Use-Inspired Science and Communication
As Chapter 2 makes clear, much more than the translation of climate information is needed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to achieve its decision support objectives. The needs of decision makers must affect scientific activity if its outputs are to be considered useful. This chapter discusses two main elements necessary for an effective decision support program in NOAA: use-inspired science, especially behavioral and social science, and improved communication between scientific producers and users.
Use-inspired science consists of scientific investigation whose rationale, conceptualization, and research directions are driven by the potential use to which the knowledge will be put (Stokes, 1997). It sometimes involves the “application” of other “basic” or “fundamental” science, but it also includes investigations that advance or even transform scientific disciplines or that create entirely new scientific fields.
and the global community empowered with the science-based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems” (U.S. Climate Change Science Program and Subcommittee on Global Change Research, 2003:3). Appropriately organized, science-based knowledge can benefit a wide variety of decision makers at various geographic and political scales and over various time horizons who could make more effective choices if they integrated the best available understanding of climate dynamics and of related biogeochemical and socioeconomic systems. This understanding includes processes operating at the global level, their functioning over time, links among processes occurring at different spatial and temporal scales, and understanding of the limits and uncertainties of available knowledge.
Climate-related science is more likely to be useful if the efforts of science producers are informed by the actual needs and practices of consumers. This is use-inspired science. For example, consider the challenge to western water managers responsible for controlling stream flow in the Columbia and other rivers. As already noted, recent improvements in the ability to make skillful seasonal forecasts on the basis of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon has provided a new source of information. To make this information useful, managers would need to know how climate variability will affect outcomes of importance to them, such as snow pack, expected water levels at reference locations on the river, and their potential impacts on flooding, water availability, and salmon migrations. If available in time for critical decisions, this knowledge could affect conservation plans, plans for water releases from reservoirs, and coordination among managers. Some of the needed knowledge could come from “downscaling” seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts to meet needs defined by regional managers and, if more refined downscaling can be done, local managers. Such downscaling is, in fact, one goal of the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Applications (RISA) Program.
Decision makers can benefit similarly from use-inspired social science. Managers whose responsibilities may be affected by climate variability and change need detailed understanding of relevant social, economic, organizational, and behavioral systems. In the case of water and coastal managers, this may include understanding of (1) the demographic and economic factors that shape demand for water, roads, and land conversion for residential and commercial development; (2) the factors that shape the possibilities for individuals and organizations to respond to anticipated environmental changes; (3) the social systems that provide, or fail to provide, resilience in the face of natural disasters related to climate; and (4) the organizational and individual processes that determine
the salience, credibility, legitimacy, and ultimately the use of the kinds of complex and uncertain information that climate forecasts provide.
The ability of NOAA to empower communities to manage the risks and opportunities presented by climate variability and change depends in part on its ability to produce use-inspired science. This includes understanding of the full range of climatic, ecological, economic, and social factors that are important to climate-related decisions. We emphasize that the value of climate information also depends on the decision-making contexts in which it is used (see below). Given the focus of the Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) and of our charge, we focus on use-inspired social and behavioral science.
We agree with the NOAA Social Science Review Panel (Anderson et al., 2003) that NOAA should readjust its research priorities by additional investment in a wide variety of use-inspired social science projects. Our task, however, given the more limited purview of SARP, is to focus on the narrower range of social science research topics that are directly relevant to improving the use of climate-related information in sectoral applications.
This section discusses five topics, each of which has direct relevance to making climate information better serve the needs of various sectors. For each topic, we consider who needs to behave differently, why, and how climate information can be integrated into sectors. We also address how impediments to such transformations might be managed in facilitating societal change and adaptation to climate information in sectors. The research topics are human influences on vulnerability, communication processes, the transformation of science by users, information overload, and innovation to make use of climate-related information. Among these topics, the last is most important at this time in pushing forward the SARP mission of catalyzing and initiating change. Innovation in the production and use of climate-related information is a central issue in advancing decision support as we have defined it and to the task of building networks and linkages that facilitate interaction between users and scientists.
Human Influences on Vulnerability
Human activities not only drive climate change (e.g., National Research Council, 1992, 1997; Rosa et al., 2004; York et al., 2003), but also affect people and the nonhuman world of ongoing processes of climatic variability and change. For example, changes in human use of water, land, and other natural resources affect climate-related events by changing the populations and the adaptive capacities of the affected communities. Thus, effective climate decision support systems and other tools for addressing problems associated with climate-induced changes require a
better understanding of human interactions with the environment and how they affect the impacts of climate variation and change on human and nonhuman systems. This understanding should be developed while recognizing the longer time frames associated with planning for transportation, water, and other infrastructure needs when changes in human demands and physical systems are interacting.
