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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board General Committee Comments on the NPRB Draft Science Plan The Committee recognizes that the development of a multi-decadal science plan for the NPRB represents both a great opportunity and a great challenge. It is an opportunity to improve our understanding of the way marine ecosystems function and thereby provide better advice on sustainable resource use. It is a challenge because marine ecosystems are complex and dynamic and are therefore difficult and expensive to study, and yet this understanding is fundamental to wise management of the fisheries (NRC, 1998; NRC 1999). The committee thinks that the NPRB has done a good job overall in drafting a science plan that is consistent with the Mission Statement of the NPRB. The hard work of some dedicated individuals is evident. The committee is especially pleased with the overarching philosophy of the program, including the focus on Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs (IERPs)1; plans for incorporating Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) in programs and outreach activities; management changes already put into place; and planning for data management and proposal evaluation. The committee supports the idea of using planned workshops to help synthesize knowledge and produce action plans for the implementation of the Science Plan. In total, the NPRB program is off to a good start. But all draft documents benefit from constructive criticism, and thus our committee is conveying this final summary of advice. This report begins with some overarching observations and recommendations and then presents specific comments and recommendations tied to the chapters of the NPRB draft Science Plan. First, the committee assumes that the authors of the NPRB draft science plan delayed preparing an executive summary until the plan is closer to its final form. An executive summary presenting the key ideas of the plan will be valuable. The summary should include a concise description of the NPRB mission, goals, and priorities. This is 1 The NPRB Draft Science Plan (October 14, 2004) recognizes that the type of work required to meet their goals will require interdisciplinary research teams, well-integrated regional and large-scale investigations, and support of fundamental science to study the structure and function of ecosystems in order to understand the populations they support. Thus it is going to use some of its longer-term funding to establish Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs (IERPs) that cut across scientific disciplines and begin to address critical questions regarding ecosystem structure and function, how they are influenced by natural variability and human use of resources, and how all that might be affected by change in climate. This approach will discourage single-factor hypotheses and encourage consideration of entire ecosystems, as well as interactions of the spatially and temporally heterogeneous components.
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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board an effective way to communicate the program’s activities to a wide audience. It will also help NPRB management identify and articulate its focus. Second, the concept of the IERPs is critical. The committee believes this integrated approach is the heart of the Science Plan, providing the glue that holds it together. Therefore, the commitment to develop IERPs should be brought forward to a more prominent position in the Science Plan. The introduction to the IERPs, provided in section 3.9 is good as are the examples of existing programs that could be considered IERPs and examples of opportunities for new ones. The use of the term is sometimes confusing, however, and the committee provides some specific guidance to clarify the role and scope of the IERPs in our comments on Chapter 3. A related issue is that, given its limited resources, the NPRB should focus its research activities within one or at most two particular geographic regions for a period of time (perhaps 5–10 years). Without these thematic (IERPs) and geographic foci, the NPRB will at best be a collection of loosely related projects, not a well-integrated program. These issues are discussed in more detail in the chapter comments. As a point of clarification, the committee noticed that in the draft Science Plan, the terms “IERPs” and “geographical regions” appear to have the same meaning. The committee views them to be separate, albeit related, concepts, as explained in our comments on Chapter 3. Indeed, it is possible that more than one IERP could take place within a given geographic region. When moving from the draft to the final plan, the committee suggests that the NPRB consider including references to recently published material such as reports from the Pew Oceans Commission (2003), the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (2004), the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment program (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2004), the Global Earth Observation efforts, the Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas (ESSAS) program (a regional chapter for GLOBEC), the Gulf Ecosystem Monitoring Program (GEM) and Ocean Research Interactive Observatory Networks (ORION). These reports provide supportive background information and justification for some of the NPRB program elements. Representatives of these programs could be invited to participate in the NPRB workshops to provide information on program objectives, recent findings and future outlooks and to ensure that collaborative relationships are established. The committee found the frequent citations of our 2004 report, Elements of a Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board (NRC, 2004b) report helpful as we worked through the draft plan and could see where the authors were being responsive to our input. However, ultimately the NPRB Science Plan should be a stand-alone document. Therefore, the Committee suggests that a single citation to the NRC report in Chapter 1 would suffice. The NPRB will be a significant source of funding for marine research. Thus, the Committee suggests that to attract the best ideas to advance understanding of marine ecosystems and resource managment, NPRB should consider adding a brief section to the Science Plan on how broad dissemination of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will be achieved. NPRB might consider using existing scientific society membership lists (e.g., American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and American Geophysical Union, Ecological Society of America, etc.), and programs such as National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges to attract the best proposals. Scientific societies usually maintain electronic mail lists of their members, or have ongoing electronic
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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board newsletters, and are glad to pass along information about opportunities to their members. Copies of the RFP should also be sent to Alaska Native organizations. Incorporating information about how RFPs are to be disseminated into the science plan itself is useful because it ensures that the intention to do broad disseminations is firm, and practices not included in the document may not last. Repeated broad dissemination of program information is an important way to publicize the program and attract high caliber proposals. Finally, as discussed in more detail below, the committee believes that the NPRB Science Plan would benefit from some re-organization of Chapters 2 and 3 to achieve greater clarity of the plan’s objectives. RECOMMENDATIONS: Add an executive summary to the NPRB science plan. Highlight the section entitled Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs (IERPs), now located in section 3.9, by moving it to a more prominent position earlier in the plan. Throughout its deliberations, this committee asked how best to help the NPRB achieve a scientific legacy in which it can take great pride. In each of the following sections, the committee offers comments and recommendations on the chapters of the NPRB draft Science Plan.
Representative terms from entire chapter: