Monday, April 21, 2014

To fulfill the promise of a science agency that delivers critical and necessary information and services to the public in the short- and long-term, NOAA developed a 20-year vision for research in 2005. This vision, “Understanding global ecosystems to support informed decision-making,” has guided NOAA’s investment in research and provides a perspective that addresses the immediate and future needs of the Nation. This vision drives the continued planning, investment, and implementation of NOAA’s R&D enterprise.

In 2010, NOAA convened a group of its top scientists from across the organization to refine and update the concepts outlined in the 20-year vision. The group stressed that accomplishing NOAA’s strategic goals will hinge on understanding the complex interrelationships that exist across climate, weather, ocean, and coastal domains. The group identified the grand scientific challenges for NOAA for the next five to twenty years, including an overarching challenge to “develop and apply holistic, integrated Earth-system approaches to understand the processes that connect changes in the atmosphere, ocean, space, land surface, and cryosphere with ecosystems, organisms and humans over different scales.” This overarching grand challenge and supporting major science challenges (Table 1) provide an additional framework for NOAA’s collective capabilities and achieve major scientific advances.

Table 1: NOAA's Grand Science Challenges

Overarching Grand Challenge:

Develop and apply holistic, integrated Earth system approaches to understand the processes that connect changes in the atmosphere, ocean, space, land surface, and cryosphere with ecosystems, organisms and humans over different scales.

Major Science Challenges:

  • Acquire and incorporate knowledge of human behavior to enhance our understanding of the interaction between human activities and the Earth system
  • Understand and quantify the interactions between atmospheric composition and climate variations and change
  • Understand and characterize the role of the oceans in climate change and variability and the effects of climate change on the ocean and coasts
  • Assess and understand the roles of ecosystem processes and biodiversity in sustaining ecosystem services
  • Improve understanding and predictions of the water cycle at global to local scales
  • Develop and evaluate approaches to substantially reduce environmental degradation
  • Sustain and enhance atmosphere-ocean-land-biology and human observing systems
  • Characterize the uncertainties associated with scientific information
  • Communicate scientific information and its associated uncertainties accurately and effectively to policy makers, the media, and the public at large.