This chapter summarizes the committee’s overarching comments and recommendations in its review of the GAPP science and implementation plan. The committee appreciates the efforts of the program managers and investigators who participated in the development of the GAPP plan and shared their perspectives during the NRC committee meeting.
GAPP is an important interagency science program that represents the U.S. contribution to the international GEWEX initiative. GAPP also is a research program that collaborates with operational centers within NOAA to incorporate land-surface information into the climate prediction system. It is an outgrowth of the successful GEWEX Continental Scale International Project (GCIP), and provides critical support to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Weather Service River Forecast Centers, among others. Within NOAA, the GAPP program supports the integration of hydrology and climate activities. Because of GAPP’s many contributions to water cycle prediction and decision support, the committee strongly supports the continuation of the program.
GAPP is also a key implementation component of the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The success of GAPP is critical to the success of CCSP and related programs that have similar goals to GAPP. The committee describes these relationships in more detail in the following section and in Chapter 4 of this report. The committee has not been asked to evaluate the GAPP program per se; rather, it offers insights for how the GAPP plan may help achieve the goals of GAPP most effectively.
Currently, although the CCSP seeks to achieve integration of federal science activities, there is no coherent, cross-agency program in the United States for land-surface hydrology and seasonal prediction. GAPP is the only existing program with the potential to fill this void. Although GAPP could clarify its role by revising its science and implementation plan as the committee suggests, the lack of coordination among GAPP-related program offices is an overarching factor limiting the achievements of GAPP.
In accordance with its statement of task (see Appendix A), the committee addresses questions in three categories:
How well does the plan meet the science goals of GAPP?
How well does the plan meet the science goals of related programs?
How complete is the plan?
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan 2 GENERAL COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATION This chapter summarizes the committee’s overarching comments and recommendations in its review of the GAPP science and implementation plan. The committee appreciates the efforts of the program managers and investigators who participated in the development of the GAPP plan and shared their perspectives during the NRC committee meeting. GAPP is an important interagency science program that represents the U.S. contribution to the international GEWEX initiative. GAPP also is a research program that collaborates with operational centers within NOAA to incorporate land-surface information into the climate prediction system. It is an outgrowth of the successful GEWEX Continental Scale International Project (GCIP), and provides critical support to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Weather Service River Forecast Centers, among others. Within NOAA, the GAPP program supports the integration of hydrology and climate activities. Because of GAPP’s many contributions to water cycle prediction and decision support, the committee strongly supports the continuation of the program. GAPP is also a key implementation component of the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The success of GAPP is critical to the success of CCSP and related programs that have similar goals to GAPP. The committee describes these relationships in more detail in the following section and in Chapter 4 of this report. The committee has not been asked to evaluate the GAPP program per se; rather, it offers insights for how the GAPP plan may help achieve the goals of GAPP most effectively. Currently, although the CCSP seeks to achieve integration of federal science activities, there is no coherent, cross-agency program in the United States for land-surface hydrology and seasonal prediction. GAPP is the only existing program with the potential to fill this void. Although GAPP could clarify its role by revising its science and implementation plan as the committee suggests, the lack of coordination among GAPP-related program offices is an overarching factor limiting the achievements of GAPP. In accordance with its statement of task (see Appendix A), the committee addresses questions in three categories: How well does the plan meet the science goals of GAPP? How well does the plan meet the science goals of related programs? How complete is the plan?
