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The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices (2015)

Chapter: 3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program

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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
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3

The Decadal Survey’s Recommended Program

The mechanics of the decadal survey process for each of the disciplines, and the possibility of improvements to be implemented for future decadal surveys, were discussed in Chapter 2. This chapter addresses issues about how best to present the results of the decadal survey process to the stakeholder communities based on experience with past decadal surveys. Also discussed are the various ways a decadal survey takes the existing program into account, the content of the recommended decadal program, as well as the survey report itself.

THE EXISTING PROGRAM

Each decadal survey is conducted in the context of an existing program of missions (both space and suborbital), facilities, and observing systems, as well as agency programs that support research and analysis—including data archiving and analysis tools, technology innovation and development, education, laboratory measurements, public outreach, and workforce development. The extent to which the existing program is reviewed, including any unrealized recommendations from prior decadal surveys, has varied in prior decadal surveys.

The pre-survey program of large missions and facilities was taken as a starting assumption in the first five astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys, but the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey1 (Astro2010) was directed by its statement of task to reconsider those programs of Astro20002 that were not given a formal start by the sponsoring agency (for NASA, this included, for example, ConX, TPF, SAFIR, and EXIST3) or had not begun construction (for the National Science Foundation [NSF], this included GSMT and LSST). The 2007 Earth science and applications from space decadal survey4 (Earth2007) chose to assume completion of the existing program (including all projects in their implementation phase at the survey’s start) as a baseline. Unfortunately, by the time the subsequent midterm assessment was completed in 2012,5 that baseline had yet to be completed:

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1 National Research Council (NRC), New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. 2010.

2 NRC, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.

3 Acronyms not defined in the text can be found in Appendix F.

4 National Research Council (NRC), Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.

5 NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA’s Implementation of the Decadal Survey, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

several components of the anticipated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program had faltered, two missions were lost on launch, and recommended budgets did not materialize. As a result, the pace of implementation of Earth2007 was considerably slower than recommended. In its statement of task, the 2013 solar and space physics decadal survey6 (Helio2013) was directed to start with a “clean slate,” examining the existing and planned program and re-envisioning how a balanced program might be executed in the situation of a declining budget. At the time of the 2011 planetary science decadal survey7 (Planetary2011), the recommended programs from Planetary20038 had only partially been realized, and NASA’s Planetary Science Division was in the middle of a New Frontiers selection process. While the missions from the prior decadal survey that had not been started were included in panel discussions, they were not evaluated in the same way as new mission concepts, and not all were recommended as priority missions for the coming decade.

In summary, unimplemented priorities from prior decadal surveys have been variously assumed as part of the baseline, re-endorsed, reformulated, re-prioritized, and—recently—dropped. Astro2010, for example, is predicated on successful completion of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was recommended in Astro2000, but the several programs listed above were not carried over into the Astro2010 recommended program, including SIM for which a sizeable development investment had been made, even without a formal start.

For space missions, there is additional dimension when launch failures and on-orbit failures essentially “un-start” a mission that has begun. In such cases, the subsequent decadal survey has several options, including recommending re-launching duplicate hardware, incorporating some of the science goals of the failed mission into a new mission, or foregoing the objective altogether. Consultation with NASA, should this happen during the decadal survey process, is a necessary part of dealing with this unfortunate situation.

The criterion of started/not-started for facilities and missions seems sensible for future surveys in determining which missions are “on the table” for review. However, in this committee’s discussions with NSF directors, the question was raised as to whether decadal surveys could also review existing facilities (such as ground-based telescopes) or space missions and make recommendations on their continued operation. Recommending the retirement of existing facilities or missions, especially those near the end of their term, could, of course, increase resources for the new survey’s recommended program. However, this important responsibility has been held by the agencies themselves and implemented via NASA’s senior review process and the NSF Division of Astronomical Science’s (AST’s) senior review and recent portfolio review.

A survey committee is constituted with an eye to broad across-the-discipline balance: it is unlikely to contain either the scientific or technical expertise to compare the merits of continuing or terminating a small group of extant missions or facilities. A group that is knowledgeable about the specific missions or facilities under consideration would serve better in that role. Thus, the committee concludes that the expertise required for evaluating the scientific productivity or cost-effectiveness of existing missions or facilities is more effectively held in, or solicited by, the agencies. However, it is not unusual for a decadal survey to comment on the issues relating to extended missions and facilities, especially in reference to their recommended program, in this way giving some indirect input into the agency processes of review.

Consideration of the status of previously recommended programs and the importance of existing missions and facilities is a key component in formulating and implementing the recommended program of the new decadal survey. However, the most relevant question for the new survey is the contribution of such capabilities that are desirable or even essential for accomplishing the new program. International collaboration may, of course, be another important factor for continued support. Existing missions and facilities, or those under construction, may have broad utility alongside the new science program, provide an integral part of the infrastructure that is part of a balanced program, and/or be an essential tool for achieving the goals of earlier surveys.

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6 NRC, Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2013.

