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Elements of a Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board: Interim Report Executive Summary

In 1979, the U.S. government filed a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court against the State of Alaska regarding ownership of submerged lands along Alaska’s North Slope. Royalties from oil and gas sales of these submerged lands were held in escrow during the ensuing court proceedings. Nearly 20 years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the U.S. government, signing over the lands and nearly $1.6 billion in proceeds. Congress later created the Environmental Improvement and Restoration Fund and the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) with the settlement money. Each year, 20 percent of the interest from the account is given to the NPRB for funding marine research activities in the Arctic Ocean, the Bering Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean.

The NPRB began operating in 1997, and it approved funding for about $2.2 million in 2002 and $7 million in 2003 (Appendix B). The NPRB also began developing an administrative structure and advisory mechanisms similar to other research programs. Concurrently, the NPRB recognized the need to develop a high-caliber, long-range science plan that provides a comprehensive understanding of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean ecosystems and their fisheries. To ensure that its Science Plan is of the highest quality, the NPRB asked the National Academies to provide advice on the components of a sound science plan (Box ES-1). The National Academies established the Committee on a Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board for this purpose (Appendix C). To gather information for this report, the committee held three committee meetings and a science workshop (conducted in Anchorage). The workshop agenda and list of participants can be found in Appendix E. In addition, members of the committee made site visits to various communities in Alaska (Kodiak, Barrow, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Anchorage, and Bethel) and in the State of Washington (Seattle) to receive input on the marine research needs of each community. This input is summarized in Appendix D. Information received from the workshop and site visits was considered in the committee’s deliberations.

This interim report presents the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) initial advice for the development of the NPRB Science Plan. The report is the first step in an advice-giving process that will continue through 2004. It is not meant to be an extensive literature review of work done in the NPRB region; instead, the goal of this report is to



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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board B Elements of a Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board: Interim Report Executive Summary In 1979, the U.S. government filed a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court against the State of Alaska regarding ownership of submerged lands along Alaska’s North Slope. Royalties from oil and gas sales of these submerged lands were held in escrow during the ensuing court proceedings. Nearly 20 years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the U.S. government, signing over the lands and nearly $1.6 billion in proceeds. Congress later created the Environmental Improvement and Restoration Fund and the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) with the settlement money. Each year, 20 percent of the interest from the account is given to the NPRB for funding marine research activities in the Arctic Ocean, the Bering Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean. The NPRB began operating in 1997, and it approved funding for about $2.2 million in 2002 and $7 million in 2003 (Appendix B). The NPRB also began developing an administrative structure and advisory mechanisms similar to other research programs. Concurrently, the NPRB recognized the need to develop a high-caliber, long-range science plan that provides a comprehensive understanding of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean ecosystems and their fisheries. To ensure that its Science Plan is of the highest quality, the NPRB asked the National Academies to provide advice on the components of a sound science plan (Box ES-1). The National Academies established the Committee on a Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board for this purpose (Appendix C). To gather information for this report, the committee held three committee meetings and a science workshop (conducted in Anchorage). The workshop agenda and list of participants can be found in Appendix E. In addition, members of the committee made site visits to various communities in Alaska (Kodiak, Barrow, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Anchorage, and Bethel) and in the State of Washington (Seattle) to receive input on the marine research needs of each community. This input is summarized in Appendix D. Information received from the workshop and site visits was considered in the committee’s deliberations. This interim report presents the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) initial advice for the development of the NPRB Science Plan. The report is the first step in an advice-giving process that will continue through 2004. It is not meant to be an extensive literature review of work done in the NPRB region; instead, the goal of this report is to