As noted in Chapter 2, past research demonstrates the importance of effective two-way communication between the producers and users of climate science for producing information that is accepted as decision relevant and credible by the intended users. Decision support efforts using a one-way information transmission model have been at the root of many instances of elaborate efforts by scientists to characterize risks from various natural and technological hazards that were not credible to users because they addressed the wrong issues, relied on unrealistic assumptions, or produced advice that was impossible to follow (see, e.g., Wynne, 1989; National Research Council, 1996b). Consistent with these findings, a recent assessment of the RISA Program (McNie et al., 2007) recommends developing processes that link the producers and consumers of climate information in order to identify needs for use-inspired science and to foster the use of the findings of such science. However, insights from research on risk perception and communication in the contexts of risks from exposures to hazardous chemicals, technologies, and the like (e.g., National Research Council, 1989; Slovic, 2000) have not often been applied to the problem of informing people about climate risks. These insights can undoubtedly aid in designing decision support processes that incorporate climate information, but additional research is needed to understand the extent to which they transfer, or must be modified, to fit the climate context. This research could also examine the roles of different kinds of formal and informal modes of assessment of climate information for particular decision contexts.
Science Produced in Partnership with Users
The RISA Program represents what some scholars describe as a post-normal approach to science, in which scientists and users come together to produce science that is usable in specific decision contexts (e.g., Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1992; Rosa, 1998). Rather than scientists’ pursuing disciplinary questions of interest, they work closely, in what may be called networked partnerships, with potential users of information, who know about the context and history of the topic as the scientists may not.
Together, the scientists and potential users engage in ongoing and continuous feedback about the topics pursued, context-specific interpretation of results, and development of products designed to improve or change behavior and decisions. This benefit to specific users, however, makes the results difficult to generalize to other settings.
Early results from the RISA Program seem to indicate that this approach to science has been productive in developing climate science products and information that users have shaped to meet their needs (Sarewitz and Pielke, 2007). To achieve NOAA’s mission, it will be important to continue tracking the effectiveness of the RISAs and other efforts to create and disseminate usable climate science knowledge through two-way communication processes. It will also be important to understand how to organize such processes for greatest effectiveness. Research should address questions such as these: How does this user-inspired science influence decision making? Is network-produced science integrated into individual and organizational decision routines in different, perhaps more effective, ways than “normal” science? How does the climate science community integrate and learn from interaction with the users and from the context-specific results generated?
The electronic age has brought about a precipitous rise in the availability of and exposure to information (Lightman, 2003), which is reflected in the amount of information in the form of data, research findings, agency reports, and commission findings about climate variability and change. This growth in information cuts in two directions: it provides the opportunity for accessing more and more decision-relevant information, but it also exposes decision makers to information overload. Basic research on how decision makers respond to a surfeit of information (e.g., Schwartz, 2004), especially if focused on climate-related information, can be helpful in the development of decision aids for coping with and managing information about climate.
Innovations Needed to Make Use of Climate-Related Information
We emphasize throughout this report that recent improvement in climate forecasting creates a fundamentally new kind of decision-relevant information that introduces significant opportunities for those who can benefit from it. We have also emphasized that to take advantage of these opportunities, innovation is necessary in the processes affecting climate-related decisions and that there are many significant obstacles to such innovation. A critical need is for social science research to understand
the opportunities and obstacles to innovation to make use of climate information.
Several lines of social science research offer general insights into this problem and need to be developed further in the specific climate information context. The research recommended here would build on past work (e.g., Pulwarty and Redmond, 1997; National Research Council, 1999; Rayner et al., 2005) to examine how and why decision makers who could benefit from appropriate use of climate-related information use or fail to use new information. Studies would examine factors internal to decision making by individuals, groups, or organizations; the influences of external forces and organizations on decision makers; the ways climate information is used and transformed within multi-actor decision systems; and the ways networks that link the producers and consumers of climate information develop, evolve, and function to make climate information more useful to decision makers. Studies might also investigate specific decision makers or classes of decision makers in a sector. Taken together, such research would build a body of knowledge that could be used to inform NOAA’s efforts (and those of other agencies and organizations) to make climate-related knowledge more effective in improving the ultimate societal consequences of climate variability and change. The rest of this section explores in more detail issues related to innovation at multiple levels.