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan This chapter responds generally to these questions, followed by the committee’s summary recommendations for the plan. More specific details on the chapters of the plan are discussed in Chapter 3 of this report, followed by a more detailed discussion in Chapter 4 of how GAPP relates to other programs including CCSP, CPPA, and GEWEX. MEETING THE SCIENCE GOALS OF GAPP IN THE CONTEXT OF OTHER PROGRAMS The committee reviewed the GAPP plan in the broader context of related federal programs and in the context of its ambitious mission. There are many strengths in the science activities described in the plan, as detailed in Chapter 3 of this report. If the plan is rewritten to incorporate the guidance provided in Chapter 3, the plan will meet GAPP’s science goals for prediction and application. However, program implementation is subject to limitations due to the need for improved coordination. Some weaknesses in the plan are related to the lack of a centralized U.S. GEWEX office or a GAPP program office that is well coordinated with the international GEWEX office. A co-located office similar to the CLIVAR office would be helpful. There is no program officer to perform the necessary science integration and coordination functions and to encourage a broad strategic view of program management. Given that GAPP is an interagency program with multiple funded projects, the lack of a central facilitator is a serious problem. To date, the NOAA Office of Global Programs has taken on significant responsibility for coordination of GAPP simply because NOAA is the principal funder of GAPP. NOAA has done a good job, given this less-than-ideal circumstance, but more direct responsibility for coordination would clearly strengthen the program. The merger of the CLIVAR-PACS program with the GAPP program has advantages due to the potential for improved scientific collaboration and is consistent with the GEWEX Phase II Objectives and the Coordinated Observation and Prediction of the Earth System (COPES) (see comments on Chapters 6 and 10 of the plan). The program structure of GAPP will change over time as it is gradually incorporated into the broader CPPA program within the Office of Global Programs. For example, this merger provides opportunities to evaluate broader interagency connections and feedback mechanisms to strengthen GAPP. However, the committee is concerned about the possibility that in the process of merging with other programs within NOAA, GAPP will lose its identity as a research program. If the program loses its identity, this would further complicate the interagency and international coordination of land-based investigations. Efforts will have to be made to ensure that GAPP has proper structural support in the context of this transition. There is also a relationship between GAPP and the interagency Water Cycle Initiative. Based on the committee’s review of the plan, the comments received at the committee’s public meeting, and its members’ collective experience with these programs, the committee believes that interagency water-related coordination efforts are not sufficiently supported, through either resources or leadership, and are essentially dependent on the skills and good will of particular individuals. Federal support for the terrestrial hydrological cycle is inadequate, as is support for hydrometeorology and hydroclimatology in the context of the CCSP. GAPP is the natural center to foster, integrate, and transfer such research to the
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan climate services and stakeholder support activities described in the CCSP. Yet, its resources have diminished over time, resulting in loss of both breadth and depth in the program. Because GAPP is a critical component of CPPA and GEWEX, its relevance to these programs is undeniable. The relationship between the climate science portions of GAPP and CCSP are strong and extend beyond the water cycle activities of the CCSP strategic plan (CCSP 2003). As described in Chapter 4 of this report, the CCSP articulates broad goals relative to the water cycle, as well as goals related to better understanding of climate variability and change, decision support, and modeling. Key related goals in the CCSP strategic plan are goal 5.3, which focuses on resolving key uncertainties in seasonal-to-interannual predictions, and goal 5.5, which focuses on informing decision processes in the context of changing conditions. Because of programmatic weakness in decision support, GAPP is not currently well suited to support the latter goal, although it strongly supports the former. Further, CCSP is focused on global change and GAPP is not focused on changing conditions over time. However, it was indicated in the oral presentation to the committee that in the President’s budget analysis for Fiscal Year 2006, research elements will be held accountable to the CCSP strategy. HOW COMPLETE IS THE SCIENCE AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN? The GAPP plan would have benefited from a more careful editorial effort from the agencies involved prior to review by the NRC. The document was developed primarily by the GAPP Science Advisory Group, which consists entirely of project managers and funded investigators, without any apparent effort to include perspectives of water resource managers and the broader climate science and hydrology community that this program aims to support. In addition, there are numerous elements missing from the plan, particularly in the areas of (1) establishing a scientific context for the program relative to past achievements; (2) establishing priorities, time lines, responsibilities, milestones, and clear metrics of success; and (3) describing the interrelationships of the program elements. The plan does not document the achievements of GAPP or the current state of the science relative to seasonal-to-interannual prediction. The key science issue for GAPP is whether there will be significant rewards for continuing to investigate land-surface contributions to improving seasonal and interannual prediction capacity. Given the great economic value of improved predictions and its general familiarity with the contributions of GAPP, the committee feels that this is a worthwhile and relevant challenge that can continue to be addressed within the GAPP program. To this end, an iterative, strategic process for assessing progress relative to the mission needs to be established. The ultimate metric is improvement in the skill of climate predictions resulting in better resource management decisions. The plan is partly excerpted from a preexisting GAPP Science Background document dated April 2004 (NOAA 2004), which the NRC committee was not specifically requested to review and thus was not originally provided to the committee. This document and others, such as annual reports, were subsequently provided to the committee and were helpful in identifying the status of some funded projects. Some of the science program status is documented in the background report (NOAA 2004), but there are many unsupported statements in the plan about current and expected predictive capacity.
