APPENDIX C

STATEMENT OF TASK

Background

NASA science budgets are generally divided between (a) funding forspace mission development and operations and (b) research and dataanalysis (R&DA) funds for awards to scientists to conduct flightmission data analysis studies and supporting research via ground-basedlaboratory and theoretical investigations. The size of the formerdominates the latter, and the flight missions also tend to have muchhigher visibility. R&DA accounts are the primary source of fundsfor NASA research grants to universities. The 1998 Space StudiesBoard report, “Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis,” analyzed the roles and contributions of R&DA grants in the research programs of NASA's three science offices, and it presented a set of strategic andprogrammatic recommendations to enhance the R&DA programs. As a consequenceof pressure from some members of the scientific community who havevoiced concerns that R&DA activities are not receiving adequate attentionor funding, the House of Representatives has urged NASA to obtainan independent assessment by the NRC of the agency's handling ofR&DA. The current request from the NASA Office of Space Science acknowledgesthis Congressional pressure indirectly, and it requests that theSSB conduct an “interim assessment” before the beginning of the next fiscal year.

The 1998 SSB report noted that R&DA activities constitute the foundation of all space research activitiesbecause R&DA programs provide for development of new concepts andtechnologies which lead to new space mission opportunities; theypermit the extended scientific analysis and interpretation of spacemission results; they support complementary laboratory experimentsand measurements, ground-based astronomical observations, and theoreticaland modeling studies; they provide a means to apply mission datato secondary uses which often have new societal benefits; and theyprovide a means to train new space scientists and engineers as wellas to offer wider educational value. The report recommended thatNASA take a more strategic approach to management of its R&DA programs; integrate them more thoroughly into the agency's program office strategic plans; and take other actions to strengthenthe management, quality, and impact of R&DA.

In response, one NASA science office—the Office of Space Science—has begun to restructure its program and to plan for major triennialscientific reviews that would inform decisions about the balanceand future directions of its program. In a recent review of the draft2000 strategic plan for that office the SSB commented that OSS stillhas a way to go to better integrate the R&DA programs into the overallprogram strategy.

In a letter dated June 16, 2000, NASA Associate Administrator forSpace Science Edward Weiler requested that the SSB conduct a “brief,interim assessment” of his office's progress in responding to the 1998 SSB reporton research and data analysis.



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APPENDIX C STATEMENT OF TASK Background NASA science budgets are generally divided between (a) funding forspace mission development and operations and (b) research and dataanalysis (R&DA) funds for awards to scientists to conduct flightmission data analysis studies and supporting research via ground-basedlaboratory and theoretical investigations. The size of the formerdominates the latter, and the flight missions also tend to have muchhigher visibility. R&DA accounts are the primary source of fundsfor NASA research grants to universities. The 1998 Space StudiesBoard report, “Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis,” analyzed the roles and contributions of R&DA grants in the research programs of NASA's three science offices, and it presented a set of strategic andprogrammatic recommendations to enhance the R&DA programs. As a consequenceof pressure from some members of the scientific community who havevoiced concerns that R&DA activities are not receiving adequate attentionor funding, the House of Representatives has urged NASA to obtainan independent assessment by the NRC of the agency's handling ofR&DA. The current request from the NASA Office of Space Science acknowledgesthis Congressional pressure indirectly, and it requests that theSSB conduct an “interim assessment” before the beginning of the next fiscal year. The 1998 SSB report noted that R&DA activities constitute the foundation of all space research activitiesbecause R&DA programs provide for development of new concepts andtechnologies which lead to new space mission opportunities; theypermit the extended scientific analysis and interpretation of spacemission results; they support complementary laboratory experimentsand measurements, ground-based astronomical observations, and theoreticaland modeling studies; they provide a means to apply mission datato secondary uses which often have new societal benefits; and theyprovide a means to train new space scientists and engineers as wellas to offer wider educational value. The report recommended thatNASA take a more strategic approach to management of its R&DA programs; integrate them more thoroughly into the agency's program office strategic plans; and take other actions to strengthenthe management, quality, and impact of R&DA. In response, one NASA science office—the Office of Space Science—has begun to restructure its program and to plan for major triennialscientific reviews that would inform decisions about the balanceand future directions of its program. In a recent review of the draft2000 strategic plan for that office the SSB commented that OSS stillhas a way to go to better integrate the R&DA programs into the overallprogram strategy. In a letter dated June 16, 2000, NASA Associate Administrator forSpace Science Edward Weiler requested that the SSB conduct a “brief,interim assessment” of his office's progress in responding to the 1998 SSB reporton research and data analysis.

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Statement of Task The Space Studies Board will conduct an independent assessment ofOSS's response to the 1998 R&DA report. Items to be addressed include the following: To what extent are R&DA being integrated into the OSS strategic plan and to what extentare decisions about the direction of R&DA being made with a viewtoward achieving the goals and objectives of the strategic plan?Issues to be considered may include efforts by OSS to evaluate the impact of R&DA on progress toward the goals and objectives of the strategic plan, link NASA research announcements to key scientific questions thatare related to the goals and objectives of the strategic plan, evaluate the balance between the funding allocations for flight programsand the R&DA required to support those programs, evaluate the balance among various sub-elements of R&DA, use broadly based, independent scientific peer review panels to definesuitable metrics and review the office's internal evaluations ofbalance, and maximize NASA's familiarity with contemporary advances and directions in scienceand technology in the process of managing R&DA, for example, viathe appropriate use of “rotators.” To what extent does OSS assess the state of the research infrastructureand use R&DA programs to address weaknesses in the infrastructurebase? Issues that may be considered include efforts by OSS to assess the need and potential for acquiring and sustaining infrastructurein universities and field centers, determine options for minimizing duplication of expensive researchfacilities, evaluate the level of support for infrastructure in the context ofthe overall direction and plans for R&DA activities, support partnering between universities and field centers, provide for peer review and oversight of infrastructure investments,and periodically assess the research infrastructure in universities andNASA field centers. To what extent does OSS examine the size and number of grants awardedto individual investigators to ensure that grant sizes are adequateto achieve the proposed research and that their number is consistentwith the time commitments of each investigator? To what extent does OSS asses and preserve a mix of university PIawards and non-university funding for the development of technologies,instruments, and facilities? Are these decisions made within theoffice's overall plan for R&DA activities? To what extent does OSS use training grants to ensure breadth ingraduate education and expand students' opportunities for employmentwithin or beyond NASA-funded sciences? To what extent does OSS use the extended records of its budgets andexpenditures as management tools to monitor the health of its R&A and DA programs?

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Preliminary Work Plan NASA will prepare a written summary of actions taken to respond tothe earlier SSB report, and this summary will be provided to allBoard members in advance of a meeting. The organization of the 1998SSB report and its recommendations will be used as a template fororganizing this study. At the August 2000 meeting of the SSB executive committee membersof the executive committee plus the chairs of the Board's standingcommittees will be briefed by NASA, and the Board will have the opportunityto question NASA representatives about the response of the Officeof Space Science to the earlier report. At the same meeting the Boardalso will utilize comments provided in advance by members of therelevant SSB standing discipline oversight committees (Astronomyand Astrophysics, Planetary and Lunar Exploration, and Solar andSpace Physics) as additional input in developing a report. A draft report will be prepared for review by the entire Board priorto going to external review. External reviewers will include somemembers of the authoring committee of the 1998 report. External reviewwill be completed in September 2000, and the results of this assessmentwill be presented in a short report to be delivered to NASA by theend of September 2000. Earlier Work “Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs” (SSB, 1998) “On the draft strategic plan of the NASA Office of Space Science” (SSB, 2000)