Member States value ECMWF visits, survey shows

Anna Ghelli


A survey on a regular programme of liaison visits by ECMWF to its Member and Co-operating States shows that the visits are highly appreciated but that there is scope to improve their planning. The survey was sent out in December 2017, at the end of the 2015–2017 cycle of visits.

What did you say?

The words most often used by participants in the survey to describe the visits relate to networking, knowledge exchange and opportunities. This reflects the ethos on which the programme is based.

The inclusion of training is generally appreciated, and the creation of eLearning is felt to be a further improvement to ECMWF’s training programme. Such online resources provide the basic knowledge needed to effectively use our products or software. They also support people in their learning journey towards more complex meteorological concepts. 

Word cloud. These are the words participants in the survey used to describe ECMWF’s visits.

Some respondents would like to have more time to plan the visits in their local organisation and country. Many stakeholders need to be contacted and coordinating this activity may be quite onerous. This year we will try to have a longer-term plan to support our local organisers.

Tailoring is another key aspect mentioned in the survey. In the last few years we have tried to collect information on possible topics of interest in advance of a visit. This does not always work, mainly because of a lack of time. Here too, longer-term planning of the visits may result in more input from the Member and Co-operating States. We are also aware that the number of ECMWF data users in each country has increased over the years, and that the spectrum of applications and consequently interests is becoming more diverse. The question of how best to tailor the visits may thus need revisiting: we need innovative ideas on how to engage with this wider community. This aspect will be reviewed in the course of this year with the Member States who have raised concerns.

A long tradition

ECMWF has a long tradition of visiting its Member and Co-operating States. The main aim of the visits has always been the continuous provision of information about ECMWF to all interested staff at the respective national weather services. These events are an important opportunity to promote new ECMWF products. In the early 1990s, for instance, the visits were valuable occasions to present ECMWF’s work on probabilistic forecasts.

Over the last ten years, the range of potential topics has increased as many Member and Co-operating States post-process ECMWF model output and develop applications that make use of ECMWF data. Opportunities to provide feedback to ECMWF about operational and research activities have also increased with the introduction of the Forecast User web page and a dedicated session at the annual user meeting. In these forums, ECMWF data users can voice any concerns they may have about model performance or request new products.

Today the visits regularly cover the way users process ECMWF data and products. They also include training activities and opportunities for networking to foster a deeper engagement between the Centre and its funding bodies. This two-way communication is essential for the progress of scientific work at ECMWF as well as product development. It provides ECMWF with invaluable feedback and opportunities to support the communities that ECMWF wants to serve.

In recent years, there has been an increasing effort to tailor such visits by introducing ad-hoc training and webinars (remote seminars) and where possible by supporting training events organised locally or regionally.

Thank you to local organisers

December 2017 marked the end of the 2015–2017 cycle of visit. The creation of such cycles became essential to guarantee that each country is visited at least once every three years.

The local organisers work with ECMWF, staff at their national meteorological and hydrological service and other users of ECMWF data to define a list of priority topics to be covered during the visit. Specific training on the use of products or software can also be organised at this stage. The invaluable work of the local organisers who take care of communication and advertising makes these visits a success. ECMWF would like to thank the local organisers for their work!

What next?

The new cycle of visits has started, with planning already under way for the first 10 to 11 visits. Over the course of the year we will incorporate your suggestions into our plans. Please continue to provide your feedback via the official channel (