Tuesday, March 27, 2012


date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 14:04:54 +0100
from: Ian Harris <i.harrisatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
subject: Re: Fwd: CRU Session Output
to: Tim Osborn <t.osbornatXYZxyz.ac.uk>

At 11:44 +0100 11/4/02, Tim Osborn wrote:
>Content-Type: application/rtf; charset="us-ascii"

Here's the numbered text of the S/W section. 173 in total.

Whiteboard photos also available on A3 (grayscale).



Strengths and weaknesses by theme (Topic Commenter)

1. Research Strengths

0001 Computing facilities; provision of centralized computing
facilities and good quality PCs; based not only on money in research
grants but also on a central pool of money held communally

0002 Skills - in general CRU staff have wideranging computing and
statistics skills that give confidence in writing proposals that we
can do the work. Also - we share skills well.

0003 Strengths in topics: palaeoclimate data and analysis

0004 Strengths in topics: MAGICC and climate projections - highly
visible in all IPCC assessments

0005 Strengths in topics: instrumental data and analysis

0006 CRU is internationally known and its work appreciated by many in
the field. Evidence not only from citations but from the numbers who
come to hear CRU people at major international meetings.

0007 Seen as the main centre for the provision of GCM data

0008 We should position ourselves as the one stop shop for climate
data, past, present and future

0009 need to try to focus on research that will always be useful,
e.g. garnering comprehensive datasets and excellent historical data.
Might not be fashionable but, like plates, people will always need it

0010 Range of research areas is very healthy, e.g., from palaeo
through to more socio-economic.

0011 Breadth of CRU's research is useful and insulates us to some
extent from funding priority shifts.

0012 long experienced staff

0013 It would be good to outline our relationship with Tyndall.
Tyndall should be seen as a resource not as competition.

0014 Co-ordinating number of major EU projects.

0015 Working with stakeholders on a number of projects.

2. Research Weaknesses

0016 We keep giving away our data provision work, we are providing
less core data sets

0017 We are under increasing competition i.e. the hadley C and Tydall Empire

0018 We are far too reliant on EC funding - one day it will dry up
and we will be in big trouble. This already causes problems because
of inability to claim eg coonsumables from EC grants

0019 We need to diversify. But, because we are a soft-money
institution, we have too little time to devote to developing the new
interests that we need. We can't hire staff to broaden our interests
and skills base until we get the grant, and we can't get the grant
until we hire the people. Where to go?

0020 MAGICC not used to its full potential, this could be a much
bigger role for CRU.

0021 We're in a bit of a corner given the growing competition from
Hadley, Tyndall, UKCIP etc. We need to think hard about how we can
move out of this corner. Modelling is probably the best route to go
down, but the HAdley Centre will fight hard to stop us going down
this route.

0022 we do not sell our succesful activities enough, we could
benefit from a formal role being established to coordinate CRUs output

0023 CRU provides a massive input into IPCC (compared to size) yet
this is not exploited

0024 Role of CRU versus Tyndall Centre needs consideration.

0025 CRU does not need to run GCMs or RCMs

0026 Loss of key research staff - in particular the almost complete
loss of Sarah Raper for example, degrading the key involvement of CRU
in developing and applying MAGICC, plus the loss of Mike Hulme,
weakening CRU's involvement in scenario development (especially for
the UK) and SCENGEN in particular.

0027 A lot of ad hoc (and sometimes very late) research is tacked
onto other projects without the knowledge or consent of the funding
bodies. Whilst this is commonplace it can't go on forever: better
planning is needed.

0028 GCM data provision dependent on Hadley Centre releasing the data
- can make CRU look bad when HC keeps moving the goal posts

0029 conflicts with Hadley Centre role

0030 Terrible trouble in hiring satff to do research. How can we make
CRU look like a good place to work? Could we do more to make sure
our research staff stay on to work as SRAs?

0031 CRU needs to get into modelling - especially regional climate modelling.

0032 Poor at exploiting cross-project linkages, particularly where
co-ordinated by different people. Whole could be much more than sum
of parts with relatviely little additional input.

0033 don't attempt to fill in the gaps, unless funding is already
there - cannot really afford to

0034 Scenario work is fragmented, e.g., developing individudal
scenarios for too many individual projects. Should aim to get
contract for UKCIP06 scenarios.

0035 CRU needs to stay well clear of RCM/GCM modelling this requires
to many resources that could be better spent on other activities.
This area is also saturated by other centres. We should be in the
position of analysis and provison of the key climate datasets.