Innovation at the Individual Level
Climate-related information is potentially useful to individuals in their roles as decision makers for themselves and their households (e.g., in preparing for climate-related extreme events), as participants in other groups, and as citizens. Benefiting from improved climate information requires innovation in information gathering, thinking, and behavior.
The classical research on the diffusion of innovations uses the individual as the unit of analysis (e.g., Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971; Rogers, 1983). Similarly, the individual is the principal unit of analysis in studies of risk perception and behavior (e.g., Rosa, 1998; Slovic, 2000), environmental attitude formation and behavior change (National Research Council, 1984, 2002b, 2005a; Gardner and Stern, 1996), and many studies of innovation (e.g., Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971; Rogers, 1983). The insights from these lines of research have not yet been applied and extended to the problem of understanding the conditions under which individuals assimilate and act on climate-related information. SARP can benefit its constituency by developing empirical knowledge of the conditions under which decision makers in affected sectors demand climate-related science, how they learn
of their need for and the availability of such knowledge, how they come to accept or reject that knowledge in their attitudes and decision making, the behavioral consequences of adopting this knowledge, and the diffusion of new behaviors. A sizable generic literature across several disciplines can guide use-inspired research that addresses the objectives of SARP while also contributing to the advance of disciplinary knowledge. So far, very few studies have addressed the conditions under which decision makers seek out climate information. An example is a study by O’Connor et al. (2005), which found that water managers who felt more vulnerable to climate risk were more interested in climate forecast information.
Like individuals, most organizations need to change their usual practices of information gathering and decision making to make the best use of new kinds of climate-related information. This is a process of organizational learning, that is, the development and use of knowledge for adapting to a changing environment (Leavitt and March, 1988; March, 1991; Parson and Clark, 1995). This is closely related to the idea of “adaptive management,” a process by which organizations actively engage in feedback between monitoring and decisions (Holling, 1978; Lee, 1993). Learning may take place reactively, as when organizations learn incrementally by evaluating the actions taken that have led to past successes or failures. For example, municipal water utilities in desert regions have learned that the number of days since the most recent rainfall, combined with temperature, is a better predictor of elevated water use than temperature alone, and they have adjusted their management practices accordingly. Learning may also take place proactively, when organizations seek out information about their environments from internal or external sources and intentionally incorporate elements of their changed environments into particular procedures or changes in organizational structure.
Adaptive organizations vary considerably in the processes they use for learning and for the diffusion of new knowledge throughout the organization. There is a sizable social science literature that offers conceptual models, frameworks, and other tools for characterizing and describing organizational learning processes. As already noted, there is also a substantial body of knowledge on barriers to organizational change. To avoid pitfalls as it strives for its mission goal of facilitating the adoption of “science-based climate-related” information by decision-making organizations, NOAA needs to understand how these organizations assimilate and use climate-related information and the barriers to such learning.
Innovations in Complex Organizational Fields
When an organization has not integrated or used climate science even though it is quite obvious that the organization would benefit from that use, it is tempting to look to the organization’s internal routines and decision processes for explanations. However, external forces, such as shared norms among associated organizations and incentives affecting organizations, may play an equally important role in determining how and when innovation actually takes place. An organization’s larger institutional context can promote or limit organizational behavior related to innovation. Organizations with interdependent relationships belong to an “organizational field” (Scott, 1992) and share common norms, expectations, and in many cases, day-to-day practices. Decisions to innovate must be passed through this organizational field—either implicitly or explicitly—with pressures coming through various kinds of influences generated by the field (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Powell and DiMaggio 1991). For example, any attempt to integrate climate information into river management first has to pass through a quasi-legal vetting process by the Army Corps of Engineers, which determines whether the science is credible, reliable, and applicable. No single river management organization can step outside its organizational field.
To achieve NOAA’s mission, it is critical to gain understanding of the external forces that promote and constrain the adoption of climate information by influential organizations in particular sectors. For example, do organizations treat information as legitimate only when it comes from other organizations in their field? Are “best practices” mandated by one or more regulatory bodies? Is there a perceived leader in the field whose use or non-use of climate information affects other organizations in the field? The ongoing development of new climate science and information introduces the prospect of innovation at a global level—all around the world and in all organizations and organizational fields. Understanding the role and impact of complex, multiple, and multilevel organizational fields will be critical to understanding how (and whether) climate science will be integrated into existing decision routines.
