RESEARCH AND NETWORKS FOR DECISION SUPPORT
IN THE NOAA SECTORAL APPLICATIONS RESEARCH PROGRAM
Helen M. Ingram and Paul C. Stern, Editors
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This project was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. DG133R04CQ0000, Task Order No.19. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2008). Research and Networks for Decision Support in the NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program. Panel on Design Issues for the NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program, H.M. Ingram and P.C. Stern, eds. Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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PANELON DESIGN ISSUESFORTHE NOAA SECTORAL APPLICATIONS RESEARCH PROGRAM
HELEN M. INGRAM (Chair),
Southwest Center, University of Arizona
Tampa Bay Estuary Program
Department of Sociology, Oregon State University
Center for Science in the Earth System, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle
LAURENCE J. O’TOOLE, JR.,
Department of Public Administration and Policy, University of Georgia
Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency
EUGENE A. ROSA,
Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service and Department of Sociology, Washington State University
PAUL C. STERN, Study Director
LINDA DEPUGH, Administrative Assistant
COMMITTEE ON THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF GLOBAL CHANGE
THOMAS J. WILBANKS (Chair),
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
RICHARD N. ANDREWS,
Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, DC
Departments of Economics and Community Health, Brown University
George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University
Department of Biology, Arizona State University
LINDA O. MEARNS,
Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Natural Resource & Environmental Policy, Washington State University
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY
Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University
ORAN R. YOUNG (Ex Officio),
International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change Scientific Committee; Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
PAUL C. STERN, Study Director
LINDA DEPUGH, Administrative Assistant
Moving from science to action is a challenge in many policy areas, and it has been difficult in climate science. For instance, until fairly recently the construction of climate forecasts was largely producer driven, and the scientists who worked on them had little knowledge of what potential users needed. For the most part, those forecasts were not used because the intended decision makers were not aware of the significance of a changing climate for their decision domains. Moreover, the forecasts were perceived as coming from “outside” and therefore carried less trust and legitimacy than information from the decision makers’ organizations.
The lack of fit between what decision makers thought would be useful and what climate forecasters were producing, along with the reluctance of decision makers to use even relevant outside information, led to new efforts to engage potential users earlier in the production process for climate forecasts. Potential decision makers and user groups were invited to engage at the point at which climate information began to be developed. Rather than a top-down decision process, scientists and users were engaged in a discourse that was aimed at influencing the orientations and actions of both parties. The Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment (RISA) program in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) institutionalized this more collaborative and networked style of developing climate information.
In these pioneering collaborative efforts, the meaning of decision support is evolving in ways supported by this report. The idea of deci-
sion support is gravitating from the provision of tools or products to the support of practices. Instead of some specific physical science-driven product, decision support is becoming a process of engaging a network of producers and users. This report endorses the progression of decision support away from translating the products of science into useful forms and disseminating them and toward more inclusive and iterative practices. Decision support as used in this report means creating a two-way process of communication between the producers and users of climate information.
The experience of the RISA program, generally viewed as successful, along with the intellectual movements in management and public administration toward more collaborative and inclusive governance, has resulted in new challenges that this report addresses: How can social and physical science insights be integrated into processes and products that provide needed support to decision makers for areas affected by climate change? How can such collaborative efforts that strongly relate to changed processes rather than outcomes be evaluated?
This National Research Council (NRC) panel, whose membership includes social and physical scientists as well as practitioners, adopted an open and collaborative process of developing its report. At a workshop on November 13, 2006, representatives from a range of different sectors and extension-type networks discussed the kinds of climate information needed and how such information could be produced, shared, and evaluated. The panel met the day after the workshop and again on March 1-2, 2007, to develop this report.
In preparing this report, the panel built on a solid foundation of previous NRC studies that addressed similar issues. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society (1996b) helpfully raised matters of process and deliberation as important aspects of making science and analysis useful and accepted. In 1999, Making Climate Forecasts Matter called attention to the importance of linking science to users. The preface drew attention to improvement in the ability to forecast climatic variability as “one of the premiere advancements in the atmospheric sciences at the close of the 20th century,” yet noted that application of this knowledge was problematic. Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities (2005a) provided a number of important insights about when science is used by decision makers. Finally, the panel was aided considerably in its discussion of issues of evaluation by the report Thinking Strategically: The Appropriate Use of Metrics for the Climate Change Science Program (2005c).
This report could not have been completed without the aid of the NRC staff. Paul Stern served as study director, and full use was made of his skills in planning, organizing, negotiating consensus, and writing. The
members of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Climate Change, under whose auspices the panel was constituted, deserve both credit and thanks.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Nancy Dickson, Center for International Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Kirstin Dow, Department of Geography, University of South Carolina; Maria C. Lemos, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan; Rita P. Maguire, President’s Office, Maguire and Pearce, LLC, Phoenix, AZ; Andrew R. Solow, Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA; Brent Yarnal, Center for Integrated Regional Assessment, Pennsylvania State University.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Roger E. Kasperson, George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University, Worcester, MA and Robert A. Frosch, International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Helen Ingram, Chair
Panel on Design Issues for the NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program