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US Department of Transportation names its first chief scientist since 1980

The position will see Robert C. Hampshire, Ph.D. advising Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The role of DOT chief science officer has been vacant for more than 40 years.
Department of Transportation

Did you know that the US Department of Transportation has a chief scientist? Well, I mean, it did like 40 years ago, and now, according to an announcement from the agency on Wednesday, it's going to have one again in an effort to restore some of its scientific integrity. Seriously, though, I do this for a living, and I'm a huge nerd, and I had no idea that a DOT chief scientist was ever a thing. 

Robert C. Hampshire, Ph.D. already serves as the DOT's assistant secretary for Research and Technology.

University of Michigan

The position will now be held by Robert C. Hampshire, Ph.D., who currently serves as the DOT's assistant secretary for Research and Technology and has previously taught at the University of Michigan's Ford School and studied at Princeton. 

Dr. Hampshire's new role will see him acting as the primary advisor to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in matters relating to science and technology. He will also oversee the DOT's research, development and technology programs to see that they are "technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity."

The chief scientist position is only part of the DOT's announcement. It's also reestablishing its Climate Change Center, which has been missing in action since 2018, according to a report by CNN.

"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," said US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, in a statement. "We're thrilled to officially name Dr. Hampshire as our Chief Science Officer, and look forward to his contributions to this historic effort." 

The last person to hold the position of DOT Chief Scientist was John J. Fearnsides, who left the post in 1980. Fearnsides died on Jan. 9, 2021.