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Assessment of the NASA Applied Sciences Program
a research program that puts instruments into space to produce observations of Earth processes such as climate change, agriculture and food supply, air pollution, water resources, land dynamics, natural disasters, aviation safety, and weather forecasting. The remotely sensed observations are used for analysis of resource changes and to develop models for predicting future conditions, such as crop production, El Niño forecasts, and propagation of invasive species. The analyses and models are then used as supporting evidence for decision making on such matters as the pricing of agricultural products, disaster management, water management, and resource conservation. A part of the process is benchmarking the value of the results or models generated and making them a part of decision making. Through application, decision-support systems (DSS) emerge that can be provided to and applied by organizations. The desired result is to benefit society through better management of resources and disasters, weather forecasting, food supply, and transportation safety, among others. One question this committee has been asked to address is how well the broader community is being engaged in this important endeavor and whether the experience of this community is being incorporated into the feedback process to decision making about the future direction of the ASP.
THE PROCESS OF ENGAGEMENT
The process of engagement by ASP is the pursuit of partnerships with organizations for the development of DSS that benefit society. NASA relies heavily on federal agencies as its partners to develop decision tools for implementation (Chapter 3). NASA’s partnering primarily with federal agencies inevitably leads to such agencies having a major influence on the development of decision-support tools possibly at the expense of other sources, especially the private sector. NASA works with the partners through ASP to validate and incorporate Earth science data into tools to enhance established relationships that the partner agencies have with other organizations, which mostly by serendipity, include some members of the broader community. The engagement process has many facets, among which are internal NASA operations that can affect implementation of ASP activities. The ASP operates through the NASA field centers, Earth science laboratories, and the Distributed Active Archive Centers. These organizations identify Earth science results, design products, and provide information to partners.