7

Collected Recommendations

In responding to the charge by the NASA Administrator and the Senate appropriations subcommittee (Appendix A), the committee divided its task in terms of organizational, priority-setting, and technology utilization issues. The resulting broad set of recommendations reveals a number of common themes. For convenient reference, this chapter collects and reorders the major recommendations of the committee grouped according to these overarching themes.

ESTABLISHMENT OF A “NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SPACE SCIENCE”

Recommendation 4-1: The committee found no compelling reason to establish an independent institute for space science modeled on the National Institutes of Health. Rather, NASA should retain its science programs in the present three-enterprise distributed form, but also take action to provide the necessary integration among the programs (see Recommendation 4-2).

ROLE OF THE NASA CHIEF SCIENTIST

Recommendation 4-2: The position of Chief Scientist should be strengthened to ensure full integration of the space sciences. A proposed functional statement that encompasses the necessary authority is provided, followed by a proposed functional statement for the NASA Science Council (see box).

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 6-1: NASA should establish an agency-wide process for identifying, developing, and using technologies for the benefit of the space sciences. The aspects of the plan relevant to space science should be reviewed annually by a committee chaired by the NASA Chief Scientist and made up of the NASA Science Council plus recognized scientists and engineers from inside NASA, from industry, and from academia.



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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES 7 Collected Recommendations In responding to the charge by the NASA Administrator and the Senate appropriations subcommittee (Appendix A), the committee divided its task in terms of organizational, priority-setting, and technology utilization issues. The resulting broad set of recommendations reveals a number of common themes. For convenient reference, this chapter collects and reorders the major recommendations of the committee grouped according to these overarching themes. ESTABLISHMENT OF A “NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SPACE SCIENCE” Recommendation 4-1: The committee found no compelling reason to establish an independent institute for space science modeled on the National Institutes of Health. Rather, NASA should retain its science programs in the present three-enterprise distributed form, but also take action to provide the necessary integration among the programs (see Recommendation 4-2). ROLE OF THE NASA CHIEF SCIENTIST Recommendation 4-2: The position of Chief Scientist should be strengthened to ensure full integration of the space sciences. A proposed functional statement that encompasses the necessary authority is provided, followed by a proposed functional statement for the NASA Science Council (see box). 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 6-1: NASA should establish an agency-wide process for identifying, developing, and using technologies for the benefit of the space sciences. The aspects of the plan relevant to space science should be reviewed annually by a committee chaired by the NASA Chief Scientist and made up of the NASA Science Council plus recognized scientists and engineers from inside NASA, from industry, and from academia.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES Proposed Functional Statement for the Chief Scientist The Chief Scientist exercises NASA-wide leadership for the space sciences and serves as the principal scientific advisor to the NASA Administrator. He or she should be a person of strong standing in the scientific community with significant accomplishment in his or her own field. The individual filling this position should have a breadth of interest and understanding transcending the space sciences to encompass technology and the interaction of science and technology with elements of society. This person should also have management experience, preferably in large organizations. Understanding of government processes is highly desirable. Specific functions of the position are as follows: Serves as primary advisor to the NASA Administrator. Provides formal concurrence on planning, programs, budgets, and so forth, for the NASA science programs. Acts to resolve conflicts among the science programs and between science programs and other NASA programs. Chairs the NASA Science Council. Maintains oversight of science quality across the agency, recommending corrective action where necessary. Maintains oversight of the integration of advanced technology into science programs across the agency, recommending corrective action where necessary. Provides for coordination among the sciences at many levels: programs, advisory groups, other agencies, the scientific community. Serves as representative of NASA science to the outside world and represents the scientific community to NASA. Proposed Functional Statement for the NASA Science Council The NASA Science Council, chaired by the Chief Scientist, is the internal NASA body responsible for coordination and integration of science programs and activities. Specific functions are as follows: Sets principles and policies for scientific aspects of strategic planning. Reviews and integrates resulting strategic plans for consistency with policies and agency-level guidance. Provides a forum for coordinating programs. Provides a forum for conflict resolution. Reviews and makes recommendations to help ensure the health of the intellectual and physical infrastructure. Membership of the NASA Science Council consists of the Chief Scientist (chair), the Associate Administrators for the space science programs (OSS, OLMSA, OMTPE), and the Associate Administrator for Space Access and Technology. Recommendation 6-2: The space science offices should have primary responsibility for identifying and reviewing near-term technologies. This arrangement gives the science offices the greatest control of the technologies that most immediately affect the success of their programs. Each science office should allocate a significant fraction of its resources to ATD activities and should be willing to pool resources to achieve shared objectives. Most importantly, the implementation of all categories of technology development should be undertaken by the best-qualified individuals or teams within NASA, industry, or academia, as determined by peer review. The overall processes for near-term development would be coordinated by the Chief Scientist (or a designated representative of the Chief Scientist) through the NASA Science Council.