From Assessment to Policy Lessons Learned from the U.S. National Assessment (Journal Article)
The process of translating scientific information into timely and useful insights that inform policy and resource management decisions, despite the existence of uncertainties, is a difficult and challenging task. Policy-focused assessment is one approach to achieving this end. It is an ongoing process that engages both researchers and end-users to analyze, evaluate and interpret information from multiple disciplines to draw conclusions that are timely and useful for decision makers. This paper discusses key characteristics of a policy-focused assessment process, including 1) ongoing collaboration between the research, assessment, and stakeholder communities; 2) a focus on stakeholder information needs; 3) multidisciplinary approaches; 4) use of scenarios to deal with uncertainties; and 5) evaluation of risk management options. We illustrate the particular challenge to assessors of providing the specific types of insights stakeholders need to effectively influence policy decisions. And we discuss the role that assessment can play in formulating an agenda for future research. Examples from the U.S. National Assessment of “The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for the United States” are used to illustrate a policy-focused assessment process. For many of the participants, the first U.S. National Assessment was an extraordinary learning experience about how to develop better ways of conducting assessments.