V. NASA'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANSWERING THE DETAILED SCIENCE QUESTIONS

Although it is not made explicit in the Plan, the ESE science issues and questions appear to focus on major subproblems of the USGCRP and other Earth science programs to which a space-based observational system is uniquely capable of contributing a significant advance. The committee believes that this focus is reasonable for NASA and that it should be acknowledged in the next version of the Plan. Some observations are exploratory (e.g., extending space- or time-scales, or measuring potentially important phenomena whose existence had been obscure), and some are undertaken because they are indicators of climate change or help to characterize important, ill-understood processes. These are valid priorities for NASA and should be acknowledged in the Plan.

The ESE should also be both explicit and candid about its overall responsibility to the USGCRP. The articulation of this responsibility is particularly important because the global change component of the ESE is the single largest budgetary component of the USGCRP. There are two plausible positions to take:

  1. When the ESE provides the bulk of the observations and/or modeling and requires the bulk of the federal resources, NASA will take responsibility for the scientific outcome. Doing so will typically require that NASA act as lead agency, even when that role is neither mandated nor authorized by law. Alternatively,

  2. NASA's responsibility extends only to data that it provides, with no larger role or goal. In this situation, it is essential to identify the means by which the scientific program will be completed. As noted above, measuring all the quantities identified in the tables in the Plan will not be sufficient for answering the detailed scientific questions.

NASA officials stated that the Earth Science Enterprise would take leadership responsibility for answering the detailed science questions presented in the Plan.26 As a result, NASA will have to support activities that take its data sets into the modeling and analysis phases, even if agency and international partners cannot be found. This comprehensive approach represents a new way of thinking for the ESE and would require that it no longer assume that others will necessarily participate voluntarily if data are made available. The commitment from NASA is commendable and the committee believes that the Plan should be modified to discuss it.

Recommendation 2. NASA should articulate its leadership responsibility for answering the detailed science questions, including those that involve research not traditionally within the ESE domain, in the revised Plan.

VI. SCIENCE PRIORITY CRITERIA

The science priority criteria given in the Plan include science return, benefit to society, mandated program, appropriateness for NASA, partnership opportunity, and technological readiness. For the most part, the committee found these criteria to be appropriate and comprehensive.

26  

Briefing to the committee by Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science, on May 17, 2000.



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Review of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Research Strategy for 2000-2010 V. NASA'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANSWERING THE DETAILED SCIENCE QUESTIONS Although it is not made explicit in the Plan, the ESE science issues and questions appear to focus on major subproblems of the USGCRP and other Earth science programs to which a space-based observational system is uniquely capable of contributing a significant advance. The committee believes that this focus is reasonable for NASA and that it should be acknowledged in the next version of the Plan. Some observations are exploratory (e.g., extending space- or time-scales, or measuring potentially important phenomena whose existence had been obscure), and some are undertaken because they are indicators of climate change or help to characterize important, ill-understood processes. These are valid priorities for NASA and should be acknowledged in the Plan. The ESE should also be both explicit and candid about its overall responsibility to the USGCRP. The articulation of this responsibility is particularly important because the global change component of the ESE is the single largest budgetary component of the USGCRP. There are two plausible positions to take: When the ESE provides the bulk of the observations and/or modeling and requires the bulk of the federal resources, NASA will take responsibility for the scientific outcome. Doing so will typically require that NASA act as lead agency, even when that role is neither mandated nor authorized by law. Alternatively, NASA's responsibility extends only to data that it provides, with no larger role or goal. In this situation, it is essential to identify the means by which the scientific program will be completed. As noted above, measuring all the quantities identified in the tables in the Plan will not be sufficient for answering the detailed scientific questions. NASA officials stated that the Earth Science Enterprise would take leadership responsibility for answering the detailed science questions presented in the Plan.26 As a result, NASA will have to support activities that take its data sets into the modeling and analysis phases, even if agency and international partners cannot be found. This comprehensive approach represents a new way of thinking for the ESE and would require that it no longer assume that others will necessarily participate voluntarily if data are made available. The commitment from NASA is commendable and the committee believes that the Plan should be modified to discuss it. Recommendation 2. NASA should articulate its leadership responsibility for answering the detailed science questions, including those that involve research not traditionally within the ESE domain, in the revised Plan. VI. SCIENCE PRIORITY CRITERIA The science priority criteria given in the Plan include science return, benefit to society, mandated program, appropriateness for NASA, partnership opportunity, and technological readiness. For the most part, the committee found these criteria to be appropriate and comprehensive. 26   Briefing to the committee by Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science, on May 17, 2000.