INTRODUCTION

In response to a letter of request from NASA's Associate Administrator for Earth Science,4 the National Research Council (NRC) appointed an ad hoc committee5 to review the draft Earth Science Enterprise Strategy (the ESE draft document).6 As requested, the committee replied to five questions about the structure and content of the ESE draft document.

In conducting its review, the committee benefited from presentations by Dr. Ghassem Asrar and Mr. Gregory Williams at a May 6 and 7, 2003, meeting at the Beckman Center in Irvine, California. The committee's initial discussions occurred prior to and during that meeting. Given the short schedule for delivery of this report, subsequent discussions were conducted via e-mail or telephone.7

NASA's Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) is one of six strategic enterprises organized to implement NASA's mission and goals.8 The primary mission of ESE is to "understand and protect our home planet" by advancing Earth system science.9 The ESE science, applications, and educational outreach programs provide an essential foundation for many critical activities and objectives at NASA and elsewhere in the U.S. government, the nation, and the world. The activities include weather and climate prediction by NOAA, health and environmental monitoring by EPA, detecting and monitoring land surface characteristics by USGS, and economic development work by organizations within the government and elsewhere. All of these activities depend on an improved understanding of Earth and its environment. For example, the effects of weather are estimated to directly affect at least 25 percent of the U.S.

4  

See Appendix A. The formal statement of task for the study is shown in Appendix B.

5  

The members of the Committee to Review the NASA Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) Strategic Plan are listed in Appendix C.

6  

NASA, 2003, Understanding and Protecting Our Home Planet: Earth Science Enterprise Strategy, draft dated April 14, 2003. NASA reserves the term "strategic plan" to refer to its overall agency plan; it denotes the strategic high-level plans of its individual NASA enterprises as "strategies." Notwithstanding this distinction in terminology, the committee believes that an effective ESE strategy document must have all the key attributes of a strategic plan.

7  

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Victor Baker, University of Arizona; Steven Bohlen, Joint Oceanographic Institutions; Robert Corell, Harvard University; John Gille, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Anthony Janetos, Heinz Center; Ralph Milliff, Colorado Research Associates; Michael Prather, University of California at Irvine; and David Sandwell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Byron Tapley, University of Texas at Austin. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

8  

As listed in Appendix I of the NASA 2003 Strategic Plan, the other NASA strategic enterprises are Space Science; Biological and Physical Research; Aerospace Technology; Education; and Space Flight.

9  

NASA, 2003, National Aeronautics and Space Administration 2003 Strategic Plan. Pp. 12-16 and Appendix I, pp. A-6 and A-7.



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Assessment of NASA's Draft 2003 Earth Science Enterprise Strategy INTRODUCTION In response to a letter of request from NASA's Associate Administrator for Earth Science,4 the National Research Council (NRC) appointed an ad hoc committee5 to review the draft Earth Science Enterprise Strategy (the ESE draft document).6 As requested, the committee replied to five questions about the structure and content of the ESE draft document. In conducting its review, the committee benefited from presentations by Dr. Ghassem Asrar and Mr. Gregory Williams at a May 6 and 7, 2003, meeting at the Beckman Center in Irvine, California. The committee's initial discussions occurred prior to and during that meeting. Given the short schedule for delivery of this report, subsequent discussions were conducted via e-mail or telephone.7 NASA's Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) is one of six strategic enterprises organized to implement NASA's mission and goals.8 The primary mission of ESE is to "understand and protect our home planet" by advancing Earth system science.9 The ESE science, applications, and educational outreach programs provide an essential foundation for many critical activities and objectives at NASA and elsewhere in the U.S. government, the nation, and the world. The activities include weather and climate prediction by NOAA, health and environmental monitoring by EPA, detecting and monitoring land surface characteristics by USGS, and economic development work by organizations within the government and elsewhere. All of these activities depend on an improved understanding of Earth and its environment. For example, the effects of weather are estimated to directly affect at least 25 percent of the U.S. 4   See Appendix A. The formal statement of task for the study is shown in Appendix B. 5   The members of the Committee to Review the NASA Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) Strategic Plan are listed in Appendix C. 6   NASA, 2003, Understanding and Protecting Our Home Planet: Earth Science Enterprise Strategy, draft dated April 14, 2003. NASA reserves the term "strategic plan" to refer to its overall agency plan; it denotes the strategic high-level plans of its individual NASA enterprises as "strategies." Notwithstanding this distinction in terminology, the committee believes that an effective ESE strategy document must have all the key attributes of a strategic plan. 7   This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Victor Baker, University of Arizona; Steven Bohlen, Joint Oceanographic Institutions; Robert Corell, Harvard University; John Gille, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Anthony Janetos, Heinz Center; Ralph Milliff, Colorado Research Associates; Michael Prather, University of California at Irvine; and David Sandwell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Byron Tapley, University of Texas at Austin. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. 8   As listed in Appendix I of the NASA 2003 Strategic Plan, the other NASA strategic enterprises are Space Science; Biological and Physical Research; Aerospace Technology; Education; and Space Flight. 9   NASA, 2003, National Aeronautics and Space Administration 2003 Strategic Plan. Pp. 12-16 and Appendix I, pp. A-6 and A-7.

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Assessment of NASA's Draft 2003 Earth Science Enterprise Strategy economy.10 Should ESE programs achieve their objectives, there would be a significant and long-term positive impact on many areas of our economy. Therefore, it is essential that ESE's objectives, plans, activities, and approaches be articulated forcefully and persuasively to the government, research, and user communities. The committee found much that is praiseworthy in the ESE themes, objectives, and programs described in the ESE draft document. However, in its review the committee focused on the draft document's effectiveness in describing ESE activities and instilling recognition of their importance and confidence in their potential for success. The committee agrees with ESE officials that the final version of the draft document should be elegant, unambiguous in its interpretation, and clear in its vision for a program of national significance. The committee's approach was to directly address the five questions posed in the NASA letter of request. The five questions, along with the committee's interpretation of their intent and scope, follow: Does the draft Strategic Plan clearly and compellingly convey the direction of the Enterprise? Does the ESE draft document include the necessary components of a strategic plan and are these components integrated effectively to achieve a coherent plan? In particular, does the ESE draft document satisfy the six critical elements of a strategic plan as identified by the NRC Committee to Review the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan and discussed below? Does it effectively respond to the NASA Strategic Plan? Is the ESE program, as described in the draft document, aligned with the vision, mission, and goals in the NASA Strategic Plan and does the ESE approach to achieving its objectives conform to NASA's implementing strategies? Does it describe an endeavor that stands as an important scientific program and makes needed contributions to broader national priorities? Are the vision, goals, and objectives as described in the draft ESE document sufficiently ambitious and properly focused? Does it provide appropriate attention to interdisciplinary aspects, integration of technology development, and overall scientific balance? Is the plan described by the ESE draft document comprehensive, and are the included topics effectively balanced? What recommendations from recent NRC reports, if any, should be considered in revising the draft? Does the ESE draft document contain sufficient reference to documents and plans that could help support or guide the ESE strategy? The ESE program outlined in the draft document is scientifically and programmatically broad, and its elements are highly integrated and interdependent. The ESE draft document must therefore adequately address each of the above questions;11 such a plan will be both comprehensive and robust, and will serve as an excellent document for guiding the ESE program and communicating this program to others. The remainder of this report provides a review of the ESE draft document organized around these five questions. 10   National Research Council, 2003, Satellite Observations of the Earth's Environment: Accelerating the Transition of Research to Operations, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. 11   See text of footnote 6.