Multilevel, Multi-Actor Governance
The term “governance” refers to the collaboration of various actors, including nongovernmental organizations that may or may not be nonprofit and governmental entities at all levels from the local to the international, in making choices that can affect them all. Although these parties act together in governance arrangements, they may not have common goals or respond to common incentives. Coping with the challenge of
decisions in sectors defined by resources or decision arenas, and with their socioeconomic effects, typically involves organizations at all levels of government (national, regional, state, and local), as well as nongovernmental public, nonprofit, and private organizations (environmental groups, trade and professional associations, business enterprises, etc.) (e.g., Salamon, 2002; Posner, 1998; O’Toole et al., 1997). Governance processes rarely involve straightforward or highly coordinated responses because different participants usually have very different missions and orientationsand relate to different kinds of constituencies with different values and interests. As they engage in the governance process, responses to calls for concerted action may be halfhearted because what is requested may be peripheral to their missions. Alternatively, they may become involved in a governance problem with the intent to remold and redefine the problem in terms that are closer to their organizational missions. Multilevel, multi-actor governance involves large numbers of veto points where action can be delayed or stalled. Multilevel governance renders even the conveyance of scientific or other information quite difficult since participants at different levels or sectors use different jargon or terminology, so that shared understanding may be very difficult to achieve.
In the absence of established links among interdependent actors in a common authority system, effective governance may depend not only on the exercise of authority by the system, but also on the actors themselves developing processes through which they hold each other accountable. Moreover, the lines of communication need to be open and transparent so that changes in the substance of agreements can be traced through various levels and sectors.
The use of information about climate change and variation in multilevel governance processes presents both a research challenge and an opportunity. Making climate science useful requires negotiating this difficult terrain and continual modification of the form and content of information and the rationale for information adoption. Social science research can help identify specific pathways that exist or could be forged between actors presently engaged in governance and others that could be involved to make coping with climate variability and change more effective, efficient, equitable, responsive, or accountable. Social science research can also identify appropriate tools that can be used to motivate recalcitrant actors or overcome impediments to effective governance that involves multiple levels and actors of various types.
Building and Maintaining Knowledge-Action Systems
As we emphasize throughout this report, two-way communication that involves the producers and users of science is critical to the innova-
tions that make science useful. For most decision makers, who do not already have links to trusted sources of climate information, communication depends on formal or informal networks that link scientific producers and consumers, sometimes called knowledge-action systems (Cash et al., 2003; National Research Council, 2005b). Such systems consist of networks of linked individuals and organizations that perform knowledge-related functions, such as research, development, demonstration, and adoption of knowledge-based practices. Such networks are likely to be particularly important in making climate science useful because good decisions depend on insights from a very broad spectrum of scientific specialties, because many classes of decision makers do not have good sources for scientific information relevant to their decisions, and because networks can begin to establish the interorganizational understandings and norms that facilitate change in a complex, multi-actor system. The multidisciplinary nature of climate science cuts across traditional approaches and also across conventional institutional arrangements for conducting research and for informing policy. Furthermore, owing to the long timescales of the challenges associated with climate change and the changing nature of scientific understanding, there is a need for institutional arrangements, such as knowledge-action networks, that have continuity into the foreseeable future and the capacity to adapt.
For many decision contexts, such networks are not yet established, perhaps because many decision makers have found no potential benefit from climate science until recently, when forecasting skill began to exceed reliance on historical averages. However, many constituencies of potential climate information users—such as water, floodplain, and disaster managers; farmers; mayors; city managers; and coastal zone managers—already have professional associations or other organizations that serve them. Many of these organizations have long experience bringing together various kinds of knowledge for the benefit of their constituents, and they could potentially do the same with climate science information. One of the outcomes of NOAA’s RISA Program may be to establish new networks that link such constituencies at the regional level to good sources of climate information. SARP could attempt to do the same for sectoral constituencies.
As a possible example, consider the decisions of some insurance companies not to write new homeowners’ policies in certain coastal areas after recent hurricane-related losses and perhaps also in anticipation of increased losses in the future. These decisions are likely to reverberate through a variety of public- and private-sector organizations and individual households in ways that are hard to predict. Ideally, information about climate-related risks to coastal property would be useful to a range of actors, including insurance companies, home builders and remodelers,
building code writers and other local and state government officials, real estate agents, and current and prospective homeowners. In addition, the decisions of these groups are interrelated, so they potentially form a social network that collectively could use and act on information from climate science. Some of these groups have constituency organizations and some do not; moreover, no network exists to connect them and thus reveal their common interest in information from climate projections. SARP could support research projects to investigate how information about climate change might be developed and made available for salient decisions about residential property in coastal regions. The same research might facilitate discussion among these decision makers about climate change, thereby promoting the creation of a network based on the climate-affected decisions they must all be making.
