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DOT Taps First Chief Science Officer in Over 40 Years

April 21, 2021 by TWN Staff
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Transportation Department is appointing a chief science officer for the first time in over four decades as part of a comprehensive effort to fulfill the White House’s commitment to addressing climate change.

In a related move, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the department has begun work to reestablish its Climate Change Center and has made significant strides to restore public access to climate-related reports, program information, and other scientific and technical information.

“Climate resilience and environmental justice are at the heart of this administration’s mission to build back better–and that effort must be grounded in scientific expertise,” Buttigieg said in a written statement.

Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, PhD, who has been acting assistant secretary for research and technology will now serve as the deparment’s chief science officer, a position that makes him Buttigieg’s principal advisor on science and technology issues.

He is charged, the department said in the formal announcement of his appointment, with ensuring that DOT’s research, development and technology programs are scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity.

He was previously associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and at both the U-M Transportation Research Institute’s Human Factors group and Michigan Institute for Data Science, and holds his PhD from Princeton University.

“The re-introduction of a chief science officer underscores transportation’s key role in addressing the complexity and criticality of our dynamically changing climate,” Hampshire said. “I look forward to working across all modes of transportation to address the immediate concerns, and to ensure our future transportation system is sustainable.”

The Climate Change Center will help coordinate the department’s related research, policies, and actions and support the transportation sector in moving toward net-zero carbon emissions.

The DOT Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting was established during the Clinton Administration to serve as the multi-modal focal point for information and technical expertise on transportation and climate change, coordinating climate-related research, policies, and actions. The Center has been dormant since early 2017.

The department has assessed public websites and information repositories, including the National Transportation Library, and identified 24 websites and 33 reports and other publications which had been de-published after January 21, 2017. All of these materials have been restored to public access.

The department will also re-designate a scientific integrity officer, responsible for research policy implementation, who reports directly to the chief science officer.

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