regional focus, in basic education, and in technical emphasis. Such effective communication strategies can be expensive, requiring that budgetary provisions for communication are appropriate to the degree and scale of the desired communications outreach. The budgetary costs can be justified by analyzing in advance the potential benefits of effective communications for a successful assessment outcome.
The scholarly literature on assessments cited above provides a rich and growing body of information on how to create a credible, legitimate, and salient assessment process. These characteristics are enhanced through a process of thoughtful deliberation, which is fair and competent, in which all reasonable views are given serious consideration. Four elements are central:
Engagement builds legitimacy and credibility. Who is at the table and whether they participate in two-way communication define perceptions of fairness and balance in point of view.
A transparent review process and a deliberate effort to promote consensus increase legitimacy and credibility. Transparency in handling critical comments is particularly important in minimizing perceptions of bias or imbalance.
Deliberate and consistent methods of treating and communicating uncertainties add credibility and salience. Regardless of method (statistics, sensitivity analysis, scenario development, or expert judgment), each measure must be defined and communicated in a consistent manner.
A deliberate and active communication strategy instituted at the onset of an assessment process enhances the value, credibility, and legitimacy of the process and products. An effective communication plan recognizes the nature of the audiences, including their interests, receptivity, and knowledge base, as well as any barriers to communication.
The difficulty in incorporating these four key elements depends on the nature of the assessment. Process assessments have a well-worn path for success, which includes incorporating a critical mass of experts, ensuring broad participation, focusing intensively on a specific science issue, developing consensus through a state-of-the-science evaluation, instituting authoritative review, and offering a clear summary of the results. As a result, process assessments are less likely to be subject to criticism for their credibility or legitimacy, unless the science topic is associated with the perception of great political importance.