The Space Studies Board is a unit of the NRC’s Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences (DEPS), and it reports to the Division for oversight. DEPS is one of six major program units of the NRC through which the institution conducts its operations on behalf of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Within DEPS there are a total of 14 boards that cover a broad range of physical science and engineering disciplines and mission areas.
Members of the DEPS Committee on Engineering and Physical Sciences provide advice on Board membership and advise on proposed new projects to be undertaken by the Board or its committees. Every 3 years the DEPS Committee also reviews the overall operations of each of its boards, with the most recent review having been conducted in September 2004.
The Board meets three times per year to review the activities of its committees and task groups and to be briefed on and discuss major space policy issues. An internal executive committee composed of seven at-large members of the Board meets at least once a year and may convene via conference call at other times to plan for SSB activities and to advise the chair between meetings. All projects proposed to be conducted by standing committees or ad hoc task groups must first be reviewed and approved by the Board or its executive committee, and the Board monitors the progress of the projects throughout the course of the studies.
The Board’s overall advisory charter is implemented through three key functions: discipline oversight, interdisciplinary studies, and international activities.
The Board has responsibility for scientific planning and oversight in the basic subdisciplines of space research. This responsibility is discharged through a structure of discipline-oriented committees. The standard vehicle for providing long-term research guidance is the research strategy report. In addition, committees periodically prepare formal assessment reports that examine progress in their disciplines in comparison with published NRC advice. From time to time, in response to a sponsor or Board request or to circumstances requiring prompt and focused comment, a committee may prepare a short, or “letter,” report. Individual discipline committees may be called upon by the Board to prepare specialized material for use by either the Board or its interdisciplinary committees or task groups.
Although the emphasis traditionally has been on discipline planning and evaluation, the Board also recognizes a need for crosscutting technical and policy studies. To accomplish these objectives, the Board creates ad hoc task groups or internal committees. Task groups resemble standing committees in structure and operation, except that they have predefined lifetimes, typically 1 to 3 years, and more narrowly bounded charters. Internal committees, constituted entirely of appointed Board members, are formed to conduct short-duration studies or to lay the planning groundwork for subsequent formation of a regular committee or task group. The Board also organizes topical workshops and exercises the NRC’s convening function in other special activities.
The Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for ICSU’s Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), an international, multidisciplinary forum for exchanging space science research. The current Board-appointed U.S. representative to COSPAR is also COSPAR vice president and thereby participates in the oversight of COSPAR’s business, finances, and operations as a member of the COSPAR Bureau. A member of the Board’s staff serves as executive secretary for the U.S. National Committee. Both the U.S. representative and executive secretary participated in activities organized in 2004 to consider future directions for COSPAR as an organization. Board