Science & Technology

NOAA’s vision centers on a holistic understanding of the interdependencies between human health and prosperity

NOAA’s Science & Technology Enterprise
NOAA’s vision centers on a holistic understanding of the interdependencies between human health and prosperity, and the intricacies of the Earth system. Achieving this level of understanding presents an overarching, long-term scientific and technical challenge to NOAA: to develop and apply holistic, integrated Earth system approaches to understand the processes that connect changes in the atmosphere, ocean, space, land surface, and cryosphere with ecosystems, organisms, and humans over different scales. Over the long-term, drawing upon its world-class research, observation, and modeling capabilities, NOAA is uniquely positioned to:
• Acquire and incorporate knowledge of human behavior to enhance understanding of the interaction between human activities and the Earth system.
• Understand and quantify the interactions between atmospheric composition and climate variations and change.
• Understand and characterize the role of the oceans in climate change, and variability and the effects of climate change on the ocean and coasts.
• Assess and understand the roles of ecosystem processes and biodiversity in sustaining ecosystem services.
• Improve understanding and predictions of the water cycle from global to local scales.
• Develop and evaluate approaches to substantially reduce environmental degradation.
• Sustain and enhance atmosphere-ocean-land-biology and human observing systems.
• Characterize the uncertainties associated with scientific information.
• Communicate scientific information and its associated uncertainties accurately and effectively to policy makers, the media, and the public at large.
To address this long-term challenge and meet the near-term science requirements within and across its strategic goals, NOAA must simultaneously pursue three objectives within its core scientific and technical enterprise: a holistic understanding of the Earth system, accurate and reliable data from sustained and integrated Earth observing systems, and an integrated environmental modeling framework.
Objective: A holistic understanding of the Earth system through research
NOAA’s long-term goals and objectives hinge on an enhanced understanding of the complex interrelationships that exist across NOAA’s climate, weather, ocean, and coastal domains. NOAA needs to advance innovative research that pushes the boundaries of scientific understanding and integrates information across scientific disciplines. This innovative research will enable improved understanding of the Earth system from global to local scales, and improve the ability to forecast weather, climate, water resources, and ecosystem health.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will expand and maintain reliable and accessible information and develop advanced technologies to better observe, understand, model, and communicate knowledge of complex systems, and promote existing and future scientific excellence and collaborations in its science workforce. Across all domains, NOAA will need to characterize the uncertainties inherent in the process of scientific discovery, and effectively communicate scientific information and its associated uncertainties to policy makers, the media, and the public.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Increased understanding of climate, weather, oceans, ecosystems, human activities, and their interrelationships;
• Improved understanding of the processes contributing to, and impacts of ocean acidification, changes in ocean temperature and freshwater input, and sea level change;
• Improved understanding of ecosystems (e.g., Gulf of Mexico, Arctic, Great Lakes) and the effects of human activities on the ecosystem, and coastal communities and economies;
• Increased investigation and assessment of unexplored and ecologically, economically and culturally important coastal and oceanic regions;
• Research on ecosystem impacts, processes, dynamics and biodiversity transitioned to enable ecosystem approaches to management and coastal community resilience;
• Social, behavioral, and economic research advanced and transitioned into NOAA’s delivery of climate, weather, ocean, and coastal services;
• Meteorological, atmospheric, climatic, and oceanic research advanced and transitioned to NOAA’s production of enhanced weather, climate, and marine forecasts and services, including those supporting renewable energy;
• More effective development and transition of technologies to operational services and stewardship applications; and
• An integrated research agenda supported by portfolio management that promotes transformative research and innovation.
Objective: Accurate and reliable data from sustained and integrated earth observing systems
