Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder


Science in Service to Society

At CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences, more than 800 scientists work to understand the dynamic Earth system, including people’s relationship with the planet. CIRES is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado Boulder, and our areas of expertise include weather and climate including impacts to wildfire and water, changes at Earth’s poles, air quality and atmospheric chemistry, water resources, solid Earth sciences and more. 

CIRES has been facilitating collaboration between CU Boulder and NOAA since 1967. We support NOAA’s mission by furthering Earth system and other environmental research that crosscuts traditional scientific fields. CIRES helps strengthen the scientific foundation upon which NOAA’s environmental intelligence services depend, and our partnership with the agency allows coordinated studies on a scale that could not be undertaken by the university or NOAA alone.


To conduct innovative research that advances our understanding of the global, regional, and local environments and the human relationship with those environments, for the benefit of society.


CIRES is an international leader in conducting cross-cutting environmental research of the highest quality while bridging fundamental science and service to society. We build leaders, scientists, communicators, and teams dedicated to developing sound and trusted information to address environmental challenges. We embrace a positive and inclusive culture, recognizing that CIRES thrives when our people do.

Strategic Plan

  1. Advance our robust and creative research capabilities to further knowledge in the environmental sciences and the realization of its benefits. 
    1. Strengthen and opportunistically enhance existing research, outreach, and engagement to keep CIRES at the forefront of scientific excellence and impact.
      1. Support the continued excellence and development of research, data, outreach, and engagement programs.
      2. Be responsive to and support researchers and research groups who identify and want to capitalize on opportunities for innovative new research directions.
      3. Create mechanisms that encourage graduate students to catalyze research collaborations across CIRES groups in both CU and NOAA.
    2. Collectively identify, prioritize, and implement new initiatives, opportunities, and research directions.
      1. Identify new initiatives through diverse mechanisms that solicit input from all of CIRES.
      2. Prioritize new initiatives through regular retreats to assess trends and resources as an institute. Define a protocol for identifying pivot points given trends in metrics. Establish transparent decision-making and implementation processes.
  2. Strategically link research groups and improve the mobility of our people and ideas to enhance innovation and interdisciplinarity across CIRES.
    1. Get to know one another.
      1. Host and encourage participation in campus and NOAA seminar series.
      2. Provide NOAA and CU Boulder lab tours for research teams / students / postdocs.
      3. Create mechanisms to make it easier for CIRES@NOAA and NOAA scientists to guest lecture and help with classes on campus.
    2. Link people who work on similar themes.
      1. Organize expert-to-expert meetings on specific topics with contributions from across CIRES.
      2. Arrange panel discussions on different themes with experts from across CIRES (with themes proposed by CIRES members).
    3. Establish new cross-disciplinary relationships focused on exploratory themes.
      1. Hold retreats to bring people together, crossing disciplinary themes.
      2. Fund IRP, GSRA, VFP for cross-CIRES research activities.
      3. Designate a person to facilitate and coordinate cross-disciplinary activities.
    4. Foster innovation through collaboration.
      1. Define innovation for different job types (staff, researchers, students, faculty) and areas of improvement (leadership, diversity, inclusivity, outreach). 
      2. Develop programs and activities that encourage people to communicate who don’t typically interact with each other (students, fellows, early-career researchers, staff, centers, etc.)
      3. Identify meeting space outside of secure areas.
      4. Provide opportunities for shared supervision of scientific staff and students. 
  3. Advance diversity, justice, equity, and inclusion through robust workforce development programs to promote excellence while inspiring engagement, innovation, collaboration, and leadership at all levels.
    1. Provide full support to the CIRES DEI Strategic Plan and gather data that informs ongoing initiatives.
      1. Assess employee satisfaction on a regular basis and encourage participation in campus culture surveys.
      2. Track personnel complaints and employee relations issues. 
      3. Evaluate retention efforts and programs for existing employees, including monitoring turnover rates, incentivizing completion of exit interview surveys, and performing stay interviews.
      4. Increase engagement levels through CIRES-wide events such as town halls and cross-disciplinary workshops.
    2. Build leadership and management training that creates opportunities for professional growth and monitor participation and outcomes. 
      1. Implement CU HR training as appropriate.
      2. Develop and implement new, evidence-based, CIRES-specific trainings.
      3. Promote trainings and related CIRES professional development funding.
      4. Collect feedback via the ASA process to inform professional development programming.
    3. Extend existing mentoring programs and implement a graduate student mentoring program.
      1. Institute discussions with graduate students to determine the nature and organization of an effective mentoring program for that group.
      2. Implement a graduate student mentoring program.
      3. Identify other groups in CIRES that would benefit and are not covered under current programs.
    4. Advocate for policies and programs that remove barriers and increase the support for our researchers, staff and students.
  4. Enhance the impact, accessibility, and reach of our science and data to the broader scientific community, NOAA, educators and students, policy makers, and the general public.
    1. Collaborate widely on outreach and communications efforts within and beyond CU Boulder and NOAA to promote scientific literacy and CIRES science. 
      1. Support “broader impacts” work in new science proposals and connect researchers to existing opportunities to have broader impact. 
      2. Regularly connect policy makers, journalists, and the public who have questions with scientists who may have answers.
      3. Enhance strategic communication on specific, focused topics through hiring, making connections, and expanding graphics and data visualization capabilities.  
      4. Collaborate with other departments and student groups to make science-based content more accessible to broader audiences.
    2. Expand participation and skill in outreach and communications: 
      1. Work toward a culture that values authentic research-related communications and outreach, including in performance evaluations.
      2. Build more skillful science communicators by supporting, enabling, and training scientists and students who want to do outreach or communications to develop their skills.