Part I
Overarching Issues



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Planning Climate and Global Change Research Part I Overarching Issues

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research 2 Clarifying Vision and Goals Are the goals clear and appropriate? Whether the draft plan’s goals are clear and appropriate is really a question of whether it succeeds as a strategic plan. Unfortunately, it does not. The document is not a coherent strategic plan, because it lacks most elements of a strategic plan, including: Clear and ambitious guiding vision of the desired outcome; Unambiguous and executable goals that address the vision and broadly describe what the program is designed to accomplish; Clear timetable for accomplishing the goals and criteria for measuring progress; Assessment of whether existing programs are capable of meeting these goals, thereby identifying required program changes and unmet needs that must be addressed in subsequent implementation planning; Set of explicit prioritization criteria to facilitate program design and resource allocation; and Management plan that provides mechanisms for ensuring that the goals are met and for coordinating, integrating, and balancing individual program elements and participating agencies. A coherent strategic plan containing these elements is especially critical when, as in the CCSP, the institutional environment is diverse and fragmented and when the program involves new directions and collaborations. Such a plan would provide a common basis for planning, implementation, and evaluation and would protect against a continuation of the status quo. Unfortunately, these elements are either weakly identified, poorly developed, or missing altogether in the draft plan. The information provided to the committee suggests that the draft plan was produced through a “bottom up” process in which individual committees designed plans for components of the program. While input from several scientific advisory committees guided some of these efforts, they also appear to have been influenced by existing programmatic responsibilities and funding priorities. The committee certainly recognizes that the involvement of federal program managers in the development of the draft plan will greatly facilitate the future implementation of the final plan. However, the result is that the overall CCSP plan does not articulate a clear and consistent guiding framework to enable policy makers and the public, as well as scientists, to understand what this research program is intended to accomplish and how it will contribute to meeting the nation’s needs. The committee recognizes the difficulty of producing an organization’s first strategic plan and applauds the CCSP for taking on the challenge of drafting a plan that encompasses such diverse players and disciplines, particularly given the history of limited integration within the GCRP (NRC, 2001d). As the first step in a maturing strategic planning process, the draft plan successfully lays out parts of the guiding framework that should shape the final document, but they are scattered throughout the document. ELEMENTS OF A STRATEGIC PLAN Vision The vision for a large government research program like the CCSP should address such national aims as understanding how humans affect global change; implementing efforts to minimize the most harmful effects; reducing vulnerability to global change; and protecting public health and natural resources. Indeed, the GCRP’s authorizing legislation identifies as its purpose “to assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change” (see Appendix C). In the view of the committee, perhaps the clearest vision for the CCSP was given by President Bush in announcing his Clear Skies and Global Climate Change Initiatives on February 14, 2002. America and the world share this common goal: we must foster economic growth in ways that protect our environment. We must encourage growth that will provide a better life for citizens, while protecting the land, the water, and the air that sustain life. We must also act in a serious and responsible way, given the scientific uncertainties. While these uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the human factors that contribute to climate change. (Bush, 2002) A guiding vision similar to this but specific to the CCSP should be succinctly stated in the final strategic plan. In crafting its vision, the CCSP will need to explicitly consider the scope of the program; that is, does the program focus exclusively on issues of “climate change”—as one might infer from the name of the Climate Change Science Program itself and its constituent, the Climate Change Research Initiative—or does it encompass all, or some, other global changes—as one might infer from the name of the CCSP’s other constituent, the U.S. Global Change Research Program? The answer to this question has implications on the research areas that belong in the program and, accordingly, the level of resources needed. The committee believes that it will be important for the CCSP to consider those processes (1) that interact with climate change to produce significant impacts of societal relevance and therefore must be integrated into research to understand impacts and to develop adaptation and mitigation approaches, and (2) that have large feedbacks to climate change. In this report the committee uses “climate and associated global changes” as a general term encompassing those global changes included in the two categories above. The CCSP will need to consider whether these or other criteria will determine the program’s coverage of various global change processes. This is important from a planning perspective because the number of factors identified for the CCSP’s attention is likely to grow as the program’s work with decision makers expands. Many decision makers deal with climate change as only one of a suite of factors affecting the people, economy, and ecosystems of an area. Not all of these factors will necessarily be appropriate for the CCSP’s attention. An obvious tradeoff will be between depth and breadth, and the risk is a program spread so thin that it fails to make meaningful progress in core research areas. The CCSP’s decisions about scope will have important implications for the portfolio of research to be funded initially, and for how this portfolio evolves over the program’s lifetime. Goals Numerous potential goals for the CCSP, CCRI, and GCRP can be inferred from the draft plan (see Box 2-1). Many come from related legislation or recent presidential announcements. The text does not highlight most as overarching program goals, however. Whereas several might be quite appropriate for CCSP, in light of the absence of an overarching vision, it is unclear whether they are necessary or adequate goals for the program. Whatever goals that CCSP selects for the final plan, they should be associated with clear time targets, as well as criteria for success and for selecting programs to meet the goals. Clear links should exist between these goals and specific deliverables identified in the plan. Prioritization Criteria The draft plan lists many proposed activities, yet it does not identify which of these activities have higher priorities than others, either across the CCSP as a whole or within individual program areas of the CCRI or GCRP, nor does it describe a process for establishing priorities.1 The mismatch between these multiple proposed activities and the resources currently devoted to the program implies that not all of the projects will be pursued with the same intensity. Numerous participants in the CCSP public workshop held in December 2002 were concerned that without priority setting, resources would not be directed toward important new research areas. The committee inferred possible CCSP priorities from the draft plan, such as those activities included in the CCRI, or that have deliverables in two to four years. Thus, the document’s criteria for including activities in the CCRI implies prioritization, specifically whether the activity will (1) produce significant decision or policy-relevant deliverables within the next two to four years and (2) contribute substantially to one or more of the CCRI goals of reducing uncertainty, improving global observation capabilities, and developing resources to support policy-and decision making. Also, although no prioritization rationale is clearly stated, some process presumably took place in choosing which products and payoffs to include for each program element in the GCRP portion of the plan. The committee believes that the revised strategic plan would be greatly improved if it provided specific prioritization criteria or outlined an overarching prioritization process for the CCSP. Key considerations 1   The draft plan states that activities would be identified for “early action and support” using “agreed-upon criteria” in the following areas: relevance/contribution, scientific merit, readiness, deliverables, linkages, and costs (CCSP, 2002 p. 165).

