needed new direction for U.S. climate-change modeling, reaching out beyond the “business as usual” approach of the GCRP to provide tangible decision support resources, particularly tested and trusted projections (or “forecasts”) of future climate. The draft plan correctly identifies the need to enhance research on options for adaptation to climate change. In addition, the plan appropriately recognizes that there are some short-term products that can and should be delivered by the program.
The committee finds that the draft plan identifies many of the cutting-edge scientific research activities that are necessary to improve understanding of the Earth system. For example, the acceleration of research on aerosols and the carbon cycle is consistent with priorities of the scientific community. Indeed, the GCRP portion of the plan clearly builds upon the substantial and largely successful research programs of the last decade. The call for greatly improved observational capabilities reflects a well recognized priority for increasing understanding of climate and associated global changes. Further, the plan takes positive steps towards improved interdisciplinary research opportunities. Overcoming the substantial hurdles associated with the highly interdisciplinary nature of research on climate and associated global changes will continue to be a fundamental challenge for the program.
In general, the draft plan provides a solid foundation for the CCSP. With suitable revisions, the plan could articulate an explicit and forward-looking vision for the CCSP and clearly identifiable pathways to successful implementation.
Recommendation: The draft plan should be substantially revised to: (1) clarify the vision and goals of the CCSP and the CCRI, (2) improve its treatment of program management, (3) fill key information needs, (4) enhance efforts to support decision making, and (5) set the stage for implementation.
The committee found that the draft strategic plan lacks the kind of clear and consistent guiding framework that would enable decision makers, the public, and scientists to clearly understand what this research program is intended to accomplish and how it will contribute to meeting the nation’s needs. The draft plan lacks most of the basic elements of a strategic plan: a guiding vision, executable goals, clear timetables and criteria for measuring progress, an assessment of whether existing programs are capable of meeting these goals, explicit prioritization, and a management plan. Many candidates for vision and goals are scattered throughout the draft strategic plan and in references to other documents, yet neither an explicitly stated vision nor a coherent set of goals are consistently presented. The draft plan lists a multitude of proposed activities, but does not identify which of these activities are higher priorities than others (either across the CCSP as a whole or within individual program areas of the CCRI or the GCRP) nor does it provide an explicit process for establishing such priorities. Finally, the plan lacks the kind of straightforward comparison of current programs to projected needs that will be essential to guide the plan’s implementation. A systematic and coherent strategic plan is especially necessary 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.
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.
The revised strategic plan also must present clear and consistent goals for 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 of the following activities: improve scientific understanding; optimize observations, monitoring, and data management systems; and develop decision support resources. The decision support activities described in Chapter 4 of the draft plan are generally consistent with the above criteria. In fact, the committee considers the CCRI’s emphasis on scientific support for decision makers one of the most promising and innovative features of the draft plan. Unfortunately, the plan’s descriptions of decision support as a two to four year activity give the false impression that decision support is needed only in the near-term. While short-term deliverables are possible in this arena, decision support also will be needed as an ongoing component of the program. In addition, many of the activities described in Chapters 2 and 3 of the draft plan are not consistent with the CCRI focus on decision support and are not likely 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 goals for CCRI as given in the draft plan. The committee believes that it is important for the program to correct these inconsistencies while maintaining a strong emphasis on near-term, ongoing decision support in the CCRI. The revised strategic plan also needs to describe more clearly how the research activities included in the GCRP support the decision support needs of the CCRI. Indeed, there should be a “rolling linkage” between the two programs, with CCRI objectives periodically redefined as a result of new scientific input from the GCRP.