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The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans (1990)

Chapter:3. Processes for Coordination and Review

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Suggested Citation:"3. Processes for Coordination and Review." National Research Council. 1990. The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1606.
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Suggested Citation:"3. Processes for Coordination and Review." National Research Council. 1990. The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1606.
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Page23
Suggested Citation:"3. Processes for Coordination and Review." National Research Council. 1990. The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1606.
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Page24

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Processes for Coordination and Review Are Current Processes of Coordination and Review Adequate? A particular strength of the USGCRP is the high degree of col- laboration among the major research agencies that fund and carry out re- search in the biological and earth sciences, realized organizationally through the CEES. These efforts have developed a working, multi-agency process whereby plans for the USGCRP are coordinated through the CEES Work- ing Group on Global Change and its various Disk Groups. The process can focus joint resources on areas of research that are of broad national and international concern. The CEES planning process offers as well an additional mechanism to preserve program focus, through procedures of the CEES that now subject proposed USGCRP initiatives of individual agencies to interagency scrutiny. The CEES interagency approach is a useful mechanism which, if ef- fectively coupled with ongoing, external review processes, has the potential to provide the structure for an exceptionally strong program of research. Three particular needs are outlined below. CONTINUED INVOLVEMENT OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY IN PROGRAM PLANNING AND REVIE:VV In the formative stages of the USGCRP, independent advice on the overall scientific strategy and approach of the program was provided 22

23 through a close working relationship with the NRC's Committee on Global Change. As the USGCRP enters its implementation phase, the activities of the CGC and other advisory mechanisms will have to shift emphasis to include more directed activities of periodic program review and reevalua- tion. The panel sees a need as well for extramural advisory panels to guide and review programs within each of the federal agencies that contribute to the focused program. Such panels can provide an effective mechanism for maintaining the elements of balance discussed above, to ensure program flexibility, and to preserve the needed program focus. Some but not all agencies with focused program elements now use panels of this sort. MECHANISMS FOR SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT AND THE DELIVERY OF POLICY ADVICE The USGCRP is designed to establish the scientific basis for national and international policymaking with the goal of providing an objective foun- dation of fact for rational policy debate and effective action. Specifically, the program promises to deliver (1) timely information to Congress, the Executive Branch, and others; (2) periodic assessments of scientific under- standing in critical areas of global change; and (3) seasonal, interannual, and ultimately interdecadal projections of selected climate impacts. The mechanisms that will be needed to achieve these goals, involving assimilation of results including those of modeling and processes of respon- sible review and consensus, are not specified in plans for the USGCRP, but they will soon need to be. Nor is it clear which agency, or agencies, will take the lead in performing these important roles. The degree to which reliable projections can realistically be expected, the specifications of well-reasoned limits on their accuracy and the process through which projections are to be provided and delivered are as yet undefined. The panel feels that filling this void must be a priority element of subsequent budgets for the program. INTERACTION AMONG PARTICIPATING AGENCIES The USGCRP has developed on the basis of extraordinary cooperation and interaction among many federal agencies through the CEES. Intera- gency agreement on program goals, the ordering of scientific priorities of research tasks within them, and agreements on an overall, multi-agengy program budget reflect what may be an unprecedented achievement in interagency coordination. While this exemplary level of coordination applies to the program as a whole, it is not as evident in the selection of agency initiatives that are proposed to achieve progress in the various science priorities. Lacking

24 in some cases, in the view of the panel, is evidence of what might be called "zero-based" program- definition, i.e., interagency agreement for each science priority on what is needed to answer the highest priority research questions, whether or not the needed initiatives now exist within a given agency. Several perceived shortcomings are noted in AppendLx B. The need for increased interagency interaction at this level applies to most if not all of the identified science priorities. Improved definitions can be achieved in future years through more specific program recommendations on the part of the CGC and through implementation of them on the part of interagency Disk Groups that have now been established by the CEES. PRINCIPAL RECOMMENDATIONS The panel believes that the multi-agency process established through the CEES provides the mechanism for a coordinated, effective program. However, mechanisms need to be strengthened to involve the extramural scientific community in the review of the USGCRP plans, both at the levels of both the overall program and the individual participating agencies. In addition, mechanisms need to be developed for evaluating the successes of the program, for delivering results to policymakers, and for improving interaction among the participating agencies on specific projects included within the USGCRP.

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