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Start with Science: Charter

Our Science Strategy
Science Strategy public cover

The USGS Science Strategy Report PDF document

Background: Although several strategic plans, science goals and business models have been developed for all or parts of USGS, a comprehensive vision, science goals and priorities that unite all bureau capabilities toward challenges for the future has not been developed since the early 1990s. Without developing consensus and support for such an overarching vision and strategy, it will be more difficult for USGS programs and leaders to make choices that maximize the effectiveness and impact of USGS science. Many documents have been developed in the last decade that describe both the challenges and opportunities for the scientific community to contribute to our Nation’s goals. These source materials and those developed by the bureau and our customers will provide primary source material for the development and discussion of goals and strategies through which USGS can most effectively contribute to society’s needs. The USGS Science Strategy will be created by a small team of scientists from throughout the bureau who develop recommendations for the USGS Bureau Program Council (BPC). An expanded team of technical experts will work with them as they develop ideas. All recommendations and ideas will be reviewed and vetted within USGS and by our stakeholders before finalization.

Scope and Objectives: The USGS Science Strategy will be a 25-30 page document that is issue driven, has a big picture focus, and is forward looking with clear, concise goals and objectives. The strategy will guide science planning and help identify bureau priorities for the next decade. It should be succinct with a focus on the major scientific and policy drivers for the activities of the USGS. The Science Strategy will be consistent with the broad guidelines/outlines of the USGS Strategic Plan and the Department of Interior (DOI) Strategic Plan and goals. It should consider the full breadth of USGS science independent of sources of funding (e.g. Congressionally appropriated, reimbursable funding for domestic work and international work). The strategy should be largely independent of the organizational structure of the USGS. The focus should be heavily on future opportunities where USGS science can most effectively contribute to the Nation and the world. The focus should also be on the balance of our present scientific portfolio (e.g. monitoring, assessment, and research) and where that balance might be in the future anticipating changing societal questions and needs. It should describe new and/or altered capabilities USGS must develop to exert science leadership and contribute significantly in core areas. Both infrastructure and personnel skills should be considered.

While the USGS Science Strategy should be visionary and integrative in science goals, it should also suggest some first-level objectives for each strategic goal. A critical part of the USGS Science Strategy should take into account USGS’s existing scientific infrastructure, skill mix and science capabilities and provide recommendations for changes necessary to achieve desired outcomes. Suggested changes and strategies for the development or enhancement of capabilities will be monitored through changes in program, regional, and discipline plans. Identifying new and expanded opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with partners should be an important goal of the strategy, as well as a subject of first level objectives in accomplishing our goals.

Team Membership: The Science Strategy Team shall comprise a Chair, an alternate Chair, and not more than 9 members appointed by the BPC and the Director. All members of the Team shall be employees of the USGS and will represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and experience in the bureau. Advice from communities external to the USGS shall be obtained through a number of means including discussion, stakeholder listening sessions, and document review.

Technical Experts: The Science Strategy Team will rely on subteams as needed to gather and evaluate information, to analyze information provided, and to help with crafting parts of the USGS Science Strategy. The membership of the subteams is to be determined by the team with approval from the BPC. USGS employees as well as external scientists can be considered for membership.

Role of the BPC: The BPC will both establish the Science Strategy Team and approve subteams needed for development of the strategy. It will provide executive oversight and interaction with the team, meeting regularly to review progress and provide input into products and action plans. BPC members will attend stakeholder meetings and actively engage the USGS and external communities in dialogue concerning the content of the science strategy. Members will champion active engagement by all parts of USGS in startegy development and make final determinations on content of the strategy.

Description of Duties: To create a bureau-level science strategy USGS will utilize approaches that have been successfully followed to create similar strategic visions. These commonly involve the review of a variety of existing review, planning, and visioning documents and discussions (possibly in a panel format) with a range of internal and external stakeholder groups at different locations.

Examples of existing documents that should be reviewed are: DOI Strategic Plan, USGS Strategic Plan, recent National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council reviews of the USGS and its Programs, other USGS plans such as Program 5-year plans, Geology and Geography 10-year science strategies, the forthcoming Water Resources Discipline science review requested by the Office of Management and Budget, NAS/NRC, CENR and international (eg. GEOSS and Millenium Assessment) reports on significant science challenges facing society, strategic plans and science strategies of other agencies with some overlap with USGS mission (e.g. NASA, NOAA, EPA, DOE, etc.) as well as those of natural science agencies of other countries. Of special note would be coordination with those developing the bureau hazards strategy for the next decade. While understanding the content of all the types of documents suggested above is crucial for establishing a context, the core Team charged to develop the USS is to begin with a blank slate.

Discussions and listening sessions, possibly in a panel format like those used by the National Academy of Sciences, will involve USGS scientists and managers and some of the following internal and external stakeholder groups and others: State agencies; leaders from academic institutions; important members of the non-profit sector; business and industry leaders; scientists and resource managers from within the DOI; representatives of other Federal agencies; the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the U.S. Congress; and professional societies.

A special effort should be made to solicit input from USGS employees from the beginning of the process by distributing an all employees message soliciting ideas on broad strategic objectives and by instituting an electronic suggestion box. This box will be open during the entire time that the USS is developed. A web site is also suggested to post relevant documents and to provide updates on the status of the USS.

The core team and BPC shall ensure that the review of the strategy document involves technical and non-technical expertise, and internal as well as external experts. A final review of the strategy document will be done by the BPC. The BPC will provide final recommendations to the Director. The Director will consider all recommendations and has final approval responsibility.

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