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board summarize broad research themes and the key components of a successful science plan. These themes are based mainly on the experience and expertise of the NRC committee, input from the science workshop, site visits, and discussions with stakeholders. The report is meant to guide the NPRB in developing a science plan that meets the objectives of the enabling legislation and is consistent with the NPRB's mission and goals (Box ES-2). Since the NRC was not charged with writing the NPRB Science Plan, recommendations for specific research topics have not been made. The NRC will review the final draft of the NPRB Science Plan once it has been developed, taking into consideration the broad research themes and guidance provided by this report. Chapter 1 provides background information and Chapter 2 discusses criteria necessary for a successful NPRB Science Plan. Chapters 3-4 discuss specific elements of the plan in more detail. Chapter 5 provides the committee’s findings and recommendations. Below are brief descriptions of the major sections of the report followed by key recommendations. For a more complete discussion of a specific section or a listing of all recommendations, please refer to the respective chapter or to the findings and recommendations in Chapter 5. BOX ES-1 Statement of Task The NRC study committee will assist the NPRB in developing a science plan that (1) is comprehensive and long range (10-20 years), (2) identifies major research themes, with emphasis on marine resource management issues, (3) is flexible, dynamic, and able to adapt to new research and monitoring findings, (4) is responsive to the vision, mission and goals of the NPRB and addresses the elements of a science plan identified as important by the NPRB, (5) builds on past and ongoing research programs of the Federal government, the State of Alaska, universities, and other relevant entities, (6) has a high probability of furthering the goals and objectives of the NPRB and maintaining awareness of the need to sustain a variety of marine resources and (7) is consistent with NPRB enabling legislation. In addition, the committee should consider questions such as the appropriate balance between process studies and time-series studies, the role of modeling, the availability and usefulness of proxy and historical data, coordination with other activities (including international activities), and any other issues related to assuring the program has a strong strategic vision and sound management and oversight. To guide the NPRB as it develops its science plan, the committee will: Identify broad research themes in the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean region, through discussions and a workshop. Conduct a series of site visits in Alaska to gather further input on the research themes. Provide supporting information and recommendations for achieving the desired attributes of the plan. Prepare an interim report that outlines the components of a successful long-term science plan and provides guidance to NPRB as it develops its plan, drawing on insights gained from past reviews of similar science plans to help the NPRB avoid known difficulties and pitfalls.

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board Subsequently review the science plan drafted by the NPRB in light of the identified research themes and overall guidance provided in the interim report, making any necessary suggestions for improvement. Box ES-2 NPRB Mission and Goals The NPRB’s overall mission is to develop a comprehensive, high-caliber science program that provides better understanding of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean ecosystems and their fisheries. Its work will be conducted through science planning, prioritization of pressing fishery management and ecosystem information needs, coordination and cooperation among research programs, competitive selection of research projects, enhanced information availability, and public involvement. To carry out this mission, the NPRB will emphasize coordination and cooperation in supporting high-quality research projects with the goal of improving: the understanding of the dynamics of the North Pacific marine ecosystem and use of the resources; the ability to manage and protect the healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations that comprise the ecologically diverse marine ecosystems of the North Pacific and provide long-term, sustained benefits to local communities and the nation; and the ability to forecast and respond to effects of changes, through integration of various research activities, including long-term monitoring. CRITERIA FOR A SCIENCE PLAN The NPRB Science Plan will be the underpinning of the entire science program and will determine the legacy of the NPRB. Many studies have examined the elements that contribute to making a successful science plan (Weisberg et al., 2000; NRC, 2002, 2003a); in general, it operates under the aegis of an overriding goal or conceptual foundation that provides rationale for the program and a signature that will identify the program. It also contains clearly defined scientific goals and program management policies; has a clearly defined geographic focus; has an effective data management and dissemination strategy; coordinates actively with other funding programs; develops applications that are useful to decision makers and stakeholders; and recognizes the importance of public interaction and community involvement. In order to be successful the following elements should be included in the NPRB Science Plan. In developing a science plan, the NPRB must include policies and procedures that provide for the development and articulation of the overriding goal or conceptual foundation.

