Monday, June 24, 2019


For science to be useful, it must be credible. NOAA’s research must be conducted with the utmost integrity and transparency. The recently established NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity establishes a code of conduct for scientists and science managers to operate as a trusted source for environmental science. With this Order, NOAA has seized an opportunity to strengthen the confidence – of scientists, decision makers who depend on NOAA science, as well as the general public – in the quality and reliability of NOAA R&D.


NOAA requires the unique capabilities and expertise of its partners. The R&D required by NOAA’s mission cannot be conducted by the Agency alone.  As noted in the 2004 SAB review of NOAA’s research enterprise, extramural research investment brings with it: world class expertise not found in NOAA laboratories; enhanced connection to global science; leveraged external funding sources; multi-institutional coordination; access to external research facilities; and opportunities to engage with graduate and undergraduate students. Partners are necessary to help best articulate the needs and requirements driving the enterprise, but also to execute the research. Collaborative elements yield a wealth of innovation, serving to make NOAA's research enterprise greater than the sum of its parts.


NOAA strategic planThe crux of holistically understanding the Earth system is not only understanding its individual components, but understanding and interpreting the way each of the components interact and behave as an integrated composite that is more than the sum of its parts. Combining exploration, observations, process studies, modeling, and analysis can yield the improved understanding needed to effectively predict and sustainably participate in this complex system. NOAA is committed to providing the discipline-specific foundation and the multi-disciplinary integration required to achieve and exploit holistic understanding of the Earth system in the interest of all four of its strategic goals.



The business community has long recognized the inherent importance of sustained investment in R&D to promote industrial excellence. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, serving as the Chair of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, has said "the mistake we make is by not making enough bets in markets that we're experts in." In the absence of such investment, services become stagnant and unresponsive to the constantly changing demands of the market. For a science-based agency, the argument is even more compelling; in place of market drivers, NOAA must remain responsive to the needs of the Nation, and do so in the face of challenges that cover a diversity of disciplines, time scales, and degrees of impact. Innovation is “the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.” Ideas and inventions are necessary for innovation, though alone they are not sufficient. Innovation is the process of using ideas and inventions to create value. NOAA is committed to supporting innovation throughout its R&D enterprise to improve the understanding, products and services that support the Nation.


NOAA is committed to pursuing the breadth of R&D required to address the immediate needs of the Nation and the emerging challenges of the future. As such, NOAA must maintain an appropriately balanced portfolio of activities (see Section 4.II.A below for more details on portfolio management). It must balance the need for long-term outcomes with outcomes that are more immediate. It must also balance the R&D needs among its strategic goals and enterprise objectives. Further, NOAA’s R&D enterprise must be balanced with respect to demand for service and stewardship improvements (the “pull”) with the new ideas that could revolutionize how goals are accomplished (the “push”).

NOAA should strive for the appropriate balance of incremental, low-risk research investments with high-risk, high-reward initiatives (i.e., transformational research). Indeed, part of NOAA’s scientific strength rests on its ability to encourage risk and, in doing so, tolerate failure. The Agency also needs to balance the potential of research directed by discrete, well-defined challenges with research that has objectives that are less well-defined. Often, the highest risk, most potentially transformative research is that which has the most tangible, time-bound objectives, such as the Apollo program in the 1960s aimed at “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The right balance is often a judgment call, but we can have greater confidence in such judgments when they are informed by the knowledge of NOAA's investments in these different dimensions of its R&D portfolio.