Dr. Charles van Riper III

Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
USGS Research Scientist Emeritus  

Sonoran Desert Research Station
125 Biological Sciences East ~ University of Arizona ~Tucson, AZ 85721-125
(520) 626-7027 ~ (520) 670-5100 fax ~ (520) 491-0721 call

Read More About Dr. van Riper  ~ Visit his Research Lab & Students

Science Strategy Team

(December 2005 - 2007)
Charles served on a 6-12 month detail as a member of the Science Strategy Team (SST,  consisting of 10 USGS scientists appointed by the Director and the Bureau Policy Council (BPC). 


Background: Although several strategic plans, science goals and business models have been developed for all or parts of USGS, a comprehensive vision, science goals and priorities that unite all bureau capabilities toward challenges for the future has not been developed since the early 1990s. Without developing consensus and support for such an overarching vision and strategy, it will be more difficult for USGS programs and leaders to make choices that maximize the effectiveness and impact of USGS science. Many documents have been developed in the last decade that describe both the challenges and opportunities for the scientific community to contribute to our nation’s goals. These source materials and those developed by the bureau and our customers will provide primary source material for the development and discussion of goals and strategies through which USGS can most effectively contribute to society’s needs. The USGS Science Strategy (USS) will be created by a small team of scientists from throughout the bureau who develop recommendations for the Bureau Program Council (BPC). An expanded team of technical experts will work with them as they develop ideas. All recommendations and ideas will be reviewed and vetted within USGS and by our stakeholders before finalization.

Scope and Objectives: The USGS Science Strategy (USS) will be a 25-30 page document that is issue driven, has a big picture focus, and is forward looking with clear concise goals and objectives. The strategy will guide science planning and help identify bureau priorities for the next decade. It should be succinct with a focus on the major scientific and policy drivers for the activities of the USGS. The USS will be consistent with the broad guidelines/outlines of the USGS Strategic Plan and the Department of Interior (DOI) Strategic Plan and goals. It should consider the full breadth of USGS science independent of sources of funding (e.g. Congressionally appropriated, reimbursable funding for domestic work and international work). The strategy should be largely independent of the organizational structure of the USGS. The focus should be heavily on future opportunities where USGS science can most effectively contribute to the Nation and the world. The focus should also be on the balance of our present scientific portfolio (e.g. monitoring, assessment, and research) and where that balance might be in the future anticipating changing societal questions and needs. It should describe new and/ or altered capabilities USGS must develop to exert science leadership and contribute significantly in core areas. Both infrastructure and personnel skills should be considered.

While the USS should be visionary and integrative in science goals, it should also suggest some first level objectives for each strategic goal. A critical part of the USS should take into account USGS’s existing scientific infrastructure, skill mix and science capabilities and provide recommendations for changes necessary to achieve desired outcomes. Suggested changes and strategies for the development or enhancement of capabilities will be monitored through changes in program, regional, and discipline plans. Identifying new and expanded opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with partners should be an important goal of the strategy, as well as a subject of first level objectives in accomplishing our goals.

Team Membership: The core Team shall comprise a Chair, an alternate Chair, and not more than 9 members appointed by the BPC and the Director. Appointment is for the duration of the development process of the USS. Each member will be expected to contribute no less than 50% of their time to the development of a polished first draft of the USS in 6 months. All members of the Team shall be employees of the USGS and will represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and experience in the bureau. Advice from communities external to the USGS shall be obtained through a number of means including discussion, stakeholder listening sessions, and BSS document review.

Technical Experts: The core Team will rely on subteams as needed to gather and evaluate information, to analyze information provided, and to help with crafting parts of the USS. The membership of the subteams is to be determined by the core committee with approval from the BPC. USGS employees as well as external scientists can be considered for membership.

Role of the BPC: The BPC will both establish the core team and approve subteams needed for development of the strategy. It will provide executive oversight and interaction with the core team, meeting regularly to review progress and provide input into products and action plans. BPC members will attend stakeholder meetings and actively engage the USGS and external communities in dialogue concerning the content of the science strategy. Members will champion active engagement by all parts of USGS in strategy development and make final determinations on content of the strategy.

