AGU Fellow Nominated to be NOAA Chief Scientist Testifies Before Senate

3 December 2012
AGU Science Policy Alert 10-37

On 30 November, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the nomination of AGU Fellow Scott Doney to be NOAA’s Chief Scientist. Scott Doney was elected as an AGU Fellow in 2000 and has also received AGU’s James B. Macelwane Medal. His PhD in Chemical Oceanography is from the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) Joint Program, and he has spent significant amounts of time working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and WHOI, where he currently holds a faculty position.

During the Senate nomination hearing, Scott Doney began his testimony by saying he is honored and humbled to be the nominee for the position. He explained the main focus of his research has been carbon cycling in the ocean and between the ocean, atmosphere and land biosphere and that the course of his research career has broadly prepared him for the position of Chief Scientist at NOAA. He expressed a love for teaching and for making science accessible for the public and policymakers. Doney believes some of NOAA’s priorities are maintaining a reputation that attracts top scientists, cultivating future scientists, providing timely information, and turning the science into products that are accessible and useful to the public, industry, and policymakers.

Senators on the committee who were present at the nomination hearing, including John Rockefeller (D-WV), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) all spoke very highly of NOAA. Senator Hutchison described the agency by stating, “NOAA is one of our Nation’s premier scientific agencies and provides services that protect life and property as well as support natural resource development.” Senator Rockefeller praised NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco while lamenting the fact that many Americans do not fully understand the importance of NOAA, especially in areas such as weather and hurricane forecasting, coping with the Gulf oil spill, STEM education, and ocean acidification.

Senator Rockefeller wrapped up the hearing by asking Doney about the importance of the Chief Scientist position at NOAA, which has been vacant since 1996. Doney responded by saying, “The reason for filling this position is the clear need for strong guidance on the science side; although Dr. Lubchenco is an excellent scientist, she’s involved in so many things that the science enterprise itself hasn’t had a lot of leadership inside of NOAA, and so the idea would be to bring someone in to really guide, not only the research that NOAA does, but how science gets used in NOAA’s service products, like the weather service, and also in the stewardship activities on our coastal ecosystems.”

There is no word on when Doney’s nomination would head to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

A webcast of the hearing and the Senators’ opening statements can be found here.

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