NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the task group responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract NASW 96013 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I.Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts and Dr. Wm A.Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
TASK GROUP ON THE USEFULNESS AND AVAILABILITY OF NASA’S SPACE MISSION DATA
National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Tucson,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
University of Chicago
Colorado State University
University of Oklahoma, Norman
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NICK VAN DRIEL, U.S.
Geological Survey/EROS Data Center
Johns Hopkins University
Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
National Research Council Staff
ANNE M.LINN, Study Director
MONICA R.LIPSCOMB, Assistant Program Officer
JOSEPH K.ALEXANDER, Director,
Space Studies Board
ANTHONY R. DE SOUZA, Director,
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
CLAUDETTE BAYLOR-FLEMING, Senior Program Assistant
EDMUND M.REEVES, Consultant
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
University of Texas at Arlington (retired),
University of Arizona
National Center for Patient Safety, Veterans Health Administration
Southwest Research Institute
RADFORD BYERLY, JR.,
University of Washington
Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute
Loral Space and Communications Ltd.
Oregon State University
Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University
The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (retired)
University of Washington
University of Arizona
BRUCE D.MARCUS, TRW, Inc. (retired)
University of Colorado
HARRY Y.McSWEEN, JR.,
University of Tennessee
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Aerospace Corporation (retired)
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Marine Biological Laboratory
JOSEPH K.ALEXANDER, Director
BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES
University of California, Berkeley,
University of California, Berkeley
Joint Oceanographic Institution
Colorado Geological Survey
University of Florida
University of South Carolina
New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission
University of Virginia
Utah Department of Environmental Quality
BILLIE L.TURNER II,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ANTHONY R. DE SOUZA, Director
Space flight missions, which generate vast quantities of data, are the most visible and costly elements of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) earth and space science programs. However, the acquisition of data by flight missions is only one step in generating knowledge. Advances in scientific understanding also require the ability to collect, share, and save data; the computational power to reduce data and create models; communications to move data from one place to another; structures to manage the data and associated resources; and access to data over extended time periods. Through these activities, data from flight projects are transformed into knowledge about the world and universe in which we live. The analysis of data also provides the foundation and often leads to the enabling technology for planning future NASA missions.
In recognition of the importance of space mission data and data management in space research, the House conference report on Fiscal Year 2000 appropriations for NASA noted:
The conferees are concerned that the large amount of data being collected as part of NASA science missions is not being put to the best possible use. To allay these concerns, the conferees direct NASA to contract with the National Research Council for the study of the availability and usefulness of data collected from all of NASA’s science missions. The study should also address what investments are needed in data analysis commensurate with the promotion of new missions.1
In response to a subsequent letter from NASA’s associate administrators for earth science and for space science (see Appendix A), the National Research Council (NRC) charged the Space Studies Board and the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources to undertake a study. The Task Group on the Usefulness and Availability of NASA’s Space Mission Data, composed of experts from earth, space, and information sciences (see Appendix D), was established to address three sets of questions, as follows:
How available and accessible are data from science missions (after expiration of processing and proprietary analysis periods, if any) from the point of view of both scientists in the larger U.S. research community, as well as U.S. education, public outreach and policy specialists, and private industry? What, if anything, should be changed to improve accessibility?
How useful are current data collections and archives from NASA’s science missions as resources in support of high priority scientific studies in each Enterprise? How well are areas such as data preservation, documentation, validation, and quality control being addressed? Are there significant
obstacles to appropriately broad scientific use of the data? Are there impediments to distribution of derived data sets? Are there any changes in data handling and data dissemination that would improve usefulness?
Keeping in mind that NASA receives appropriated funds for both mission development as well as analysis of data from earlier or currently operating missions, is the balance between attention to mission planning and implementation versus data utilization appropriate in terms of achieving the objective of the Enterprises? Should the fraction of a mission’s life-cycle cost devoted to data analysis, processing, storage and accessibility be changed?