Some generic knowledge exists about how such networks come about, how they operate, and how they ensure their continuity over time. For example, research on process accountability and inclusive management (e.g., Feldman and Khadamian, 2000, 2001, 2007) suggests that such networks can build trust among diverse participants and can be managed, although doing so requires nontraditional management techniques. Other research suggests that in groups that manage common-pool resources, such as most water supplies, network resilience is a result of flexibility and adaptive capacity to accommodate changed circumstances and new sources of information (e.g., National Research Council, 2002a). At the local level, such institutions can be found in water users associations, some of which have existed for a century or more (e.g., Ostrom and Gardner, 1993; Bardhan and Dayton-Johnson, 2002), and associations of fishers (e.g., Berkes et al., 2001). Researchers have examined the ways in which such groups have sustained themselves by incorporating local knowledge and adapting to changing and uncertain circumstances (e.g., Wilson, 2002).
This existing generic research suggests a host of questions that are worth exploring in the context of knowledge-action networks for incorporating information about climate variability and change into sectoral decisions. For example:
Must small and simple networks demonstrate success before larger ones can effectively tackle large, difficult problems?
If bureaucratic structures have limited effectiveness for dealing with rapidly developing knowledge, are there alternative structures with fluid and adaptive networks that are likely to be more effective and useful?
Is it possible to build effective knowledge-action networks under circumstances of high levels of distrust and conflicting goals?
How do the development trajectories of networks influence the uptake and use of scientific information?
What kind of leadership is essential to the continuity and success of knowledge-action networks?
How can networks be held accountable when leadership is unclear and membership is constantly changing?
When knowledge-action networks are organized to inform decisions, what kinds of decision rules take best advantage of diverse sources of information? Which decision rules or procedures are most effective when values are in conflict?
As discussed above, decision-relevant information is not necessarily used, even when it is delivered to users who can benefit from it. Information travels from producers to users only when it has certain characteristics (Jacobs et al., 2006). As already noted, it must be salient and important to potential users, and it must reach their awareness (e.g., National Research Council, 2005b). It must be perceived as legitimate, considering multiple perspectives in an even-handed way (e.g., Cash et al., 2003). Agencies may be suspicious of each other and generally of information that comes from the outside. And it must be seen as decision relevant and credible by potential users (e.g., Mitchell et al., 2006). As noted above, NOAA’s seasonal forecasts were initially resisted by resource managers because they weren’t accurate to the degree the managers desired for informing their decisions—an instance of the supply of climate science being misaligned with decision makers’ demand (e.g., Rayner et al., 2005).
SARP is currently focusing on two resource sectors—water and coastal resource management—each of which involves various classes of decision makers and is likely to provide opportunities for a variety of knowledge-action networks. Some relevant networks may already exist or be in various stages of formation, though information linkages are likely to be weak or lacking.
SARP could benefit from a variety of research projects that would study existing knowledge-action networks, including those created by RISA centers, or assess the potential for creating new networks or strengthening the capacity of existing ones to use climate information. Such networks are vitally important to human adaptation and management of climate change. To pursue this line of work, SARP would require an intentional strategy for choosing research projects from among the many that could be proposed in the water and coastal resource management sectors.
We have identified a variety of kinds of use-inspired science that are critical for making improved climate forecasting useful to individuals and organizations. Given the focus of SARP and our charge, our recommendations are focused exclusively on social and behavioral science. And because SARP is a small program, we have had to prioritize needs for the short term. Thus, despite the importance of a wide spectrum of social and behavioral science questions that arise from specific needs in the water and coastal resource management sectors, SARP must focus its research efforts on a more circumscribed agenda.
We recommend that the Sectoral Applications Research Program support research to identify and foster the innovations needed to make information about climate variability and change more usable in specific sectors, including research on the processes that influence success or failure in the creation of knowledge-action networks for making climate information useful for decision making. This research should be the major focus of the Sectoral Applications Research Program support over the next 3-5 years. Support should go to research that offers the largest potential benefit to decision making across sectors.
The recommended studies would examine how the understanding and use of climate information are affected by various characteristics of decision-making individuals, groups, or organizations and their contexts, especially including the development and functioning of networks that link the producers and consumers of such information. Studies might investigate specific decision makers or classes of decision makers in a resource-defined sector or make comparisons across different kinds of decision makers in or among sectors; they might also include research on possible strategies for overcoming barriers to innovation. Three questions deserve particular attention:
Under what conditions do existing networks or partnerships effectively incorporate sources of knowledge about climate change and variability? Many existing partnerships and networked relationships that deal with human problems may make more effective decisions if they incorporate appropriate information about climate. In water resource management, for example, local watershed groups bring landowners and other water users together on a regular basis to resolve local problems. For example, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), a long-standing partnership among 13 Southern California water purveyors, is faced with
many difficult problems that include uncertain and possibly diminishing supplies, growing demand, and threats to water quality. Climate change is likely to exacerbate all of these problems, although the MWD is convinced from past successes that it can surmount challenges. It would be important to better understand the factors conducive to success.