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research BOX 2-1 Candidates for CCSP’s Overarching Goals that Can Be Inferred from the Draft Strategic Plan, (CCSP, 2002). CCSP GOALS: “balance the near-tem (2 to 4-year) focus of the CCRI with the breadth of the GCRP, pursuing accelerated development of answers to the scientific aspects of key climate policy issues while continuing to seek advances in the knowledge of the physical, biological, and chemical processes that influence the Earth system” (p. 2). “inform public debate on the wide range of climate and global change issues necessary for effective public policy and stewardship of natural resources” (p. 4). “[establish] and [apply] priorities for climate change research so the Nation can address and evaluate global and climate change risks and opportunities” (p. 149). CCRI GOALS: “measurably improve the integration of scientific knowledge, including measures of uncertainty, into effective decision support systems and resources” (p.). “reduce significant uncertainties in climate science” (p. 2; p. 8). “[a]ddress key and emerging climate change science areas that offer the prospect of significant improvement in understanding of climate change phenomena, and where accelerated development of decision support information is possible” (p. 15). “improve global climate observing systems” (p. 2; p. 8). “[o]ptimize observations, monitoring, and data management systems of ‘climate quality data’” (p. 15). “develop resources to support policymaking and resource management” (p 2). “develop resources to support policy- and decision-making” (p. 8). “[d]evelop decision support resources including scenarios and comparisons; quantification of the sensitivity and uncertainty of the climate system to natural and anthropogenic (human-caused) forcings through the implementation and application of models; and structured information for national, regional, and local discussions about possible global change causes, impacts, benefits, and mitigation and adaptation strategies” (p. 15). “synthesiz[e] scientific results and produc[e] decision support resources responsive to national and regional needs” (p. 38). GCRP GOALS: “address key uncertainties about changes in the Earth’s global environmental system, both natural and human-induced” (p. 55). “monitor, understand, and predict global change” (p. 55). “provide a sound scientific basis for national and international decision-making” (p. 55).