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board Since emerging issues cannot be predicted, the NPRB has to include mechanisms that will allow the conceptual foundation to evolve over time through periodic review. The Science Plan should limit studies in the North Pacific and Arctic Ocean to geographically proscribed areas where comprehensive studies can be undertaken. For example, the Arctic could be limited to the East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, and the North Pacific to its subarctic gyre, except for studies that naturally extend outside these boundaries. These regions, together with the Bering Sea, comprise an interacting series of ecosystems that may be studied comprehensively through research funded by the NPRB. During periods of funding constraints, all long-term monitoring should be protected and short-term process studies should focus on core scientific questions. If necessary financially, it would be better to support research in a limited geographic area than to scatter research over a larger area. RESEARCH THEMES Populations of marine organisms are managed based on a solid understanding of the entire ecosystem to which they belong (NRC, 1999a). This demands a comprehensive understanding of the mean state and variability of key habitats and their inhabitants on all relevant scales. Ecosystem States and Variability Research teams addressing interdisciplinary issues are an excellent strategy for advancing understanding of the marine ecosystems in the region. This approach will allow the NPRB to fulfill its primary mission to address marine ecosystem and fishery management information needs, while developing a predictive capability for the region. Process studies should be well integrated with modeling studies and should be designed to provide data for model testing. To encourage strong linkages between biological and physical studies, and between empirical and modeling studies, interdisciplinary approaches should be encouraged through priority funding. Research is needed that will elucidate community compositions; the structure, functioning, and transfer efficiencies of food webs; and predator as well as non-predator interactions such as competition among species and symbiotic association. Research integrating biological data within the framework of the physics and chemistry of the ecosystem is also needed. The development of ocean models is essential because they provide a means of interpolation among scattered and scarce data sources, thereby providing a more complete physical setting for the region. They are also essential for identifying the basic processes that determine the region’s ocean circulation, sea-ice formation and decay, and biogeochemistry. Long time-series measurements are imperative for understanding natural processes that exhibit slow or irregular change and rapid event-driven variations that cannot be documented from a single field expedition. The unique funding structure of the NPRB provides a rare opportunity for establishment and maintenance of long-term

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board continuous monitoring sites. Because of the long-term funding commitment, monitoring sites must be carefully considered. Oceanography and marine biology have often been limited by technology more than by intellectual vision, and they have progressed rapidly with the advent of each new technological development. Nowhere is this more evident than at high latitudes where the harsh environment presents unique challenges to scientific investigation. The NPRB may find that progress is blocked by the lack of appropriate technology, and funding for the adaptation of existing technologies, along with the development of new technologies, could be a valuable NPRB contribution if such technology is necessary to answer an important scientific question. Additionally, the NPRB is working in a region with many stakeholders, and it must develop an ongoing mechanism to facilitate communication between scientists and stakeholders. In particular, the incorporation of traditional knowledge into the NPRB program provides a special challenge. A great deal of marine ecosystem knowledge lies in the domain of those who are dependent upon it to survive. Yet the integration of this knowledge with information produced by modern scientific methods has seldom been done well. In order to better understand ecosystem mean states and variability, the NPRB should consider the following elements in its Science Plan: The NPRB should support fundamental science to study the structure and function of ecosystems in order to understand the populations they support. The NPRB should encourage formation of interdisciplinary research teams by priority funding of well-integrated research groups. NPRB funding should support a well-integrated mix of long-term, process, and modeling studies, accompanied by the development of appropriate technology if that technology is necessary to answer an important scientific question. The NPRB should fund a balanced mixture of regional and large-scale investigations. Those regional and large-scale studies should be well integrated. The NPRB should encourage proposals that include data on the roles and trends of important noncommercial species, such as potential prey species, indicator species, keystone species, and others. Although there are data for commercial species, information regarding noncommercial species is particularly lacking. Long-term monitoring sites should be established and observations should be continued uninterrupted. Once a long-term monitoring plan is established, it should be changed only for compelling reasons and only in such a way that the continuity of the long-term record is preserved. The NPRB should facilitate communication between scientists and stakeholders in its study area. Several groups, such as the Alaska Native Science Commission, have expertise in this process, and the NPRB should work with appropriate stakeholder representatives to develop strategies for accomplishing scientist-stakeholder interaction. The NPRB should consider funding the collection of traditional knowledge relevant to its goals and encourage the incorporation of traditional knowledge into research planning and hypothesis development.

