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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis
Recommendation 1: The task group recommends that each science program office at NASA do the following:
Regularly evaluate the impact of R&DA on progress toward the goals of the strategic plans.
Link NASA research announcements (NRAs) to addressing key scientific questions that can be related to the goals of these strategic plans.
Regularly evaluate the balance between the funding allocations for flight programs and the R&DA required to support those programs (e.g., assess whether the current program can support R&DA for the International Space Station).
Regularly evaluate the balance among various subelements of the R&DA program (e.g., theoretical investigations; new instrument development; exploratory or supporting ground-based and suborbital research; interpretation of data from individual or multiple space missions; management of data; support of U.S. investigators who participate in international missions; and education, outreach, and public information).
Use broadly based, independent scientific peer review panels to define suitable metrics and review the agency's internal evaluations of balance.2
Examine ways to maximize familiarity with contemporary advances and directions in science and technology in the process of managing R&DA, for example, via the appropriate use of rotators.3
6.2INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Innovations often require state-of-the-art facilities. The task group found evidence of few mechanisms to provide this essential research infrastructure. Section 3.4 notes that the difficulties experienced by universities, in particular, in acquiring and maintaining infrastructure are exacerbated in the smaller, faster, cheaper program environment where certified facilities and state-of-the-art laboratories might remain the expected norm, but there is neither the time nor the money to develop them that there was in the era of large, longer-duration flight projects.
Finding: Although There Are Sporadic Funding Opportunities For Research Infrastructure, There Is No Systematic Assessment Of The State Of The Research Infrastructure, Nor Are There Coherent Programs To Address Weaknesses In The Infrastructure Base (Section 5.2).
Recommendation 2: The task group recommends that NASA take the following actions on research infrastructure:
Conduct an initial assessment of the need and potential for acquiring and sustaining infrastructure in universities and field centers.
National Research Council, Space Studies Board, "On NASA Field Center Science and Scientists," letter to NASA Chief Scientist France Cordova, March 29, 1995; National Research Council, Space Studies Board and the Committee on Space Biology and Medicine, "On Peer Review in NASA Life Sciences Programs," letter to Dr. Joan Vernikos, director of NASA's Life Sciences Division, July 26, 1995; National Research Council, Space Studies Board, "On the Establishment of Science Institutes," letter to NASA Chief Scientist France Cordova, August 11, 1995.
Federal agencies have used rotators—scientists from outside the federal government—for 1 to 2 years to participate in management of research programs. NASA has used interagency personnel appointments—visiting scientists administered by the Universities Space Research Association and JPL—as rotators to circulate new ideas and new individuals, on temporary appointments, into the agency system.