The ECMWF research to operations (R20) process

TitleThe ECMWF research to operations (R20) process
Publication TypeTechnical memorandum
Date Published2017
Secondary TitleECMWF Technical Memoranda
AuthorsBuizza, R, Andersson, E, Forbes, R, Sleigh, M


One of the key aspects of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) business is the Research-to-Operations (R2O) process, which is followed to upgrade the IFS1 cycle (i.e. the software used in forecast production). R2O starts with a strategic, 10-year vision, and ends with the cycles’ implementations. It includes a series of actions that could be summarized in 6 activities: planning, development, testing, evaluation, communication and implementation. It involves the calculation of objective metrics to assess model performance, and communication with all key stakeholders. 

In this document, we highlight the main phases and activities of the ECMWF R2O process. In Section 1 we present an overview of the 6 key activities of the R2O process, and then in the following Sections we discuss some of them in more detail. In Section 2 we discuss planning and development activities, and highlight their three main time horizons. In Section 3 we review the communication steps that are taken to ensure that all key stakeholders involved in the R2O process are properly informed. In Section 4, we analyze the last phase (the final 8-10 months) of the R2O process that leads to an IFS cycle implementation. In Section 5 we discuss the evaluation and diagnostic activities, and present the criteria, including the headline scores and other metrics used to assess forecast performance, and decide whether an IFS cycle is ready for implementation. In Section 6 we discuss how users’ requests are taken into account in the whole process. Finally, on-going activities to review and improve the R2O process are discussed in Section 7, and a summary is presented in Section 8.


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