FACULTY SENATE


  Senate Document Number     3405S


  Date of Senate Approval      03/03/05  



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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



IDC 5:               Proposal to President Broad for the establishment of “The National Environmental

Modeling and Analysis Center” with the University Of North Carolina Asheville



  1. Name


The name of the proposed center is: The National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC).


  1. Mission, Goals, and Objectives



The Center conducts basic and applied environmental modeling research and technology development. Through collaborations with academic, governmental, commercial, and non-profit organizations, the Center provides multi-factor analytical, visualization, and prediction capabilities to advance public education, health, welfare, and the economy.


Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives of NEMAC are as follows:


§         To become the preeminent working model of university, government and private sector collaborative research; this will be accomplished by:

                                                               i.      Initiating and maintaining an open dialogue with faculty and student researchers, administrators, and staff from UNC Asheville and other universities, government agencies, commercial businesses and non-profit organizations;

                                                             ii.      Making collaborative research ventures the focal point of NEMAC’s efforts; and

                                                            iii.      Working with local, state, and federal officials to become an integral component of the environmental modeling and economic development planning process.


§         To promote faculty and undergraduate research and scholarship; this will be accomplished by:

                                                               i.      Identifying faculty research interests and securing appropriate funding;

                                                             ii.      Involving student research in each submitted research proposal; and

                                                            iii.      Incorporating into proposals, when feasible, curriculum development activities.


§         To stimulate economic development activities in the Western Carolina Region; this will be accomplished by:

                                                               i.      Supporting the establishment of a climate information-based industry through grant acquisition for collaborative research efforts;

                                                             ii.      Leveraging the desire of private- and public-sector leaders in the region—which has lost over 4700 manufacturing jobs during the past 14 months—for sustainable employment opportunities; and

                                                            iii.      Hosting interdisciplinary workshops and symposia to increase awareness of, and develop solutions for, the environmental and associated economic needs of the region. 


§         To remain financially self-sufficient and contribute to the financial and scholastic welfare of UNC Asheville and the UNC system; this will be accomplished by:

                                                               i.      Identifying and securing federal, state, and foundation grants;

                                                             ii.      Commercializing/licensing applicable products developed by NEMAC-managed consortia; and

                                                            iii.      Providing oversight activities for federal and state research and student intern programs.



§         To Contribute to the well-being of the environment and society in general; this will be accomplished by:

                                                               i.      Modeling environmental processes that impact human and environmental health (e.g., air quality, storm water discharge, extreme storms); and

                                                             ii.      Increasing the predictability of events and positively affecting local, regional and state economies and the quality of life for all individuals.


  1. Relevance of NEMAC to, and Impact on, UNC Asheville


The relevance of NEMAC to the overall welfare of UNC Asheville will grow as NEMAC’s expertise expands.  NEMAC will become an integral part of UNC Asheville; not only as a coordinator of research activities, but as a promoter of faculty scholarship, undergraduate research and community involvement.  Potential faculty and students will be drawn to UNC Asheville because of the unique, interdisciplinary educational and research opportunities provided by NEMAC.


UNC Asheville’s stature as an economic and social leader in the Western Carolina Region will rise as its interaction with local, state and national government and educational organizations increases. Collaboration with non-profit and commercial businesses will increase as faculty and students pursue NEMAC-related research.  Their efforts will create a positive wave of economic development and public improvement activities across the region, including the establishment of knowledge-based industries, enhanced human and environmental health, and increased safety of the region’s populace.


Increased interaction with UNC-system (UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Office of the President), governmental (National Climatic Data Center, US Forest Service, USDA, DOE, NC Center for Geographic Information Analysis, NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services), non-profit (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, AdvantageWest, Education & Research Consortium, Education & Research Services, Land-of-Sky Regional Council), private sector (Baron Advanced Meteorological Systems), and community college (Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College) institutions has already occurred through collaborations on research, education and outreach projects. 


  1. Anticipated Effects on Instructional Programs at UNC Asheville


Instructional programs will be positively affected by the establishment of NEMAC.  Course offerings at UNC Asheville will increase as the depth and breadth of NEMAC research endeavors grow over time.  NEMAC, through its research offerings, will aid UNC Asheville in its recruitment of qualified faculty and administrators. Their enthusiasm and knowledge will transfer to the student body through enhanced course offerings and opportunities for undergraduate research.


