National Aeronautics and Space
Washington, DC 20546-0001
FEB 6 2014
Science Mission Directorate
Dr. Charles Kennel
Chair, Space Studies Board
National Research Council
500 5th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Dr. Kennel:
The National Research Council’s (NRC) decadal surveys in each of NASA’s major science themes form the basis of long ranging planning in the Agency’s research and flight mission programs. The delivery of the Heliophysics survey in 2012 marked the completion of the current round of updates. To take advantage of the experience obtained during the development of these complex and comprehensive outreach activities and the collateral analysis of options and opportunities, the NRC held a comprehensive workshop in November 2012 to hear from many of the participants in these processes. With the information collected at that workshop and the resulting workshop report, this is a good time to integrate and enunciate key findings from the experience and the workshop forum.
Developed during our discussions over the intervening months since the workshop, the enclosure provides a Statement of Task for a Space Studies Board follow-on study to consolidate the lessons-learned and record them in a format that will facilitate their use in the upcoming new round of surveys. Although the core funding for the Board includes resources for meetings of the Board, it is anticipated that supplemental funding will be needed to organize an ad hoc panel for this study, support the participation of invited task group members, and assemble the report.
A separate Annex, not part of the formal Statement of Task, is also provided for use in orienting the study panel and raising important issues relevant to the thrust of the proposed study. This Annex can be reflected in the work plan of the committee in the NRC’s proposal to NASA for this activity.
We request that the NRC submit a plan for execution of a study responsive to the goals and schedule of the enclosed Statement of Task. Once agreement with the NRC on the scope and cost for the proposed study has been achieved, the NASA Contracting Officer will issue a task order for implementation. Dr. Marc Allen will be the SMD technical point of contact for this effort and may be reached at (202) 358-0733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. John M. Grunsfeld
for Science Mission Directorate
cc: Science Mission Directorate/Ms. Dolores Holland
- Dr. Marc S. Allen
STATEMENT OF TASK
Survey of Surveys:
Lessons Learned from the Decadal Survey Process
Among the Space Studies Board’s (SSB) projects and activities, its decadal surveys are the most prominent and influential. Since the first decadal survey was undertaken in the early 1960s the space science community, working under the leadership of the NRC, has drafted decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics (six times), planetary science (twice), solar and space physics (twice) and Earth science and applications from space (once).
Each survey represents a best estimate of the most important science and mission priorities for the coming decade based upon an assessment of the status of a specific scientific discipline at a particular moment in time. Moreover, the recommendations of each survey are implemented in widely differing fiscal and policy environments. Implementation has been challenged by a combination of fiscal, technical, programmatic, and policy factors, suggesting that the approach to future decadal surveys needs to be examined and possibly modified or improved. The decadal surveys initiated after 2007 incorporated new features and applied new procedures to address some of the issues responsible for the problems identified in the NRC’s 2007 report Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop.
On November 12-13, 2012, the Space Studies Board hosted Lessons Learned in Decadal Planning in Space Science: A Workshop at the Beckman Center of the National Academies. The event brought together a variety of major stakeholders in the space community, both inside and outside of NASA, who are impacted by and/or are responsible for the formulation and implementation of the decadal surveys. While many ideas were surfaced at the workshop, no formal consensus conclusions can be reported from NRC workshop proceedings. Refining the participants’ suggestions for new or revised approaches to decadal planning from the workshop and reporting the results of this deeper analysis are the principal goals for the present proposed study.
Statement of Task
The NRC will convene an ad hoc committee to consider lessons learned from the most recent NRC decadal surveys in space science. Primary attention should be devoted to the most recent surveys‐‐i.e., heliophysics (2012), planetary science (2011), astronomy and astrophysics (2010), and Earth science and applications from space (2007)‐‐but important lessons derived from earlier surveys may also be considered. The study will also review and consider the first round of NRC middecade assessment reports in astronomy and astrophysics (2007), planetary science (2007), solar and space physics (2009), and Earth science and applications from space (2012). The issues identified during the NRC’s November 2012 lessons-learned workshop (as cited in the Annex to the Statement of Task), will be a major input to the committee’s deliberations.
The committee will formulate a set of major lessons-learned from the recent decadal survey planning process and present a set of options for possible evolutionary changes and improvements to this process, including the statement of task, advance preparation, organization, and execution. The committee will not make specific recommendations.
The proposed study aims to provide a foundation for strengthening future surveys by analyzing and integrating findings in the sources above to address the following issues.
- The committee will identify best practices for a well-structured statement of task that will result in a report that reflects the consensus of the authoring community, meets short-term needs of the sponsoring agencies, and addresses the interests of other important constituencies, all while remaining relevant in the face of technology and science advancements, budget evolution, an international cooperation opportunities over the decade (and the following decade, for the largest projects). This analysis should recognize the primacy of science goals over implementing missions. The committee should consider, in particular, the pros and cons of a two-phase decadal survey process that results in a science prioritization report first and then, after a period of community interaction with NASA and mission formulation, a separate implementation prioritization report; and
- While respecting the procedures and policies of the NRC and of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) formulation of the President's budget request, the committee will also consider how to mitigate the impact of the so-called “two-year blackout problem.” During the critical phases of survey recommendations development, NASA often cannot share budget (and closely budget-related planning) information due to OMB embargos and the NRC cannot share the status of ongoing deliberations on final recommendations.
Period of Performance
March 1, 2014 to August 31, 2015
|Prepublication release of results||May 15, 2015|
|Final report and end of task||August 31, 2015|
Survey of Surveys Task
Annex to the Statement of Task
- • How did past surveys prioritize science goals, what lessons can be drawn from the various science prioritization processes and criteria they employed, and what are the best practices that can ensure that the science-first underpinning of the decadal surveys process is sound and clearly communicated to all the stakeholder constituencies?
- • What factors led each of the most recent decadal surveys to take different approaches to the formulation of their respective science and mission priorities? For example:
- – What would be the pros and cons of, as suggested at the workshop, a two-phase decadal survey process that produces a science prioritization report first and then, after a period of community reflection and mission formulation, a separate implementation prioritization report?
- – How, by whom, and when should reference missions concepts, a key component of the decadal prioritization process, be formulated?
- – What are the options for establishing community-based candidate mission formulation and definition?
- • How should mission concepts be prepared for the CATE analysis?1 How should the purpose, goals, and implementation of the CATE process be clarified to help outside stakeholders understand better how the CATE process is implemented and used in future decadals?
- • How can budget guidance provided to future decadal survey committees be improved and how should the survey committees and panels use this information in formulating their priorities so that their recommended programs will fit within fiscal constraints?
- • How can U.S. interagency collaboration and international cooperation be efficiently integrated into the decadal process to deliver the best science? What are the possible mechanisms to improve alignment among the goals, motivations, and strategic planning activities of potential U.S. and non-U.S. partner agencies and organizations?
- • To what extent can decadal survey committees use decision rules to support decision-making under changing circumstances during the decade, and what are the best ways to develop and articulate such rules? Are there promising alternatives to decision rules for promoting survey adaptability in the face of changing circumstances?
- • What are the roles and responsibilities of: SSB standing committees; informal, community-based, analysis groups; and formal advisory committees in the planning and the long-term stewardship of the decadal surveys?
1 The Cost and Technical Evaluation, or “CATE” process is an analytical process devised by the NRC and the Aerospace Corporation to evaluate cost, schedule, and technical risk associated with the mission concepts considered for prioritization.
- • What are the pros and cons of producing a stand-alone survey subpanel reports volume published alongside the survey committee's report versus an integrated committee/panel survey report in a single document?