National Priority

The QFD process for this study used a matrix like the one shown in Table 2-1. The primary evaluation criteria are the six Strategic Objectives.2 The R&T Challenges to be prioritized appear in the left-hand rows.3 Each panel, as a group, scored each R&T Challenge with respect to the individual Objectives, based on its relevance and impact. Possible scores are limited to 1, 3, or 9. As is often done in QFD exercises, a nonlinear scale is used to magnify the differences in technologies to help delineate the most critical ones. A score of 1 implies that the Challenge has little or no relevance to the Objective. A 3 implies that the Challenge has moderate relevance and impact. A 9 implies that the Challenge has major relevance and impact.

The steering committee assigned each of the six Strategic Objectives a weight of 1, 3, or 5 to convey its relative importance to U.S. civil aeronautics research. The committee believes that the first two Objectives, capacity and safety and reliability, are the most critical because of their broad impact on the air transportation system as a whole, the vital importance of safety, and need to meet growing demand, and assigned them a weight of 5. The next two Objectives, efficiency and performance and energy and the environment, directly affect certain stakeholders and indirectly affect the public as a whole through their secondary effects on capacity and safety and reliability. They are considered to be slightly less important overall and are assigned a weight of 3. Finally, synergy with national and homeland security and support to space are assigned a weight of 1. Neither of these Objectives falls directly under the purview of civil aeronautics. Even so, security and the space program are important to the nation, and all other things being equal, civil aeronautics research that also provides benefits for these two Objectives should be of somewhat higher priority than comparable research that does not provide benefits for them.

The weight for each Strategic Objective (1, 3, or 5) is multiplied by the relevance and impact score (1, 3, or 9), which describes the impact on that Objective of research in a particular R&T Challenge. The sum of those products for each R&T Challenge then becomes the national priority score for that R&T Challenge. That score is a measure of the relative overall value to the nation of conducting research to overcome that particular R&T Challenge.

NASA Priority

Every R&T Challenge that has a high national priority does not necessarily become a high priority for NASA’s civil aeronautics research program. To determine the NASA priority scores, each R&T Challenge is given a Why NASA? score, which is multiplied by the national priority score to arrive at a NASA priority. The Why NASA? score for each R&T Challenge is the average of the scores (1, 3, or 9) in the four Why NASA? columns on the right-hand side of the QFD tables. These scores evaluate each R&T Challenge in terms of the following:

  • Supporting infrastructure

  • Mission alignment

  • Lack of alternative sponsors

  • Appropriate level of risk

The scores used to assess priorities are based on the current situation, which will change. For example, this study did not attempt to predict how NASA expertise and facilities in various areas might degrade or mature, how NASA’s aeronautics mission might be redefined, how the priorities of other research organizations might change, or how advances in the state of the art might change the risk associated with specific R&T Challenges. Changes in any of these factors will change the Why NASA? scores, which will directly change the NASA priority scores.

Supporting infrastructure

Supporting infrastructure refers to whether NASA already possesses the facilities, resources, and expertise to conduct research related to an R&T Challenge. A score of 1 implies that NASA has little or no relevant infrastructure. A score of 3 implies that NASA has infrastructure that is relevant but not unique. That is, industry, academia, or non-NASA federal agencies possess similar infrastructure or could obtain it easily. A score of 9 implies that NASA has infrastructure that is both relevant and unique.

Mission alignment

Mission alignment refers to whether research related to the R&T Challenge falls under NASA’s charter, as defined in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (As Amended). Relevant portions of the Space Act appear in Box 2-1. A score of 1 implies that the Challenge has little or no relevance to any item in the charter. A score of 3 implies that it has some relevance to and impact on one item in the char-


The QFD matrix used in this study (see Table 2-1 and the QFD matrices in Chapter 3) is a simplified form of the table (sometimes called a house of quality) that is used in a standard QFD assessment. The QFD matrix for this study has also been rotated 90 degrees from the orientation normally used to display a QFD table. The Strategic Objectives in this study take the place of the customer requirements that appear in a standard QFD table, the R&T Challenges take the place of key product and process characteristics, and the Why NASA? composite score takes the place of risk level. The national priority scores are equivalent to the absolute importance rankings in a standard QFD table, and the NASA priority scores are equivalent to risk-weighted importance.


Each Challenge is designated by the letter of the Area to which is belongs and by its NASA priority ranking in that Area. Thus, the R&T Challenge with the highest NASA priority in the aerodynamics and aeroacoustics R&T Area is designated A1. If two Challenges in that Area were to tie for second place, they would be listed alphabetically and designated A2a and A2b, and the next highest priority Challenge would be designated A4.

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