The last 20 years have seen dramatic progress in scientific efforts to understand seasonal to interannual climate dynamics, characterize social and environmental impacts, and predict El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events months in advance (National Research Council, 1999; Glantz, 2003). As forecasting ability has improved, concerted efforts to apply this growing knowledge to decision making have been made by international organizations, national agencies, regional and local governments, and research institutions. Climate application efforts have been targeted at such areas as emergency preparedness, agriculture, food security, tourism, public health, and fisheries, with the goal of bringing a suite of benefits to society including decreases in mortality and morbidity, increased economic profit, improvements of agricultural harvests, more efficient operations of reservoirs, and better planning for natural hazards. There is wide variance in the structure and function of these applications efforts, and wide variance in their success.
While there is a growing literature and accumulating practical experience on what contributes to successful applications efforts, there has been little synthesis in the field and few efforts to extract common, overarching, complementary or collective lessons learned from these multiple academic and practical efforts in different regions (Glantz, 1992; National Research Council, 1999; Broad, 2000; Buizer et al., 2000; Glantz, 2000; International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, 2000; O'Brien et al., 2000; Patt, 2000; Broad et al., 2002; Lemos et al., 2002; Glantz, 2003; Jacobs, 2003; Cash et al., in review).
This workshop was an attempt to provide a forum where various perspectives could be brought together to explore the institutional challenges, opportunities, and strategies for connecting climate research and decision making in order to discover and distill general lessons about the design of effective systems for linking knowledge to action. Taking advantage of the last decade’s experience with the production and application of seasonal to interannual climate forecasts, participants examined a range of case studies of efforts to link research with decision making in the climate arena, attempting to glean a composite picture of what works, how, and under what conditions.
The cases featured at the workshop represent a wide range of approaches and experiences. They were from Colombia; Ceará, Brazil; Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands; Queensland, Australia; and the Pacific Northwest, United States (see Section III). For each of these cases, invitees included a small group of experienced individuals drawn from three communities: users of seasonal/interannual climate forecasts, including managers, policy makers, and planners; producers of such forecasts, including researchers, modelers, applications specialists, etc.; program managers who have been involved in the funding and support of decision support efforts (see Appendix C for a list of participants). These participants included some key scientists with expertise and extensive experience in producing climate forecasts and decision makers who routinely use the information and who have been involved with the development and design of decision support systems. The workshop organizers attempted to strike a balance between having all potential perspectives represented and a small enough group to facilitate in-depth discussion. In attempting to strike this balance, some expertise and points of view that would have added considerably to the discourse were not included. For example, agricultural extension, which has a long history in the United States of acting as an intermediary between science and practice was not fully represented (Cash, 2001). This is, in part, because the agricultural extension system has not played an active role in the seasonal climate forecasting process.
Because this report is a workshop summary, its contents are limited in scope to the discussions that took place during the workshop. In the interest of promoting candid discussions, the workshop was held
with the understanding that comments would not receive individual attribution in the report. As a record of those discussions, the report includes opinions from individuals and groups who attended the workshop. However, the opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of all workshop participants, their affiliated organizations, or the National Academies. The report does not contain consensus findings or recommendations from the workshop participants as a whole.
Chapter II includes a brief overview of each case that was presented and discussed at the workshop. Chapter III includes a framework in the form of a workshop “theme paper” that was offered by the workshop co-conveners as background reading that could serve as an analytical tool for understanding the challenges of connecting research to action.1Chapter IV provides summary descriptions of the components of effective knowledge-action systems. These descriptions are organized into a series of “lessons learned” that were identified by various workshop participants. Each lesson learned is followed by a box that includes one or more “cases” provided by participants including examples of how they apply the principles in the lesson within their organizations or communities—practiced examples.
The discussion paper is available on the workshop Web site <http://www7.nationalacademies.org/sustainabilityroundtable/Decision_Support_Rountable_Main.html> and is an unpublished document that was provided to participants as a possible framework for discussions.