NOAA is an environmental information generating organization. Therefore, NOAA’s observing system portfolio needs to balance growing demands with continuity concerns and implementation of emerging technologies. Over the long-term, NOAA must sustain and enhance its many observing systems — and their long-term data sets — and develop and transition new observing technologies into operations, while working in close collaboration with its governmental, international, regional, and academic partners.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will research, develop, deploy, and operate systems to collect remote and in situ observations, and manage and share data through partnerships and standards. Fundamental to ensuring effective use of the wealth of environmental information collected by observing systems is an increased focus on information management standards and strategies to improve access, interoperability, and usability of NOAA’s environmental information resources.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Increased percentage of environmental measurement needs (legacy and new) satisfied within objectives of the four strategic goals;
• Reduced gaps in sustained environmental measurements;
• Improved data interoperability and usability through application and use of common data management standards;
• Enhanced access and use of environmental data through data storage and access solutions, integration of systems, and long-term stewardship; and
• Reduced life cycle cost of observations through increased partnerships, integration of systems leveraging available data, and reducing unnecessarily duplicative capabilities.
Objective: An Integrated environmental modeling system
To fulfill current and emerging science and service requirements for its strategic goals, NOAA must ultimately evolve toward an interconnected and comprehensive Earth system modeling enterprise that links atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial, cryospheric, ecological, and climatic models.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will develop a comprehensive modeling backbone; integrate observations, models, products, and services; and foster a culture of collaboration within and external to NOAA. To this end, NOAA will develop collaborative strategies involving internal and external partnerships and community-wide standards to ensure interoperability. integrate research monitoring and prediction plans for its strategic goals, including regional-scale climate models and integrated ecosystem modeling, enhance and expand existing capabilities for data integration from observing systems for model validation and verification, and institute a well-functioning governance structure for NOAA’s environmental modeling enterprise.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Effective and efficient collaboration and coordination within NOAA and with partners to enhance the scope and predictive accuracy of integrated Earth system models for global, national, and regional applications, and for specific phenomena;
• Increased capacity, capability, and use of models to support ecological forecast services;
• Improved predictive performance of global, regional, and local climate, weather, ocean, and ecosystem models for variable temporal scales;
• Increased development and implementation of integrated modeling science plans incorporating prioritization, and partnerships to accelerate the advancements of modeling capabilities, capacities, and enterprise solutions;
• Increased volume and diversity of data and information effectively integrated into models, particularly at different global, national, regional, and local scales;
• Increased evaluation and optimization of NOAA’s investments in observation and monitoring through the use of models;
• Acceleration of model coverage, transitioning, and interoperability; and
• Increased development and use of enterprise and community models.
NOAA Partnerships for Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
NOAA will take advantage of its broad national and international network of partners in other agencies, in Cooperative Institutes and Sea Grant colleges, in external academic institutions and professional societies, and in the private sector to better understand the complex connections between the physical Earth system and its biological components — including human beings. NOAA’s partnerships with NASA and DOD will continue to maintain the continuity of critical remotely sensed satellite data and products to support weather and climate applications. NOAA’s international partners include the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites; and the space agencies of Canada, China, Europe, France, India, and Taiwan. NOAA’s international partners will continue to share data, ground processing, and reception sites, and collaborate on the operation of satellite assets. NOAA will communicate scientific information that is accurate and reliable through adherence to the highest levels of scientific integrity, transparency, and accountability.

