In July 2022, EPIC, the Unified Forecast System (UFS), and UFS Research to Operations (R2O) teams co-hosted the first Unifying Innovations in Forecasting Capabilities Workshop (UIFCW) in College Park, MD. Ashley Stagnari, EPIC’s Summer 2022 William M. Lapenta Intern, joined the team to develop the UIFCW report titled “Working with Stakeholders: Engaging Sectors to Influence the Future of EPIC and UFS.” Ashley’s report is now available on the EPIC website: Read Ashley’s report.
To complete this report, Ashley completed a literature review of social science and community engagement best practices and applied those elements to feedback collected during the UIFCW. Community engagement best practices included co-production, dialogue and development of community values, community governance, and a community environment for collaboration. During the workshop, Ashley and the EPIC Team collected feedback through the online messaging forum, Slack; question and answer sessions; comprehensive notes; agendas; and a post-workshop survey. After the workshop, Ashley analyzed this feedback for the presence or absence of the community engagement elements as well as the challenges, outcomes, and goals stakeholders presented through their research, presentations, and conversations.
By integrating stakeholder feedback and engagement with the technical elements of EPIC, the program can help to align user, developer, and operational needs. Findings highlight the motivation amongst stakeholders to foster cross-sector collaboration and innovation and to utilize open-source code. However, with these findings come various challenges including limited user support, coding and computing barriers, a low level of collaborator interaction, and eligibility concerns related to who is in, or out of, the community. The EPIC- and UFS-designed frameworks of a modeling platform and code releases have the capacity to support co-innovation, but they are currently impeded by structural limitations related to workflow and documentation. Additionally, the lack of a diverse array of stakeholders—including but not limited to researchers and developers, academic users, and members of the private sector—at events like the UIFCW impedes co-innovation.
Given these findings, ideas for a path forward include building a cohesive and collaborative research and application environment through a variety of infrastructure and engagement techniques. Specifically, action items generated at the UIFCW include building greater outreach through a mailing list and social media, creating common communication platforms for collaboration and support, designing an inclusive and accountable governance system, and supporting capacity-building for all existing and future participants.
Other ideas for a path forward include focusing on the allocation of funding resources, expanding support systems and training, and designing communication platforms to meet the needs of different stakeholders. The modeling community would also benefit from clarifications to the governance structure that emphasize opportunities for entry, support, engagement, and application. Lastly, it could be helpful to foster co-production and capacity-building among stakeholders by aligning project goals to stakeholders’ contexts, incorporating a diverse range of disciplines in the UFS community, developing incentives for participation and long-term engagement, and fostering knowledge sharing.
Check out the full report to learn more!