Gyami Shrestha, U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Report Development Process

A.9.1 Process for SOCCR2 and USGCRP Special Assessment Reports

Information provided in SOCCR2 updates carbon cycle science across North America and informs several chapters in USGCRP’S Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). As described in the Preface, a number of federally produced interagency USGCRP scientific assessment reports, including SOCCR2, are part of the USGCRP Sustained Assessment process, contributing to the robust scientific foundation of the congressionally mandated quadrennial National Climate Assessments:

  1. The Climate Science Special Report (USGCRP 2017b), released in November 2017, is Volume I of NCA4. It provides the scientific underpinnings for NCA4 and serves as an update of the physical science presented in the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3; Melillo et al., 2014).

  2. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment (USGCRP 2016), released in April 2016, strengthens understanding of the linkages between climate change and health.

  3. The NCA3, released in 2014, covered many of the same sectors and geographical regions of the United States as NCA4, providing a foundation for NCA4 sectors and regions. Additionally, NCA4 includes several new topical chapters of national and regional interest as a result of public feedback for such information.

  4. The Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System assessment (Brown et al., 2015), released in December 2015, identifies climate change impacts on global food security.

SOCCR2 followed the information quality standards, process, and review procedures for the first, second, and third formal USGCRP Sustained Assessment products above.

A.9.2 SOCCR2 Process Initiation and Author Selection

Following a January 2015 regular monthly meeting of the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group and discussions on the assessment development processes with the erstwhile NCA Chief of Staff, a preliminary CCIWG sub-team was assembled to start developing the SOCCR2 Prospectus. This sub-team led to the establishment of the SOCCR2 Federal Steering Committee, which would lead the organization of the first meeting with community scientists to scope SOCCR2 in May 2015, shortly after approval of the Prospectus by SGCR the same month.

The U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program Office led the development of author guidance documents and the Prospectus for use during SOCCR2 development. These documents included 1) templates for chapters and Supporting Evidence (or Traceable Accounts)—with technical support from staff of the USGCRP NCO and NOAA Technical Support Unit—and 2) style guides and information quality guidelines based on recent USGCRP assessments (e.g., NCA3). Authors had access throughout the process to scientific resources and writing guidance materials on a web-based platform that served as an online collaboration space and repository of SOCCR2 documents and drafts. Following the February 12, 2016, public FRN (FRN 2016) for author nominations, technical input, and comments on the SOCCR2 Prospectus, the CCIWG selected Chapter Leads for 19 chapters, also selecting more than 100 additional Contributing Authors. This writing team comprises scientists and technical experts representing U.S. agencies, national laboratories, universities, and the private sector. Later, additional Contributing Authors were invited by Chapter Leads to provide special input on select areas of the assessment. A team of five Science Leads also was selected from U.S. federal agencies, national laboratories, and academia to provide high-level scientific expertise and assistance, specifically to ensure consistency in scientific information across the report.

A.9.3 Author Training and Drafting

All 19 SOCCR2 author teams met multiple times by phone, web, and in person and produced various iterations of their chapters after beginning work in May 2016. Supporting Evidence sections (i.e., Traceable Accounts) at the end of each chapter provide transparent information about the authors’ deliberations to arrive at their expert judgment regarding the level of certainty related to the Key Findings of their chapters.

Author training webinars, which were available to Chapter Leads and other interested authors, built on previously shared written guidance and included the following topics:

  • Report development process and requirements

  • Development of Key Findings and Supporting Evidence (i.e., Traceable Accounts accompanying each Key Finding)

  • Graphics metadata requirements and the Global Change Information System

Author training webinars were recorded and archived on the SOCCR2 online drive, which was created on a free, open-access document storage, synchronization, and sharing platform that allows collaborative editing of documents. Drafts, author guidelines, and pertinent materials were also posted on that platform for access at team members’ convenience throughout the report development process.

