The co-production of actionable science: A decision maker's perspective
In January, 2009, the Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) unveiled a term, "actionable science," and defined it in a keynote at a USEPA climate change adaptation conference. The term was intended to convey to the climate science, federal agency, and science funding communities the kind of science on climate change needed by WUCA members -- and the adaptation community in general -- to assist us in assessing vulnerability and making adaptation decisions. The term neither disparaged peer review science nor overinflated the role of science in general in decision making. Instead it sought to differentiate between work pursued academically and published in the peer review literature, which while critically important is largely unread (and unreadable) to non-scientist decision makers, and scientific literature and analyses that can be used to support decision making where decision making occurs at the local, regional, and state government level in particular. In June 2014, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, in the section entitled "Using Sound Science to Manage Climate Impacts," called for actions including “developing actionable climate science” to "develop the information and tools needed by decision-makers." Subsequently, a federal advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS), published an expanded draft definition of “actionable science” that said it was “ideally co-produced by scientists and decision makers.” The co-production dynamic refers to the process in which scientists and decision makers work together from the outset of any analysis to define and iteratively respond together to the myriad dynamics at play during the climate change assessment and adaptation process. Within DOI, under the auspices of the U.S. Geological Survey, eight Climate Science Centers operating throughout the fifty states are providing some of today's most important success stories in co-producing actionable science. Finally, in May 2015, the Water Utility Climate Alliance released a white paper presenting the results of four water utility climate vulnerability assessments that modeled co-production of actionable science and drew lessons from long-term collaborations between scientists and drinking water providers.
Co-production and actionable science are increasingly well-understood terms and objectives, and early achievements indicate these concepts may underlie future successful response to climate change by decision makers in land and ecosystem management, natural and cultural resource management, public health, coastal zone planning and other adaptation contexts. In this talk we will explain definitions, explore success stories, and identify barriers that must be overcome for this paradigm to achieve widespread success.