NASA Science Workforce Study


In 2020, the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) commissioned the Agency Science Workforce Study Team to develop workforce strategies targeted towards the broad science community.  The study team sought to:

  • Formalize the career paths available for NASA’s science community
  • Identify systemic developmental gaps that may impede advancement or limit preparedness for key science positions and career paths
  • Clarify science leadership roles, accountability and authority and the optimal policy guidance needed for these key positions, especially for strategic level missions 
  • Identify communication strategies and mechanisms to ensure career opportunities and development requirements are broadly available for the science workforce
  • Identify developmental strategies for all key positions that may broaden the scientist’s knowledge, skills, and experiences to better prepare them for senior level roles and responsibilities

The team delivered its final report in February 2021 and provided findings and recommendations in three areas: career paths, leadership development, and the role of the project scientists.  A town hall was hosted on March 23, 2021 and the video is below.


Watch the town hall:

Three implementation teams are being established to address the findings and recommendations in each area. 

Career Path Team   

Task: Develop a web-based tool that depicts each science career track and summarizes the associated key positions.  The identified career tracks are: Line Management, Mission, Research Analysis and Application, Technology Development, and Science Program Management.

Activities: Support the development of an online Science Career Path tool by: 

  • Influencing the design, format and content of the tool.
  • Validating the key positions within one or more career tracks.
  • Summarizing descriptions, competencies, and suggested training for the positions in one or more career tracks (the individual may rely on existing position descriptions or create them from scratch).
  • Reviewing and testing the tool during its development.

POC: Lori Simmons

Career Development Team  

Task: Develop a comprehensive strategy for developing science leaders at multiple career stages to increase awareness of and preparedness for future opportunities.

Activities: Support the development of a comprehensive program for science leadership that includes: 

  • Informational programs for early and mid-career scientists to understand career opportunities that exist within NASA.
  • Rotational opportunities and sabbaticals for scientists to increase their exposure to the breadth of opportunities at NASA and within the broader Federal ecosystem.
  • Experiential opportunities for scientists to gain supervisory skills.
  • Collaboration and sharing of best practices across NASA centers

POC: Ellen Gertsen

Project Scientist Team  

Task: Codify the Project Scientist role and authority and create development strategies for future project scientists.         

Activities: Create a standardized approach to identify and develop project scientists that: 

  • Codifies the roles and responsibilities of this position as part of Agency-level guidance.
  • Identifies opportunities to develop aspiring Project Scientists through deputy-level positions and specialized training.
  • Documents any differences between the role and authority of project scientists on directed vs. competed missions

POC:  Michael New

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