tion and coordination. And federal agencies can also benefit from networks for their own decision support activities. A more effectively networked government can respond more fluently to the multifaceted manifestations of changing climate. Interagency teams can work quickly across the mandates of different government departments without waiting for organizational changes in those departments. Federal agencies can also benefit from participating in and sometimes supporting networks and boundary organizations that reach beyond the federal government to state and local government, the private sector, and civil society.
Federal financial support for networks, particularly those serving constituencies with limited resources, has several important benefits. As the long-term relationships built through the RISA centers illustrate, networks that link federally supported researchers with users of the knowledge they produce increase the utility of federally sponsored research on climate phenomena and facilitate deliberation informed by analysis. Among the kinds of capabilities likely to be cost-effective are support for convening network participants for face-to-face meetings, such as regional conferences, funding a webmaster for a weblog, providing space on an internet server, and providing start-up funds for networks that might be able to develop nonfederal support for their continued activity once members recognize their value.
However, the continuation of a network depends on members’ seeing concrete returns on their participation. As with other innovations, some networks will fail to meet this test. Thus, decision support networks should be designed in the expectation that they may be ephemeral.
Conclusion 5: An important role of the federal government in climate-related decision support is to facilitate the development and improvement of decision support systems by nonfederal entities.
Recommendation 4: Federal agencies and other entities that provide decision support should monitor changes in science, policy, and climate-related events, including changes outside the United States, that are likely to alter the demand and opportunities for effective decision support. Knowledge of such changes will help them to learn and improve more rapidly.
Recommendation 5: Federal agencies should promote learning by supporting decision support networks to share lessons and technical capabilities. This may include support for expanding the capacity of boundary organizations and distributed entities for learning, such as internet sites. The federal investment should be selective and guided by the reality that networks operate satisfactorily only when their members see concrete benefits from participation.