Actual results have mirrored these predictions.  Through the planning, establishment and implementation of NEMAC, interdepartmental (e.g., Math, Atmospheric Science, Environmental Studies, Biology, Multimedia Arts and Sciences, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, and Management) communications have significantly increased.  The number and diversity of course offerings will increase through NEMAC-sponsored activities.  Planned new courses to the UNC Asheville curriculum include: Environmental Data Modeling, Geographic Information Systems, Scientific Visualization, and Database Manipulation. 


NEMAC is having a positive and significant impact on the Computer Science Department.  The NEMAC TIRAND database system is being studied and discussed in Database and Analysis & Design courses.  The large scale of the database (terabytes of data), the availability of design personnel and documents, and the immediacy of the project combine to make this an ideal classroom case study where computer science principles and practical, real-world aspects, freely collide.  Further enhancing this important discipline is the NEMAC sponsored SIMVaC grant to develop an advanced database course and a Databases For Everyone course.   This will create opportunities for student research in important database disciplines such as organization of large databases, performance methodologies and tools, and data mining.  Several Computer Science students are already actively engaged in research projects sponsored by NEMAC.


The impact of NEMAC on instruction in the Atmospheric Sciences Department is already being realized in the avenues of both research and education.  A private sector NEMAC partner, Baron Advanced Meteorological Systems (BAMS), has agreed to install a local radar site in the region, which will make the observations available to the UNC Asheville Atmospheric Sciences Department.  BAMS will also install visualization software in several department computers. The agreement by BAMS to provide such hardware and software will open new avenues for undergraduate research topics not available to most of the universities having graduate atmospheric sciences programs. The potential research will relate to observing and obtaining a better understanding of weather circulation patterns unique to the local area that have an important influence on precipitation and hydrology in western North Carolina. Access to real-time radar observations coupled with the ability to visualize the observations in the classroom will provide students with the capability to learn how to use the radar for forecast purposes and how to communicate information provided by the radar to a broadcast audience.


Another direct impact of NEMAC on instruction in the UNC Asheville Atmospheric Sciences Department is the recent acquisition of a multi-node Linux-based cluster for high performance computing using atmospheric numerical models. This hardware will support student undergraduate research projects focused on applying computer weather models to local weather research issues so that operational forecasters of local weather might be better equipped to issue highly accurate and skilled forecasts. The Linux cluster is powerful enough to run computer forecast models at very high resolutions so that the influence of local small-scale circulations and topography can be taken into account in the model evolution of weather systems. The multi-node nature of the cluster will allow students at UNC Asheville to have the opportunity to learn about and gain experience with computing in a Message Passing Interface (MPI) environment, the direction toward which laboratories worldwide are moving for computational physics research.


  1. Director and Advisory Board



The Acting Director of NEMAC will be Dr. John Stevens.  A national search for a permanent director of NEMAC will begin immediately upon the approval of the UNC Asheville Expansion Budget request.  This person, who will have the overall administrative responsibility for NEMAC, will be an individual of significant stature in the research community and will be responsible for much of the continued development and the long-term vitality of NEMAC. The search committee (comprised of John Stevens, Mary Lynn Manns, Douglas Miller, Gerard Voos, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs—Science, and two individuals named by the Provost) will recommend the name of two final candidates to UNC Asheville’s Chancellor for approval.


External Advisory Board

An External Advisory Board (EAB) for NEMAC will be established soon after the acceptance of this proposal. The EAB will provide guidance and feedback to the NEMAC  Director and Managers in order to ensure effectiveness of the Center in meeting its commitments to key stakeholders.  These stakeholders include state and national scientific and academic communities, western Carolina economic development groups, federal and state government agencies, and commercial and non-profit entities interested in the activities of the Center.


The initial EAB will be comprised of four individuals from among stakeholder organizations whose names will be provided by NEMAC managers.  Membership will increase to nine after a fulltime Director is appointed.  The Director will, with input from the managers, designate five additional members to the EAB.


