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Handbook serves as resource for science policy decision-makers

April 12, 2010

In 2010, the U.S. government will spend more than $150 billion on research and development. What gets done with that enormous sum has important implications for the wide variety of problems facing our society.  

Decisions on challenges such as national defense, environmental change, rapid urbanization and public health rely on scientific knowledge to inform them. Given the complexity and the significance of such challenges, how can science funders effectively orient a vast research enterprise to make real progress toward desired social goals?

The Science Policy Assessment and Research on Climate (SPARC) project announces the release of its publication "Usable Science: A Handbook for Science Policy Decision Makers." It is intended to be a resource for anyone involved in the process of designing, directing or implementing research – those who decide what research gets done and whose needs the research is intended to serve, including professionals in federal agencies, congressional staffers, scientists managing a lab or sitting on a panel at the National Research Council, or managers at a foundation with a science focus.

The handbook addresses the challenge of producing usable science, defined as science that meets the changing needs of decision-makers. SPARC presents concrete examples from diverse areas, from earthquake research to materials science, and offers specific recommendations for organizations and individuals interested in becoming more effective at producing usable science. These include understanding and connecting with potential users of science in setting the course of research policies, developing creative incentives and evaluation metrics, and recognizing innovative leadership.

The handbook will be released at a workshop in Washington, D.C., April 12, featuring the former presidential science adviser, John Marburger, and researchers from SPARC. SPARC is a joint project of the University of Colorado's Center for Science and Policy Technology Research and ASU's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, and is funded by the National Science Foundation. SPARC conducts research and assessment, outreach and education aimed at helping climate science policies better support climate-related decision making in the face of fundamental and often irreducible uncertainties.

For a hardcopy of the handbook, please e-mail Ami Nacu-Schmidt, It also is available online at, and can be downloaded at

For more information about SPARC, visit