Duration: The creation of the USS from beginning to the final production of a document shall be completed within 9-12 months.

Support: One or more Executive Assistants shall be provided to the core team as necessary. The Executive Assistants will be responsible for the administrative support to the Team and for providing any necessary technical or logistical support required by the Team or any of its members during the development of the USS.

Estimated Operating Costs: Home offices of team members will provide salary support. Members and assistants, while engaged in the performance of their duties away from their homes or regular places of business, will be provided travel expenses, including per diem. Total cost of developing the BSS is estimated to be ~$500K. This may or may not include the cost of production of the final strategy document. Details of the staffing of the Team (full time, part time, etc.) and the budget are to be established.

Description of Duties: To create a bureau-level science strategy USGS will utilize approaches that have been successfully followed to create similar strategic visions. These commonly involve the review of a variety of existing review, planning, and visioning documents and discussions (possibly in a panel format) with a range of internal and external stakeholder groups at different locations.

Examples of existing documents that should be reviewed are: DOI Strategic Plan, USGS Strategic Plan, recent National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council reviews of the USGS and its Programs, other USGS plans such as Program 5-year plans, Geology and Geography 10-year science strategies, the forthcoming Water Resources Discipline science review requested by the Office of Management and Budget, NAS/NRC, CENR and international (eg. GEOSS and Millenium Assessment) reports on significant science challenges facing society, strategic plans and science strategies of other agencies with some overlap with USGS mission (e.g. NASA, NOAA, EPA, DOE, etc.) as well as those of natural science agencies of other countries. Of special note would be coordination with those developing the bureau hazards strategy for the next decade. While understanding the content of all the types of documents suggested above is crucial for establishing a context, the core Team charged to develop the USS is to begin with a blank slate.

Discussions and listening sessions, possibly in a panel format like those used by the National Academy of Sciences, will involve USGS scientists and managers and some of the following internal and external stakeholder groups and others: State agencies; leaders from academic institutions; important members of the non-profit sector; business and industry leaders; scientists and resource managers from within the DOI; representatives of other Federal agencies; the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the U.S. Congress; and professional societies.

A special effort should be made to solicit input from USGS employees from the beginning of the process by distributing an all employees message soliciting ideas on broad strategic objectives and by instituting an electronic suggestion box. This box will be open during the entire time that the USS is developed. A web site is also suggested to post relevant documents and to provide updates on the status of the USS.

The core team and BPC shall ensure that the review of the strategy document involves technical and non-technical expertise, and internal as well as external experts. A final review of the strategy document will be done by the BPC. The BPC will provide final recommendations to the Director. The Director will consider all recommendations and has final approval responsibility.


Nominations for the Bureau Science Strategy Team (January 17, 2006)
Marty Goldhaber Geology ST scientist, project chief
Chair   Denver
Kevin Gallagher GIO  
Co-Chair   (Reston, VA)
Debbie Hutchinson GEOLOGY Geologist
    (Woods Hole, MA)
Jill Baron BIOLOGY Ecologist
  (Central Reg.) (Fort Collins, CO)
Jim LaBaugh WATER Hydrologist
  (Headquarters) (Reston, VA)
Mark Ayers WATER Water Science Ctr Dir.
  (Eastern Reg) (Louisville, KY)
Roger Sayre Geography  
    (Reston, VA)
Mark DeMulder HQ  
    (Reston, VA)
Eugene Schweig GEOLOGY  
    (Memphis, TN)
Charles Van Riper III BIOLOGY ST Research Ecologist
    (Tuscon, AZ)
Steve Schwarzbach BIOLOGY Fish and Wildlife Administrator
    (Sacramento, CA)
Bill Wilde APS Office of Acctg & Fin. Mgmt.
Exec. Sec. for Team   (Reston, VA)
Paul Beauchemin DIR OFFICE Communications Specialist
Comm. POC (Comm. Off) (Reston, VA)



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