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES THE ROLE OF HEADQUARTERS Recommendation 4-3: NASA should eliminate the separate “program management” layer, assign to the enterprises the program management functions properly located at Headquarters, and delegate to the field centers those program management functions properly located there. Recommendation 5-8: Peer review for scientific investigations should be continued. Control of the peer review process should remain with Headquarters, and adequate Headquarters staff should be retained for this purpose. The process should be structured such that proposals from either outside or inside the agency are not placed at a real or apparent disadvantage. 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. Recommendation 6-4: NASA-wide oversight of technology for the space sciences belongs at Headquarters. While field centers might be asked to manage the day-to-day affairs of programs, it should be Headquarters' role to maintain a comprehensive, formal technology plan and to manage announcement, selection, and review of technology grants and contracts. NASA FIELD CENTER ISSUES Recommendation 4-4: The Goddard Space Flight Center should remain a civil service center for the time being. However, NASA should establish periodic external reviews of GSFC to determine whether new consideration should be given to conversion to a GOCO arrangement. Recommendation 4-5: Creation of contractor-operated institutes (a focused science activity operated under contract within a center having broader, possibly nonscientific, responsibilities) may be advantageous for specific science functions or facilities. The selection and creation of such institutes should be limited to special circumstances, specifically, to be responsible for a narrow, bounded area of science, to operate a special facility for the scientific community, and to maintain a unique national facility or staff capability, but NOT just to lower civil service headcount and NOT if the entity is an integral part of the larger organization (the host center). The committee recommends that, if NASA proceeds to establish pilot science institutes, it give due attention to the out-years process by which these institutes will have their guaranteed base budgets ramped down, and to the competitive process under which they will be expected to compete successfully and maintain or increase their size, or to compete less successfully and shrink or terminate in an orderly fashion. The committee recommends that other institute initiatives be deferred until the success of initial pilots can be evaluated.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES Recommendation 4-6: NASA should conduct scientific research activities in-house only to the extent required to compete successfully for high-quality staff, to maintain capability to manage and interface with corresponding activities on the outside (e.g., as a “smart buyer”), or to maintain and operate an in-house capability that is unique in the nation. Otherwise, if a valid out-of-house capability exists, the work should be done there. Recommendation 4-7: NASA should adopt an industrial funding model for field centers. Decisions on program priorities and budget would be more rational if based on full-cost accounting, and program accountability and discipline in personnel management would be thereby enhanced. The principal objective is that cost accounting should be based on full program costs, including civil service salaries, to achieve the advantageous features cited above. A similar recommendation was made in the NASA Federal Laboratory Review report.1 Recommendation 4-8: Center reporting arrangements should remain as they currently are, with each center reporting to an appropriate enterprise. All requirements and directions addressed to a center from any source should be directed through that enterprise. Recommendation 4-9: Renewed emphasis should be given to the essential role and responsibility of the project scientist in project trade-offs and decisions through the life of the project. Recommendation 4-10: NASA should maximize delegation of project responsibility to the executing agents of its space science programs (center, laboratory, university, or industry) and minimize redundant NASA oversight. This practice can yield excellent results at an affordable cost. High-value, one-of-a-kind space science missions may justify increased independent oversight. If necessary, this increased oversight should be clearly established in the program definition stage and should not be permitted to creep or evolve with program maturity. The committee makes no recommendation regarding oversight, delegation of responsibility, nor privatization in the human space flight program. Recommendation 6-4: NASA-wide oversight of technology for the space sciences belongs at Headquarters. While field centers might be asked to manage the day-to-day affairs of programs, it should be Headquarters' role to maintain a comprehensive, formal technology plan and to manage announcement, selection, and review of technology grants and contracts. Recommendation 6-5: NASA field centers should explicitly define those technological subdisciplines that require in-house research and development, for example, those associated with mission development, integration, testing, and operations; with a unique, national facility; or with “smart buying” of external technologies. Field centers must rely on the research and development capabilities of other NASA field centers and of laboratories of the Departments of Energy and Defense, industry, and academia wherever it is reasonable to do so. The essential, in-house capabilities should be sufficiently supported to ensure their quality as a national resource. Their effectiveness should be reviewed periodically by experts from other NASA field centers, industry, and academia. Evidence of continued excellence might include significant contributions to NASA technology development initiatives, key contributions to the technological advancement of their subdiscipline, journal publications, presentations at technical conferences, and patents. 