Frequently Asked Questions

by abwhite last modified Aug 12, 2016 10:41 AM


What is an assessment?

An assessment is a critical evaluation of information for purposes of guiding decisions on a complex issue in the public interest. Stakeholders provide the questions that guide the assessment.  

An assessment is not a research project: Most sources and data should already be collected, peer-reviewed, and in the public domain.  Gap-filling and new calculations using existing data are permissible.

An assessment is not an advocacy piece: it must be balanced and evidence-based.  Assessments strive to be policy-relevant, without being policy prescriptive.  Assessments frame and weigh policy options rather than making policy recommendations.

The Assessment is time bounded:  The California Nitrogen Assessment was launched in 2009 and the text for the final publication was finalized in July 2015.  Assessments rely primarily on peer-reviewed publications, for which the time period from the initial research activities to final publication commonly extends to two years or more.

Thus, though there are many relevant recent and ongoing policy initiatives (e.g., the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, Eastern San Joaquin Agricultural Waste Discharge Requirements General Order, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, changes in the federal ozone standard), the assessment is not a review of the current policy arena in California.

 

How was the California Nitrogen Assessment funded?

Major funding for the CNA was provided by a grant to ASI from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Further financial support has been provided by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), including UC SAREP and the UC ANR Kearney Foundation of Soil Science, United States Department of Agriculture Hatch project funds, and the WK Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at UC Davis.

 UC Press, the book’s publisher, received a grant from the Bechtel Fund to support the publication of selected titles in Environmental Sciences, including the CNA.  Other titles in the imprint are listed here.

How were stakeholders involved throughout the research and writing process of the CNA?

A primary goal of the assessment is to develop information and products that are relevant to stakeholders.  The assessment process included stakeholder meetings to generate research questions and to develop a series of "scenarios" of the future of nitrogen in California.  We have conducted outreach to producers and industry groups, policy makers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to involve them in these activities.  An eight-member technical advisory committee provides oversight for the project, and a stakeholder advisory committee provides comment and review from stakeholders' perspectives.  

From 2009 to 2011, we used stakeholder forums, farm visits, grower consultations, and industry field trips to engage with more than 350 stakeholders across 50 organizations.

From 2009 to 2015, we gave over 30 presentations around California to share our process, solicit feedback, and share initial findings from the assessment.

A 30-member stakeholder advisory committee was invited to hear initial findings and provide feedback at several stages throughout the assessment process.

Following scientific review, we hosted a public review process that included webinars for individual chapters of the assessment and a comment submission process.  The public review was advertised through the outreach list built throughout the assessment process, social media, and the UC ANR homepage blog.


What was the review process for the CNA?

The CNA followed the basic peer review methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is a transparent process of writing and review. The CNA underwent two rounds of review. The first round focused on scientific rigor, accuracy, and credibility by asking over 50 scientific experts to critically read and comment on sections of the assessment in their area of expertise. This was followed by a period of author response and revision to the draft.

 The revised document was then distributed to our Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and soon thereafter made available for public comment. This Stakeholder Review stage was followed by a second period of author response and revision.

During each stage, authors were required to respond to all comments received and review editors acted as referees to judge the adequacy of our responses.

Why doesn’t the CNA cover current nitrogen policy in California?

The California Nitrogen Assessment was launched in 2009 and the text for the final publication was finalized in July 2015.  Assessments rely primarily on peer-reviewed publications, for which the time period from the initial research activities to final publication commonly extends to two years or more.

Thus, though there are many relevant recent and ongoing policy initiatives (e.g., the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, Eastern San Joaquin Agricultural Waste Discharge Requirements General Order, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, changes in the federal ozone standard), the assessment is not a review of the current policy arena in California.

 

How does the Agricultural Sustainability Institute intend for the CNA to be used?

The CNA is intended to be a resource for anyone interested in promoting the benefits and minimizing the negative impacts of nitrogen in California.  The CNA is an analysis and synthesis of existing scientific publications, making a large body of information more accessible to people across sectors and with differing levels of expertise.

Because the CNA is a comprehensive analysis of our knowledge about nitrogen in California, it has the potential to be a resource to guide long-term discussions and solutions.

Why does the CNA focus on agriculture more than other sectors?

The original intent of the CNA was to determine how nitrogen from agriculture contributed to climate change. In order to fully understand that contribution required a comparison of nitrogen across systems and geographical regions. As agriculture is the largest contributor to nitrogen in California, it is appropriate for the CNA information to be more heavily weighted towards agriculture.  However, energy and transportation, urban nitrogen contributions, wastewater, and other non-agricultural nitrogen contributions are accounted for in the CNA.

How is this different from the Groundwater Nitrate Report released by UC Davis in 2012 (sometimes referred to as the Harter Report)?

The Groundwater Nitrate Report released in 2012 was funded by the State Water Resources Board and focused solely on groundwater in two regions of California—the Monterey County portion of the Salinas Valley and Tulare Lake Basin.  The California Nitrogen Assessment takes a statewide approach to nitrogen, and addresses nitrogen in groundwater in addition to other forms of nitrogen in surface water and the atmosphere.  The CNA also synthesizes the existing science on nitrogen’s impact on human health and the environment.

The CNA and the Groundwater Nitrate Report share some contributing authors, and the mass balance section in both reports use the same methodology.

When will the book be released?

The CNA is currently available through University of California Press, here.  

What are the outreach plans?

An Executive Summary of the book is available here. In the fall of 2016, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute will host a public briefing on the assessment.  We plan to share findings of the CNA to various stakeholders throughout fall 2016.

Who can I contact to further discuss the CNA?

Please contact Aubrey Thompson, Communications Coordinator at ASI with questions about the CNA.

Event Details

ASI

One Shields Drive
UC Davis
Davis, CA
95616


(530) 752-3915