How can individuals or relatively unorganized constituencies develop ways to become informed about how climate variability and change may affect them? The example mentioned above, concerning the risks to residential property in coastal regions from climate change and the associated actions of home insurers, points to the need to make climate change information useful to as-yet unorganized constituencies.
What roles can climate information play in network construction and continuity? Resource management networks are often fragile. The recent example of CALFED, a joint state and federal collaborative effort to manage the Sacramento Bay delta, shows that even with enormous expenditures and the best of intentions, effective networks may become destabilized due to unexpected events and political challenges. In 2000, the California collaborative published a Record of Decision that committed federal and state agencies to jointly coordinating their regulatory, permitting, planning, and funding decisions, which was supposed to stabilize the institution in face of change in political party control of the federal executive branch. However, by 2003, events and circumstances began to unravel pieces of the CALFED coordinated approach. Formalization of agreements in the creation of a California Bay Delta Authority drained agency attention away from coordination. A lack of federal government funding and leadership was also a problem. Federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA fisheries disagreed about exporting more water out of the delta. Fisheries numbers crashed for unexplained reasons, and the whole enterprise fell under criticism by the legislature. A “Little Hoover Commission” reviewed CALFED and found it seriously flawed. Although CALFED survives and continues with some important work, its future remains uncertain (Innes et al., 2007).
It is difficult to know whether a network has sufficient resilience and ability to innovate in order to meet its members’ needs. It is also very difficult to measure the outcomes of network activities on social and physical environments. Identifying the characteristics of effective networks and documenting their accomplishments is important for the success of NOAA’s climate science mission and to the evaluation of SARP.
We are recommending that SARP devote all its research resources in the near term to issues of social innovation for the use of climate science in selected sectors and not support other areas of use-inspired social and behavioral science research that are also important to its mission goals.
We make this recommendationof focused, circumscribed funding because of SARP’s limited resources and the central role of social innovation in getting climate science information used.
We believe, however, that achievement of SARP’s and NOAA’s mission goals will be hampered by lack of attention to other areas of social and behavioral science research. We therefore urge other agencies in NOAA or CCSP to support other important lines of research relevant to decision support.These lines include several research areas already noted above, such as human influences on vulnerability and collaborative production of climate science information, as well as other worthy lines of research not identified here. (Also see National Research Council, 2005a, which identifies a set of behavioral and social science research priorities for improving environmental decision making.) For instance, although interesting and perhaps critical to NOAA’s mission, a study of the processes through which citizens come to take individual-level precautions to reduce vulnerability to climate variation and change is outside the research agenda we recommend for SARP.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SCIENCE PRODUCERS AND USERS
As we discuss throughout this report, social innovations that involve the creation of new practices of information gathering and decision making that take climate-related information into account require effective communication links between the producers and users of this information. Although some decision-making constituencies have organizations with the resources to produce or interpret the climate science information they need—for example, the Reinsurance Association of America has hired climate scientists—most do not. In most sectors, making climate science usable will depend on developing knowledge-action networks that link people who have not previously worked together, introducing decision makers to decision-relevant information that they have not previously considered, and encouraging scientists to develop information relevant to pending and upcoming decisions.
As the RISA Program’s activities demonstrate, it is worth investing in developing knowledge-action networks for decision support at a regional level. Through the RISA Program, NOAA is investing in processes that support scientists going into the field to listen to users and learn their perspectives, needs, and problems as a way to develop such networks (National Research Council, 2005b). These networks are inter-
active between the producers and users of science and can link a wide variety of decision makers together to find information to help solve problems they have in common.
The RISA Program reinforces positive lessons from such programs as the National Weather Service (National Research Council, 2003a), Agricultural Extension (e.g., National Research Council, 1996a) the Sea Grant Program (e.g., National Research Council, 1994), and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program (National Research Council, 2003b), which have linked science to its users. Increasingly, the kinds of problems being encountered in environmental governance require the collaboration of actors from public and private realms at all levels to bring together decision makers from many organizations with a wide variety of expertise, including experiential knowledge. Scientific information is central to the operation of these networks as they are formed to understand or solve problems rather than simply to advance certain interests or narrow agendas. Because of their problem orientation, such networks foster useful links between use-inspired social and physical sciences and an iterative relationship between knowledge producers and users. They also generate demands for use-inspired research, some of which the RISA centers actually carry out for their constituents.
