Rapid Research and Assessment on COVID-19 and Climate in New York City

In May 2020, the New York City (NYC) Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency (MOCR)
began convening bi-weekly discussions, called the Rapid Research and Assessment (RRA)
Series, between City staff and external experts in science, policy, design, engineering,
communications, and planning. The goal was to rapidly develop authoritative, actionable
information to help integrate resiliency into the City’s COVID response efforts. The situation
in NYC is not uncommon. Extreme events often require government officials,
practitioners, and citizens to call upon multiple forms of scientific and technical assistance
from rapid data collection to expert elicitation, each spanning more or less involved engagement.
We compare the RRA to similar rapid assessment efforts and reflect on the
nature of the RRA and similar efforts to exchange and co-produce knowledge. The RRA
took up topics on social cohesion, risk communication, resilient and healthy buildings, and
engagement, in many cases strengthening confidence in what was already known but also
refining the existing knowledge in ways that can be helpful as the pandemic unfolds.
Researchers also learned from each other ways to be supportive of the City of New York
and MOCR in the future. The RRA network will continue to deepen, continue to coproduce
actionable climate knowledge, and continue to value organizational sensemaking
as a usable climate service, particularly in highly uncertain times. Given the complex, rare,
and, in many cases, unfamiliar context of COVID-19, we argue that organizational sensemaking
is a usable climate service.
Keywords: Climate change; COVID-19; science–policy interactions; climate assessment.

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