•         understanding and taking advantage of emerging opportunities associated with climate variability and change.

The research on decision support should have five substantive foci:

•         understanding information needs;

•         characterizing and understanding climate risk and uncertainty;

•         understanding and improving processes related to decision support; including decision support processes and networks and methods for structuring decisions;

•         developing and disseminating decision support products; and

•         assessing decision support “experiments”.

In contrast, operational-level decision support should be the responsibility of boundary organizations throughout the public and private sectors that serve constituencies affected by global change. These services should be provided by the organizations best positioned for the role. These sometimes lie within the USGCRP. For example, NOAA could appropriately provide climate-related decision support to its constituencies in the coastal management community, USDA to farmers and foresters, and DOI to managers of public lands. In many cases, however, the most appropriate service providers are not part of the USGCRP. The general principle is that decision support should come from scientifically informed organizations that are easily linked to target audiences.

The USGCRP should provide mechanisms to link research to the appropriate boundary organizations. Box 6 suggests some criteria that the USGCRP could use in working with boundary organizations, to identify the contexts in which decision support efforts will be most feasible and effective.

Criteria for Assessing the Value of Decision Support

Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan indicates that USGCRP will have responsibility for guiding its member agencies to produce scientific knowledge that is credible, while working with users of that knowledge to assure that it is also salient and legitimate. What makes knowledge salient in a decision making context is that it be relevant and timely. Such salience is often in tension with scientific credibility, earned by careful testing, peer review, and publication in the open literature. The challenge is to reconcile these tensions in a way that honors the values of both users and researchers. We present below some examples of factors that the USGCRP should consider in managing the difficult balancing act of setting priorities for decision support. These lists are drawn from other contexts (e.g., global assessment processes, foundation grant-making processes) that are not entirely analogous to the USGCRP, but nonetheless seem quite relevant (Packard Foundation, 2010; Clark et al, 2006, 2010).

Whether a decision situation is ripe:

•    Are there openings for rethinking, in which decision makers are seeking new information?

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