A.9.4 Review Editor Selection and Role

The SOCCR2 Federal Steering Committee selected Review Editors from a slate of candidates nominated through a public open call1 from July 18 to August 2, 2017. For their assigned chapter(s), the Review Editors were responsible for ensuring that all substantive comments received during the public comment period and from the NASEM review were appropriately addressed, providing guidance on issues noted by reviewers and ensuring that significant scientific uncertainties were adequately reflected in the subsequent revised text. Review Editors did not provide additional comments on assigned draft chapters but instead focused on the materials derived from the public comment period and NASEM review. They also ensured that author teams considered and appropriately addressed each and every comment within the SOCCR2 scope.

A.9.5 All Author Meeting

On April 3–5, 2018, all Chapter Leads and representatives were invited to participate in a 2.5-day workshop at USDA NIFA in Washington, D.C., to finalize cross-chapter references, resolve remaining inconsistencies, and implement revisions in response to both public and NASEM reviews.

A.9.6 Review Processes

Multiple formal and internal reviews of consecutive SOCCR2 drafts have taken place (see Figure P.1 in the Preface), including the following six reviews.

  1. Interagency review of the “Second Order Draft” by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) (November 8–23, 2016).

  2. Interagency review of the “Third Order Draft” by SGCR (June 23 to July 21, 2017).

  3. NASEM committee review of the “Fourth Order Draft” (November 3, 2017, to March 12, 2018).

  4. Public comment period for the “Fourth Order Draft” (November 3, 2017, to January 12, 2018).

  5. Iterative internal reviews of multiple drafts by the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group, SOCCR2 Federal Steering Committee members, five Science Leads, SOCCR2 Chapter Leads, Expert Reviewers, ORNL technical editors, and federal experts from different agencies (September 2016 to July 2018). For example, prior to SGCR’s review of the “Third Order Draft,” several additional layers of input, reviews, and revisions (February to May 2017) were provided by 1) USDA (i.e., the administrative agency lead for SOCCR2), 2) SOCCR2 Federal Liaisons (e.g., representatives from EPA and other CCIWG agencies and departments), 3) external Expert Reviewers, 4) USGCRP leadership, and 5) SOCCR2 writing teams.

  6. Following the public comment period and a formal review by NASEM experts, the writing team further revised the report, which subsequently was reviewed and approved for final publication by USGCRP member agencies as part of the interagency clearance process: Final Interagency Clearance of the “Fifth Order Draft” by SGCR (July 31 to August 20, 2018).

A.9.7 Engagement Activities

Since early 2015, the SOCCR2 Federal Steering Committee convened by phone weekly, as needed, and in person at the USGCRP NCO in Washington, D.C., as part of the regular CCIWG meetings. Regular updates were provided to SGCR. Updates on the activities and progress of SOCCR2— starting May 2015, when its development was first approved by SGCR—were posted on The U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program Office provided substantive updates on the report’s process and development directly to SOCCR2 Chapter Leads and Contributing Authors via emails and teleconferences. In addition, USGCRP, the North American Carbon Program (NACP), Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB), and the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program provided regular updates to the community via periodic newsletters and list-servs.

The first SOCCR2 scoping workshop convened with community scientists in May 2015, and the first SOCCR2 Public Forum convened at NOAA National Weather Service, College Park, in February 2016. Also conducted from 2015 to 2018 were a plethora of domestic and international in-person symposia, sessions, town halls, gatherings at meetings of professional societies (e.g., the American Geophysical Union and Ecological Society of America), and online teleconferences and webinars. These meetings involved Federal Steering Committee and other SOCCR2 team members, who solicited technical input from subject matter experts and discussed SOCCR2 processes and progress with the science community and the SOCCR2 author team. The opportunity for the public to review the SOCCR2 “Fourth Order Draft” was promoted via social media (#SOCCR2, #NCA4) and newsletters of USGCRP, NACP, and OCB, as well as the NCAnet (i.e., a “network of networks” started in 2012 to support NCAs; One public joint informational webinar of NACP and OCB was conducted during the SOCCR2 public comment period (November 2017 to January 2018). The SOCCR2 report dissemination includes two website versions. The SOCCR2 website 1.0, produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and launched with the public release of the final report, is a static site with downloadable PDFs of each chapter. The SOCCR2 website 2.0, to be produced by NOAA in 2019, includes an interactive interface emulating the USGCRP NCA4 capabilities, including Global Change Information System and metadata documentation.

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