0036 We lost the contract for providing the Council of the British
Isles Scenarios, this has gone to the HC.

0037 Contract committments and proposal writing tend to win over paper writing.

0038 Lack of support for writing papers, e.g., effective demise of
ENV 'sabbatical' scheme.

0039 Hadley Centre does climate predictions, UKCIP does impacts,
Tyndall does solutions - where does CRU fit into all this? See also
comments on our identity.

0040 Weak on the modelling side (not just climate, but modelling of
other sectors). You can use a model to test many more hypotheses and
ask many more questions than you can do when relying only on
empirical analysis of data.

0041 develop our own impact models not jusr rely on data output from
external models

0042 CRU does not employ anyone in a public relations role but other
similar organizations see the need to do this - problem?

0043 Failure to identify new avenues of research - many of our
research strengths are still the same ones they were 20 years ago.
Diversify or die.

3. Data and information provision Strengths

0044 high quality data that is easily accessible

0045 Data acquisition is rarely funded directly and is usually an aside.

0046 We have a tradition of supplying data free of charge

0047 We've started up the Information Sheets and they've proved their
value. ENV are now thinking of doing something similar. But,we've
no resources to keep them going. We MUST seek sources of funding
from the Public Understanding of Science initiatives.

0048 Development of data sets, their analysis and their free and
efficient distribution represents a key strength of CRU.

0049 CRU is where countless groups around the world look for their
data, observational and model based datasets. Could improve still
further with more effort. Often not considered a mainstream research
activity but is an undoubted strength

0050 Observational datasets are our principal strength

4. Data and Information Provision Weaknesses

0051 We keep giving our data construction work away

0052 reliance on external sources of data eg Hadley Centre. Could we
build our own GCM? Collaborate with other institutes eg Canadians to
build one or improve freely available models eg NCAR Community
Climate model.

0053 This work isoften not directly funded and maintained with goodwill.

0054 Core funding for data set maintenance is hard to come by.

0055 We're heavily reliant on outside providers for model data.
Should we be going down the path of developing our own climate
modelling facilities?

0056 A gradual shift of our data products away from being "research
products" and towards being "operational products" and thus a move
towards them being produced and maintained by other well-funded

0057 Need to expand the datasets we offer. Need to find resources to
improve what we offer - precipitation updates and information on
other variables. Need to find a way to update New et al more easily.

0058 We don't find enough time to put more of our research papers
online including some of the datasets on which the figures are based

0059 Need to give more thought as to how to fund these activities properly.

0060 some webpages get very out of date

0061 Not good at fully exploiting project results, e.g., web site/publications.

0062 hard to get funding for data provision

0063 we can not compete with other modelling centres, therefore, we
should stick to data construction not modelling. How many CRAYS do
the HC have, SMHI, DKRZ etc etc etc

5. Funding for research and data activities Strengths

0064 We make an effort todraw funding from widely-differing sources,
which gives extra security.

0065 Have a diversified array of funding sources (EU, NERC , UK and US Govt)

0066 Getting to know the project officers in the various agencies.
Keeping them onside is often the key to funding continuity.

0067 Still seen as one of the leading climate centres, but we should
be seen as the BEST

6. Funding for research and data activities weaknesses

0068 There are sometimes gaps in funding for individuals whcih leads
to job insecurity.

0069 Time spent on proposals that come to nothing

0070 occasionally over-successful in bids, leading to juggling too
many projects

0071 funding obtained is on an ad-hoc basis we do not exploit all
sources to there maximum

0072 too much dependence on research councils, but diversifying is
more risk for individuals and admin. support system founders with
anything out of the ordinary

0073 In past has been down to individuals. Need more co-ordination
now, because of move to bigger projects and need to balance
workloads of more senior people invovled in developing and writing

0074 Recent shift in funding towards social science, climate
adaptation and stakeholder involvements, to the detriment of CRU's
key activities.

0075 EC funding is a lottery (need to buy lots of expensive (in time)
tickets to ensure frequent wins!

0076 We tend to collect data without funding and supply to others
free of charge. Is this sustainable?

0077 Need to tap into Public Understanding of Science areas.

0078 As climate science begins to mature as a field, competition has
greatly expanded.

0079 CRU is unusual in that it has, in the past, relied heavily on
soft money. Why aren't there similar units in other fields? I'd
argue that it's because climate change was a new topic and there was
little competition. That's changing now and a soft-money CRU may not
be possible in the future.

