coming the barriers. We end with a set of conclusions and recommendations meant to inform the initiation, design, and implementation of decision support activities sponsored by federal agencies and others.
The term “decision support” has recently come into common use in the climate context, but the underlying idea is far from new. The core idea—making scientific knowledge useful for practical decision making—is evident in many fields, ranging from public health to risk assessment, software development, resource management, and many more. Decision support is often narrowly understood as an activity that provides data, tools, and other types of information products that make scientific information more accessible to decision makers: for example, translating it into nontechnical language. In this spirit, the CCSP has made major efforts to enhance the technical and modeling basis on which climate-related risk management decisions may be based. This focus on information products can also be found in other federal agencies, at other levels of government, in the private sector, and in other countries.
Yet there is a broader view of decision support which is increasingly being adopted in some federal agencies and nongovernmental efforts and is also reflected in studies of science-practice interactions and of decision support needs (see, e.g., National Research Council, 2007a, 2008d). In this view, decision support consists of a set of processes intended to create the conditions for the production of decision-relevant information and for its appropriate use. Ongoing communication between the producers and users of information is at the center of these processes, and information products are one result, but not the exclusive one. This view stems from decision support activities “on the ground,” including some that are sponsored by federal agencies, such as the Global Change Research Program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (in particular, its ongoing Great Lakes Regional Assessment); the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) Program and Science Applications and Research Program (SARP) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the Forest and Agricultural Extension Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (see National Research Council, 2006b, for additional examples), as well as in activities at the state and local levels in the private and public sectors. We adopt this broader understanding of decision support to include both products and processes. The rest of this section elaborates our usage of concepts and terms fundamental to this report.
Climate-Related (or Climate-Sensitive) Decisions Climate-related, or climate-sensitive, decisions are choices by individuals or organizations, the