Because NASA’s earth and space science programs have generated thousands of data sets that are stored in dozens of facilities and are used by several hundred thousand users in the United States and abroad, it is not possible to analyze every data set or consider every use within the confines of an NRC study. Consequently, the task group focused on the usefulness, availability, and accessibility of data for the scientific community, while remaining cognizant of a second tier of users who are interested in educational, commercial, or policy applications of space mission data. Only the major data-handing facilities were considered; individual data sets held in mission databases, in science project offices, or in the hands of principal investigators were not examined in detail. Finally, issues of documentation, validation, and quality control of individual data sets were only indirectly addressed, as a measure of the usefulness of the data. The task group concluded that this approach was appropriate, given what it understood to be the primary intent of the Congress, the science focus of NASA, and the need to stay within the bounds of the schedule and resources available for the study. The task group also concluded that the charter was directed primarily toward data collected and stored digitally, such as imaging data, rather than toward returned physical materials (e.g., samples). In keeping with the NASA letter of request, the task group focused its attention on the NASA earth and space science programs and did not consider related activities in the NASA Office of Biological and Physical Research.
Most of the issues raised in the charge have been addressed by previous NRC or NASA advisory committees, commonly at a level of detail not possible in this broad study. Rather than duplicate their efforts, the task group used their reports whenever possible. In addition, the task group gathered its own information through briefings at its three meetings; interviews with chairs of NASA advisory committees, working scientists, and archive managers; and a questionnaire to 16 NASA earth and space science archives, data centers, and data services (Appendix C). The task group also invited input from the two parent NRC boards—the Space Studies Board and the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources—and their relevant disciplinary committees. Finally, most of the members of the task group are users of NASA data. In addition to drawing on their own experience, they reviewed relevant Web pages and retrieved data for this study.
The task group wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the many individuals who gave presentations or provided information for the study: Mark Abbott, Waleed Abdalati, Charles Acton, Michael A’Hearn, Raymond Arvidson, Bruce Barkstrom, Reta Beebe, Bruce Berriman, David Black, Kirk Borne, Joseph Bredekamp, Bruce Caron, Robert Chen, Cynthia Cheung, Donald Collins, James Conner, Jacques Descloitres, Elaine Dobinson, Eric Eliason, Wendy Freedman, Andrea Ghez, David Glover, Sara Graves, Vanessa Griffen, Joseph Gurman, Frank Hill, Lee Holcomb, Thomas Kalvelage, Thomas Karl, Jack Kaye, Steven Kempler, Joseph King, Susan LaVoie, John Leibacher, Francis Lindsay, Jeffrey Linsky, Dawn Lowe, Barry Madore, Martha Maiden, Richard McGinnis, Blanche Meeson, Mike Moore, Richard Mushotzky, Philip Nicholson, Frazer Owen, Dolly Perkins, Judith Pipher, Marc Postman, Guenter Riegler, Jeff Rosendhal, Cassandra Runyon, Ethan Schreier, Mark Showalter, Roger Smith, Paul Steinhardt,
Terry Teays, John Townshend, Larry Voorhees, Raymond Walker, Ronald Weaver, Ming-Ying Wei, Steven Wharton, and Nicholas White. We also appreciate the valuable contributions of David DeWitt, who served on the task group through December 2001. Finally, the task group wishes to express special thanks to the NRC study director, Anne Linn. The broad knowledge of NASA programs in earth sciences and in data management that she has acquired during her years of service at the NRC played an essential role in ensuring that the task group acquired quickly and efficiently the information and perspectives needed to arrive at its assessments and to complete this report on schedule.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Otis Brown, University of Miami,
John Christy, University of Alabama-Huntsville,
Lennard Fisk, University of Michigan,
Steve Holt, Franklin W.Olin College, Babson College,
Melissa A.McGrath, Space Telescope Science Institute,
David G.Sibeck, Johns Hopkins University,
Charles L.Steele, Stanford University,
Leon Stout, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, and
John R.G.Townshend, University of Maryland, College Park.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Richard M.Goody, Harvard University (emeritus), and Mark R.Abbott, Oregon State University. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring task group and the institution.