0080 Beginning of a shift towards bigger centres doing climate research?

7. Teaching Activity Benefits

0081 improves your awareness of what is generally understood and what is not

0082 keeping in touch with the 'coal face'

0083 teaching allows us to indentify good phd students

0084 Improves CRU image academically

0085 Teaching gives us credibility and friends in ENV. We don't have
enough of these, given the power that ENV hold over us.

0086 Undergraduate teaching role now gives some senior CRU staff the
security to think further ahead and plan for the development of their
research field over 5-10 years.

8. Teaching activity problems

0087 No co-ordination within CRU, ENV dictates to individuals rather than CRU

0088 role conflict causing stress

0089 No cash for teaching, this is expected to be undertaken by staff for love

0090 need a formal co-ordinated approach for getting phd students

0091 PhD students are definite strength of CRU, but ENV system of
getting/funding students is impossible to understand. Need to be more
imaginitve ourselves in getting students and funding.

0092 Funding system for getting PhD unclear

0093 Teaching contributions from more junior staff can be a drain on
research time, in return for little immediate return.

0094 Undergaduate/MSc project supervision can take away quality
research time, especially in the summer when other activities lessen
in importance.

0095 We need to be more entreprenurial in going out to get support
for PhD students. In this we fall behind ENV - only a small
proportion of their PhD students are funded from the NERC pool.

0096 need more information in CRU about what teaching is taking place
and when, tends to be a bit ad hoc

0097 Never considering undergraduate and MSc teaching that important.

9. Identity Strengths

0098 Website (data, information, publications etc.) is excellent

0099 "Climatic Research Unit" is a nationally recognised "brand"

0100 long history supports continuing good reputation - established

0101 good web site, providing information service

0102 keith briffa works at CRU

0103 On the international research stage, especially considering our
tiny size, we have a great reputation - through the IPCC reports
especially, and for our highly cited research papers. The web site is
good and very widely accessed BUT we could make this very much better.

0104 Excellent web site, (re: New Scientist) should exploit to its
maximum. The web site is gob smackingly brilliant

0105 Website (data and information sheets etc) is an aspect others
will aim to copy. In the next few years we will face the issue of
keeping it up to date and still being informative. Trick will be
finding the time.

0106 We just about have enough people to hold our reputation in the
short term , but with the large numbers of competitors and the small
numbers of researchers working on specifiic topics , this situation
is not likely to be maintained. We need to either get bigger or
develop more links with other institutions.

0107 Teaching does not help our research agenda , except for PhD students.

0108 tenuous 'critical mass' of senior researchers - some lost to Tyndall

10. Identity Weaknesses

0109 External identity threatened: Hadley Centre do climate
prediction, UKCIP do climate impacts, Tyndall do climate solutions.
What does CRU do and how are we distinct? We're not!

0110 The tydall centre is in direct competition with CRU

0111 too many climate organisations on same campus - causing
confusion to external enquirers

0112 We do not sell ourselves as a Unit enough, we need a more formal
way of highlighting our work as we are now under increasing

0113 CRU seen as part of Tyndall.

0114 not recognising the threat posed by the Tyndall Centre and its
apparently never-ending funding and support

0115 CRU would be in a better position if UEA had not won the Tydall Centre

0116 CRU is a little way short of a critical mass in active researchers

0117 Perhaps we need to be better BRANDED?

0118 Identity has been seriously affected by the Tyndall Centre.

0119 We should devise the strategy to cope with the threat from the
Tyndall Centre and Hadley Centre, i.e. lets attack their role, what
has the TC achieved to date, except a scenario report that should
have come from CRU

0120 How to do research under pressure of contacts and also plan and
co-ordinate etc

0121 At the moment we are rather 'top-heavy', i.e., need more
full-time working scientists as more senior people are more and more
involved in scientific management and administration. Turnover of
more junior staff is good, but also need to retain enough staff to
form the new generation.

0122 Need to work harder at maintaining and developing our identity
in the changing outside world.

0123 CRU has lots of informal contact/cooperation between members
which is generally good but it is possible to miss vital bits of
information regarding opportunities etc.

0124 When CRU started we were the only ones in a blossoming field.
Now there is great competition and it is increasing hard to get
widespread recognition for what we do . This is not helped when other
workers or fledgling institutions refuse to give us credit for what
we have and do do.

0125 We do not, seemingly, get the recognition for a lot of
international work we do (reaearch committees, representation on
editorial boards etc) from ENV and the UEA at large (The registry).
This is probably because to a large extent they don't know of the
work "behind the scenes".