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board Human-Induced Impacts Human activities, such as fishing, hunting, coastal and shelf development, shipping, contamination, and to a lesser extent invasive species and tourism, all impact the marine environment. Effects of fishing may be direct (e.g., removal of targeted and nontargeted species) or indirect (e.g., a trophic cascade). Large gaps exist in our understanding of the indirect effects of fishing, as well as the effects of development, shipping, and introduction of contaminants from all sources. Although the NPRB program should focus on integrated ecosystem-based research, it should include research related to the effects of human activities. Therefore, the following is recommended: The NPRB should fund studies that have a high potential to determine whether specific human activities have an effect on marine ecosystems, what the scales of such impacts are likely to be, and what kinds of mitigation are possible. Such studies could include impacts of proposed or actual industrial or municipal development, fishing and hunting, shipping, and contamination. Economic, Social, and Management Research All important commercial fisheries in the Northeast Pacific are now regulated and much research has been devoted to supporting management of these fisheries. There is a need for economic and social research to assess how well existing management regimes are functioning, how they could be improved, and what regimes would be appropriate for the fisheries when the management regime is at a formative stage. These data should be recognized as a long-term data set, subject to the same procedures for establishing objectives, and so forth, as the ecological data. The subsistence economy poses special challenges. Many pressures, including decreasing resources and increasing populations, challenge the long-term viability of this way of life. The subsistence economy also is increasingly dependent on vehicles, fuel, and gear that are bought with cash. The following are recommended: Economic and social data should be gathered on an ongoing basis to evaluate the changes that new management regimes have brought or are likely to bring. Economic and social research is needed to ascertain the long-term viability of the subsistence economy and the social changes spurred by decreasing resources and increasing populations. Researchers should be encouraged to work with rural communities and tribes and with tribal or native organizations on these types of research projects. Forecasting and Responding to Change For northern regions, large-scale ecological models are even less developed than physical models. Most of the progress to date has been in simulating the dynamics of phytoplankton and, to a lesser extent, zooplankton. More complex trophic couplings are

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board not known well enough to simulate statistically or numerically. Interdisciplinary process studies are required to fill in the current data gaps so that these systems can be described more fully and their response to environmental change can be predicted better: The NPRB should fund research that leads to the improvement of predictive models. This research includes the acquisition of long-term data records and the undertaking of short-term process studies that reveal underlying processes. MANAGEMENT ISSUES NPRB Members, Staff, and Panels The purpose of the NPRB management structure is to facilitate its science activities, ensuring that they advance the NPRB’s mission, goals, and themes. Currently, the NPRB management consists of NPRB members, an executive director, the Science Panel, and an Advisory Panel. NPRB members include individuals knowledgeable by education, training, or experience in fisheries or marine ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, or Arctic Ocean. The NPRB enabling legislation dictates that some NPRB members are representatives or designees from various state and federal agencies. The executive director is the chief NPRB administrator and has overall responsibility for all aspects of its operation, which is a large task that requires administrative support. The executive director and the NPRB are advised by the Science Panel, which ensures that research of the highest possible quality is conducted under NPRB support. An Advisory Panel, with representatives from user groups and other interested parties from the various regions within the NPRB’s purview, advises the board to ensure the relevance of the science to the mission and goals of the NPRB. After requesting research proposals, the Science Panel sends recommendations to the NPRB members, who select proposals for funding. Finally, research funding decisions of the NPRB must be approved by the secretary of commerce, who currently is also a member of the NPRB, or an appointed representative. One of the next tasks for the NPRB is to write a science plan. In general, science plans should be written by scientists with knowledge relevant to the agency mission. The science plan should include mechanisms for both internal and external review. The following recommendations will help to ensure that the management structure is suited to meeting the NPRB’s mission: The NPRB should provide adequate administrative staff to support its executive director, although care must be taken to minimize the level of funding going to administration. The NPRB Science Panel or other scientists with appropriate expertise in regional scientific issues, who can place the regional science within the larger framework, should write the NPRB Science Plan.

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board The Proposal Process The process by which proposals are considered, evaluated, selected, and funded has to be clearly specified in the science plan. As the NPRB matures and begins organized implementation of its science plan, it will have to develop and adhere to sound peer review policies. Two guiding principles of proposal review are peer review by qualified, unbiased reviewers and reviewer anonymity. Any potential for conflict of interest, real or perceived, should be eliminated. All proposal reviewers should be respected scientists with expertise in the areas designated in that year’s research funding proposals. Reviewers should not be members of the NPRB, nor should they have proposals pending that year or receive any potential or perceived financial gain from the proposal selection process. Although it is important for the NPRB to identify a geographic focus for research, grant proposals must be evaluated on their merit and not on the geographic location of the proposer. This is necessary not only to ensure that the best proposals are funded, but also to allow for intellectual input from outside the region. The current NPRB management structure could lead to real or perceived conflict of interest in reviewing and awarding research grants. For example, when proposals are considered for funding, any members having vested interests should recuse themselves when proposals from their agency, industry, or university are considered – something that the NPRB currently does not require. The final recommendations will assist the NPRB in developing an adequate proposal process: Final approval of funding decisions should be made directly by the U.S. secretary of commerce or by a representative who is remote from the consequences of funding decisions. The secretary of commerce’s representative on the NPRB should not be the same individual who approves funding recommendations on behalf of the secretary. NPRB members should recuse themselves, in accordance with standard practice, when proposals from their agency or university are considered for funding. The NPRB should establish and publish fair procedures for awarding grants and then follow those procedures without exception. The criteria established by the National Science Foundation are especially respected within the scientific community and might serve as a model. The Science Panel should appoint a Proposal Selection Committee to rank research proposals and advise the executive director of its decisions. The Advisory Panel and the Science Panel should not be involved in proposal funding decisions because of potential conflicts of interest. Since the Proposal Selection Committee will be a panel of experts, the NPRB and the secretary of commerce (or a representative) should respect their proposal rankings. NPRB funding decisions should be documented in writing, including an explanation of any deviations from the rankings of the Proposal Selection Committee. External Review During the life of the NPRB program, technology will change, scientific knowledge will accumulate, and public perceptions will shift. All long-lived programs

