NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page

Response to "Fair Weather" Recommendations Strengthens Relationships Among Government, Universities and the Private Sector

NOAA winter weather collage.Dec. 1, 2004 ó NOAA announced today it is adopting a new policy to strengthen the partnership among government, academia and the private sector that provides the nation with high quality environmental information. "NOAA has a broad responsibility to nurture the growth of a complex and diverse environmental information enterprise and to serve the public interest by giving our nation the best environmental information services in the world," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The main purpose of the NOAA policy issued today is to serve this broad responsibility." NOAA has specific mission responsibilities for a wide range of environmental information including weather and climate information, forecasts and warnings.

The new policy responds to recommendations contained in the National Research Council's study, "Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services," (National Academy Press, 2003). The NRC's study and the need for a new policy was bred from a recognition that the U.S. weather and climate enterprise—considered one of the best in the world—is composed of a dynamic partnership among government, academic and private entities engaged in complementary and sometimes overlapping activities. The study found advances in science and technology have blurred the distinctions between the sectors.

Among its chief recommendations, the NRC identified the need for a policy that would recognize advances in technology and relevant law, and that would define processes for decision making rather than defining roles.

Key provisions of the new policy:

  • NOAA will adhere to applicable law regarding government information, based on the premise that government information is a valuable national resource and the benefits to society are maximized when such information is available to all.
  • NOAA will carry out activities that contribute to its mission and provide open and unrestricted access to publicly-funded information at the lowest possible cost.
  • NOAA will provide information in forms accessible to the public as well as the underlying data in forms convenient to additional processing.
  • NOAA will give due consideration to the ability of private sector entities and the academic and research community to provide diverse services and will consider the effects of its decision on the activities of these entities, to serve the public interest and advance the environmental information enterprise as a whole.
  • NOAA will not haphazardly institute significant changes in existing information dissemination activities, or introduce new services without first carefully considering the full range of views and capabilities of all parties.
  • NOAA will use appropriate mechanisms to encourage input from and collaboration with others on decisions affecting the environmental information enterprise.
  • NOAA will promote the open and unrestricted exchange of environmental information worldwide.
  • NOAA's participation in the environmental information enterprise will be based on the principles of mission connection, consultation, open information dissemination, equitable dealings and recognition of the role of others.

NOAA released the proposed policy for public comment in January this year. A total of 1,473 comments were received and all were considered in developing the NOAA policy issued today. Of these, 1,190 supported the proposed policy and 176 opposed it.

"Every comment submitted, whether for or against the proposed policy, was given thoughtful consideration. These comments helped clarify the policy language and have made important contributions to its content," said James R. Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "We listened to everyone's concerns. Based on these comments, we've built-in appropriate avenues to handle complaints and reviews. This new policy puts the entire environmental information enterprise on solid footing as we continue to move forward."

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
Listing of Fair Weather Comments

Partnership Policy

Media Contact:
Greg Romano, NOAA Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 169