Originating from a need for a coordinated, national science plan to address the coastal communities’ needs, researchers from federal agencies, academia, industry, and non-governmental organizations banded together to establish the U.S. Coastal Research Program (USCRP). From this collaboration, the USCRP identifies coastal research needs, enhances coordination of interagency activities, improves funding source identification, and strengthens academic programs. To support these efforts, the USCRP is composed of multiple organization’s representatives operating together through a temporary governance structure that spans from key federal leadership to community outreach practitioners. To support greater transparency, this article provides a general overview of the different mechanisms that create the USCRP.
Central to its operation is the USCRP’s Leadership Council (LC) which serves as the policy and coordination oversight body for the program. While the LC does not provide advice on research directions or needs, it offers guidance and the high-level commitments necessary to sustain the program. With the assistance of the Virtual Program Office (VPO), the LC is responsible for drafting the Annual Research & Development, and Science & Technology Plan and updating the existing 5-Year Strategic Plan. The membership of the LC includes federal representatives and the upper levels of leadership from each of the engaged agencies, a representative from academia, and two representatives from the Stakeholder Team, represented by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA).
Under its authority the LC established three operating teams – the Federal Team, Stakeholder Team, and an Academia Team – to support specific aspects of the USCRP. The Federal Team consists of leadership from federal agencies engaged in the program and federal members of the LC. The Federal Team sets out federal funding investments by implementing recommended and prioritized proposals provided by the LC. The Stakeholder Team collects and communicates coastal community users’ needs by presenting recommendations to the LC annually. The membership of the Stakeholder Team currently comprises representatives from ASBPA and seeks to include future participation from entities such as the Coastal States Organization, state and local governments, and industry actors.
The Academic Team, composed of representatives from universities and research institutes with nationally recognized ocean or coastal-based science or engineering programs, categorizes research infrastructure investment needs and communicates those needs annually to the LC. While the Academia Team does not fund research projects, the team utilizes the priority research recommendations recognized by the LC when communicating to the academic research community regarding grant proposals. Providing support and adequate representation from all interested parties in the USCRP, the LC oversees these different levels of engagement to address the research needs of the nation’s coastal community.
Lastly, the Virtual Program Office makes up the final piece of the USCRP governance structure and runs the program’s day to day operations by developing, coordinating, and tracking technical collaboration, enabling infrastructure, and governance products that facilitate the achievement of important milestones and deliverables. Such milestones and deliverables include planning team-building workshops, drafting proposals for the program’s final governance mechanism, conducting in-progress reviews of collaborative research projects, establishing workings groups and tracking their progress, producing the Quarterly Bulletin, and organizing bi-annual meetings. Presently, VPO membership includes representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the ASBPA.