Engagement Enterprise

The best way for NOAA to meet the increasingly complex needs of its stakeholders is often to deliver data and knowledge to those who have not yet accessed it.

NOAA’s Engagement Enterprise
The best way for NOAA to meet the increasingly complex needs of its stakeholders is often to deliver data and knowledge to those who have not yet accessed it. NOAA must understand these needs at all levels — within the U.S. and abroad — and respond to them. Conversely, NOAA’s next breakthrough in research, development, operational improvement, or policy action may depend upon the unique knowledge or needs of a partner or customer. Achieving NOAA’s goals involves garnering support from domestic and international partners through engagement.
NOAA’s capacity to engage individuals and other organizations effectively will determine its long-term success. It is not sufficient for NOAA to conduct, fund, and direct science. NOAA must be aware of science conducted, funded, and directed by others and must integrate and convert that scientific information into applications used within the Agency, and accepted and recognized by the scientific community world-wide, then harness its stewardship responsibilities by meeting society’s broader needs for more information. Scientists must solicit management needs as early as possible in the design of research with a constant eye toward management’s potential use of research results. Scientists must engage with their peers, but also with colleagues around the world, in other disciplines, and with the public at large. Managers of NOAA’s environmental data and information services must engage with decision makers in local governments and industries. Regulators must engage with communities they regulate, as well as with their regulatory counterparts in other nations. NOAA must also engage with constituents, educators, and communicators to share knowledge and information.
Objective: An engaged and educated public with an improved capacity to make scientifically informed environmental decisions
To support climate, weather, ocean, and coastal science and management needs of the next generation, NOAA must foster an environmentally literate society and future environmental workforce.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will engage stakeholders and the public at multiple levels to build awareness of environmental science, services, and stewardship responsibilities; foster community dialogue; and educate citizens and students.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Increased understanding and use of climate, weather, ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal environmental information to promote stewardship and increase informed decision making by stakeholders, educators, students, and the public who are interested in science;
• A diverse pool of students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and other fields critical to NOAA’s mission, connected to career paths at NOAA and in related organizations; and
• NOAA effectively engages key stakeholders and the public to enhance literacy of climate, weather, ocean, and coastal environments.
Objective: Integrated services meeting the evolving demands of regional stakeholders
As regional and local conditions change, NOAA will need to quickly assess changes in user and stakeholder priorities and develop collaborative solutions that draw on the full range of capabilities available from NOAA and its community of partners.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will tailor services to meet regional demands by coordinating and integrating the capabilities of multiple Line Offices within that region. In particular, NOAA will focus on supporting and collaborating with established and emerging regional governance initiatives so they are better able to protect and restore coastal, ocean, Great Lakes, and other regional resources.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Stakeholder needs continually and adequately assessed for NOAA science, service, and stewardship;
• Integrated products and services tailored to the needs of NOAA’s regional stakeholders and customers;
• Organizational responsiveness to stakeholder needs through the evaluation of and adjustments to products and services;
• Two-way communication with regional stakeholders, including regional governance initiatives, to build understanding, trust, and partnerships; and
• A workforce operating with shared awareness and understanding of its cross-Agency missions and capabilities.
Objective: Full and effective use of international partnerships and policy leadership to achieve NOAA’s mission objectives
NOAA science and stewardship is strengthened through exchanges of ideas and vigorous interaction with international colleagues. NOAA is well positioned to assist other nations improve their understanding and ability to predict and respond to changes in climate and other environmental conditions affecting natural resources, population safety, and economic activity, and thereby bring those resources to bear on achieving NOAA’s mission objectives. Through partnerships, NOAA benefits from leveraging investments and advancements made by foreign partners.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will promote goals and practices that can be adopted and adapted regionally and globally to benefit the Nation and advance NOAA’s strategic goals. Through these efforts, NOAA will improve the standardization, availability, and utility of environmental data for the Nation and the world.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Full implementation of the provisions of the MSA to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and bycatch of protected living marine resources in international fisheries;
• Fulfillment of the Coral Triangle Initiative objectives;
• Build transboundary relationships that support NOAA regional engagement, including that in the Arctic, Great Lakes, and Gulf of Mexico;
• Implement the International Marine Mammal Action Plan;
• Expanded collaborations and partnerships on international environmental observing capabilities and on climate observing systems, assessments, and services; and
• Reduced loss of life, property, and disruption from and response to high-impact international events.
NOAA Partnerships in its Engagement Enterprise
Engagement implies a commitment of service through a partnership between NOAA and society based on reciprocity and shared goals, objectives, and resources. Implicit to engagement is a respect for each partner that involves listening, dialogue, understanding, and mutual support. In the areas of weather and climate, NOAA is a major component of the public, commercial, and academic enterprises that provide a full suite of weather products and services to the Nation. In turn, partners have strong and ongoing relationships with such constituent populations as students (from kindergarten through undergraduate programs) and faculty, local governments, businesses and industries, and the general public.
NOAA has strong partner relations with many universities through Sea Grant, Cooperative Institutes, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System programs. NOAA partners with organizations including Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers; Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence; non-governmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy; and with numerous science centers, museums, zoos, and aquariums. NOAA actively engages such professional societies as National Science Teachers Association, National Marine Educators Association, and the American Meteorological Society. NOAA coordinates with other Federal Agencies that have similar engagement missions, including NASA, DOI, EPA, and the National Science Foundation. At the State and regional level, NOAA’s partners include such groups as Western Governors’ Association, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Internationally, NOAA works with such bodies as the World Meteorological Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the International Whaling Commission.

Organization & Administration Enterprise

NOAA’s managers, whether at headquarters or in the field, have common responsibilities to manage the investment of tax-payer dollars, deploy physical infrastructure, and retain a qualified workforce.