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan The plan could do a better job of connecting the described science activities to an implementation scheme in a logical sequence. Most science plans start with an assessment of what has already been achieved relative to the mission, followed by priorities for what has to take place next. Other efforts in developing science and implementation plans could provide a useful model for the authors of the GAPP plan; the final CCSP plan is one example. The committee has identified the following opportunities to incorporate the missing components of this science plan: The plan should offer views of progress over the first four years of GAPP through 2004 and in prior activities of the GCIP, and should address how lessons learned have affected the plan. There should be more references to specific program achievements and publications. The plan should clearly identify which components of GAPP are new, which build on previous work, and which incorporate work completed within other programs. For the most part, distinctions are not made between GAPP and many elements of its predecessor program, GCIP, and the strong mapping to the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME). Further, the relationship between GAPP and the Coordinated Enhanced Observing Period (CEOP) of GEWEX is not clear. The GAPP plan should include a time line beyond that described in Chapter 10 of the plan. The time line in the plan should include all GAPP activities and synthesis products, with reference to a starting date. As written now, the individual chapters appear as stand-alone program descriptions that are not especially well integrated into an overall framework and do not appear to be a strategic, logical approach to achieving the overall goals and mission. Revisions should be made to better fit the pieces into an integrated whole. The plan should include a discussion of metrics or measures of success and a mechanism for evaluating program performance. The plan should establish a mechanism to evaluate existing data collection programs with regard to the sustainability of their funding and should identify mechanisms to ensure future data availability, especially with regard to data used by water management agencies and data that would factor into decision support tools. Particular areas of concern are the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Stream Gaging Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture SNOTEL system (WSWC 2004), as well as the loss of Landsat false-color infrared bands now being used for water agency decision support (Allen et al. 2005). The plan should describe a mechanism to facilitate continuing prioritization of program activities relative to science progress and user needs in light of the dual mission of GAPP. Chapter 3 of this report contains additional details about missing components in specific chapters of the plan.
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan FUNDING FOR GAPP Given that the availability of adequate resources is a key to fully implementing the GAPP plan and achieving the GAPP mission, the committee was surprised that budget information was not included in the plan. Without budget information, it was not possible to examine the extent to which there is a firm commitment to each of the program elements described in the plan. The committee strongly supports the GAPP Core Project activities, which promote the integration of GAPP funded research advancements into the operational forecast systems at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The committee believes that the science integration achieved by GAPP thus far is largely due to the Core Project approach and the synthesis products that are being developed. The Core Project activity appears to be the primary mode for transferring research results to operations within NOAA. However, the committee recommends that the activities of the Core Project in the future be evaluated independently to ensure that the funding is adequate to attain the desired goals. It is imperative that there is balance between grant-funded activities and the Core Project. It would also be unfortunate if Core Project activities were subsumed within routine operations as opposed to maintaining their critical role in transitioning research to operations. The apparent lack of involvement of the leadership of the Office of Hydrologic Development in the Core Project is a point of concern. The continuation of a strong interdisciplinary vision needs to be encouraged. Although the plan has shortcomings and the program has limited funding, the committee wishes to reiterate that GAPP has been successful in supporting science activities related to improving predictions. It is the committee’s belief that the program can continue to make significant contributions. DECISION SUPPORT An issue that pervades the plan is the desire to progress toward a “seamless end-to-end climate information system” without a programmatic plan to bridge predictions with decisions, understand the context within which decisions are made, and address the needs of end users and decision makers. The committee has concerns about GAPP’s ability to meet the decision support objective in the plan: “To develop application products for resource managers by interpreting and transferring the results of improved climate predictions for the optimal management of water resources.” This objective far exceeds the current capacity of the GAPP program and its partners. Therefore, the committee suggests either that this objective be amended or that the resources required to support this objective be devoted to the program, preferably the latter. Most end users beyond the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, the National Weather Service River Forecast Centers, and the Office of Hydrologic Development (all of whom are federal agency users and intermediaries in the climate information system) need tailored products in order to use GAPP output. Federal science programs often fail overall to invest in integrating prediction and decision science, institutional decision processes, science translators, and capacity building among decision makers. Given its integrative mission, GAPP is well positioned to begin to reverse this trend and make pioneering contributions in this area.
