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.



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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