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Chairwoman Sherrill Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Redefine NOAA Chief Scientist Qualifications, Guidelines

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Today, Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) of the Subcommittee on Environment introduced the NOAA Chief Scientist Act with Congressman Randy Feenstra (R-IA). Under current law, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Chief Scientist is appointed by the president and given a broad outline of their duties, but details on the qualifications of who would be eligible to serve as Chief Scientist or how the Chief Scientist establishes standards within NOAA’s scientific endeavors are lacking. The NOAA Chief Scientist Act would provide greater clarity on the qualifications of the presidentially-appointed Chief Scientist, and direct the Chief Scientist to establish and enforce high scientific integrity standards within NOAA and to provide yearly public reports on NOAA’s scientific work.

“NOAA’s jurisdiction over the conditions of our oceans, major waterways, and atmosphere makes them a critical player in our continued fight to mitigate the climate crisis,” said Chairwoman Sherrill. “In 2021, the United States needs a Chief Scientist who is a respected leader in their field with an innovative vision for the future of climate-related research and development. This legislation outlines the specific qualifications necessary to run this agency and ensures the appointee is provided the guidance needed to best succeed in the role.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Meteorological Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“I am pleased to join Rep. Sherrill in this effort to strengthen the Chief Scientist’s role at NOAA,” said Congressman Feenstra. “This agency plays an important role in the lives of many Iowans every day, like utilizing cutting-edge technology to help keep us safe when severe weather strikes. Given NOAA’s wide-ranging jurisdiction, bolstering the role of Chief Scientist will help this critical agency continue being on the forefront of oceanic and atmospheric science.”

“The role of Chief Scientist at NOAA provides critical leadership for the agency’s scientific efforts on a wide range of topics,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy and the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The NOAA Chief Scientist Act sets the necessary credentials for the position. The Chief Scientist must lead efforts to ensure NOAA lives up to its scientific integrity principles and strengthens and diversifies its scientific workforce. The Union of Concerned Scientists endorses this important bill.”

The NOAA Chief Scientist Act directs the president to consider the recommendations of reputable scientific or educational organizations when appointing NOAA Chief Scientist. The Chief Scientist must have an established record of producing work of scientific merit and be highly respected by the scientific community.

It also clarifies specific guidelines and responsibilities of the job of NOAA’s senior scientific officer. In regard to values, the Chief Scientist will be expected to prioritize scientific integrity within the workforce and transparency with Congress and the general public. Their responsibilities shall include leading the development of science strategy, implementing oversight over NOAA funding, and providing direction and facilitating integration and coordination of research efforts across NOAA and with other agencies. They will also be directed to ensure NOAA attracts, retains, and promotes world-class scientists and researchers, as well as providing the professional development needed to ensure the administration's scientific workforce is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

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