Request for Information (RFI) on Earth System Predictability Research and Development

Closed 272 days ago

Date published
Closed 289 days ago
Closed 272 days ago
- None

Chloe Kontos, NSTC Executive Director
United States


View Changes The purpose of this amendment is to extend the response date to June 1, 2020.
This is a Request for Information (RFI) on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Fast Track Action Committee for Earth System Predictability (ESP-FTAC) and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter.
The National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Fast Track Action Committee for Earth System Predictability (ESP-FTAC) requests public input on future Earth system predictability research and development (R&D) activities of Federal agencies as well as their partnerships with the external community.  Requested information pertains to the practical needs that could be addressed by this Earth system predictability research effort and the socio-economic benefits that could result from it, current gaps and barriers that are holding back progress, and opportunities for key activities that could be most valuable, including transformative “big ideas,” with regard to understanding Earth system predictability.
Knowing the extent to which components of the Earth system are practicably predictable - from individual thunderstorms to long-term global change - is vitally important for physical understanding of the Earth system (as it pertains to atmosphere-biota-hydrosphere components), assessing the value of predictions, guiding Federal investments, developing effective policy, and improving predictive skill.  In the Memorandum “Fiscal Year 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities” (, Departments and agencies are directed to prioritize R&D in the area of Earth system predictability as follows:

Focus on identifying R&D to quantify Earth system predictability across multiple phenomena, time, and space scales;
Consider strategic coordination and leveraging of resources across agencies on research and modeling efforts that can accelerate progress in this area;
Emphasize how measures of and limits to predictability, both theoretical and actual, can inform a wide array of stakeholders; and
Explore the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and adaptive observing systems to improve understanding leading to enhanced predictive skill, along with strategies for obtaining substantial improvements in computational model performance and spatial resolution across all scales.

The NSTC established the ESP-FTAC in February 2020 for specific coordination around the Earth system predictability R&D priority.  Responses to this RFI will help to inform discussions on future R&D activities that could be most valuable, or even transformative, with regard to understanding Earth system predictability.  For these purposes, the following distinction is made here  between predictability and prediction:
Predictability:  A measure of whether, and to what extent, an event or behavior of a system is practicably predictable (practicably here indicates theory that can be put into practice successfully).
Prediction/projection:  Different from predictability, prediction/projection generally refers to an estimate of the future derived in a variety of ways.
This RFI focuses on predictability R&D, as a means of assessing the value of predictions, guiding Federal investments, developing effective policy, and improving predictive skill with regard to Earth system predictability.  The latter is defined here as potentially involving processes encompassing the physical-biogeochemical spheres and human interactions across atmosphere-biota-hydrosphere Earth system components and across multiple spatial/temporal scales from individual storms to century-long global change.
With this focus in mind, we ask for feedback on the following questions:
1. Needs and benefits: What are the major needs/requirements for enhanced Earth system predictions/projections (anomalies, extremes and trends), to improve societal resilience and inform decisions, that are being only partially met or are unmet because of limitations in our understanding of Earth system predictability? What would be the socio-economic benefits of more adequately fulfilling these requirements/needs? Which new and/or enhanced Earth system predictions/projections could result from a successful Earth system predictability R&D effort?
Responses should define the primary entities that are currently driving the needs/requirements and how those are likely to change out to 2030; describe which needs/requirements are only partially met or are unmet; and quantify the socio-economic benefits of Earth system predictability R&D, as feasible.
 2. Gaps and barriers: What are the top three R&D gaps/barriers that are inhibiting progress in the understanding of Earth system predictability to meet needs/requirements (as highlighted under Question 1) across the following areas:  a) observations and process research; b) modeling, technology, and infrastructure; and c) coordination and partnerships?
Responses may focus on top three Earth system R&D priority gaps/barriers cutting across areas a)-c) above, focusing on select ones as appropriate and providing a high level description of the issues.
3. Opportunities and activities: What are the top three R&D opportunities and related activities for making substantial progress in the understanding of Earth system predictability towards the enhancement of Earth system predictions/projections?
Responses should consider which opportunities/activities would be most valuable and may include one transformative “big idea” among the top three R&D opportunities that are highlighted. Highlighted opportunities could involve new and/or enhanced activities that cut across the following areas, as appropriate: a) observations and process research; b) modeling, technology, and infrastructure; and c) coordination and partnerships. For each of the three highlighted opportunities (potentially including one “big idea”, as appropriate), responders should provide: goals, activities, and main expected outcomes; also specify whether it could be addressed in the next 1 to 2 years under current programs or whether it is longer term and needs additional resources.
  In framing opportunities, responders may consider the following questions:

What are the key R&D opportunities to quantify Earth system predictability across multiple phenomena, time, and space scales, including human interactions?
Are the present theoretical foundations of predictability adequate, and to what extent do they fail or succeed based upon current capabilities?
What is the predictability of Earth system-human interactions such as changes in atmospheric composition, land-use, and oceans across scales? Are the models adequate for simulating these interactions and representing predictability as in the real world?
What key modeling, technology, and infrastructure investments can accelerate our understanding and application of Earth system predictability across all scales? For example:
What is the optimal way to simulate processes/phenomena underpinning predictability? What is the impact of improved observations and reduced model biases on this simulation? Can artificial intelligence accelerate the understanding of those processes/phenomena that underpin predictability?
What computing infrastructure capabilities and modeling strategies are needed to optimize computational performance and accelerate R&D?  i) What type of coordination among Federal agencies would be most beneficial to accelerate progress?  ii) What are the opportunities to partner with entities outside the Federal government, nationally and internationally? What are the viable and potentially innovative mechanisms to partner most effectively?             

 4.  Additional Comments. Please provide any other input that you believe is pertinent to this request for information, within the page limit.
Request for Information: Instructions
Response to this RFI is voluntary.  Each individual or institution is requested to submit only one response.  Submission must be in 12 point or larger font and not exceed 5 pages, with a page number provided on each page.  Responses should include the name of the person(s) or organization(s) filing the comment.  Comments containing references, studies, research, and other empirical data that are not widely published should include copies or electronic links of the referenced materials.
No business proprietary information, copyrighted information, or personally identifiable information should be submitted in response to this RFI.
In accordance with FAR 15.202(3), responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Federal Government to form a binding contract. Additionally, those submitting responses are solely responsible for all expenses associated with response preparation.
Email response to this RFI to attention the NSTC Executive Director, Chloe Kontos.  Email submissions should be machine readable [pdf, word] and not copy-protected.  Submissions should include “RFI Response: ESP” in the subject line of the message.
Point of Contact
For any additional information or questions concerning this Request for Information email attention the NSTC Executive Director, Chloe Kontos, and include “RFI Response: ESP” in the subject line.

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