Climate Working Group Orientation

Time Commitment
References and Contacts

From the CWG Terms of Reference:

“The CWG, in its role as a sanctioned working group of the NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB), advises the SAB on the condition and capabilities of NOAA’s climate activities, its predictive capabilities and supporting NOAA infrastructure of observing systems, data management systems and accessibility, high performance computing, ships, aircraft, and facilities. When appropriate, it submits formal reports to the SAB that identify current issues, recommendations, and proposed initiatives. Here the term climate is used in the broadest sense, to include variability and change from sub-seasonal to multi-decadal and longer time-scales, and regional as well as global phenomena.

The CWG will provide scientific advice and direction on NOAA’s climate portfolio to the SAB, in the context of national and international activities. The CWG will advise the SAB on the broad science and service components of the climate program, as well as on the underlying observations, data management and analysis and prediction issues. The CWG will advise on programmatic directions and recommend priorities on a continuing basis.”


From the Science Advisory Board Charter:

3. Objectives and Scope of Activities.

a. The SAB will advise the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (Under Secretary) on strategies for research, education, and application of science to operations and information services. This advice will help the agency to better understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment, and to better conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet the Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.
b. The SAB will advise the Under Secretary on other matters upon request.
c. The SAB will submit reports to the Under Secretary.
d. The SAB will conduct laboratory, cooperative institute, and program reviews, as requested.

From the Science Advisory Board Concept of Operations:

4.1. Responsibilities – As defined in section 3 of the SAB charter, the responsibilities of the SAB are as follows:

  • Advise the Administrator on strategies for research, education, and application of science to operations and information services, so as to advance the Agency’s capability to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet the Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs. 
  • Advise the Administrator on matters upon request.
  • Submit reports to the Administrator.
  • Conduct laboratory, cooperative institute, and program reviews, as requested.

In addition, to the responsibilities above:

  • In accordance with the policies and procedures set forth in the SAB Membership Balance Plan, each SAB member may be asked to provide the SAB Chair with suggested nominees to fill vacancies.

4.2 Roles – SAB members are expected to serve in one or more of the following roles:

  • Chair of the SAB – The Chair is expected to preside over all SAB meetings and serve as the primary point of contact between the SAB and NOAA. Between meetings the Chair is expected to dedicate significant time to actively work with the SAB Executive Director and NOAA leadership to assist with the development of meeting agendas, including suggesting invited thought leaders and requesting briefings from NOAA programs. The Chair should also play an integral role in helping the Administrator with the process of selecting new SAB members, including soliciting suggestions for nominees from outgoing members and appropriate organizations, as specified in the NOAA SAB Membership Balance Plan. For subcommittees, the Chair is expected to work closely with subcommittee leadership to track progress and activities as well as review and suggest new members (see Sec 2.2). Per the charter, the SAB Chair should work with the SAB Office to track the attendance of members at meetings and ensure that members do not miss more than two meetings without permission of the Chair.
  • Subcommittee Liaison – All SAB subcommittees must have at least one SAB member who serves as a liaison between the subcommittee and the SAB. The liaison should participate in all subcommittee meetings and help facilitate and drive the efforts of the subcommittee, including the development of the yearly work plan for all standing working groups. The liaison is responsible for providing recommendations to the SAB stemming from products and/or reports produced by their respective subcommittee. The liaison should also assist the SAB Chair with the process of suggesting new subcommittee members. For task forces, an SAB member should also serve as the Chair. For additional information refer to the SAB Subcomm ConOps; this Subcomm ConOps document covers policies and procedures for all subcommittees of the SAB, regardless of whether such subcommittees are termed working groups or task forces. Importantly, all products of the subcommittees are considered input to the SAB and not to NOAA. Hence, recommendations stemming from the work of a subcommittee must be transmitted to the SAB for deliberation by the SAB at a FACA-compliant meeting before the SAB submits any recommendations based on the subcommittees work to the Administrator.
  • Chair/ member of Cooperative Institute (CI) science review panel – NOAA supports 16 cooperative institutes (CIs) that conduct research to support NOAA’s mission. CIs enter into an initial five-year cooperative agreement. During the fourth year of the agreement CIs are subject to scientific and administrative renewal reviews that evaluate their performance using a panel of internal and external experts. For the scientific reviews, the SAB serves as the official reviewing authority. Each science review panel should include at least one SAB member, who serves as the review Chair. All other panelists, which may include SAB members, are approved and invited by the SAB, in coordination with the responsible LO, and are subject to NOAA approval (for additional information refer to the NOAA CI Handbook). Cooperative Institute science review panels operate as Ad-Hoc SAB working groups and are subject to the relevant policies and procedures set forth in the Subcomm ConOps. In particular, Cooperative Institute science review panels must transmit any recommendations to the SAB for deliberation by the SAB at a FACA-compliant meeting before the SAB submits any such recommendations to the Administrator.

