Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation
The revised strategic plan should articulate a clear, concise vision statement for the program in the context of national needs. The vision should be specific, ambitious, and apply to the entire CCSP. The plan should translate this vision into a set of tangible goals, apply an explicit process to establish priorities, and include an effective management plan.
Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan
The vision, goals, core approaches, prioritization, and management plan for the program are articulated in the revised strategic plan (See Box 1-2). A new Chapter 2 (Integrating Climate and Global Change Research) has been added, providing an overview of how the goals constitute a comprehensive, program-wide framework for coordinating interdisciplinary research activities and observations to focus on key climate and associated global change issues (CCSP, 2003, pp. 11-28). The revised plan states how priorities were chosen and lists “criteria for prioritization” (see Box 1-2), but does not clearly explain how the program will apply priorities in the budget process to support newer or expanded research areas, especially if the program funding remains level.
The five overarching goals are consistent with the vision (see Box 1-2), are generally balanced among the areas of emphasis for the program, and encompass the scope necessary to address climate and associated global change. The research needs related to ecosystems, human dimensions, impacts, and adaptation have appropriately been brought forward in the plan as the fourth overarching goal. Also, the application of scientific information to “policymaking and adaptive management” can potentially support the decisions highlighted in the fifth goal. The committee notes that objective measures remain to be established, however, for evaluating the program’s performance against its five overarching goals.
The alignment of research activities with program goals has been improved compared with the draft plan in that “examples of key research activities” are highlighted for each goal in Chapter 2. However, the plan does not thoroughly map the five goals to research and other program activities or identify sufficient activities to meet the fourth and fifth overarching goals. For example:
Research on impacts and adaptation described in Chapters 8 and 9 needs to be more strongly linked to research on climate and land-use change in Chapters 4 and 6, respectively.
Research on impacts and adaptation also needs to be better linked with near-term syntheses and work with stakeholders described in Chapter 11, “Decision Support Resources Development.”
The discussion of the CCSP modeling strategy in Chapter 10 identifies as priorities the development of model outputs to inform decision makers and impacts research, but does not describe actions to facilitate this usage.
The discussion of observing and monitoring in Chapter 12 devotes only a single paragraph to climate-related social, economic, and health data.
In general, these new and expanded areas of emphasis, which will be vital for accomplishing CCSP Goals 4 and 5, are less developed than the areas addressed by CCSP Goals 1, 2, and 3, and therefore, need to be accelerated. In a more thoroughly integrated plan, the goals of the program would dictate which individual research projects would be supported and how they would be sequenced. During implementation, these linkages need to be made so that program gaps can be identified and progress toward program goals can be assessed.
It is also important that the CCSP have an explicit and defensible process for prioritization and decision making. The revised strategic plan describes how initial priorities were chosen, based in part on the 2001 NRC report Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, and identifies several “Criteria for Prioritization” (see Box 1-2). The CCSP and participating agencies will need to make budget decisions and set priorities based on the contribution of research activities to accomplishment of the overarching CCSP goals. An explicit approach to priority setting is required, but is not explained in the plan. One reason that an explicit approach is essential is that the revised strategic plan expands the scope of the program beyond that of the GCRP, while providing no new resources. The prioritization approach should make sure to support emerging research areas that fit the program objectives even with little established track record of previous performance.
The revised strategic plan identifies timelines of 0-2 year, 2-4 year, and greater than 4 years for many deliverables (see Table 1-1). This approach is an important and essential component of the strategic plan. However, many of the milestones, products, and payoffs are too vaguely worded (e.g., many call for “greater understanding,” “improved descriptions,” or “updated trends”) to ascertain what will constitute success. For example, does a progress report constitute a milestone of