Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Science Advisory Board Completes Review Of GLRI

Jan 24: U.S. EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) has completed its review of the Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan FY 2010- 2014 and has produced a 63-page report [See WIMS 11/14/11]. The SAB indicates it supports the premise that enough is known about the issues confronting the Great Lakes, as well as the underlying causes and potential remedies, to initiate action, and agrees that the Action Plan identifies most of the important actions that should be undertaken. The SAB notes that an integrated, science-based framework that provides input and justification for actions is lacking within the GLRI, but finds that the Action Plan is largely consistent with previous plans and strategies, reflecting a continuation of collaborative planning in the region. This continuity is good, but it does not guarantee sufficiency and the SAB has a number of comments and recommendations to improve future efforts.
    The SAB supports the primary emphasis on implementing the extensive backlog of restoration projects in the Great Lakes region. The SAB also notes that this 5-year Action Plan is well underway and the plan itself recognizes that as these projects are completed, an evaluation and reprioritization of efforts will be needed using an adaptive management framework. This evaluation will require that a solid, science-based framework be in place to drive the restoration plan. The SAB recommends that the agency create this integrated framework to bolster the Action Plan, to organize the current efforts, and to identify future directions to develop and implement new restoration technologies, methods and approaches.
    SAB points out that another important organizational tool that is missing is a standing science panel. The SAB recommends the agency create a well-integrated panel that could influence the program's evolution by providing assessments of progress in key areas. The science panel's input on design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation efforts would provide a scientific basis for setting priorities across disparate actions. In addition to natural and physical scientific expertise, the panel should include the social science disciplines. Behavioral, social, and decision scientists can provide many kinds of insights and advice needed for a program as wide ranging as the GLRI. A diverse panel will offer assistance in targeting education and outreach efforts, and critical insights into the likely workability of particular institutional arrangements.
    The SAB notes that climate change is not explicitly addressed in the each of the focus areas of the Action Plan. Restoration efforts of this magnitude and complexity will likely change in the future as alterations in air and lake temperature, amount and patterns of precipitation, ice cover and lake levels may significantly impact restoration efforts.
    SAB also notes that there are a number of admirable long-term goals and objectives to eliminate the introduction of invasive species in the Action Plan. Several parallel activities are under way to address specific invasive species (i.e., Asian carp) and vectors (i.e., ballast water controls) in addition to the recommendations on surveillance programs the agency requested. The SAB finds these issues important and timely, and recommends that these parallel efforts be evaluated together to develop a comprehensive invasive species program. The SAB endorses developing a basin-wide invasive species surveillance program and recommends that surveillance and rapid response protocols be coordinated to ensure that the various states, provinces, and other participating organizations use the same methodology and protocols to provide meaningful information and effective rapid response.
    Finally, the SAB recommends that the EPA and its partners consider explicit peer review criteria, in parallel with the peer-review process of the National Science Foundation, for all activities (internally and externally funded), including those focused on education and outreach. The criteria should advance the knowledge and understanding of Great Lakes issues, promote teaching, increase participation of underrepresented groups, and broadly disseminate information to enhance the scientific and technological understanding of the public.
    Access the complete SAB review report and recommendations (click here). Access the SAB review committee website for complete background information and documents (click here).