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Updated 12 October, 2003
Climate Science: Development of
The charge for this document focuses primarily on climate modeling and those activities linked to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Questions are raised about links to programs that focus on weather forecasting and seasonal-to-interannual predictions. Further questions are related to the "data" missions of the U.S. agencies. The report will focus on the climate-modeling problem with the following constraints.
3.1) Changes in Research Needs and Expectations
Historically, scientific inquiry into the Earth's climate has been primarily maintained by discovery-driven research. The structure for funding of U.S. science was developed to support this research and focuses on the activities of individuals or small groups that can be managed with relatively little formal management structure. The net result of this history is effective, high-quality scientific inquiry.
Presently, climate scientists are seeing a significant change in the demands made on their scientifically derived results. New expectations range from seasonal predictions to provision of best, state-of-the-art at a given time, assessment of potential changes in the Earth's climate, including related issues of chemical composition and regional pollution. Traditionally, these extended activities have been addressed by taxing discovery-driven research activities. This approach was adequate when the needed capabilities of these extended applications were exploratory, and when U.S. scientific activities were at the leading edge of international science activities. This is no longer the case.
The current situation of climate science in the U.S. is one of great tension between expectations and the capability to meet those expectations. The strength of U.S. efforts is diversity, with many individual scientists having unprecedented resources. They control their own computational resources and have desktop or departmental capabilities that allow flexible, thorough experimentation. The line managers at Agency laboratories, however, function with great frustration. They do not have the infrastructure to build the algorithms and then deliver the products that are expected of them. They do not possess all of the needed expertise in their organizations. They do not have the ability to incorporate, effectively, the diverse expertise that resides in the community. They do not have the resources or authority to integrate the diverse activities towards focused goals. And, finally, if they seek the needed changes to remedy the situation, they meet with great resistance because the needed changes challenge the culture of U.S. science.
3.2) Definition of Discovery-driven Research
Discovery-driven research is closely associated with individual Principal Investigators (PI's), who propose to investigate particular hypotheses or phenomena. In terms of deliverables, discovery-driven science strives to deliver "understanding" with the tangible product being research reports, related scientific presentations, and ultimately, peer-reviewed journal manuscripts. The customer is both the peer community in which the PI operates and the Program Manager who funds the research. In most cases, the delivery of peer-reviewed publications leads to a statement of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction realized through peer-reviewed proposals that help to determine whether or not a particular effort continues to receive funding. Time-criticality of the delivery of discovery-driven research is determined by the evolution of the field and the requirement that the PI remain current and competitive in the community of peers. Extension to larger group activities is through ad hoc collaborations that develop through either mutual self-benefit or steering by program or center management.
3.3) Definition of Product-driven Research
In product-driven science, the primary deliverables are data products, simulations, and algorithms that are used by others in a variety of applications. In many instances, the applications contribute to discovery-driven research leading to the generation of peer-reviewed papers, which then testify to the quality of the original product. Increasingly, however, the products are used to support societal and policy needs. Direct customer feedback requires quickly addressing product shortcomings, which precludes the more contemplative time scales of discovery-driven science. Ideally, peer-reviewed papers stand at the basis of the scientific integrity of the product, but technical reports and documentation become more important. Product performance and customer perceptions of the scientific quality of the product can overwhelm the role of peer-reviewed papers. Scientific inquiry is often cut short in order to provide the closure needed to assure product delivery; the customer effectively takes away some of the Principal Investigator's prerogatives. All told, product-driven science requires resource investment in the infrastructure to support the product, and directs scientists away from peer-reviewed papers delivered on a more or less casual schedule.
3.4) Definition of High-end Modeling
This document proposes an integrated approach to climate science. By charge, the emphasis is on high-end modeling and its related computing. We assert that a balanced, strategic approach is needed, where the word "strategic" will be used to suggest activities that require any or all of the following
The word "balanced" is used to make explicit that resources must be invested in all of the elements necessary to develop the required climate-science capabilities. This requires a systems approach where the capabilities and interactions of all the individual elements are considered with the goals of the combined capabilities taking priority over the goals of the individual elements.
While the emphasis of this document will be on modeling and its related computing, there is full recognition that issues of data collection, data use, and data management are a key part to climate science and to a successful modeling capability. Many of the concepts introduced here are relevant to the Data Element (Section 4) of climate science, but they will not be developed to the same level as the issues regarding modeling.
The following pairs of adjectives can be used to divide research activities broadly (and imperfectly) into two categories.
Modeling capabilities described by the adjectives in Column I are the primary focus of this document and will be defined as "high-end modeling." Current high-end modeling activities include those used to forecast weather, to provide seasonal predictions, and to provide both chemical and climatic assessments on longer time scales. High-end modeling activities also include related data assimilation activities, which are central to chemistry and climate studies. This document focuses, by charge, most strongly on activities associated with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP); however, an essential aspect of a comprehensive strategy includes increased formalism of the interactions between climate-oriented activities (longer time scales) and more operationally oriented forecast activities (shorter time scales).
Efforts in both Column I and Column II are both essential parts of a vital modeling capability. The current balance in the U.S. is tipped towards Column II and this document will identify the necessary steps that must be executed in order to grow an effective high-end modeling capability. This capability cannot be built by redirection of research funds that are linked with the USGCRP and will require infusion of new funds. The "mission" agencies, NOAA, NASA, and DOE, already fund some activities that are product oriented. NSF, through the Community Climate System Model Program, has taken on the responsibility to provide a research facility for the climate community. These existing capabilities could contribute to the core of a putative climate service. This requires the Agencies to clearly distinguish the funds that might support this core from those funds that support their discovery-related research and manage them appropriately. With the consideration of these existing product-oriented activities, which are broader than those just associated with USGCRP, the needed capabilities can be built from a combination of existing and new funds. The new funds must support the development of product-driven activities and not simply appear as enhancements to existing research activities. Finally, the current discovery-driven research programs generally support high quality and important investigations; therefore, to build a product-driven research institution at the expense of the discovery-driven programs would undermine the underlying research environment that is broadly cited as the greatest strength of the U.S.
3.5) Formation of a Climate Service
The modeling, data, and computing capabilities need to be brought together in a Climate Service, an organization charged with the mission of providing necessary climate products. The formation of this Climate Service requires the development of aligned business practices to support the integration of currently dispersed resources. It is a difficult problem, and stands in conflict with much of the current culture that supports discovery-driven research activities. There are existing activities that, with little controversy, might provide some of the fundamental components of an evolving Climate Service. We assert that, in the near term, the vision of a Climate Service needs to be advanced and that these components be assembled, under strong stable leadership, in concert with this vision. We further assert that a metric of success of the Climate Service will be that it provides a resource to the discovery-driven research community. That is, the Climate Service will draw from the discovery-driven research community and the discovery-driven research community will not only benefit from the products of the Climate Service, but will also benefit from the intellectual interactions with the Climate Service.