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.  Several workforce teams were formed in the spring of 2021 to help implement these recommendations.  Here are the team updates as of Spring 2022.


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 Supervision, Mission, Research Analysis and Application, Technology Development, and Science Program Management.

Update: In March 2022, the Career Path Team launched NASA’s Science Career Path Navigator which can be found at

POC: Lori Simmons


Leadership 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 experience and leadership skills.
  • Collaboration and sharing of best practices across NASA centers

Update: The team will host a pilot offering of the SMD New Hires Virtual Orientation Workshop on May 19 & 20, 2022.  Learn more about the inaugural early career scientist workshop here.  A pilot offering of a Mid-Career Workshop is expected in late 2022. 

The other activities of the Leadership Development Team are still ongoing.

POCLori Simmons


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

Update:  The Project Scientist Team has created a list of the roles and responsibilities for Project Scientists on flagship missions.  This list has been reviewed and validated by key science leaders across NASA.  Next, the team will determine the best option for codifying these.  Lastly, the team will be working with Human Capital representatives to explore training and development opportunities for aspiring Project Scientists. 

POC:  Michael New

Watch the March 23, 2021 town hall:



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