Dave Jones reflects on Paul Higgins’ talk…

Last week my wife and I had one of those special weeks that clear brains too absorbed in the DC-based policy world… five nights and six days touring the great lodges of Glacier National Park in a 1930’s-vintage open-top Ford touring bus. We exchanged our Prius for this…


…and while riding thus, and hiking and boating and just looking out our hotel windows, saw grand views like this…

glaciernational parkThere was little or no internet and even less smartphone connectivity. It was magical.

But recharging our spirits carried some opportunity costs. One casualty was the blog. For example, while we were gone Dave Jones submitted a comment on the Paul Higgins piece. For those (few) of you who might not know Dave, he’s CEO, President, and founder of StormCenterCommunications, Inc. one of the most innovative and imaginative companies in our field. I’ve posted his remarks just now, eight days late (an eternity in 21st-century social-media time), but thinking they deserve wider visibility have reproduced them here in their entirety:

Thanks for sharing this Bill. Dr. Higgins’ comments are right on the mark. All too often decisions are made by looking at the constrained budgets first then many innovative ideas are ignored. This approach stifles innovation and places some great ideas and potentially high impact capabilities on the sidelines. I have never seen a touchdown scored by a football player sitting on the sidelines.

Just take a look at what is happening within NWS right now. An innovative approach to reorganizing NWS will lead to a (desperately needed) increase in the NWS budget. Suppose someone looked at the new ideas being implemented at NWS a year ago and said “We cant afford those innovative ideas…we have to do it with no additional funds.” then the spiral would have continued until no useful services were available from one of the best investments the Federal government has ever made…the NWS.

The old English proverb that “Necessity is the mother of invention” is very true and applicable to the tough times like the ones the science-policy interface is going through but hopefully through efforts that Dr. Higgins and you are putting forth will allow innovation to be introduced, cultivated and further matured to deliver accurate policy overviews, operational implementations and most importantly awesome success stories of how people and property were protected.

Dave’s comments bring to mind one other facet of the discussions and side conversations at the just-concluded AMS Summer Community Meeting… a continuing dialog about the value to society of Earth observations, science, and services. Despite years of thought, this value remains highly uncertain and poorly documented. It would be hard to find a member of our community who doesn’t think this value (whether measured in terms of lives saved, human health, property loss and business disruption averted, or other dimensions) is substantially underestimated. Given our degree of self-interest, that should come as no surprise. Nevertheless, even making allowances for our obvious bias, it seems that for society to be spending 0.1% of GDP on observations so fundamental to resources we depend upon (food, water, and energy), our ability to anticipate and forestall the impacts of natural hazards, and our efforts to protect the environment…about a quarter of what the world spends on pet food… is to be under-investing.

The community is floating several ideas for more precisely estimating the value of such work. Expect more on this subject over the coming months.

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