that look impressive but that no one actually uses. In other words, useless science.

Money is trumping creativity in academic science. This statement was previously given substance in an article I published, along with a companion paper by Mark Roulston in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (Carlson, 2006a; Roulston, 2006) and in a subsequent address I gave to the Heads and Chairs meeting in Boulder, Colorado (Carlson, 2006b). Here, I expand further on the issues treated in these papers, and make a plea for changing the way funding is administered in academic science. Using examples I show that the present worsening situation places a dead hand on the spirit and creative output of academic scientists, especially junior faculty. I suggest a possible solution, which would enable academic scientists to function in a stable environment, free from spurious financial pressures and dictates from university administration and funding agencies.”

Excerpts from the Carlson 2008 paper read

I would like to suggest an alternate approach to addressing this crisis. One approach would be to award a sum of money based on the score received from the reviewers. This would insure that all but the poorest proposals would receive some funding. Another suggestion is more radical. For this, we need not be fixated on the numbers here, as expediting the idea would entail a thorough cost analysis of funds available from institutions and the numbers of potential recipients of that funding. I believe that were funding agencies to collaborate by agreeing to award each faculty member a nominal sum of money each year (let’s say $20,000) plus one graduate student, subject to a very short proposal justifying the research and citing papers published, the total amount of money handed out would be far less than at present and the time spent in fruitless chasing after funds reduced considerably. Importantly, the productivity and creativity of the scientist would increase and the burden placed on reviewers of papers and proposals and on editors of journals would decrease.

The proposal submitted by the scientist to the funding agency would be very short (e.g., one page), and be subjected to a nominal review and a pass/fail criterion: does this proposal seem worthwhile? The level of subsistence would be set low enough to eliminate greed (or complacency on the part of the recipient), high enough to allow scientists adequate funds to carry on a viable research program free of financial stresses. The allotment would also be set sufficiently low as to insure that funding agencies have sufficient money left over for some larger programs. The latter would be funded by the submission of conventional proposals, subject to the current review process, except that the research would be initiated from the working scientist rather than the funding agency. In other words, bottom up science.

The atmosphere being created by the present system in academic science is joyless. Good scientific research requires dedication, patience, and enthusiasm and a high degree of passion for the chosen subject. Overhearing conversations in the corridors of my own institution, I am struck by the fact that the topics are almost always related to proposal writing and funding and not to scientific ideas. Where is the inspiration; where is the passion?

Toby’s recommendation is excellent, and should be encouraged. With respect to NSF funding in climate science, the current focus on funding multi-decadal climate predictions by the NSF fits with his characterization  that they “are bureaucracies that promote top-down science to suit political and administrative ends“.

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Filed under Academic Departments, Politicalization of Science

Faculty Position Announcement In The Tennessee TechnologicalUniversity (TTU) Department Environmental and Water Resources Program

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Tennessee Technological University (TTU) invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position effective August 2011. This position is focused towards a faculty member who will contribute to the growth of the Department’s Environmental and Water Resources Program. Candidates with research expertise in an emerging field of water resources that addresses the 21st century challenges for the civil engineering profession are encouraged to apply. In particular, a strong computational and physically-based modeling focus is desirable in an area such as, environmental hydrodynamics, hydrometeorology, energy and water cycle studies, sustainable water resources engineering or climate change.

An earned undergraduate degree in engineering is required. Preference will be given to those with degrees in civil engineering. The successful candidate will have a PhD degree in Civil Engineering or closely related field with emphasis in water resources engineering. Salary will be commensurate with education and experience.

Applicants are preferred who are registered engineers or who have begun the process towards professional registration. The successful applicant must have excellent written and oral communication skills. Preference will given to those with a demonstrated track record of excellence in teaching, peer-reviewed scholarly research and grantsmanship. The successful applicant will have graduate level expertise in some of the following specialties: hydrometeorology, atmospheric and climate sciences, distributed hydrologic modeling and GIS, water resources engineering and environmental hydrodynamics.

TTU has recently established several new initiatives aimed at enhancement of quality in research and education. Notable examples include the Stonecipher High Performance Computing (HPC) Initiative and the Oakley STEM education research center. TTU is also home to three state funded centers of excellence on water, energy and manufacturing. Notably, the Center for Management, Protection and Utilization of Water Resources provides state of the art facilities for laboratory and field measurements and geoinformatics.

All faculty in the CEE Department are expected to have a strong commitment to undergraduateteaching as well as to specialized graduate education at the MS and PhD level, externally sponsored research, internationally visible scholarship and service to Department’s programmatic needs. The CEE Department currently has 14 faculty members, with approximately 300 undergraduate students and 40 graduate students with both programs having experienced significant growth in recent years. Applicants will be required to apply online at http://www.tntech.edu/jobs and electronically upload a cover letter discussing the candidate’s teaching, research and professional goals, curriculum vitae, teaching philosophy, contact information for three (3) professional references, and a copy of transcripts (official transcripts required upon hire). Review of applications will begin February 1, 2011; open until filled. AA/EEO

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