CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Products

January 2006

According to the National Research Council, “an essential component of any research program is the periodic synthesis of cumulative knowledge and the evaluation of the implications of that knowledge for scientific research and policy formulation.” The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) will help meet that fundamental need through a series of 21 “synthesis and assessment” (S&A) products. A key component of the CCSP Strategic Plan (released July 2003), they will integrate research results focused on important science issues and questions frequently raised by decision makers.

The S&A products will support informed discussion and decisions by policymakers, resource managers stakeholders, the media, and the general public. They also will help define and set the future direction and priorities of the program. The products help meet the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The law directs agencies to “produce information readily usable by policymakers attempting to formulate effective strategies for preventing, mitigating, and adapting to the effects of global change” and to undertake periodic scientific assessments.

Designated CCSP agencies or departments will take the lead in generating each S&A product. The CCSP also will continue to participate in the principal international science assessments, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report scheduled for completion in 2007, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessments of stratospheric ozone depletion and associated environmental impacts.

The CCSP Strategic Plan sets forth general principles for the S&A products:

  • Analyses structured around specific questions

  • Early and continuing involvement of stakeholders

  • Explicit treatment of uncertainties

  • Transparent public review of analysis questions, methods, and draft results

  • Flexible approach, building on lessons learned.

As the CCSP progresses with the S&A products, it will learn from experience and adjust its approach accordingly.

To help ensure adherence to those principles, the program has published guidelines for producing the S&A products. These guidelines establish a broadly standardized methodology that will facilitate involvement of the research community and the public; ensure focused and useful products; and meet the highest standards of scientific excellence. The guidelines also encourage transparency by providing public access to information about the status of the products through the Federal Register, the CCSP web site, and other means. The guidelines address three steps required to produce S&A products:

  1. Developing a prospectus

  2. Drafting and revising the document

  3. Final approval and publication of each product.

The guidelines set forth the roles of participants and the steps in the process (see page 2).

The first S&A product—Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences—will be issued by CCSP in early 2006. Others are in various stages of development. For more information on the products, process, and schedule, visit the Synthesis and Assessment products portion of the CCSP web site at <>.

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