The EAB members will serve staggered, two-year terms. The EAB will convene twice per year, at least one of which will be in person.  


  1. NEMAC Organizational Structure


The administrative, academic and much of the research and development components of NEMAC will reside at the University of North Carolina Asheville.  The Director, Director of Development, and Administrative Assistant of NEMAC will be UNC Asheville employees.  The Acting Director of NEMAC will be Dr. John Stevens.  Dr. Stevens enjoys significant prominence in the research community and is internationally recognized for his work in physical chemistry.  Dr. Stevens will be responsible for overall direction and administration of NEMAC and will report directly to the Chancellor of UNC Asheville. Dr. Mary Lynn Manns, will manage relations between NEMAC and the UNC Asheville community, as well as oversee undergraduate research and employment activities.  The Director of Development, Dr. Gerard Voos, will seek funding opportunities for NEMAC researchers and their collaborators (e.g., National Climatic Data Center, BAMS, UNC-Charlotte). Ms. Laura Morton will oversee daily office activities including managing budgets and invoicing, webpage maintenance, and tracking of project schedules and deliverables.  Faculty working with NEMAC, in addition to their UNC Asheville responsibilities, will be compensated—using NEMAC funds—in the form of academic release time and/or summer salary. 

The administration of NEMAC—to be coordinated with current UNC Asheville offices—will include:


·         Identification of funding opportunities and the creation of research collaborations to pursue them;

·         Grant proposal submission; NEMAC, in conjunction with the UNC Asheville Office of Sponsored Scholarship and Programs, will coordinate submission of proposals to funding agencies;

·         Management of periodic and final reports from research projects; this may include writing, review, and/or submission of reports to funding agencies;

·         Management of post-award activities, in conjunction with the UNC Asheville Controllers Office;

·         Establishment and coordination of the NEMAC External Advisory Board and its activities;

·         Oversight of NEMAC daily activities, which may include: infrastructure support, personnel management, equipment procurement, and project scheduling;

·         Expansion and management of distance learning activities with other UNC institutions;

·         Recruitment and administration of student, faculty, and staff researchers to work on NEMAC research projects;

·         Coordination of NEMAC faculty and staff interactions with UNC Asheville regarding teaching assignments, research space, collaboration agreements (when a researcher is from outside UNC Asheville); and

·         Maintaining the focus and productivity of a research project from proposal preparation through project completion.


  1. Budget Estimates and Anticipated Sources of Funding


Finances required to operate NEMAC are those received by the Center through external (non-UNC Asheville) resources. Initial funding for FY04 is approximately $1.5M; secured funding for FY05 is $900K (UNC-OP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory grants and contracts).  That amount is expected to grow during the fiscal year.


Future funding will come from government, non-profit, and private sector sources.  The Center cannot operate without external funding support.  Therefore, it is necessary for NEMAC to consistently identify and pursue funding opportunities.  Without adequate external funding, UNC Asheville may find it necessary to discontinue its role as host of NEMAC.


External funding will be sought from a variety of sources.  These include research and education grants from federal funding agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. NEMAC will also seek funding from information product commercialization/licensing activities.


Development activities to be undertaken by NEMAC will include:

·         Encouragement of research ideas from UNC Asheville faculty and staff;

·         Identification of research solicitations from federal, state, and local funding agencies that are pertinent to the NEMAC mission;

·         Guidance of research toward projects which, in time, have the potential for commercialization;

·         Providing advice/review services for faculty/staff prior to proposal submission;

·         Identification of appropriate researchers from UNC Asheville, other universities, government agencies and national laboratories (including undergraduate and graduate students);

·         Creation of research consortia from the various universities, agencies and laboratories across the United States;

·         Dissemination of press releases describing NEMAC research and potential products and distribution of these to scientific/industry/government groups; and

·         Coordination of the presentation of NEMAC-related research at professional conferences and workshops.


