An Example for Setting Priorities Based on Societal Relevance
The Strategic Plan might postulate ‘food security’ as an important societal question and regard research focused on answering this question to be of high priority. For example, how can the U.S. ensure the future of a sustainable source of domestic seafood of high quality and affordability? This question would require thinking about the role of commercially wild-caught and aquaculture sources of seafood and the different potential impacts that ocean acidification would have on these sources. While natural scientists would strive to improve the understanding of direct and indirect impacts of ocean acidification on the biology of these fisheries (as outlined in Themes 1, 2, and 3), social scientists and economists would want to consider the societal preferences for the relative contribution of both sources (given their environmental footprints) to supply healthy and affordable seafood (as part of Theme 3 and 5).
In the wild-caught fishery, the indirect effects (e.g., less primary prey available through food webs) are likely to be more significant relative to the direct effects (e.g., higher natural mortality rates) and information will be needed on a scale commensurate with the ecosystem and management. These impacts could lead to a delay in the recovery of a particular fish stock. Thus, understanding management practices that could incorporate information about the direct and indirect environmental impacts on the rebuilding of fish stocks would emerge as a high priority research goal.
In the aquaculture setting, the research could focus on the direct effects on farmed species or in developing predictions of acidity on a local scale that can help aquaculture operations avoid exposing their stocks to unfavorable conditions. If it is the latter, scientists might need to advance the understanding of how accurate the predictions need to be. That is, the societal gain from better forecasts could be marginal if the increased precision does not translate into improved aquaculture practices and aquaculture yield.
Theme 3 (modeling) and 4 (technology development and standardization of measurements) receive funds on the order of $2-3 million, whereas Themes 5 and 6 are each funded below $1 million. In fact, if funds available for research on the socioeconomics and adaptation measures remain at their current levels, only a single small research project could be supported for a year; this is unlikely to generate the kind of innovation required to develop ways to adapt to the impacts of ocean acidification. Similarly, budget allocations of $152,000 for data management will not allow for a substantial effort. Input from the research community and other stakeholders could help facilitate future adjustment of the total resources available for the seven Themes as well as define a process for prioritizing among the Themes.
If the IWGOA aims to achieve all goals outlined in its Strategic Plan