About Us

Strategic Plan

October 2011

Introduction to the Visiting Scientist Programs

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a non-profit consortium of over 100 universities involved in Earth system science research, education, and policy programs. Over the last 50 years, UCAR has developed a solid track record of creating and managing effective programs to address pressing scientific and societal needs in collaboration with its member universities and federal
agency partners.

The Visiting Scientist Programs (VSP) office was established at UCAR in 1985. VSP’s first joint visitor program was sponsored by NOAA and the U.S. Navy to foster the intellectual cross-fertilization that is vital to an active research and development effort in the Earth system sciences. VSP has provided opportunities for long-term collaboration between government laboratories and the academic community,
enabling government scientists to mentor scientists in their early careers and to allow early-career scientists to participate in important research and to gain experience at the intersection of science and policy.

Since its inception, VSP has appointed nearly 1,000 scientists through visitor and fellowship programs, and most of these scientists have gone on to become leaders in their fields. VSP has also administered a broad range of summer schools, colloquia and workshops, and convened expert peer-review working groups and steering committees during this period. The community’s support and confidence in these programs are regularly reflected in UCAR’s periodic community surveys, from which the following user comments are drawn:

“We have received invaluable benefit from VSP, not only from the direct return on investment from each scientist appointed, but also indirectly through the grooming process that occurs as each of these scientists matures into an experienced researcher and moves on to influence the community as a whole.”

“VSP has been most successful in bringing excellent young scientists to our group resulting in long-lasting collaborations. These appointments are vital to the health of scientific activities at UCAR and the interacting organizations.”

“UCAR VSP has provided a quality and opportunity of work that I would rank as the most optimal way my career path could have ever been launched in my field. The far reaching opportunities and benefits offered by UCAR VSP have provided for my needs every step of the way.”

VSP works closely with federal program sponsors and steering committees to ensure these programs are responsive to community needs. The purpose of this plan is to lay out VSP’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives for the next 3-5 years.

VSP’s Vision for the Future

At UCAR’s Visiting Scientist Programs, we envision a future in which the Earth system science workforce is well prepared to:

  • make significant contributions to the advancement of weather and climate
    science and policy,
  • collaborate with and learn from other scientists across scientific disciplines, and
  • effectively communicate weather and climate issues to the public.

In order to help create this future, VSP takes the following as its mission for the next five years:

VSP maintains a strong commitment to UCAR’s mission of fostering scientific support, education, and relationship building. Working closely with its community partners, VSP will apply its experience and management expertise to continue and enhance its existing successful programs.

VSP’s Strategic Goals

VSP supplies comprehensive start-to-finish program management, administration and support, while consistently meeting or exceeding our sponsors’ expectations with forethought, honesty, efficiency, flexibility and customer-focused services.


Develop and manage effective postdoctoral fellowship programs to prepare the next generation of Earth system scientists

VSP will contribute to the growth of the future workforce by empowering young scientists to develop their careers in weather and climate science. Specifically:

  • Conducting annual candidate searches to attract top-quality postdoctoral scientists to VSP’s postdoctoral programs.
  • Organizing workshops with experienced science communicators to assist our early career scientists in learning to effectively communicate their research.
  • Communicating monthly with each appointed scientist to “check in” and address issues before they become problematic.
  • Managing fellowship and visitor programs that are cost-effective and useful for the community.


Develop and manage effective and collaborative visiting scientist programs to encourage the spread of Earth system science knowledge

  • Facilitating programs that allow new relationships to be built. Regular communication with program sponsors.
  • Demonstrating the success of these types of programs through publication records, collaborations throughout careers, positions attained following
  • Interact with supporters of programs to demonstrate effectiveness of VSP


Support and enhance workshops, summer schools, and meetings that foster collaboration and relationship building among Earth system scientists

  • Work with program sponsors to develop new ideas and strengthen exisiting workshops and summer schools to keep them fresh and useful for the community.
  • Develop a fresh approach to supporting workshops and meetings by talking to others, keeping abreast of current trends such as video and teleconferencing options, speed dating, etc.

Assess training and research needs to ensure that VSP programs are responsive to the Earth system science community

  • Review VSP structure through comparative analysis with similar programs. Conduct evaluation every couple of years.
  • Annually assess the outputs and outcomes of VSP programs and their alignment with VSP program goals.
  • Immediately develop effective data collection practices. Show that a significant portion of our appointed fellows go on to leadership positions within the community. Through annual reports and number of publications, demonstrate impacts of each appointment on community.
  • Assess current staffing needs and adjust based on program needs. Cross train most positions.
  • Provide growth and development opportunities to VSP administrative staff.