Current and outyear NEMAC planning budgets are included in Table 1.  As listed in Table 1, federal earmarks are those funds set aside by a funding agency for a specific research purpose (e.g., Development of the TIRAND project through the Library of Congress).  Grants are funds given to NEMAC by a funding agency, via a contract, to conduct a specific task deemed important to the mission of that agency.  Contracts are agreements to conduct a specific scope of work—resulting in a deliverable(s)—for a funding agency in exchange for monetary compensation to NEMAC.  Funds from the State of North Carolina reflect additions to the state budget (above and beyond those funds now forwarded to UNC Asheville) to support NEMAC personnel and activities. These amounts reflect the Expansion Budget request that the UNC Board of Governors sent to the Legislature. Leases from intellectual property (IP) are those fees returning to NEMAC (and UNC Asheville) for the use of products developed during NEMAC-sponsored research activities.


            Table 1. NEMAC Planning Budget







Federal Earmarks






Grants and Contracts






State of North Carolina






Leases from IP*




























































            *IP = Intellectual property;  ** Funds for undergraduate researchers are stipends;



Listed in Table 1 under expenditures are operations, programs, subcontracts, and undergraduates.  Operational expenditures are those costs, or charges, that are incurred during the conduct of daily activities at NEMAC (e.g., telephone, copying, printing, etc.).  Program costs are those resulting from the administration of the specific research projects carried out by NEMAC-related faculty.  Subcontracts represent agreements with outside entities for work that is required under a contract over which NEMAC is the prime administrator.  Undergraduate funds are stipends released to undergraduate students participating in NEMAC-related research projects.


  1. Statement of Capital Needs


Capital needs, as they arise, are written into grant proposals.  To this point, NEMAC—through its external grants and contracts—has supplied faculty and student researchers computer hardware, software, and facilities to pursue their work. NEMAC has also provided its staff with office and computer equipment in order to complete their administrative and management tasks. 


New computer hardware will be required for a new and unique high-performance computing resource focused on applied data visualization. A Federal Agenda proposal has been submitted to support the new Visualization Computing GRID (VisualGRID) computer hardware requirements.


In addition, computer hardware purchases will be required in support of a proposed ability to transform archival data into a form suitable for environmental research, modeling and analysis projects. A Federal Agenda proposal has been submitted in support of the establishment of NEMAC as a National Data Resource (NDR).


Avenues are currently being pursued to finance the installation of a local radar in the region that will be devoted to studying local environmental problems and to providing early guidance for averting local natural disasters such as flash flooding.


As has been demonstrated to date, NEMAC finances the capital needs of its research entirely through funded research proposals. It is the intent that this commitment will continue through future projects as described previously in the VisualGRID and NDR summaries. NEMAC will not compete for funding with UNC Asheville department requests covering purchases and requisitions.


  1. Space Needs (immediate and projections)


UNC Asheville has provided office and computer laboratory space for the initial phases of NEMAC's operation.  This includes Rhoades 201, which has been renovated for office space. Rhoades 201 houses the administrative section of NEMAC, including the Director of Development and Program Assistant, Research Fellow (Tom Burnet), and space for NEMAC faculty researchers to meet and work with collaborators. In addition, some collaborators use the space in their own departments.  This in-kind support has proven invaluable to faculty, staff and student researchers, and has afforded them the opportunity to pursue the goals and objectives of the Center. Two other rooms, which are in need of renovation, Rhoades 207A and 205 are also used by NEMAC. These require renovation into more efficient space in anticipation of a director and expanding research activities (e.g, computer visualization center, high-speed connective node to the Western Carolina Fiber Optic Network). These efforts will require external sources of funding.


  1. Additional Information to Support Establishment of NEMAC


NEMAC’s strength is in its ability to create partnerships. The success of NEMAC is dependent on the collaboration of academic, governmental, non-profit, and commercial organizations.  Together these groups can provide the scientific, computer and statistical expertise to prepare and analyze disparate databases (e.g., historical climate records and depth-to-water table data), as well as provide environmentally-related products for a variety of governmental agencies and industries including: agriculture, health, insurance, transportation, and energy.


Current UNC Asheville/NEMAC collaborators include: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech), UNC-Charlotte, BAMS, National Climatic Data Center, Education & Research Consortium, North Carolina State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, NC Center for Geographic Information Analysis, US Forest Service, NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Education & Research Services, and AdvantageWest.


