Trump appoints private sector businessman to head NOAA


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

President Trump today nominated Barry Myers, the head of the private company AccuWeather, to be chief of NOAA.

This pick will likely accelerate the shift at NOAA from government-built weather satellites to buying the product from the private sector, a shift that NOAA has strongly resisted so far. The article above illustrates that resistance, as it immediately gives space to the naysayers.

But some scientists worry that Myers’ ties to AccuWeather could present conflicts of interest, and note that Myers has no direct experience with the agency’s broader research portfolio, which includes the climate, oceans and fisheries. “I think the science community has real cause for concern,” says Andrew Rosenberg, head of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rosenberg notes that Myers was an early proponent of carving out a larger role for the private sector in providing weather services. And in 2005, while Myers served as executive vice president and general counsel, AccuWeather lobbied for legislation to prevent the National Weather Service from competing with private firms in providing products including basic weather forecasting. “Is he going to recuse himself from decisions which might potentially be of interest to his company down the road?” asks Rosenberg.

I am not surprised that the Union of Concerned Scientists opposes this shift. They have been a big government, centralized-control advocate for decades. The simple fact is, however, that a lot of money is made predicting the weather. There is no reason the government should be paying for these satellites and providing this service free. If the government didn’t do it, the private weather companies like AccuWeather and the Weather Channel would quickly take over, because — like television networks and communications companies — they need the satellites for their businesses.

Would the data be as available for scientists doing climate research? Maybe in the beginning the private companies would be reluctant to release what to them is proprietary data. As more competing companies got their satellites launched, however, the competition would force them all to make their data available for research, and researchers would end up with more data, not less.

Share

4 comments

  • Phill O

    Another stroke against “Fake Science”. Might mean there will be less data manipulation!

  • eddie willers

    Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

    If they spelled it using French, it wouldn’t look so much like “Commies R Us”.

  • David

    Barry Myers has no science degree, but has a business degree and a law degree. Enrolled as undergraduate in meteorology, but had to drop out because he couldn’t hack it (this by his own admission). His upcoming confirmation hearing has a several big issues that need to be explored:

    1. Provide needed daylight on the thousands of dollars of contributions made to then Senator Rick Santorum in 2005 by AccuWeather employees, including Dr. Joel Myers just before Santorum introduced his bill. At the very least it doesn’t smell good. Oh, also how does he currently feel about the issue the bill was meant to address? Some may be comfy with for-profit companies controlling weather forecasts for the public, but it’s a dreadful idea.

    2. While Accuweather has said that if approved Barry Myers will step down from his position there. Does that mean he is also 100% divesting himself of all financial stakes in the company? After all, his two brothers will remain at the company. Joel is president and COB while Evan is COO. Major conflict of interest concerns abound. In 2005, AccuWeather tried to get legislative action to basically put the NWS out of business. How about today or anytime during the Trump administration reign?

    3. What does Barry Myers know about the “O” in NOAA? Oceanic key focus areas include critical things ranging from deep sea exploration to management of fisheries, protection of marine sanctuaries, lots of research in the oceans, the costal areas, etc. Does he know anything about ANY of these important fields?

    4. What is his personal belief concerning man’s activities and climate change? I can’t find anything he has publicly said on the matter. AccuWeather itself has a rather bland statement on human activity and climate change. How is he going to approach the matter as head of NOAA? How about ongoing and future research? Is he going to remove or restrict climate change research and data from NOAA’s website for anyone to access? After all, that’s what the EPA did with their site when it came to the issue of climate change. The EPA removed everything save for one link to a page from the last days of the Obama administration that they had to provide.

    Bottom line, he looks like a fine businessman and that could bring fresh thinking to NOAA. Which would be very good. But NOAA ‘s importance to scientific research and serving the public goes from the bottom of the ocean to the sun. It’s a lot more than just meteorology and climatology and weather satellites. This man needs a thoughtful confirmation hearing before the Senate votes.

  • pzatchok

    Putting professional scientists in positions to run science organizations is like putting teachers on school boards.

    And look at what we have for public schools and universities now.

    Go ahead and put another scientist in charge of NOAA and all you will get is someone more interested in their fellow scientists instead of the business of the pure science.

    Do ahead and place another engineer in charge of NASA and all you will get is what you have, an employment agency for engineers.

    Cry about professional politicians and then elect all new professional politicians to replace them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *