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The policy program plan for 2015.

The AMS Policy Program has ambitious plans for 2015.

We will help lead three Congressional Visits Days (CVDs) for the AMS community during the year. CVDs give scientists a chance to meet with congressional staff and to learn about Congress. We plan to have an AMS day on the Hill in June, which will focus on our entire community (i.e., weather, water, and climate; observations, science and services; the public, private, and academic sectors; and basic and applied research). We will also provide a chance for AMS members to participate in two other CVDs organized jointly with a group of science societies-- one focused on climate science in February and one focused on geosciences in September.

The purpose of these events is 1) to introduce scientists to the policy process; 2) to build relationships between policymakers and members of our community; and 3) to provide members of Congress the best possible access to information. CVDs are nonpartisan and do not seek to advance any particular policy or course of action. They make it possible for members of our community to engage with Congress in ways that are entirely consistent with AMS's values as a scientific organization.

We are also preparing for our 15th Summer Policy Colloquium (SPC), which will occur in June. The SPC is a 10-day intensive introduction to the federal policy process for Earth scientists. To date, nearly 500 scientists have completed this program. Through this effort, we are helping to develop a new group of leaders within our community.

In 2015, we will continue to look for ways to expand training activities like these. We are developing a graduate course on the science-policy interface for Earth science programs. We also plan to create introductory web-based materials for the Policy Program's home page (www that will be available to everyone.

Through these training and engagement opportunities, we help develop the capacity within the AMS community to effectively and constructively contribute to the policy process.

We're also planning activities to inform policymakers directly of established scientific understanding and the latest policy-relevant research.

Currently, we're working on several topics for Hill briefings. Two briefings will focus on flooding, with one centered on coastal inundation and one on inland flooding. A third Hill briefing will likely focus on seasonal forecast needs and opportunities, a topic that congressional staff has specifically expressed interest in. A fourth briefing in development would explore the research-to-operations (R20) challenge, which is an area of active study in the Policy Program.

Hill briefings are powerful because they allow policymakers to hear directly from the leading experts in our community on topics that are critically important for the nation's welfare. So these briefings create a pipeline for the flow of information from the AMS community to decision makers. If you'd like to watch a video from one of our past briefings or propose a topic for a further briefing please visit our revamped Hill briefing web page (

Later this spring we will select the 2015-2016 AMS Congressional Science Fellow. The fellowship places an AMS scientist on the staff of a member of Congress for one full year. As a result, one of our scientists is on the Hill and in a position of importance whenever members of Congress make decisions that will affect our community and the broader society that we serve.

We will also continue to use our studies, research, and analysis to expand the knowledge base needed for incorporating scientific understanding into the policy process.

We've already analyzed weather-and climate-related R&D in the President's 2016 budget request after its release in February. That effort was part of AAAS's annual budget blue book, which is a great resource on federal spending for science.

We are in the initial stages of a study and related activities to develop and advance a "total water" concept for the assessment and management of weather and climate risks. The total water concept consists of two related components: 1) the need for risk assessment and management efforts to understand and account for all sources of water and all factors that influence water's behavior, and 2) recognition that the hydrological cycle, and water in particular, is simultaneously a resource and a threat with wide-ranging implications.

Another study currently in progress is looking at the challenges and opportunities associated with the R20 cycle in the weather and climate enterprise. The first part of the study was to conduct a survey of the community through Policy Program's new platform for scientists to inform both our studies and the policy process. We plan a workshop this spring that will build off these survey results by bringing together people involved with the research, development, and operational phases of the R20 process to help identify challenges and opportunities.

We will next use to conduct an open dialog on the opportunities, needs, and priorities for the weather, water, and climate community. The discussion period will likely last several months this spring, with the results helping to inform a Policy Program study on the topic and the drafting committee for an AMS Policy statement that is underway. Were enthusiastic about this approach, as it creates an additional opportunity for input from the broader AMS community.

We are also conducting a study to assess information needs and resource availability for disaster preparedness and response. Our goal with this study is to identify existing resources that federal agencies can provide to states and local communities for disaster management.

These are ambitious plans for a staff as small as the Policy Program's, but we've already made considerable progress on many of these activities and we are optimistic that we can arrange the funding--always our primary limiting factor--we need to make it all happen.

Taken together, these Policy Program activities support our two primary goals: first, to ensure that policy choices take full advantage of information and services relating to weather, water, and climate; and second, to make policymakers aware of how much the broader society's welfare depends on information and services relating to weather, water, and climate. Meeting these two goals will help insure that the scientific community receives the support and resources it needs to be able to make critical information and services available and, most importantly, will help the nation, and the world, avoid risks and realize opportunities related to the Earth system.

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Author:Higgins, Paul
Publication:Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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