Of most concern is that the plan does not discuss how it intends to provide information to the IPCC. While there is no evidence of any such nationalism in the GCRP research community, the perception of insularity in the draft plan is of concern to the committee on two fronts. Scientifically, there is a danger that the emphasis on U.S. issues and resources will result in agencies choosing not to work in geographic regions outside the United States that are significant for understanding particularly important processes. The second issue relates to participation in international climate change research. The United States has been the source of about half the global research investment historically and a leader in many activities internationally, yet there is little discussion in the draft strategic plan of how and whether the U.S. program will participate in international arenas. This insular approach could alienate international contributions to U.S. science.
Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should clearly describe how the CCSP will contribute to and benefit from international research collaborations and assessments.
The draft strategic plan appropriately recognizes the importance of efforts to communicate with the public and to promote outreach for K-12 education. Chapter 13 of the draft plan accurately describes the need for improved public understanding of climate change, and lists a number of mechanisms that could be used for this purpose. Though important, the recommendations for action in Chapter 13 of the plan are so broad and without prioritization that it will be difficult to accomplish all or even many of them. The revised chapter on communications and outreach should better identify which recommendations have the highest priorities and which agency has the responsibility for ensuring that they are carried out.
The committee notes that the draft plan itself, with its dense prose, is not easily accessible to intelligent nonexperts, and certainly not to laypersons. The draft plan would communicate with the public much more effectively if it included clearly articulated vision, goals, and priorities for the program, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this report.
The draft strategic plan makes clear that the scientific community will play important roles in carrying out research and in advising the program through scientific advisory processes. The program has established strong linkages and two-way communication with the scientific community in general. An indication of this was the strong representation of the scientific community at the December planning workshop, with the exception of some areas of science that have not traditionally received funding from the GCRP. The document itself is generally effective in communicating with the scientific community about problems and research areas. As discussed in Chapter 2 of this report, however, the plan could be more effective in conveying to the scientific community an integrated, reasoned “strategic plan” for climate change and associated global change science.
The committee commends the authors for focusing each chapter on a short list of questions or problems, and believes that this should be done consistently throughout the strategic plan. The committee found the question format particularly effective in dealing with well-specified tasks related to improved understanding of physical and chemical processes. The format was less effective in dealing with issues that cross several chapters, such as those related to human dimensions and decision support tasks, which should be better integrated into relevant chapters.
The committee commends the CCSP for undertaking the challenging task of developing a strategic plan, an important first step in enhancing how the program communicates with its wide range of stakeholders. The current draft of the plan represents a good start to the process. Further, the CCSP has made genuine overtures to researchers and the broader stakeholder community to gain feedback on the draft strategic plan and how to improve it. The planning workshop in December 2002 attracted hundreds of attendees. The workshop summaries presented by the program’s leaders (see <http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/workshop2002/closingsession>) indicated that they were attentive to the issues raised by the workshop participants. In addition to the workshop, the CCSP established a mechanism for interested parties to submit written comments on the draft plan. These efforts indicate a strong interest on the part of the CCSP to develop a plan that is consistent with current scientific thinking and is responsive to the nation’s needs for information on climate and associated global changes.