4.3 Work Products –SAB members may be asked by the Administrator or the Chair to lead or assist with the formulation of the work products listed below:

  • Biennial Work Plan – Developed every two years, the SAB, led by the Chair, and with input from SAB subcommittees, is expected to produce a work plan that is informed by the current state of NOAA science, the trajectory of relevant scientific disciplines, and the needs of NOAA moving forward. Specifically, the work plan should establish a sense of the focus of the SAB, including measurable objectives and specific undertakings that the SAB plans to carry out within the next two years. Work plans should be reviewed and, if necessary, updated by the SAB on an annual basis. The biennial work plan must be approved by the Administrator.
  • Cooperative Institute (CI) Science Reviews – The policies and procedures governing the roles and responsibilities of the SAB in regards to conducting CI Science Reviews are set forth in Section 5 of the NOAA CI Handbook. Of particular note, as Ad-Hoc SAB working groups, CI science review panels must first transmit their findings in the form of a report to the SAB. Upon receiving the report, the SAB must deliberate on the report at a FACA-compliant meeting, and may make amendments or changes to the report. If upon deliberation the SAB deems the report ready for transmittal, the SAB as the official reviewing authority, is responsible for the following: (i) sharing the draft report with the responsible LO who will request factual corrections from the CI; (ii) scheduling a decisional briefing at an upcoming SAB meeting to be delivered by the review Chair; and (iii) accepting and transmitting the final report to the NOAA Administrator and responsible LO Assistant Administrator (AA).
  • Issue Papers – The SAB may be asked by the Administrator or NOAA Chief Scientist to develop issue papers that address extant or emerging issues/challenges that are relevant to NOAA’s mission.
  • Line Office Consultations – NOAA LOs represent the operating branches of NOAA and are responsible for developing and managing the delivery of products and services. LO’s are encouraged and expected to regularly communicate with the SAB and, as needed, should solicit the help of the SAB, via the SAB Office and NOAA Chief Scientist, to review ongoing or proposed S&T projects and activities. The Chief Scientist and the SAB Office, as available, must be copied on all such communications between NOAA staff and the SAB or its subcommittees.
  • Internal Science Reviews – The complex, transdisciplinary, and long-term research and development essential to accomplishing NOAA’s mission depends on a robust and diverse workforce, and sophisticated research facilities. To promote excellence in these areas, NOAA may seek assistance from the SAB to conduct laboratory, science center, or program reviews.”


For a list of upcoming SAB meetings, please visit the SAB Meetings page.

From the Science Advisory Board Charter:

9. Estimated Number and Frequency of Meetings. The SAB will meet approximately three times each year in person, if possible. Additional meetings may be called as deemed desirable by the Under Secretary and may include teleconferences or webinars. Members are expected to attend all meetings. If a member should miss more than two consecutive in-person meetings without the permission of the Chair, that individual’s membership will be reviewed by the Under Secretary.

From the Science Advisory Board Concept of Operations:


The SAB meets in person three times each year; however, meetings may be conducted by teleconference as well. Additional meetings may be called at the discretion of the Administrator, whether in-person or virtual. The DFO (i.e., SAB Executive Director) is responsible for calling, attending, and adjourning all SAB meetings. As per the Charter, SAB members are expected to attend all SAB meetings; they must receive permission from the SAB Chair to miss more than two consecutive meetings. The NOAA SAB office is responsible for providing logistical, travel, and administrative support for all SAB meetings (see Sec. 5).

3.1. Agenda – SAB meetings are conducted in accordance with an agenda that is developed by the SAB Executive Director in collaboration with SAB members. All meeting agendas must be approved by the DFO, the SAB Chair, NOAA Chief Scientist, and Administrator.

