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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Transforming science and technology innovation at NOAA

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Providing NOAA with insight into removing barriers preventing modernization, and providing enhanced cross organizational teaming that promotes innovative solutions on how to improve the mission and foster a culture which promotes innovation and increases morale.

About NOAA

The Department of Commerce is the agency which oversees NOAA - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The PIF will work within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. NOAA was established by Benjamin Franklin (then referred to as the US Coast Survey) to create products and services that are designed to protect life and property. The organizational structure developed over time into line offices designated to maximize the products that support this mission. The selected Fellow would be assigned to NOAA headquarters, which oversees the line offices responsible for the operations of NOAA’s observing systems (satellites, ships, unmanned systems, etc.), the generation of essential products and services, and the distribution of NOAA’s data to scientists around the globe.

The challenge

How can we help NOAA evaluate and adopt what is needed to implement each of their emerging science and technology focus areas

The project

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. NOAA, as an organization, was established over the years into line offices that focused on specific products and services that support Earth’s different environments: aquatic life, atmosphere, and oceans. In addition, many of NOAA’s senior leadership entered the workforce in the 1980’s and 90s when NOAA was primarily focused on product generation and delivery.

While NOAA is working on migrating to the cloud the vast amount of digital data being collected by its observation platforms and data centers, NOAA is starting to recognize that there needs to be a cultural shift from what was its primary mission, the delivery of products, to what is now more important to users, access to data. To facilitate this shift NOAA has implemented six emerging Science and Technologies (S&T) focus areas: ‘Omics, Data Strategy, Unmanned Systems, Citizen Science, Cloud, and AI. These S&T groups are supporting the 2019 White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science & Technology.

A Presidential Innovation Fellow, that has experience in providing innovative solutions and developing cross functional teams, along with a federal employee that has a more complete understanding of the existing culture and leadership, can work together to transform how the organization evaluates and adopts what is needed to implement the S&T objectives. This effort is key in developing an environment that will allow for more innovation and collaboration throughout the organization to the benefit of NOAA’s mission and to the American people.

This project will be executed using an agile methodology, taking advantage of iterating over the Fellow’s findings. This structure gives the Fellow the most flexibility to adjust their tactics as the project progresses. The goal is to work with the 6 NOAA S&T Focus Area Teams to monitor execution of the associated implementation plans, identify barriers to progress, and determine and implement solutions to remove those barriers. In addition, the Fellow will lend credibility so the line offices are willing to remove the barriers that impede cross organizational S&Ts.

The Fellow will help determine the organizational strategy that offers the most reduction in uncertainty for the least loss of control. Since every hour of an S&T manager’s time spent in negotiating or monitoring exchanges within the organization is an hour that is not being used to create value. Transaction costs and bureaucratic costs siphon off productivity and innovation, therefore, the Fellow can outline mechanisms that make the organizational transactions relatively more efficient.

The Fellow will need experience in successfully leading cross team collaboration efforts within large organizations (over 5000 employees). The Fellow will also need to be able to communicate the recommendations in a clear and concise way the steps needed to promote a culture that is excited to embrace innovation and new technologies.