Guy BrasseurAs you probably know, David Carlson retired from his position of Executive Director of WCRP on 30 June 2017. Deon Terblanche, Director of the WMO Atmospheric Research and Environment Branch, has agreed to lead the activities of the WCRP Joint Planning Staff (JPS) for a period of about 1 year, and to work closely with the Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) and the climate community towards the development of a new 10-year strategic plan. We wish all the best to David Carlson for his future endeavours, and we welcome Deon Terblanche who, together with the JPS staff, will lead the WCRP Secretariat and support WCRP’s initiatives.

The last strategic plan developed by WCRP covered the period 2005-2015. Under this plan, WCRP integrated the knowledge provided by its four Core Projects (CliC, CLIVAR, GEWEX and SPARC), its two Councils (data and modelling) and its Working Groups. The new element introduced was the development of seven Grand Science Challenges. The Grand Challenges have enabled the development of targeted and integrated research efforts with significant progress expected within 5-10 years. They have highlighted critical areas of climate science, while capturing the public and decision-makers’ attention. At its last annual meeting in April 2017, the JSC decided to undertake a fundamental reflection about the next stage in the evolution of the Programme, and to develop a new strategic plan accompanied by a blueprint for scientific implementation. This comprehensive exercise is timely in the context of the rapid evolution of new science, the emergence of fundamental research needs, and the evolution of international and national environmental governance approaches. Furthermore, the emergence of research communities in different parts of the world that are not yet sufficiently engaged in international initiatives, the increasing demand by service institutions (e.g., climate services) for sound scientific information, and the emergence of several new international Programmes such as Future Earth present opportunities for cooperation and synergy in a tight funding environment. 

The schedule proposed by the JSC calls for in-depth and inclusive brainstorming that will be completed by the end of 2018, and will be accompanied by detailed consultations with a broad range of stakeholders. We will have to balance the need for new approaches, new priorities and new structures with a full recognition of the historical legacy of insights and advances in WCRP. Any proposed restructuring will be parsimonious in the light of core elements that continue to yield important science and are supported by funding agencies at the national and international levels. It is important therefore that the exercise be tightly connected with the scientific community, funding agencies, and WCRP sponsors. The JSC will ensure that WCRP research activities remain well aligned with the evolution of science and with the programs supported by governments. The need for research infrastructures and new experimental initiatives, the future of Earth system observing and modelling, and the best and most efficient ways to create dialogues with stakeholders at global and regional levels will be examined. The strategic plan will establish how WCRP should evolve and what it should accomplish in the next 10 years. In so doing the Programme will make its intellectual content even more cognisant of the diversity of societal contexts. It will highlight strategies to support internationally coordinated user inspired fundamental research, with deliverables of importance for stakeholder communities. It will appraise the outcomes of the Grand Challenge activities, and establish follow-up activities for these initiatives as necessary.

Guy Brasseur