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan Clearly there is no end-to-end monthly-to-seasonal climate prediction system in place today; however, there are some meaningful exceptions in cases where GAPP and other programs have built the information system that connects the science with the stakeholders, most successfully in the context of the Regional Integrated Science Assessments (RISAs) funded through the NOAA Office of Global Programs. However, it is not reasonable to expect the extremely small and underfunded RISA program to support stakeholder engagement activities and knowledge system development for all federal science agencies. An approach that should be explored is to build application tools in partnership with federal and state agencies and private sector science integrators. This will provide an avenue for investment in the program because of the likelihood of short-term benefits and visible outcomes. This issue is probably best addressed in the broader context of the implementation of CCSP and possibly the proposed Climate Services program at NOAA. The committee also strongly recommends that GAPP explore and benefit from water resources application experience and opportunities internationally through the Water Resources Application Project (WRAP) of GEWEX. In the absence of an end-to-end climate information system, information is available only to those who can pay for consultants or specialized services. In some sectors, such as energy and agriculture, where private sector science translators are filling the information gaps, there are serious equity issues associated with providing information access only to those who can pay for it, especially in areas that are critical to health and safety (Hartmann et al. 2002). As articulated in the strategic plan for the CCSP (2003), there has to be a more significant effort to build decision support systems so that there are multiple pathways for information to flow in all directions among federal agencies, academic institutions, and end users. In the absence of such investments, it would still be appropriate for GAPP program managers and investigators to make more concerted efforts to understand the needs of resource managers if they intend to develop application products. At a minimum, the GAPP Science Advisory Group needs to be expanded to include decision support experts, resource managers, and investigators who are not currently funded by the program. The committee’s proposed U.S. GEWEX project office could also help provide balance. Additionally, a few well-designed demonstration projects built on the lessons already learned would be a good investment for GAPP. RAISING GAPP’S PROFILE As noted earlier, the GAPP program has already made significant contributions. However, the plan should make a stronger effort to enhance the utility of GAPP products and increase the influence of the GAPP program. In the background section of the plan, the authors have not articulated the successes of GAPP, and the products that were developed within the program should be highlighted. Moreover, the program needs linkages with applications-oriented agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Partnerships with such agencies may enhance program revenues as well as provide access to a broader array of end-users. The inclusion of a land-surface component in the suite of NOAA-sponsored programs should be supported more strongly by NOAA and others than it has been in the
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan recent past. Investments in the GAPP decision support program would be a good proof of concept for the CCSP. These investments from the United States can result in increased international benefits through GEWEX, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, COPES, and WRAP. However, such a program needs to focus more sharply on a realistic set of goals. In addition, the fact that water research at the federal level is declining is a serious concern since states generally do not have either the resources or the perspective to build capacity for the use of science information. Because the relevance of science activities will have to be demonstrated in order to support them in the future, decision support should be viewed as an investment in the science program rather than a detraction from inquiry-driven research. The GAPP program is the main climate-related research program addressing land hydrology issues affecting every community and every economic sector that depends on long-term, reliable sources of water. Because of its close relationship to the CCSP, GAPP deserves far more significant support than it has received in the recent past. RECOMMENDATIONS To strengthen the GAPP program, a formal structure is needed to coordinate and integrate GAPP projects and interface with research efforts and applications beyond GEWEX, NOAA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One strategy is to promote the formation of a U.S. GEWEX project office to provide scientific guidance and support for GAPP. To promote a broader perspective, the GAPP Science Advisory Group should include decision support experts and water resource managers who are likely end users of predictions products, as well as science advisers who do not have current direct participation in GAPP science activities. The GAPP program needs an ongoing strategic prioritization process that iteratively evaluates progress in improving predictions on the seasonal-to-interannual time scale. The evaluation should be based on assessment of scientific readiness and user needs and should provide feedback into the research and applications program design. Criteria for prioritization may include identifying areas of particular vulnerability to climate-related impacts, followed by areas in which there is high value for the information that could be provided and strong public interest. In addition, there should be ongoing documentation of specific GAPP program achievements and progress. Revised versions of the GAPP plan should include the following, at a minimum: A description of the mechanisms used to assess achievements and metrics for evaluation of products relative to the mission; Adequate documentation so that the key information needed for external review is included (e.g., listing of projects funded, accomplishments to date including publications and application products, relationship to other research and applications efforts, state of the science, and key outstanding science and decision support issues)—some of these items could be included in an appendix to the plan;
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Review of the GAPP Science and Implementation Plan Budget information so that the extent of commitment to the various elements can be evaluated, with particular attention to articulating the commitment to and expectations of the Core Project; and An up-to-date program description and specific implementation plans that include time lines and responsible agencies or investigators, and a roadmap for implementation of new initiatives and synthesis products. Investments in decision support should be viewed as bolstering the relevance of scientific activities rather than detracting from inquiry-driven research. Given the limited current investment in building end-to-end, truly integrated, prediction-decision support systems, GAPP should either invest more meaningfully in decision science, stakeholder engagement, and capacity building or amend the decision support objective to be more achievable. The committee strongly endorses the former approach, but recognizes that building decision support systems is a challenge that is much broader than the GAPP program. Regardless of whether CCSP efforts proceed in a timely manner, the committee recommends the following actions relative to the decision support issue: There should be an investment in establishing reliable two-way information flows between the GAPP research community and end users. GAPP should initiate more demonstration projects to illustrate the potential of an end-to-end, integrated, climate-hydrologic-water resources information system. GAPP should partner with other agencies (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) that work with a broad array of end users. GAPP program managers should work with RISA programs to identify appropriate projects and funding sources to enhance the decision support component of both activities. Program managers should increase efforts to assess user needs and build multiagency and/or public-private partnerships to support specific applications and climate prediction tools, including support for drought preparedness.