RISAs are organized geographically, bringing together decision makers from different levels of government, from universities, and from nongovernmental and private-sector organizations to tailor climate science for particular and localized problems that include water issues, fire management, drought, and public health. SARP could use this model to introduce climate science into existing networks defined by the resources they use or by their decision functions. SARP could also catalyze creation of knowledge-action networks among climate-affected decision makers that lack direct and usable access to climate information. For example, coastal zone managers are already networked through professional associations, journals, and other dissemination mechanisms. Projects under SARP could tap into such knowledge networks to introduce climate science to coastal decision makers. In some cases SARP could partner with existing science applications organizations, such as Sea Grant or Agricultural Extension, to translate climate information into action. Or SARP projects could work with postdisaster recovery, planning, and rebuilding professionals, who are less well networked, to elevate the importance of climate-related risks in postdisaster planning and rebuilding. “Critical moments”—such as the relicensing of infrastructure or adoption of comprehensive plans—may also provide opportunities for introducing climate science to new networks of users.
As the RISA Program experience is making clear, networks require ongoing support in terms of money and staff, both for new scientific
activities driven by the needs of emerging decisions and for maintenance of working relationships. Continuing support of knowledge-action networks will compete with research support in a fixed budget, raising the possibility that over time, research activities will become so small in relation to the operational burden that the program no longer provides needed new knowledge. The SARP budget would not go very far in support and maintenance of multiple knowledge-action networks. With these considerations in mind, we propose several areas of emphasis for SARP in relation to promoting communication between science producers and users over the next several years.
The need for social and behavioral science knowledge to support the general mission of NOAA, or even SARP’s narrower sectoral mission, is much greater than can be adequately served by current or likely future budgets and other resources. Resource scarcity dictates a focus on three primary types of investments over the next 3-5 years in addition to the use-inspired sectoral social science research projects recommended above: workshops, research on the development of networks, and pilot projects.
In terms of resources, we believe SARP should commit up to roughly half of its budget during the first year, and a declining fraction thereafter, to fund workshops in order to identify sectors and decision domains that may benefit from targeted efforts similar to those dedicated to water and coastal zone management. The pilot project or projects would represent a significant fraction of the overall SARP budget beginning in the second or third year and would require reallocations of funds from the research program and workshops.
We recommend that the Sectoral Applications Research Program support several workshops each year for the next 3 years to identify, catalyze, and assess the potential of knowledge-action networks in sectors, defined by resource areas (e.g., water, coastal resources) or decision-making domains (e.g., emergency response, insurance, planning, and zoning). The Sectoral Applications Research Program should also support selected follow-up activities.
The recommended workshops would provide support to bring together individuals, organizations, or existing networks of potential users and producers of climate information from several communities:
information users (e.g., planners, policy makers, and managers in affected sectors); information producers (e.g., researchers, modelers, applications specialists); potential boundary spanners (e.g., extension agents, outreach specialists in professional and trade associations), and program managers involved in funding and supporting decision support systems. The workshops would establish and strengthen communication among information producers and consumers. They would aim to: (1) identify the climate-related issues important to the sector or decision domain, (2) characterize the kinds of climate-related information that would help inform decisions in the sector or domain, (3) determine whether existing climate information is adequate, and (4) identify climate or social research needed to produce information that is not yet available. The workshops would also be used to identify barriers to awareness, use, and integration of climate-related knowledge by decision makers and to identify barriers to production of the needed information by scientists.
SARP should encourage proposals that build on existing networks, such as the RISAs, extension programs (including Sea Grant), and national professional associations, linking them and their constituents to good sources of climate-related information. In addition to building on existing networks, SARP should encourage workshop proposals for developing new networks involving types of decision makers not already well networked. For example, homeowners in vulnerable coastal or floodplain areas who are facing steeply increasing insurance premiums may have a shared interest in making renovations that could protect their properties and lower insurance premiums. Another promising network might include members of planning and zoning commissions in small or medium-sized communities (who are rarely, if ever, brought together) to share experiences or to learn about how climate information could be used to make their communities less vulnerable and more resilient. Still another possible network might include actuaries or others in the insurance industry who need to consider changing risks from climatic events in their management guidelines and policy rates.
