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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska 4 Organizational Structure Major marine ecosystem programs require a large commitment of human and fiscal resources, and the assurance of scientific credibility and coordination are essential. The effectiveness and character of marine ecosystem research and monitoring programs are greatly influenced by their organizational structure, because it is the structure that ensures that the goals of the science plan are translated into specific research activities. A credible scientific program must be structured so that program planning and review, implementation, community involvement, coordination, proposal solicitation, peer review and funding, interactions among investigators, data management, oversight, and public outreach all are facilitated efficiently. Most interdisciplinary marine ecosystem programs have a scientific steering committee and a chief scientist (or scientific director) that together develop and implement the science plan and provide program oversight (Figure 4–1). In this science management structure, the chief scientist (who serves as an ex-officio member of the steering committee) works jointly with the steering committee and is empowered to develop and implement the program science plan. The chief scientist has authority regarding all scientific decisions after consultation with the program principal investigators and the steering committee. The chief scientist must concentrate on developing and implementing the program science and informing the interested communities of program results. To allow time for these scientific activities, the program’s scientific administrative duties are usually delegated by the chief scientist. The chief scientist of interdisciplinary science programs similar to the Gulf Ecosystem Monitoring
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska (GEM) program are normally scientifically well-rounded investigators who are respected nationally and internationally by their peers. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council should seriously consider the adoption of a similar organizational scheme. The recruitment of suitable candidates might be made easier if there were a relationship of the individual with a university. The GEM program implementation plan envisions that interactions between the Public Advisory Committee, Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, and the general public, along with an external GEM program review every five to seven years, will provide the needed scientific oversight. The committee agrees that the chief scientist working with the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (which is, in essence, the “steering committee” referred to above) and the Public Advisory Committee should play a key role in program oversight. If GEM is to succeed, its oversight activities must address issues such as the preparation of science and program implementation plans, proposal solicitation and peer review, investigator information exchange, program data management and outreach to Alaska natives and other communities of interest. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, working with the chief scientist, should play the dominant role in assuring GEM scientific program credibility and direction. Science planning must continue during the life of the GEM program to assure program success. Initially the core variables to be monitored must be carefully selected and should not be modified without careful consideration during the life of GEM. This will assure that consistent long-term data are obtained with a principal objective of distinguishing between human-induced and natural changes in the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem. A monitoring subcommittee reporting to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee may be of value in both developing monitoring protocols and requests for proposals, but such a committee should not be the sole mechanism by which the variables to be monitored are selected. The GEM program as a whole should be involved with the selection of variables to be monitored. This might be achieved through a series of targeted workshops to assist the chief scientist and/or Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee in determining location and frequency of measurements needed to monitor key biological, chemical, and physical variables. The importance of the early synthesis to the long-term success of GEM cannot be overstated. The GEM program must develop a clear implementation plan that includes some well-defined milestones and coordination among the agencies and programs conducting short- and long-term ecosystem research in the Gulf of Alaska. The plan should provide for an iterative assessment
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska FIGURE 4–1 This figure describes the proposed decisionmaking and management structure for implementing the GEM program document and the GEM monitoring and research plan. Information and guidance flows between the Trustee Council and the Program Advisory Committee, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, and the public at large, through the executive director and staff. The six-member Trustee Council makes all funding, programmatic, and policy decisions. All decisions must be unanimous. The Trustee Council relies on the executive director and staff to ensure that decisions are implemented and that the advice and review from the Program Advisory Committee, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, and the public are organized and summarized to assist in its decision making. The Program Advisory Committee, which is required by the settlement to be established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, consists of stakeholders, scientists, and community representatives who meet at least twice a year to provide advice and feedback to the Trustee Council on the overall direction of the program, including proposals to be funded. The Program Advisory Committee takes an active role in setting priorities and ensuring that the overall program is responsive to public interests and needs. The Program Advisory Committee is not intended to be the only conduit for public input. Additional public advice is sought on a regular and formal basis from the public at large, including public notice of all meetings, regular opportunities for public comment, and public hearings. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee provides key technical review and advice for the program, both from the “bottom up,” using a group of subcommittees organized by habitat and other functions (e.g., data management), and from the “top down,” by a core committee composed of subcommittee chairs and other distinguished scientists and technical experts. The subcommittees help develop testable hypotheses, identify core variables and monitoring stations, and assist with peer review of proposals. The core committee ensures that the program is comprehensive across all habitats in working to answer the central questions and hypotheses. In addition, the Trustee Council is advised by an independent External Review Committee convened at the request of the Trustee Council, which at least once every five years conducts a review of the GEM program.