0126 We cannot and should not trust the Tyndall Centre

0127 keith briffa works at CRU

0128 Lack of financial support for maintaining Web site

0129 No regular publications telling wider world what we're doing,
e.g., no annual report, newsletters.

1030 Lack of mutual support - people guard their research ideas not
only from the outside world but also from colleagues. Far too cliquey.

0131 Not a weakness but we need to work on informing people within
UEA, within the UK and beyond how the different parts of ENV
interact. There are many who think we have been subsumed by the
Tyndall Centre.

11. Working Environment Strengths

0132 Facilities/management support in CRU are good, less good in ENV,
and patchy (sometimes poor) at university level

0133 CRU's layout ensures a good mix between open plan and closed
office environment

0134 most people's doors are open

0135 CRU generally works together rather than in disparate directions

0136 It would be useful to have a ahort summary of CRU projects and
projects that staff are involved in with links to fuller description
and refs. Also a similar list of projects that are proposed. Perhaps
all this already exists? These could be viewed under headings - EC
projects, NERC projects etc or by staff.

0137 good computer facilities

0138 CRU is small enough that we all generally know what each person
is doing, but could be improvements.

0139 pleasant building/offices, distinct from ENV

0140 good computer support

0141 Being in a separate building.

0142 excellent computing support as far as could be expected given
the resources.

0143 Our own building and , up to now, our own identity and atmosphere.

0144 trustworthy management

0145 never boring

0146 Excellent computer support - well worth the money because it
saves researchers time (and hence money) more than it costs

0147 UEA provide useful admin, financial and IT facilities

0148 CRU provides a relaxed working environemnt

0149 I think this was a good idea!

0150 open communication, open decision

12. Working environment weaknesses

0151 Access to meeting rooms is poor. Coffee room is really too small
for seminars etc. Would be good to have a dedicated CRU meeting room
(other than library).

0152 Training of external people is currently weak.

0153 Lack of physical space to expand significantly. Not able to
offer much scope for visitors. Might be considered as a strength as
visitors often hinder findind quality reaserch time

0154 Formal staff development is poor. Informally, it is better, but
dependent on particular PIs.

0155 CRU staff have a limited voice/representation in
school/university decision-making bodies.

0156 Insecurity is still a major issue. In part this is a
university-level problem. But PIs need to be better at recognising
their responsibilities to more 'junior' staff. In part this is due to
lack of time, but also an attitude issue.

0157 ENV pressures (money and space) put pressure on CRU - reduction
of secretarial staff, reduction of space, competition for computing
resources and computing support. When we need to have secure
positions and forward planning in resource allocation ENV is
preventing this - yet happy to use our good science reputation.

0158 The senior staff did not identify the threat posed by the Tyndall Centre

0159 limited no. of toilets in building!

0160 Lack of co-ordination in somethings e.g., would be good if all
staff could have business cards.

0161 The most important basis for good future work is well motivated
and well trained staff, but in a soft money environment the daily
pressures of short term deadlines must always come first. Training
therefore becomes ad hoc and can lead to some frustration and a
feeling of being "a dog's body".

0162 administrative support from registry 'appears' slow and
cumbersome, not so responsive to an entrepreneurial unit

0163 hierarchical - there has been progress, but needs to be more
throughout the levels

0164 Problems with contracts (Registry) and high overheads can put
off future funders - once bitten twice shy.

0165 From CRU's standpoint, the Dean of ENV holds all the power.
Whatever we paln, he holds the npower of veto. This isn't how it
should be, but what you can do to get around it I don't know. We
could ask for more representatgion on School Board, but that doesn't
have much power anyway.

0166 small unit means staff need to be flexible, but too much
flexibility causes role conflict and resentment too

0167 Our finances are constantly under threat from ENV. This makes
for a continuing sense of uncertainty in trying to plan. It's
unlikely to change since it suits them.

0168 house prices are a threat to good recruitment, if not now, will be soon

0169 It made for a very much better enviroment when CRU has its own
slush fund and could so support people and direct research with a
little independence from contracts.

0170 I'm sometimes ashamed to bring visitors into the CRU coffee
room. It's comfy for us, but it's a bit flaky as an image, isn't it?

0171 Does ENV and the University give us a fair deal?

0172 UEA core funtions are sub-standard, i.e Contracts Office and
other registry activities. Sometimes embarassing to bring external
visitors because of poor facillities, especially catering and room
facillities. Good job we have Sue and Julie

0173 Without a coherent career path some people are left behind.

No comments:

Post a Comment