SITE PROVIDES INSIGHT ON NOAA’S ULTIMATE GOAL: MEETING SOCIAL AND
15, 2005 — When most people think of NOAA,
words such as “ocean,
atmosphere, weather, coasts
come to mind, but rarely do we think of NOAA in terms of its economic
and social contributions to the nation. But perhaps we should. After all,
an essential part of NOAA’s
mission is “to meet our nation’s economic, social and
sectors of the nation rely on NOAA for an incredible variety of valuable
products and services. NOAA provides weather, water and climate
services; manages and protects fisheries and sensitive marine ecosystems;
conducts atmospheric, climate and ecosystem research; promotes efficient
and environmentally safe commerce
and transportation; supports emergency response; and even provides
vital information in support of homeland
past few years, NOAA has been working to increase its capacity to qualify
and, where possible, quantify the social impacts of its programs —
both relative to their costs and to each other. The NOAA administration
has also strongly supported the increased and more systematic use of social
science in NOAA program planning and decision-making (as evidenced by
the fact that socioeconomic principles have been endorsed in recent NOAA
program guidance, program integration, research
plans, and even the 2005-2010
NOAA Strategic Plan). Such actions should facilitate both more informed
decision-making within NOAA and create added value for its end users.
Economics & Social Science Web Site
new NOAA Economics & Social
Science Web site has put a public face on the NOAA initiative to view
NOAA as more than just the world’s leading Earth science agency,
but also as a measurable asset to the nation. The Web site (developed
by the NOAA Office of Program Planning
and Integration and the NOAA Chief Economist, Rodney Weiher) provides
visitors with a general overview of the importance of economics at NOAA
and explains NOAA from a social science perspective.
does the information on the Web site exhibit examples of the value that
NOAA products and services provide to the general public, but it will
also be instrumental in assisting the NOAA administration in formulating
well-defined performance measures (at every level, from individual projects
to entire Line Offices) — a critical first step in the optimization
of resources throughout the agency.
library contains a collection of papers, articles and analyses on
the socioeconomic impacts and benefits of NOAA products, services and
related technologies. The links provided on the page also direct users
to other Web locations within NOAA where important economic and social
science research is carried out, as well as locations in other agencies,
universities and research institutions where similar efforts are underway.
Co-evolution of Science and Society
The NOAA NESS site will soon also feature a section dedicated to the co-evolution
of science and society. Throughout the nation’s history, innovation
in oceanic and atmospheric science and technology has had a profound effect
on society and vice versa. This relationship will undoubtedly continue
into the future. On this page, NESS will offer reflection upon the events
that have led NOAA to where it is today and insight as to where NOAA is
likely to go in the future.
Economics is used to identify and measure the social costs and benefits
of NOAA programs, products and services. Economic analysis employs a universal
unit of measure, monetary value, to characterize costs and benefits and
thus offers a common basis for comparison. It is an incredibly powerful,
though by no means exclusive tool for decision-making.
As a social
science, economics is essential for demonstrating the value of NOAA programs
to those who contribute to and benefit from them, and also for providing
the information necessary for NOAA itself to prioritize resources and
improve management. For example, NOAA uses socioeconomic information to:
the value of programs and demonstrate it to others
which programs to support based on documented payoffs
program performance in ways that better reflect impacts and costs
choices among services, uses and distribution
investments in physical and human resources
interrelated programs and understand what groups of programs add up
targeted information systems
longer term thinking and planning for initiatives with substantial lead
times or long payoff periods
Economic analysis concentrates on assessing costs and benefits of proposed
and existing programs in order to quantify their net value. Typically,
the costs are simply the budgetary expenditures made by NOAA, whereas
the benefits occur across a range of user groups in society (from industries,
such as agriculture and energy, to local communities and households).
Economic analysis includes methods of valuation, cost benefit analysis,
cost effectiveness analysis, etc. It is performed in conjunction with
a variety of NOAA programs, either prior to their inception (such as an
integrated, sustained, global ocean observing system), or after they have
already been implemented (such as weather, climate and other environmental
The NOAA Chief Economists primary responsibility is to initiate and manage
economic analysis to support NOAA’s policy, program and budgeting
process, as well as the NOAA Line Offices. The Chief Economist also coordinates
economic and social science research activities among NOAA’s Line
Offices, particularly the NOAA National
Marine Fisheries Service (Office
of Economics and Social Science Analysis), NOAA
National Ocean Service (Special
Projects Office), and the NOAA
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (Sea
Grant and Office of Global Programs).
Social Science Initiative at NOAA
Over the last few years, there has been growing evidence of the importance
of social science in NOAA planning and decision-making. Estimates of the
value of NOAA products and services have and continue to be compiled,
social scientists from across NOAA line offices are interacting on a more
regular basis, many of NOAA’s socioeconomic projects have been inventoried
and information on analyses, data and methods have been more widely shared.
Social science plans are also being developed by NOAA offices, including
Marine Fisheries Service – where more than sixty economists/social
scientists (both at headquarters and in the field) are supporting regulatory
programs, fisheries statistics and industry analyses.
– where a total of 10 economists are supporting damage assessment,
recreation surveys and management programs (e.g. sanctuaries).
Ocean and Atmospheric Research’s Climate Services Program
– where social scientists are supporting human dimensions and
budget submissions have even started to incorporate social science research
plans and social science-based performance measures.
Status of Social Science in NOAA
NOAA is now implementing an agency-wide social science research program.
Objectives include demonstrating the benefits of NOAA programs (such as
links between research and product delivery), understanding NOAA customers
and their needs, analyzing unique natural resource management and regulatory
issues, and developing techniques and databases. Ultimately, this effort
will help integrate social science research into NOAA planning and budgeting
processes and facilitate the use of socioeconomic information in decision-making.
does NOAA need Social Science?
NOAA has, and will continue to, take great pride in ensuring that its
stakeholders’ needs are met and that the suite of products and services
that it offers continues to improve in quality and social value. To do
this, NOAA works hard to understand current and emerging user requirements,
as well as priorities and benefits of NOAA information, products and services.
As a result, NOAA is developing a stronger economic and social science
capability across interdisciplinary line offices each day.
By strengthening NOAA program planning and justification, decision-making,
and performance measures based on socioeconomic principles, NOAA has,
and will continue to, improve the effectiveness and the value of its programs
to society. In terms of the future, NOAA’s goal is to use sound
cost-benefit analyses, risk assessments, and economic and social impact
analyses as it invests in new systems and facilities, products and services,
research plans and management options.
Progress in this direction will depend upon the cooperation of programs
across the agency in collecting and analyzing data on the social value
of their work and helping others to understand it. NESS and the rest of
the NOAA Office of Program Planning and Integration are committed to providing
guidance and assistance to this end.
— WHERE SCIENCE GAINS VALUE
Economic Stats - 2004
Economics & Social Science Web site
Office of Program Planning and Integration
Miller, NOAA, (202) 482-6090