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska and evaluation of program objectives. Program reviews, both internal and external, should include: evaluation of progress made toward the scientific objectives; recommendations for any needed changes to scientific goals and the implementation plan; identification of opportunities for greater involvement of scientific, native, and local communities in planning and implementing of the GEM program; and reporting of GEM results to relevant scientific and Gulf of Alaska communities and GEM sponsors. The GEM organizational structure must include procedures for efficiently soliciting and evaluating research proposals. Not only the scientific community but also other communities, such as Alaska natives and commercial fishers, need to be a part of the GEM management of proposal solicitations and funding approval. These communities require an effective way of submitting quality proposals addressing their needs. GEM should actively recruit participation of these communities to assure program openness and that its foundation is built on the broadest community base. Proposal reviews should have a peer review foundation. GEM staff and GEM-funded scientists may serve as proposal reviewers, but additional peer reviewers not employed or funded by GEM should evaluate each proposal. The GEM program will require solicitation of proposals to collect specific required core measurements along with those solicited to conduct innovative science. GEM must assure that the core measurements are collected efficiently and consistently on an ongoing basis. Sufficient resources should be available for sample processing (e.g., species identification and enumeration) in a reasonable period of time. The funding of the core measurements must receive the highest priority and may require the majority of GEM funds.
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska The GEM organizational structure will need to direct over time the issue of the balance between long-term monitoring and process studies in the GEM program and the associated funds devoted to each of these activities, as the allocation of funds is not explicitly discussed in the GEM strategic plan. Given the funds that will be available over the first decade, it is unlikely that the long-term monitoring program could be achieved unless a major fraction of funds is committed to this activity. It is very likely that the desired monitoring program could require the entire budget, because monitoring costs include data collection, data processing, and electronic data storage, and maintenance. The costs of data processing, storage, and maintenance should not be underestimated or undervalued. The longer-term success of the program will depend heavily on the early and continued commitment to all components of monitoring. This means that the decision to fund short-term process studies will need to consider the extent to which such studies may jeopardize long-term measurements. GEM managers should expect that establishing and implementing the long-term monitoring plan will dominate the early years of the GEM program and that process studies will play a larger role once the long-term measurements are in place. Over the longer term the balance between long-term monitoring and process studies should be guided by the GEM goals to detect and understand changes in marine ecosystem structure and functioning, as a basis to inform, solve, and predict the consequences of these changes. To be true to its mission and to achieve GEM goals, the monitoring component cannot be compromised and must be the GEM program centerpiece. The GEM organizational structure must make certain that data management receives serious and consistent attention. The importance of data management and data archiving cannot be overemphasized given the long-term objectives of GEM (see Chapter 6). Program leadership must track data management progress effectively; and a comprehensive data management group is the best way to accomplish this. An effective data management subcommittee could play a key role in assuring that data management and archiving are effective and efficient. Proper data management will make data easily available for analysis, synthesis, and modeling exercises conducted throughout the life of the GEM program. The GEM organizational structure must include mechanisms (such as the existing Public Advisory Committee) to inform the public of the status of scientific accomplishments and their usefulness in the management of Gulf of Alaska resources. As discussed in Chapter 5, additional ways are needed to increase collaboration between traditional ecological knowledge and modern science. Scientists have learned that traditional knowledge can be a useful source of ecosystem information, for example, the co-management of marine mammals, such as the bowhead whale, by an
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska Alaskan native commission and federal and state agencies, and the use of Little Diomede Island Inupiat seal-hunting knowledge to capture and track a ringed seal more than 400 miles through the frozen Chuckchi Sea. GEM should foster collaboration with the various Gulf of Alaska communities (see Chapter 5 for community involvement details). Collaboration will advance our understanding of the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem and benefit subsistence and other community resource users. The GEM Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, along with interactions with the chief scientist and Program Advisory Committee will need to play a key role in developing the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem monitoring and associated research science plan and in implementing the plan. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee in consultation with the chief scientist should provide creative leadership, including the evaluation of GEM’s scientific direction; make appropriate scientific program changes when needed; and direct the activities needed to carry out the plan, including solicitation and selection of proposals that best address GEM’s goals. Some additional subcommittees may need to be established, and interactions with these could assist the chief scientist and Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee in providing program leadership. Subcommittees should be established, however, only after identification of need. If such committees are arbitrarily established they can be divisive and a hindrance to successful advancement of the program goals. Proposal solicitations and final recommendations for Trustee Council funding should be a major function of the chief scientist and Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee. The chief scientist and Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee should develop the scientific and technical subjects required to address GEM goals, as well as participate actively in the development of requests for proposals. Workshops hosted by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee to determine community-generated research needs may be an effective method for bringing local community resources into the proposal generation and solicitation process. The chief scientist and Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee should organize workshops related to choosing the variables to be monitored over time—keeping in mind that the final selection of variables should be based on hypotheses about how those variables would provide insight into relevant ecosystem processes—and workshops to facilitate the linkage of traditional ecological knowledge with modern science. If the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee is to function effectively and play a key role in advising the chief scientist and guiding the GEM scientific and technical program, its membership must be based on their scientific expertise and their ability to translate across the marine habitats and disciplines. Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee members must be perceived to be neutral, unbiased, and focused on the
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A Century of Ecosystem Science: Planning Long-Term Research in the Gulf of Alaska long-term success of the GEM program. The addition of some of its members to the Program Advisory Committee should assist with the integration of local community needs with the GEM scientific research planning process. Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee membership will require regular rotation to obtain the best oversight of GEM over time. Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee members could be compensated and they should have term limits of three to five years, with no direct GEM research or project funding during the period of service.
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