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research might include the relative importance of an activity for meeting the program’s goals, cost, positioning and leverage relative to the private sector and other U.S. and international research entities, and sequencing and scheduling considerations. Ideally the CCSP should make its funding decisions by carefully and explicitly considering which activities best meet the program’s vision and goals and when particular research products are required. These future decisions need to be informed by the CCSP’s overarching vision, rather than only by the considerations of individual agencies as they implement the plan. This will be particularly important, for example, in developing budget support for new programs and for crosscutting issues that are of high strategic importance but currently lack a strong institutional home or span multiple agencies and congressional appropriation committees (e.g., water cycle, decision support). Assessment of Current Programs and Resources The CCSP took an important step in mid-2002 when it inventoried federal activities related to global change research (<http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/Inventory_budgetsummary_26Aug02.pdf>). This inventory provides a baseline for the CCSP to assess, as a part of the strategic planning process, whether current programs are sufficient to accomplish the goals, performance metrics, and timelines that will be identified in the final strategic plan. Any gaps or unmet needs for information, capacity, or resources to address the program’s goals and vision that are identified through this process will be a key input to implementing the plan. To be successful and to provide a clear map for the implementation phase that follows, the final strategic plan will need to include a more rigorous assessment that evaluates the match of existing programs and resources to the vision, goals, and priorities identified during the revision process. Management Plan A management plan describes the organizational structures and approaches to be used to ensure that program goals are met and to coordinate, integrate, and balance program elements. Chapter 15 of the draft strategic plan constitutes a preliminary management plan for the CCSP and describes at a general level the management structures and processes that will be used to coordinate and integrate federal research and technology development in climate and associated global change. As will be discussed in Chapter 4 of this report, the basic management structure appears sound and could provide a useful general framework for the management of the program. However, the chapter does not provide sufficient detail for the committee to have confidence that the management plan will be effective. A detailed management plan is especially important for the CCSP, because it is new and it is charged with coordinating and integrating the activities of 13 agencies, each with a separate mission and a long history of independent research on climate and associated global changes. 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. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE GCRP AND THE CCRI The draft plan states that to be included in the CCRI, “a program must produce both significant decision or policy-relevant deliverables within two to four years and contribute significantly to one or more of the following activities: (1) address key and emerging climate change science areas that offer the prospect of significant improvement in understanding of climate change phenomena, and where accelerated development of decision support information is possible, (2) optimize observations, monitoring, and data management systems of ‘climate quality data’ […], and (3) developing decision support resources” (CCSP, 2002, p. 15). Focusing part of the CCSP on short-term investigations oriented principally toward decision support is a welcome addition to the longer-term research carried out under the GCRP. The decision support activities described in Chapter 4 are generally consistent with the CCRI objectives. In fact, the committee considers this emphasis on scientific support for decision makers one of the most promising and innovative features of the draft plan. While there are valuable short-term deliverables in this arena, the committee feels that the CCSP should also commit to a long-term investment in decision support as an on-going component of the program. It is important for the revised plan to make clear how a decision support function in the CCSP will continue well beyond the current two- to four-year effort of the CCRI. Many of the activities described in Chapters 2 and 3 of the draft plan, however, are not consistent with the CCRI focus on decision support and are unlikely to produce deliverables within four years. This is not to say that these activities are unimportant, but simply that they are not consistent with the CCRI objectives given in the draft plan. Most if not all of the science activities identified to address key and emerging climate change science areas in Chapter 2 seem to better meet an objective of accelerating efforts to understand well-defined, priority scientific questions that may or may not be of direct relevance for decision making. Those activities proposed in Chapter 3 to optimize observations, monitoring, and data management systems

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research appear to be directed at “jump starting” a major new capacity-building initiative in a crosscutting element. These efforts will have few short-term deliverables but significant long-term benefits. In revising the strategic plan there are a number of ways that the CCSP could address the major inconsistencies between the activities described in Chapters 2 and 3 and the stated goals for the CCRI. One approach would be to revise the objectives of the CCRI to be more consistent with the apparent objectives mentioned above for the activities currently included in Chapters 2 and 3 of the draft plan. This revision would tend to de-emphasize the importance of decision support within the CCRI. An alternative approach would be move those activities in Chapters 2 and 3 of the draft plan that are not directly linked to near-term decision making to the relevant GCRP sections of the plan. Decision support activities would then likely become the primary focus of the CCRI. The committee believes that it is important for the program to correct these inconsistencies while maintaining a strong emphasis on near-term decision support in the CCRI. In addition to addressing these inconsistencies, the revised strategic plan also needs to more clearly describe how the research activities included in the GCRP support the decision support needs of the CCRI. The revised plan should clearly describe how the program intends to enable the transition of research results into operations and decision making. Indeed, there should be a “rolling linkage” between the two programs, with CCRI objectives periodically redefined as a result of new scientific input from GCRP. Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should: (1) present clear goals for the CCRI and ensure that its activities are consistent with these goals; (2) maintain CCRI’s strong emphasis on support for near-term decisions as an ongoing component of the program; and (3) include an explicit mechanism to link GCRP and CCRI activities.