1   Federal Laboratory Review Task Force, NASA Advisory Council, NASA Federal Laboratory Review, February 1995.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES Recommendation 6-6: NASA should develop aggressive programs for changing the insular culture of the field centers. Among these should be programs for personnel exchanges among the centers, industry, and academia. A fraction of the engineering/technology workforce should be viewed as transient. THE SCIENCE PRIORITIZATION PROCESS Recommendation 5-1: A clear set of criteria for prioritizing scientific goals and missions should be established by NASA and adopted by all participants. Even though different subsets of the criteria may be applied by the various parties in the system, all of these participants should know what the complete set is, and, ideally, agree with it. Recommendation 5-2: Goals and priorities within subdisciplines, and to some extent within disciplines, have been set in the past by panels of scientists; feasibility is demonstrated by a number of NRC committee reports. It is highly important that scientific criteria be applied by scientists. Recommendation 5-3: Scientific goals need to be kept foremost in view at all times, even as NASA establishes priorities across the disciplines. As the scientific goals and priorities get modified by considerations of missions and/or broader national interests, including the priorities of other federal agencies, the scientific community needs to be continually involved in formulating these compromises and modifications. Recommendation 5-4: Processes should be fair and sufficiently open and transparent to ensure credibility among nonparticipants. Broad participation is desirable—a significant and respected part of the scientific community should be involved in major priority-setting exercises. These characteristics will also ensure credibility among the participants themselves. Some of the participants at lower levels of priority setting should also participate at higher levels. Recommendation 5-5: Processes and criteria at each priority-setting step must be able to identify new initiatives and rank ongoing efforts. The task of identifying new initiatives will occur automatically provided the formal exercise of priority setting is done periodically. Ongoing efforts must be rigorously included in the processes to ensure their continued priority. Management must face the task of canceling progr or projects that are failing or whose priority has dropped. Recommendation 5-6: Participation by scientists should continue up the hierarchy as far as scientific goals and criteria continue to play a role in priority setting. At each level, parties must have confidence that they are dealing only with propositions that have “passed scientific muster ” below. There are separate and complementary roles for in-house NASA committees and for external advisors. Recommendation 5-7: At each level in the hierarchy, priority-setting processes should incorporate (1) appropriate criteria, (2) competent and forceful advocacy, (3) strong challenge by dispassionate adversaries, and (4) involved discussion, all leading to consensus and/or concurrence. The processes should be public and widely understood and should include knowledgeable but disinterested individuals. NASA must buy in to the process, be a significant part of it, and accept the results. Interaction between NASA and the groups engaged in the process is necessary. Recommendation 5-8: Peer review for scientific investigations should be continued. Control of the peer review process should remain with Headquarters, and adequate Headquarters staff should be retained for this purpose. The process should be structured such that proposals from either outside or inside the agency are not placed at a real or apparent disadvantage.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES Recommendation 5-9: Innovative research that may lead to new and important scientific findings should be fostered through allocation of limited discretionary 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. 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. TECHNOLOGY PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION Recommendation 6-1: NASA should establish an agency-wide process for identifying, developing, and using technologies for the benefit of the space sciences. The aspects of the plan relevant to space science should be reviewed annually by a committee chaired by the NASA Chief Scientist and made up of the NASA Science Council plus recognized scientists and engineers from inside NASA, from industry, and from academia. Recommendation 6-2: The space science offices should have primary responsibility for identifying and reviewing near-term technologies. This arrangement gives the science offices the greatest control of the technologies that most immediately affect the success of their programs. Each science office should allocate a significant fraction of its resources to ATD activities and should be willing to pool resources to achieve shared objectives. Most importantly, the implementation of all categories of technology development should be undertaken by the best-qualified individuals or teams within NASA, industry, or academia, as determined by peer review. The overall processes for near-term development would be coordinated by the Chief Scientist (or a designated representative of the Chief Scientist) through the NASA Science Council. Recommendation 6-3: Promising far-term technologies should be identified, funded, and managed by the Office of Space Access and Technology (OSAT). Projects should be reviewed jointly by the science offices and OSAT. These far-term projects should be carried out by the best-qualified individuals or teams within NASA, industry, or academia as determined by peer review. Tight budgets make it more important than ever that a regular and rigorous review process be put in place to identify those projects that ought to be terminated. Recommendation 6-4: NASA-wide oversight of technology for the space sciences belongs at Headquarters. While field centers might be asked to manage the day-to-day affairs of programs, it should be Headquarters' role to maintain a comprehensive, formal technology plan and to manage announcement, selection, and review of technology grants and contracts.

