Role of the National Research Council

  • National Research Council committees, including the Space Studies Board, should continue to be the channel and surrogate for participation by the broader scientific community and should be used by NASA to solicit and draw on the best ideas and judgment of this community. These committees should be made up of scientists not supported by NASA, as well as those who are. The establishment of space science priorities should begin, as it has in the past, with the efforts of the scientific community through the NRC and the Space Studies Board. This prioritization will address broad research thrusts, not individual proposals or technical approaches. The disciplinary committees of the Board have been effective in the past in suggesting important scientific goals for NASA to pursue. This process should be continued.

  • Clear statements of priorities among suggested scientific goals should be made by all NRC committees that address priorities.

  • The disciplinary committees should give some weight, in the beginning, to costs and timing. Scientists can often help in finding low- or lower-cost ways of addressing scientific goals. There is no reason to leave this factor totally out of consideration, even at the early stages of formulating scientific goals.

  • Information about mission constraints, to the extent known, should be obtained by NRC disciplinary committees.

  • An important output of the disciplinary committees should be a relatively small number of important scientific goals, major or moderate-sized programs, and the scientific justification for them. Arguments in support of their importance should be founded on defined criteria.

Recommendations for NASA Management

The committee offers the following additional prioritization-related management recommendations for NASA.

Recommendation 5-10: The NASA Advisory Council and its committees should continue to play a major advisory role in determining program priorities. The Council and committees should be composed primarily of external members, with internal NASA scientists included as appropriate.

Recommendation 5-11: The Chief Scientist should attend all key internal NASA meetings concerned with priorities and ensure that adequate scientific representation is maintained throughout the prioritization process and that a properly balanced set of recommendations reaches the Administrator. The Chief Scientist needs to be able to argue issues directly to the Administrator of NASA, independent of decisions by committees or managers at lower levels.

Recommendation 5-12: Within NASA Headquarters, there must be a capable scientific staff to support management priority setting in order to help ensure compatibility of program content and science priorities. These scientists must also interface with field center managers and external investigators to ensure science program integrity.

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