Sunday, March 29, 2009

New NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco Says Science is Her Top Priority

Dr. Jane Lubchenco took over the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on March 22, 2009. A day later she did a joint interview with writers from two of the most prestigious science news journals - Science and Nature. When asked what her top priorities were as she took over the agency, she responded "Clearly, science is a priority for me."

Expanding on that idea, Dr. Lubchenco said:

It's my belief that a resilient society and economy depend on informed decisions regarding environmental challenges and resource-management issues. The role of science is to provide the knowledge to do that informing. Those decisions might be made by individuals or governments or by companies; I believe those decisions will be better if they are informed by science. I use "informed" judiciously because I don't think the science should dictate any particular outcome. Decisions are going to take into account a number of different things — values, politics, economics — but science should be at the table in a way that is understandable and relevant and credible and salient. NOAA, as an applied-science agency, has the responsibility to develop and communicate and use science to make policy and management decisions, but also to inform policy and management decisions that are made by others.

When asked whether there was "a big problem in terms of scientists being muzzled in the last administration," she said that it's probably hard to know for sure, but that "as we move forward science will be respected; it will not be muzzled. It will not be distorted. And scientists will be free to share their scientific findings whether they fit any preconceived policy or not." She also indicated that she and John Holdren, the new presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, would be reviewing all policies and practices to ensure scientific integrity.

Lubchenco also said that one thing she would like to do is "establish a National Climate Service in partnership with other agencies."

The full interview can be read in Nature magazine.