Undergraduate Research

NEMAC is having a profound impact on undergraduate research at UNC Asheville.  To this point, NEMAC has secured over $60,000 for undergraduate research activities at UNC Asheville.  This is distributed as stipends to undergraduate researchers working on faculty-supervised research projects. Through its grant writing activities, NEMAC  serves as a model for providing undergraduate research opportunities on all grant-funded, Center-related research projects.  Recent, current and future undergraduate research activities include: Geographic Information Systems, numerical modeling in the Atmospheric Sciences, scientific visualization, and chaotic behavior of weather systems.


Faculty Scholarship

Opportunities for faculty scholarship, on and off the UNC Asheville campus, are greatly enhanced due to NEMAC.   Faculty from a number of departments on the UNC Asheville campus (e.g., Math, Management, Environmental Studies, Computer Science, and Multimedia Arts & Sciences) already are actively involved in NEMAC research projects. NEMAC will operate as an information center regarding funding and collaborative opportunities for joint research efforts. In this manner, NEMAC will assist faculty and staff in pursuit of research opportunities and can provide coordination of proposal preparation, submission, and post-award project management.


Economic Development

NEMAC positively impacts economic development in Western North Carolina (WNC) and beyond. In the short run, students on projects are well prepared to contribute—post-graduation—as new employees to regional employers such as NCDC, BAMS, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, USDA Forest Service, and others engaged in delivery of knowledge-based services. Those graduates with these interests will be more likely to be employable in the region rather than having to move away to find professional employment.


In the mid-term, NEMAC’s focus on developing better micro and meso-scale modeling, analysis, and visualization will lead to improved prediction capabilities and public policy requirements with enormous economic development implications for citizens, communities, existing companies,  and entrepreneurial initiatives to form new companies. By way of specific examples, NEMAC research will yield:

·         Better weather forecasts that impact challenging regions such as WNC and the  broader Southern Appalachian mountains;

·         Better smoke and haze forecasts that have emergency and chronic health implications;

·         Better hydrological forecasts affecting local flood prediction, flood water management and protection of clean water supplies;

·         Better emergency forecasts for impending local disruptions to power generation and distribution systems; and

·         Better urbanization land use planning particularly as it affects local potable water demands and flood water management.


Overall, NEMAC has and will increase the regional job base related to environmental matters. NEMAC has already attracted one company (BAMS) to re-locate and expand its workforce. NEMAC research programs have increased the number of paid professionals engaged in its sponsored research. And, NEMAC research results will lead to new specialized services that will increase job needs within existing companies and induce new companies to be created specifically to deliver these new services in the region and beyond.


Multidisciplinary Efforts

Each NEMAC project is a multi-disciplinary effort. For instance, the recently awarded UNC-Office of the President grant for computer-related research that was awarded to UNC Asheville included six departments (Computer Science, Multimedia Arts & Sciences, Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Management, NEMAC) on the UNC Asheville campus plus collaborators at AB Tech and UNC-Charlotte.  By pursuing this type of project, NEMAC creates an atmosphere of cooperation and leverages resources across departmental (and campus) boundaries.


Technology Transfer

One of NEMAC’s missions is the transfer of sponsored and developed technologies to the market to generate benefits for the University, the community, and the public.  Technical transfer to the community broadly includes invention disclosures, patents, license agreements, new business startups, and license revenues. NEMAC is an integrator of research and technology involving environmental modeling and analysis, and as such, is helping to transfer new capability and results into practical applications.  NEMAC collaborations with industry, government, and academic institutions increase the likelihood that new inventions and discoveries will lead to useful products and services that benefit society. The end result is more career options for our graduates, more research options for our faculty, and more commercialization options for our technologies.


Decision-makers and researchers in a number of important environmental disciplines need improved information and tools.  This year, through valuable business and community partners, NEMAC sponsorship will result in an innovative, on-line radar data database and query system for researchers and the public.  This project involves industry and university faculty engaged in close partnership to advance the quality and timeliness of archival and real-time weather data and derived weather products.  In addition, this project is seen to have significant commercial potential and thus further benefit to the University.