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board benefit from periodic external reviews because those who can view a program from a distance often provide insight that cannot come from within. The NPRB will benefit from a regular pattern of reviews in which a panel of outside reviewers is invited to evaluate its Science Plan, long-term programs, and the policies and procedures that govern proposal evaluation and grant administration. Therefore, the following recommendation will provide adequate external review: The NPRB should conduct periodic internal and external reviews of the science plan, policies, and long-term programs at five-year intervals. The caution, however, is that the long-term monitoring components of NPRB programs should be protected to the extent financially possible. Outreach and Education The NPRB should recognize the importance of public interaction. The science plan must seek public input and respond to this, but it must also acknowledge that the specific problems likely to be identified by the public will probably find their solutions not in direct problem solving, but in a basic understanding of the ecosystem. The NPRB must recognize the need for a broad range of outreach and educational approaches that reflect the rich diversity of the region’s communities. The following recommendations will help the NPRB to maintain strong community links: The NPRB should encourage outreach and education activity components either by principal investigators as part of their proposals or as independently funded activities. These components should address all levels of education, making sure to include remote communities. The NPRB should facilitate communication between scientists and stakeholders in its study area. The board should consider continuing site visits throughout the Northwest United States and Alaska to foster understanding of its efforts and to receive public input on future research directions. Data Policy and Management The NPRB’s goals require an integrated understanding of ecosystems, which necessitates that user-friendly mechanisms for data storage and sharing be developed and implemented; the NPRB’s current management structure does not provide adequate staff for data management. Those conducting NPRB research have an obligation to share the data and metadata they collect with the general community at large. For these reasons, there must to be an explicit NPRB data policy and a centralized data management office. For efficiency, the NPRB should cooperate with an existing archiving program for tissue samples and organisms. Such collections are essential for documenting and understanding biodiversity. Therefore, the following key elements are recommended for the Science Plan:

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board The NPRB Science Plan should instruct principal investigators to place all data in the public domain after no more than two years. Within interdisciplinary programs, data should be shared as soon as possible. This will serve to maximize dissemination of knowledge even prior to archival publication. The NPRB should establish an administrative staff position responsible for data management and dissemination. This person should create and maintain a web-based archive of data that is easily navigated. Recent successful examples for the NPRB to follow include the Long Term Ecological Research Network, the Ridge Inter-Disciplinary Global Experiment, and the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study. The NPRB should join a sample archiving program that provides safe storage and allows for easy retrieval. Coordination with Other Projects and Programs The NPRB’s mission is ambitious, and it likely cannot fund alone all the empirical and modeling studies that are needed to achieve its goals. However, many other programs are funding research projects in the same geographic area, and many of these have research objectives complementary to those of the NPRB. In addition, many of the projects funded by the NPRB should be related, and the NPRB would be wise to facilitate interactions between principal investigators to further maximize their funds. The NPRB should implement the following recommendations: The NPRB should appoint one or more individuals to act as liaisons with other state and federal agencies, universities, environmental groups, industry, and tribes and tribal or native organizations whose missions relate to those of the NPRB. Wherever possible, partnerships should be formed with these other groups to leverage maximum benefit from available funds. The NPRB should conduct an annual principal investigator workshop in conjunction with the annual Joint Science Symposium to foster project collaborations and share data. Please cite as: National Research Council (NRC). 2004. Elements of Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.