NASA should to have in place both a strategy and funding for long-term maintenance that will preserve data in usable forms. Since the data are a national resource, their preservation is an appropriate federal responsibility and should not be left solely to contractors or principal investigators. If resources are inadequate for preservation, NASA should establish a process involving the scientific community to examine the priorities between acquiring new data and preserving existing data for ongoing scientific uses.
Recommendation. NASA should assume formal responsibility for maintaining its data sets and ensuring long-term access to them to permit new investigations that will continue to add to our scientific understanding. In some cases, it may be appropriate to transfer this responsibility to other federal agencies, but NASA must continue to maintain the data until adequate resources for preservation and access are available at the agency scheduled to receive the data from NASA.