Public Release: 

New report reviews plan for US Global Change Research Program

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON -- The draft 10-year strategic plan for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) -- which shapes and coordinates climate and related global environmental change research efforts of numerous agencies and departments across the federal government -- is "evolving in the right direction," but several key issues could strengthen these planning efforts, says a new report from the National Research Council.

The committee that wrote the report found that the proposed broadening of USGCRP's scope to address not only climate change but also other climate-related global changes is appropriate and an important step. However, the draft plan does not always acknowledge significant challenges, such as increasingly constrained budget resources, involved in meeting its goals, nor does it offer clear strategies for how such challenges could be addressed. There is also the practical challenge of maintaining clear boundaries for an expanded program.

The committee emphasized the need to identify initial steps the program would take to achieve the proposed broadening of its scope, develop critical science capacity that is now lacking, and link the production of knowledge to its use. It also stressed that without a strong governance structure that could compel reallocation of funds to serve overarching priorities, the program would likely continue as merely a compilation of efforts deriving from each member agency's individual priorities.

Broadening the program to better integrate the social and ecological sciences, inform climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, and emphasize decision support is welcome and essential for meeting the legislative mandate for the program, the committee said. Nevertheless, implementing this wider scope requires more than incremental solutions. For instance, there is insufficient expertise within member agencies in the social and ecological sciences, and some agencies lack clear mandates to develop the needed expertise.

The report also suggests that the USGCRP plan could be strengthened by:

  • offering a more coherent summary of past important accomplishments, including an assessment of successes that were possible only because of USGCRP actions;
  • establishing clear processes for setting priorities and phasing in and out elements of the program;
  • employing iterative processes for periodically evaluating and updating the program and its priorities; and
  • more carefully defining the education, communication, and work-force development efforts that belong within the program and which efforts would be best organized by entities outside the program.

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The study was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, is an independent, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter granted to the NAS in 1863.

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Pre-publication copies of A Review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's Draft Strategic Plan are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program

Warren M. Washington1 (chair)
Senior Scientist
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colo.

Kai N. Lee (vice chair)
Program Officer
Conservation and Science Program
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Los Altos, Calif.

Mark R. Abbott
Dean and Professor
College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences
Oregon State University
Corvallis

Doug Arent
Executive Director
Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Golden, Colo.

Susan K. Avery
President and Director
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, Mass.

Robert E. Dickinson1,2
Professor
Department of Geological Sciences
University of Texas
Austin

Thomas Dietz
Assistant Vice President for Environmental Research, and
Professor of Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy, and Animal Studies
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Henry D. Jacoby
Professor of Management, and
Co-Director
Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge

Maria Carmen Lemos
Professor
School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Ian Roy Noble
Chief Scientist
Global Adaptation Institute
Washington, D.C.

Camille Parmesan
Associate Professor of Integrative Biology
University of Texas
Austin

Karen C. Seto
Associate Professor of the Urban Environment
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

Kathleen J. Tierney
Professor of Sociology, and
Director
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
University of Colorado
Boulder

Charles J. Vorosmarty
Director
Global Environmental Sensing and Water Sensing Initiative, and
Professor
Department of Civil Engineering
City University of New York
New York City

John M. Wallace
Professor
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
University of Washington
Seattle

Gary W. Yohe
Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies
Wesleyan University
Middletown, Conn.

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

Laurie Geller
Study Director


1 Member, National Academy of Engineering

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences

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