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MANAGING THE SPACE SCIENCES Recommendation 6-5: NASA field centers should explicitly define those technological subdisciplines that require in-house research and development, for example, those associated with mission development, integration, testing, and operations; with a unique, national facility; or with “smart buying” of external technologies. Field centers must rely on the research and development capabilities of other NASA field centers and of laboratories of the Departments of Energy and Defense, industry, and academia wherever it is reasonable to do so. The essential, in-house capabilities should be sufficiently supported to ensure their quality as a national resource. Their effectiveness should be reviewed periodically by experts from other NASA field centers, industry, and academia. Evidence of continued excellence might include significant contributions to NASA technology development initiatives, key contributions to the technological advancement of their subdiscipline, journal publications, presentations at technical conferences, and patents. Recommendation 6-6: NASA should develop aggressive programs for changing the insular culture of the field centers. Among these should be programs for personnel exchanges among the centers, industry, and academia. A fraction of the engineering/technology workforce should be viewed as transient. Recommendation 6-7: NASA should use the nation's best talent to develop both near-term and far-term space science technologies. Grants or contracts for space science technology development should be awarded on the basis of peer-reviewed proposals, and progress should be critically reviewed annually. Other funding from the agency should be provided on the basis of informed and conscious decisions by NASA upper management (at Headquarters or a center) and not as an automatic allocation to support the indefinite perpetuation of a laboratory or facility. Where NASA in-house capability is unable to compete on the basis of quality, NASA should decide whether to abandon the activity or to improve its quality so that it can compete. Recommendation 6-8: NASA should make special efforts to ensure that the emphasis it has newly placed on the incorporation of new technology in missions truly carries over to the processes for evaluation and selection of proposals. If increased use of new technology on NASA missions is valued by the agency, it should ensure that this value is explicit in the selection criteria for new projects. Furthermore, there should be stronger incentives for project managers to incorporate new technologies. Recommendation 6-9: While the committee endorses NASA's creation of programs like New Millennium, such programs should be coordinated across the agency to ensure that their appetite for technology is balanced by appropriate technology development budgets, that the new technologies truly serve the space sciences, that validation flights test technologies through the incorporation of real science objectives, and that there is an appropriate balance in the spectrum between flights that are dominated by the immediate needs of science and flights that devote significant resources to the incorporation of technologies that enable better or lower-cost science in the future.