Those complex programs that cut across centers should be retained at Headquarters and integrated with enterprise management. Support of scientific disciplines, management of peer review, and oversight and integration across center boundaries should remain Headquarters functions. Likewise, creation of a strategy and plan for the technologies that support space science should be a Headquarters responsibility. The adoption of industrial funding will further emphasize the importance of a suitably strong Headquarters organization.
Research in New Fields—The committee recognizes the competitive obstacles faced by smaller, newer, or less well established fields of science. The committee recommends that NASA science budgets include dedicated funding for innovative, high-risk, high-return ideas falling outside current frameworks of inquiry or design. This research is highly important and deserves special management attention, including that of the Chief Scientist. This recommendation is not intended to allow circumventing of peer review for the major parts of any science program.
Science Institutes—Creation of contractor-operated institutes may be advantageous in specific instances. However, the committee recommends that, as NASA proceeds with arrangements for the first focused science institutes, it give due attention to the processes by which these institutes are selected and created and by which, over a few years, their guaranteed base funding will be transformed into competed programmatic funding. Further, there should be consideration of a review process that will ensure either (1) that they compete successfully to maintain or increase their size, or (2) if less successful, that they are phased down in an orderly fashion. The committee recommends that additional initiatives along these lines be deferred until the above processes have been defined and the success of the two proposed institute pilots can be evaluated.
The committee's recommendations are gathered together by main theme in Chapter 7.
The NASA space science programs, from the dawn of the space age to the present, have produced an unprecedented flow of discoveries. The fiscal, political, and technological environment of the agency is now in a state of rapid change. It is vital that NASA respond to its challenges and opportunities in the most constructive manner to ensure the success of its future space science endeavors. The committee believes that the recommendations made in this report, if accepted by NASA, will aid in this objective.