391 Methods of Engagement: RISA Approaches

Monday, 11 January 2016
Caitlin Fiona Simpson, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD

For more than a decade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA)-supported Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) research teams have emphasized iterative engagement with decision makers as part of their climate research agendas and their approach to improve the capacity of decision makers to adapt to climate variability and change. These RISA teams, which cover the majority of the U.S., are designed to conduct both fundamental research and work with decision makers as well as producers of climate information to increase the usability of the knowledge that RISAs and others produce. This presentation will explore the research questions posed and the methods that have been utilized by four of the RISA teams to further our understanding of these issues.

The RISA teams have long and diverse experience with stakeholder engagement of many kinds. RISA researchers regularly and extensively participate in meetings with decision makers and listen to their concerns, promoting two-way learning and trust for the knowledge they produce. They also formally study some cases of stakeholder interactions to understand and build theory on its role in increasing climate information usability. More recently, RISA work has expanded to include identifying and analyzing information flows across networks of scientists and decision makers and figuring out how to support these networks by working with key individuals or nodes and providing useful information to them.

To understand the decision context of the planners, managers and communities with which the teams interact, RISAs draw from a range of social science methods and do so in an interdisciplinary social-physical science framework. The methodological underpinnings of that approach are the results of years of experiments with applying various methods to understand the complexities of decision maker needs for climate information and the contexts within which those decision makers manage resources and plan for the future. RISA teams have used a range of approaches depending on the questions to be answered and the type of data needed. The selection of methodology also reflects decisions on how to engage with diverse decision-makers from farmers to state agency officials in order to create long-term relationships. This involves taking into consideration such issues as building working relationships, avoiding stakeholder fatigue, and fostering regional networks.

By drawing on the experiences of the four RISA teams of the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA), the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), and the Western Water Assessment (WWA) as well as overall management of the RISA network, we will highlight the approaches used by RISA to engage decision makers and improve their use of climate impacts and adaptation information.

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