Apply now to join our next cohort of Community Science Fellows and Community Leads!

Bridging Information Gaps and Fulfilling User Needs

Category: Uncategorized

Bridging Community Information Gaps

June 25, 2018

The impact of climate change is substantial, and indeed, climate-change induced droughts, heatwaves, floods, forest fires, and changes in disease transmission are already observable. These impacts vary considerably based location, and as such, cities and communities face the burden of dealing with the impacts and adapting to climate change. Climate change could amplify existing inequalities within a city and render entire communities un-livable, especially coastal communities such as Miami. Local governments and foundations are partnering across the country to identify and fund innovative solutions to advance resilience, and on-the-ground climate change adaption is becoming a billion-dollar industry (e.g., green infrastructure, LEED buildings, etc.)

We seek to utilize design-based approaches, including a careful analysis of existing and future climate data and decision processes, to bridge information gaps between scientists, government, and residents to support intelligent investments and advance climate resilience in local communities, both today and in the future.  We propose conducting a workshop with decision-makers (or community representatives) to identify needs through an engaged and iterative process and to identify solutions via open ideation. Our project outcome is an analysis of fundamental climate-related information needs that are shared across numerous civil decision contexts, and a plan to fill those needs with an information tool that would support the adaptive capacity of communities to the impacts of climate change.

We have identified a local information need, but have identified neither the specifics nor the solution.  Our project was inspired because of our extensive work with local community groups making adaptation decision making and their frustration with the usability of existing climate tools. We began our project by speaking with decision makers and community scientists to see how we could improve decision-making by systemically integrating the plethora of available Earth science research data. As we spoke with people our focus began to shift, from providing data access, to discovering innovative methods of local-scale risk assessments.

We are trans-disciplinary and uniquely qualified group of three organizations.

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU), which can leverage a network of more than 150,000 Earth and space scientists worldwide. AGU’s community science program, Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) has expertise in community partnerships, problem identification, community-science design, and community dialogues (TEX launched the resilience dialogues; like Knight’s On-The-Table civic dialogue).
  • University of California San Diego (UCSD) Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) and Design Lab, which can provide expertise and resources in user-centered design and environmental science.
  • The New Advisory Group, which can provide guidance in decision support processes, technology, digital innovation, as well as expertise in project management.

The Knight Foundation is rooted with the same principles as community science. Like journalists, scientists “are purveyors of information and truth, and are inextricably tied to the public trust.” (John S. Knight, 1969). We look forward to partnering with your foundation on this exciting project. If you have any questions or would like to receive a full proposal, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] (or by phone at 202-777-7514).  We sincerely appreciate your consideration.


Geoscience for Adaptation Decision Support: Fulfilling User Needs

April 11, 2018

Seeking to improve local decision support, effort finds more gaps than coverage in decision-relevant information

The international climate science community has made tremendous strides in our understanding of the climate system. We can make more precise measurements from space, while we make quicker measurements from new technologies such as drones and ground sensor networks. We continue to push the barriers of computation, enabling us to build better models, assess intricate scenarios, and reduce uncertainties.

However, when it comes to climate change adaptation, we have yet to provide the information needed for robust decision making, especially at the local level.

As communities, citizens, and businesses see changes in the severity and frequency of climate related events like flooding and extreme heat, they want to plan for more changes to come. Many TEX projects have focused on using geoscience data and models, along with local knowledge and data, to guide adaptation decisions. While advancing community priorities through these science partnerships, we’ve noticed that communities have a difficult time using science information to inform their actions and that there is no pathway to use geoscience data in decision making.

Even though there are tons of geoscience data and models available, it usually isn’t well suited to local decision making. It also seems to be a one-community-at-a-time process; the work a TEX team does in one community doesn’t make it much easier for another team to do something similar in another community.

That backdrop inspired a TEX collaboration with the New Advisory Group to launch Adaptation Analytics, a project that explores opportunities to systematically integrate geoscience data into the local decision-making process.

Here’s an update on what we’ve discovered so far—and a preview of some of the challenges we hope to tackle on the road ahead.

Understanding Decisions and Timeframes

It is imperative for data providers to understand the adaptation-related decisions within various community and private sectors. We found that decisions can be grouped into three categories according to the timeframe that their decisions are based on:

  • The time horizon for capital and facilities planning is long-term, starting at five years and often stretching to fifty years.
  • Operational strategies for companies and civic enterprises (e.g., a police department) base decisions on a mid-term outlook, between six months and several years.
  • Front line managers respond primarily to challenges presented in the short-term, the next few hours to the next few months.

Understanding Decision Support Information Needs

The most widely used decision support information for adaptation is local data from the immediate past (for example, how often did this neighborhood flood in the last five years?). Climate change projections, however, deal in trends and averages on the scale of decades and dozens of square kilometers. As a result, the answers to seemingly simple but important questions are still beyond our grasp. How many extreme heat days will there be in my neighborhood in 2023? Or during the summer of 2028? Over the next 15 years, how frequent and severe will droughts be on my 120-acre family farm?

At a minimum, forecasts and maps need to be redeveloped on a local scale with short-term time steps to be useful for adaptation planning.

Closing the Gap Between Decisions and Available Data

The gap between local decision making and available data from measurements and models can be closed by improving how we communicate science information. Adaptation decisions are often evaluated based on the risk they mitigate. Improved approaches in communicating climate change hazards and exposure can help local communities assess their risk and make better decisions—decisions that are informed by geoscience data.

For example, for adaptation decision makers it is often more helpful to show the chance of flood at certain depths or durations than to show projected shifts in precipitation patterns. New hazard communication could support a wide range of user communities as they make diverse adaptation decisions over all timescales.

In addition, involved communities could help guide future directions in geoscience research. For example, we are working with decision makers to develop very simple ways to present probability of the events they care about by location. One early example, shown here, uses made-up numbers and locations to illustrate the concept and get feedback on the presentation of data.


We are continuing the effort to characterize decision-making in local communities, and to understand the types of information needed to inform adaptation strategies. We are also working with different user communities to identify and iteratively design new, localized presentations of current and projected climate change hazards. We welcome examples of unmet adaptation decision support needs, distinct and underserved user communities, and effective geoscience information for decision making. Please contact us at ([email protected]).

mgoodwin editor

Leave a Reply