Climate in Context – How partnerships evolve in regions

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Adam Scott Parris, NOAA Washington DC, Washington, DC, United States
In 2015, NOAA's RISA program will celebrate its 20th year of exploration in the development of usable climate information. In the mid-1990s, a vision emerged to develop interdisciplinary research efforts at the regional scale for several important reasons. Recognizable climate patterns, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), emerge at the regional level where our understanding of observations and models coalesce. Critical resources for society are managed in a context of regional systems, such as water supply and human populations. Multiple scales of governance (local, state, and federal) with complex institutional relationships can be examined across a region. Climate information (i.e. data, science, research etc) developed within these contexts has greater potential for use.

All of this work rests on a foundation of iterative engagement between scientists and decision makers. Throughout these interactions, RISAs have navigated diverse politics, extreme events and disasters, socio-economic and ecological disruptions, and advances in both science and technology. Our understanding of information needs is evolving into a richer understanding of complex institutional, legal, political, and cultural contexts within which people can use science to make informed decisions. The outcome of RISA work includes both cases where climate information was used in decisions and cases where capacity for using climate information and making climate resilient decisions has increased over time. In addition to balancing supply and demand of scientific information, RISAs are engaged in a social process of reconciling climate information use with important drivers of society.

Because partnerships are critical for sustained engagement, and because engagement is critically important to the use of science, the rapid development of new capacity in regionally-based science programs focused on providing climate decision support is both needed and challenging. New actors can bolster existing partnerships, but also impact trust developed through engagement. Examining other partnership-driven science initiatives, such as Digital Coast or NIDIS, can help identify critical elements of governance and network management that could be applied to the regional climate programs.