How can U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science better inform societal responses to 21st-century challenges? Such a question is fundamental to strategic and innovative science planning and associated discussions with USGS stakeholders, partners, and the public.
Earth Monitoring, Analysis, and Prediction (EarthMAP)
Future Integrated Predictive Science at the USGS
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 21st-century science strategy 2020–30 promotes a bureau-wide strategy to develop and deliver an integrated, predictive science capability that works at the scales and timelines needed to inform societally relevant resource management and protection and public safety and environmental health decisions (U.S. Geological Survey, 2021). This is the overarching goal of the USGS Earth Monitoring, Analysis, and Prediction (EarthMAP) vision, which consists of three components: (1) integrated data and information, (2) integrated predictive science, and (3) actionable information—all designed and delivered to respond to user needs. To launch this vision and help shape the design and implementation of integrated predictive science, the USGS Regional Offices each developed a set of use cases (hereafter Use Cases)—short descriptions of potential science applications that could clearly address high priority decision-making needs of our stakeholders and that align with an integrated science focus. Use Cases are not actionable science planning documents, nor stand-alone scholarly works, but should be considered as innovative, next-generation science ideas that can be considered as potential components of science plans still under development. The goal of Use Case development was to (1) identify and characterize existing USGS scientific capacities and expertise that can support science goals and products, (2) identify opportunities to leverage current capacities for next-generation science, and (3) foster engagement across the entire Bureau to further refine the USGS strategy for EarthMAP and integrated predictive science.
The Use Case development effort documented in this report was coordinated by the Use Case Development Team (UCDT), consisting of representatives from each region. The UCDT undertook five tasks: (1) develop a unified approach to engage bureau scientists consistently across all regions in aspirational thinking about what can be accomplished; (2) work with the regions and their Science Centers to generate an initial set of Use Cases, authored directly by scientists; (3) characterize, summarize, and document the initial set of Use Case submissions from authors to illuminate bureau-level demand for integrated science; (4) compare existing and needed capacities from the Use Case descriptions with preliminary results of the EarthMAP Capacity Assessment (Keisman and others, 2021); and (5) describe lessons learned from the Use Case development process and provide recommendations to inform future efforts to generate integrated science activities. This report outlines the approach the UCDT developed to solicit Use Cases from the regions and summarizes the high-level qualitative findings from this first-round effort.
The UCDT received 36 Use Cases from the regions and identified potential points of convergence and commonalities considered useful in making connections among the participating scientists. The Southwest (SW) Region and the Rocky Mountain (RM) Region asked scientists to give special consideration to Use Cases with applicability to the Colorado River Basin, and seven of the Use Cases specifically named that geographic area as a focus. Coastal hazards and coastal resilience were identified in Use Cases from the Alaska (AK), Northeast (NE), and Southeast (SE) Regions. Aspects of wildfire and post-wildfire response were part of Uses Cases from AK, RM, and SW Regions. The greatest convergence of Use Case themes was related to conservation of public lands and waters, which is a powerful linkage lending strength to future collaborative efforts.
The most common type of stakeholder decisions that would be informed by the Use Case science applications were related to adaptation, mitigation, and response (for example, how to increase the resilience of coastal communities to climate-related stressors and how to prevent or respond to harmful algal blooms). Other common types of decisions included water and land management decisions (including operational water management decisions such as reservoir operations and land use planning in the sagebrush biome), decisions about how to manage and conserve habitats and species, and risk management decisions (such as managing the post-wildfire flood risks). These decision types are not exclusive because many Use Cases cross categories.
Use Case authors identified existing and needed science and technology capabilities required for Use Case implementation, which were then aligned to capabilities assessed in the EarthMAP Capacity Assessment (Keisman and others, 2021). Strong alignment was found for data and information integration approaches, modeling and prediction approaches, and capabilities related to delivery of actionable information. A majority of Use Cases indicated insufficient current capacity for needed data collection methods, data integration, and modeling and prediction approaches, whereas only 25 percent indicated insufficient capacity for actionable information delivery. Overall, many Use Case capacity demand gaps could potentially be met by existing bureau-wide capacity. In addition, nearly half of the Use Cases could potentially be implemented within 3 years if funding, capabilities, and personnel impediments were removed and science priorities were realigned.
Several challenges emerged during the Use Case development process. The first challenge was developing an approach that was flexible enough to accommodate regional differences in planning and implementation, while also ensuring enough guidance to promote meaningful summary analyses. The UCDT encountered a strong demand for continuous communication and education to improve overall understanding of the integrated predictive science strategy. Another challenge was managing expectations about EarthMAP activities as a design effort that was not aligned to an immediate funding opportunity. Connecting the Use Cases to stakeholder needs without the opportunity for direct stakeholder engagement was also challenging. The last notable challenge was in obtaining consistent interpretation and characterization of the qualitative data housed in the narrative descriptions of Use Cases, written in different styles.
Overall, the 36 Use Cases can serve as components of a road map for advancing integrated monitoring and predictive science throughout the USGS by revealing opportunities to (1) encourage cross-region initiatives that address shared interests in common themes by integrating similar Use Cases and through direct involvement of stakeholders in identifying needs and designing effective responses, (2) leverage the Use Cases to target investments that are aligned with the Bureau and Department of the Interior (DOI) priorities, (3) connect Use Cases and the results of the companion EarthMAP Capacity Assessment (Keisman and others, 2021) to identify potential priorities for capacity building investments, and (4) raise awareness of common integrated and interdisciplinary science interests within and across the regions through Use Case and Capacity Assessment summary outreach activities.
- Learn More: https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20211108
- USGS Source: Publications Warehouse (indexId: ofr20211108)