The first test of how the thinly staffed Trump administration will handle the ongoing national assessment process could come later this year — when it will have to make decisions about the publication of a separate, more than 500 page report designed to serve as the National Climate Assessment’s scientific foundation. That fundamental climate science document recently received a largely positive peer review from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and, if it stays on schedule, would come out in the fall of 2017, with the broader regionally focused report to follow a year later.

National Assessments have been delayed extensively in the past. After the Clinton administration produced the first one in 2000, it took until 2009 to publish the second — the very early Obama years.

So as the process continues, university scientists and communities and activists around the country will be watching closely — just as they were at the meeting in Raleigh.

“With the current administration, is [the report] really going to be reviewed and are they going to have the staff to review it?” asked Karen Bearden, a volunteer with the Research Triangle branch of the climate advocacy group, during a question-and-answer session at the meeting.

“What I can tell you, this report, and the actions that are being taken to write it are being required by law,” answered Chris Avery, a contractor with the Global Change Research Program. “This is an obligatory thing.”