3.2. Strategic Guidance – At each in-person meeting, the SAB is encouraged to invite eminent external thought leaders from relevant disciplines to speak about key themes, issues, and challenges relevant to NOAA. Invited speakers should help kindle provocative/creative dialogue amongst the SAB and NOAA leadership, with the intent to stimulate strategic direction for the SAB. When planning these events, the SAB is encouraged to work closely with NOAA leadership to identify and vet topical areas and speakers.

3.3. NOAA Informational Briefings – The SAB will be kept apprised of the Science and Technology (S&T) activities, advancements, and priorities of the agency through informational briefings provided at each in-person meeting by the NOAA Chief Scientist, or a NOAA designee selected by the Administrator. Additionally, the SAB is expected to actively communicate with NOAA leadership and, as needed, ask for information or briefings in regard to NOAA’s S&T portfolio.”


From the Science Advisory Board Charter:

12. Membership and Designation.
a. The SAB will consist of approximately 15 members external to NOAA, appointed by the Under Secretary to assure balanced representation among preeminent scientists, engineers, educators, and science policy experts reflecting the full breadth of NOAA’s areas of responsibility.
b. The Chairperson will be chosen by the Under Secretary, and may be asked to assist in the selection of other SAB members from experts suggested by appropriate organizations (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, professional societies, university consortia, and NOAA line and program offices).  The term of the Chairperson will be until the end of the selected member’s term on the SAB or sooner – at the discretion of the Under Secretary.
c. Members will be appointed for 3-year terms, renewable once, and serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary.  Vacancy appointments shall be for the remainder of the unexpired term of the vacancy, and shall be renewable twice if the unexpired term is less than 1 year.  Members whose terms have expired may remain on the SAB until a replacement is appointed, not to exceed 1 year beyond the original end date of the first or final term. 
d. Members will be subject to ethical standards applicable to Special Government Employees.
e. Members will be selected on a clear, standardized basis, in accordance with applicable Department of Commerce guidance.

Members shall not reference or otherwise utilize their membership on the SAB in connection with public statements made in their personal capacities without a disclaimer that the views expressed are their own and do not represent the views of the SAB, NOAA, or the Department.

From the SAB Concept of Operations:

“The policies and procedures governing the solicitation, review, and appointment of SAB members are set forth in the NOAA SAB Membership Balance Plan. As per the Charter, SAB members are appointed by the Administrator for a term of three years, renewable once. In addition, members whose terms (i.e., 1st or 2nd) have expired are eligible to receive an extension of up to 1 year beyond the original termination date of their term, amounting to a maximum term length of seven years’ consecutive SAB service. At the conclusion of their first and second terms, SAB members are reviewed by the Administrator based on their involvement in the SAB and performance in relation to the roles and responsibilities defined in the SAB Charter and herein (see Secs. 4.1, 4.2). The Administrator will also appoint a Chair of the SAB to serve a suggested term length of two years, renewable twice, for a maximum Chair term length of six years, not to exceed the maximum duration of a member’s term of service (i.e., up to 7 years). All SAB members serve as special government employees (SGEs).

A list of current SAB members can be found here.

Time Commitment

The follow is a list of activities that members are expected to or may be asked to participate in during their time on the SAB.

  • Meetings- There will be at least 3 in-person meetings per year. Meetings are typically 2 days long each, plus travel time. Additional shorter virtual meetings (2-3 hours long) will be held as needed.
  • Working Groups- Members may be asked to serve as SAB liaisions to one of the working groups. You would be expected to attend all working group meetings (for more information on meeting frequency, please see that working group’s orientation page)
  • Reports- Members may be on task teams to draft reports, involving prep time and additional meetings as necessary.
  • Reviews – Members may be asked to review a NOAA cooperative institute, lab, or program. This would involve a multi-day day review, travel, and several pre- and post-review meetings with the other reviewers. 

References and Contacts

SAB 101 Presentation
SAB Charter
SAB Concept of Operations
Summary of Ethics Rules for Special Government Employees 2021

Cynthia Decker
Executive Director, Science Advisory Board

Judi Oneal
Travel Support

Courtney Edwards
Staff Support

Tiffany Atkinson
Staff Support