If a first workshop demonstrates effectiveness in promoting the creation of a new network or increasing the capacity of an existing one to produce innovation in the production or use of climate information or in decision routines and practices, SARP should provide two avenues to build on that success: a noncompetitive renewal option for up to two additional workshops to extend the success of the first workshop or support for a pilot project (see below).
We also urge SARP to support research on the processes that influence success or failure in the creation of knowledge-action networks for making climate information useful for decision making. Such research would use the recommended workshops in part as a laboratory for
learning about network development. The work would draw on relevant knowledge to develop hypotheses and decide what sorts of observations to make about the workshops or what sorts of questions to ask participants and those who declined to participate. Of course, the participants in such workshops should be informed in advance that the workshops have research purposes as well as practical ones and should give informed consent to participation in research.
We recommend that the Sectoral Applications Research Program, beginning no earlier than 1 year after funding the first workshop, support one or more pilot projects to create or enhance a knowledge-action network for supporting climate-related decisions in a sector defined by resource or decision domain.
The recommended pilot projects are a natural outgrowth of an initial workshop or set of workshops, with the purpose of carrying forward successful results of workshops toward the creation of new products or processes for making climate-related information more useful to decision makers. A pilot project would begin to create or improve a network that combines a base of use-inspired knowledge with effective interconnections between the potential producers and users of climate information to ensure that the science is decision relevant and understood as such.
The goal of the recommended pilot projects is to establish mechanisms for combining research and interconnections to perform a function of integrated information provision. This is an adaptive way to reflect changing decision needs and scientific advances. For example, if a workshop resulted in an idea to develop a new information product from climate-related natural or social science or a new process for communication about climate issues in the sector, the pilot project might include efforts to develop the innovation and test it with decision makers in the network. In considering proposals for pilot projects, SARP should carefully evaluate candidates’ chances of success and recognize that there is considerable risk in network promotion, support, and growth. Consequently, SARP should take this risk with a small number of proposed networks.
A component of any pilot project should be the examination of the process of creating knowledge-action networks. Little is known about the factors that affect whether such networks can be purposefully constructed. The experience of the RISAs suggests that contiguous regions that share aspects of climate and resources can be the basis of very effective knowledge-action networks. However, it is not clear that this success can be created in heterogeneous circumstances, when sectors are not
regionally based. An urban sector, for instance, may encompass such enormous variation among decision makers in their day-to-day responsibilities that differences overwhelm commonalities traceable to climate and so form barriers to functioning networks.
Applicants for a sector-based pilot project should be asked to make the case that the knowledge-action connections they propose to establish are likely to provide new and useful climate information to a significant group of decision makers and that the relationship established with SARP funding is likely to continue after the pilot period. They should also be asked to show how their effort will contribute to knowledge about building knowledge-action networks and making them effective links between climate science and decisions.
We recommend that SARP not sponsor pilot projects for at least 1 year after funding the initial workshops in order to provide time to build experience and knowledge from the research and workshop activities. We emphasize the need for pilot projects to include a significant research component devoted to improving knowledge of the human dimensions of climate variability and change. The RISA Program experience has shown that it is expensive to operate a network. We are reluctant to recommend using scarce research funds for operational costs.
The number of pilot projects undertaken should depend on what is learned from the workshops about the number of areas that are ripe for successful pilot projects and on growth in the size of the SARP budget. We envision one pilot project beginning in year two. Given that an effective pilot project might cost up to $500,000 per year for 3 years, we do not expect that SARP will be able to afford to support more than one initially. Possibly two other projects could begin between year two and year five, when the program should be reassessed in light of changing needs, scientific capabilities, and resources.
SARP should not support long-term maintenance of networks created by pilot projects, and it may not even be able to offer continued support for the delivery of scientific information through them. Emerging networks would need to seek such continuing support from other sources. SARP’s decision criteria for support of proposed pilot projects should favor proposals from researchers who have commitments for partnership from some relevant actors and organizations and that can make a convincing argument that their start-up efforts are likely to become self-supporting, perhaps through the availability of matching funds.
Investments in research and in communication processes should be selected to be mutually beneficial. Use-inspired research projects can identify sectors and networks that are worthy candidates for future workshops and pilot projects. As already noted, research efforts should also be integrated into and funded as components of workshops and pilot
projects so that they will add knowledge while also improving communication and decision support. For the first year, research efforts should take up roughly half of SARP’s budget. The proportion of program dollars committed to use-inspired research may change in subsequent years as the portfolio of research, workshops, and pilot projects changes and other sources of support for the needed research are identified.