NOAA’s Organization & Administration Enterprise
NOAA’s managers, whether at headquarters or in the field, have common responsibilities to manage the investment of tax-payer dollars, deploy physical infrastructure, and retain a qualified workforce. NOAA’s managerial efforts provide the rest of the Agency with the staff, the infrastructure, and the financial capital needed to get the job done. Effective management of these resources fosters an organizational environment in which core competencies can be used most effectively and final products and services can have the greatest impact.
Objective: Diverse and constantly evolving capabilities in NOAA’s workforce
Focusing on social and environmental outcomes will require not only the best skills in the scientific and engineering disciplines, but the best skills in interdisciplinary work. Understanding the natural, social, and economic systems that make up a dynamic ecosystem will require increased expertise in social and economic science as well as the physical sciences. Efficient operations within a complex scientific and technical organization will require expert-level mastery of the disciplines of program and project management. Finally, with a substantial portion of its workforce approaching retirement eligibility, NOAA will also need to attract, hire, train, and retain a new generation of professionals to accomplish its strategic goals.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will recruit outstanding professionals with disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and managerial expertise, and cultivate existing and new sources of talent to evolve its workforce capabilities over time.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Increased leadership, managerial training, and certification in the career development of NOAA professionals and NOAA Corps Officers;
• Increased numbers of qualified program and project managers;
• Increased numbers of interdisciplinary professionals and science translators to enable functions of engagement and integration;
• Increased use of social scientists for research, service development, and operations;
• Increased capacity of the NOAA Corps to lead integration of advanced technologies into NOAA’s missions; and
• Increased numbers of underrepresented groups in the NOAA workforce.
Objective: A modern IT infrastructure for a scientific enterprise
Modern collaborative technologies are essential to enabling NOAA’s diverse and widely distributed staff to share knowledge more effectively NOAA-wide, and to enable customers and stakeholders to engage with the extended NOAA community transparently and effectively.
To achieve this objective, NOAA is committed to modernizing its IT infrastructure through the development of a common standards-based architecture and through a consistent approach to making decisions based upon the service needs of NOAA staff and stakeholders. NOAA will provide secure and flexible social media environments, collaboration tools, and web portals to promote innovation across mission, line, stakeholder, and user boundaries.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Adoption of a common architecture and framework for IT services and solutions;
• Delivery of critical high-performance computing capabilities for evolving environmental modeling requirements;
• Implementation of enterprise-wide and holistic protection from cyber security threats; and
• An IT workforce that possesses the competencies required to fulfill NOAA’s evolving scientific mission.
Objective: Modern, safe, and sustainable facilities
NOAA’s work is conducted in specialized facilities dispersed across the Nation, and internationally. NOAA must ensure its facilities provide modern, sustainable, and safe environments to fulfill its mission successfully and to attract and retain a high-performance workforce. Like other NOAA capital assets, NOAA’s facilities require routine recapitalization, renovation, and modernization to provide state-of-the-art capabilities.
To achieve this objective, efficiencies are planned by leveraging targeted consolidation of dispersed facilities. Key strategies for modernization include investments in recapitalizing NOAA’s aged facility portfolio, and investments in new facilities.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Improved facility condition indices;
• Reduced accidents and injuries;
• Increased energy efficiency in facility operations, including an increased percentage of NOAA’s total facility portfolio certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; and
• Increased operational efficiency.
Objective: A high-performing organization with integrated, efficient, and effective business systems and management processes
Successfully managing NOAA’s diverse equipment, resources, and partnerships to operate efficiently and effectively over their entire life cycles requires a long-term perspective. The technical sophistication, resource intensity, and long time frames associated with NOAA’s physical assets and partnerships requires fully integrated, effective management and administrative systems and processes.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will strengthen financial and non-financial internal controls, develop and deploy improved risk-management methods, and reform its business processes to ensure that programs and projects achieve their goals on schedule and within budget, and provide a sound framework for routine monitoring and program performance evaluation.
Over the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
• Successful results from audits and evaluations of NOAA’s financial and non-financial control systems;
• Sound project engineering, cost estimation, and acquisition management practices that generate routine success in meeting cost, schedule, and performance targets for programs and major projects;
• Increased organizational efficiency and effectiveness through continuous improvements in NOAA-wide business processes and strategic and performance management systems; and
• Improved project and program management skills.
NOAA Partnerships in its Organization and Administration Enterprise
NOAA’s partners in organization and administration are, first and foremost, its larger family of Government Agencies, such as the National Institute for Standards and Technology within DOC. NOAA will continue to work with DOC headquarters and the Office of Management and Budget to improve programmatic effectiveness and fiscal responsibility as a public organization. In this vein, NOAA also draws upon the expertise of independent, non-profit organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the Partnership for Public Service. It will rely upon the General Services Administration for broad-based services support for acquisitions, manufacturing, logistics, and a variety of centralized services. To hire, retain, and develop a highly qualified workforce, NOAA also relies upon the Office of Personnel Management. To ensure its next generation of scientists and administrators, NOAA partners extensively with colleges and universities around the country, and with such programs as Sea Grant, through education, outreach, and grants for research and professional development.