The task group concludes that NASA has done a good to excellent job in making data available to the research communities that it serves. User committees, other advisory and oversight committees, and a variety of formal and informal contacts with the researchers provide NASA with the information it needs to monitor the effectiveness of its programs to distribute scientific data and to make any needed midcourse corrections. NASA has also made a major commitment to enhancing science literacy and understanding at all levels of the educational system. External evaluation has been initiated by both the Office of Space Science and the Earth Science Enterprise to evaluate the effectiveness of this investment. In general, the space science community sees researchers and educators, including the media, as the primary “customers” of NASA data. Earth science data have potentially a much broader customer base, including commercial users, policy makers, and others. The DAACs do not appear to have either the mandate or the resources to provide extensive custom data sets or user services to nonscientists. Rather, such services are mainly provided by other ESE programs. While evaluation is needed to determine whether this distributed approach is the most effective strategy, it is clear that specific investment in meeting the unique requirements of each of a diverse set of end users will be required in order to maximize the usefulness of NASA data.
Recommendation. NASA planning and project funding should continue to include provisions for the timely generation and synthesis of data into information and the dissemination of this information to the diverse communities of users. This plan should take into account the needs—and the contribution to information generation—of end users, including other federal and state agencies, educational organizations, and commercial enterprises. The plan should include provisions for ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of data transfer and its educational value.