7 NRC, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.

8 NRC, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

Best Practice: Decadal surveys may review the recommended program from previous surveys and choose to endorse certain activities in their own recommendations. Such reviews are best if they focus on those missions and facilities that play a critical role in the proposed science of the survey report.

The freedom to review and endorse (or not) previously recommended program elements only applies to activities, such as missions, facilities, and observing systems, for which implementation has not yet begun. Decadal survey committees may choose to look at the cost-effective science return of existing missions and facilities and make evaluations based on their relevance and importance to the new proposed program, with the aim of increasing available resources for the next decade.

Best Practice: It is desirable that the statement of task explicitly address the extent to which existing programs or projects are to be reviewed and recommendations from prior decadal surveys are to be revisited.

THE DECADAL SURVEY’S RECOMMENDED PROGRAM

The decadal program typically includes recommendations regarding the continuation or change of existing program elements, as well as a new program of prioritized missions, facilities, observing systems, and/or activities to be started in the following 10 years. The program elements can include (1) space-based and suborbital missions and mission components (including instruments on international missions), (2) ground-based science facilities (including telescopes and large data centers), (3) research and analysis (R&A) activities, (4) technology development programs, and (5) supporting infrastructure and activities—including spacecraft communication systems, data management and archive facilities, and extraterrestrial sample curation, and/or analysis facilities, computation and/or simulation, and education and public outreach.

In this section, specific issues for the decadal survey committee to consider as it develops the content and scope of its recommended program are discussed.

The Primacy of Science

The principal and essential product of a decadal survey is the committee’s consensus recommendation of science goals and objectives9 for the coming decade. Achieving this requires a mapping of these goals into a decade-long program of missions and activities. As the basis for all other considerations, a clear presentation of the science goals and objectives forms the primary element of the decadal survey report from which all other elements must flow. The flow-down of mission science objectives into investigations allows clear traceability from science goals to mission definition and prioritization. Although the detailed structure of decadal survey reports may vary by discipline, each articulates a fundamental traceability of priority science goals and objectives for the next decade into an implementation strategy that involves the full spectrum of discipline activities.

Programmatic Advice

Programmatic Advice to NASA

Decadal survey reports provide advice to NASA on its programs and activities within the appropriate discipline for the coming decade. All such advice is rooted in the priority science goals and objectives that have been identified. The scope of the advice is delineated in the survey’s statement of task, as described in Chapter 1. It generally covers all activities that are funded by the appropriate division and includes missions (both space and suborbital), R&A, technology development, ground-based observatories, ground-based support infrastructure and activities, and education, engagement, and workforce activities. The advice may also include recommendations about

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9 While discipline science goals tend to evolve relatively slowly compared to the decadal time frame, science objectives can evolve more rapidly as new discoveries are made, new technologies are developed and mature, and ongoing missions accomplish past objectives.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

inter-disciplinary, inter-directorate (e.g., STMD or HEOMD), inter-agency (e.g., NSF, NOAA, the Department of Defense (DOE), the Department of the Interior-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)), and/or international activities. Such advice and recommendations are clearly laid out in separate sections within the decadal survey report.

Programmatic Advice to NSF

The principal recommendations to NSF AST from the astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys have been for facilities and infrastructure to accomplish those science objectives that require observations with ground-based facilities—for example, optical and radio telescopes and detection of cosmic rays and neutrinos coming from space. Unlike NASA or other agencies, NSF manages, but does not construct, the building of such facilities. Usually, decadal recommendations identify mature plans for large facilities that NSF can submit to NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) program through competition and selection by the National Science Board. The VLA, VLBA, Gemini, ALMA, DKIST (formerly Advance Technology Solar Telescope), and most recently LSST, are all recommendations of astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys that have been constructed through MREFC. A significant issue for NSF AST is that long-term operating funds for these major facilities must come out of the division budget line. Growth in operating costs has over-committed division resources; as a result, other decadal priorities have been put aside.

To address the concern that large facilities dominate the NSF portfolio, Astro2010 recommended the initiation of a mid-scale innovations program where smaller facilities and projects (such as mid-size facilities and major instrumentation for telescopes) could be chosen through peer-review competition. This program has been implemented, and first awards have been made, albeit at a significantly lower level of support than the decadal recommendation. Decadal recommendations often advise NSF on the funding levels of other R&A activities, the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants Program, and Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program.

Budget Profiles

The most challenging aspect of the decadal survey process is to assemble an optimal implementation strategy for the decadal science goals and objectives that accord with a reasonable estimate of the budget profile for the coming decade. This profile may be explicitly defined in the statement of task by the sponsoring agencies, which provide an initial budget for the appropriate NASA division (or for NSF AST) for the first year of the next decade with a rate of escalation for the following 10 years. The statement of task may also recommend several different models that might include more or less optimistic escalation rates (see Chapter 2, “Agency Feedback During the Decadal”). Within these budget profiles, the decadal survey fits the full spectrum of activities performed by the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) division, or with NSF funding. Such an exercise is well illustrated using a budget profile, such as shown for planetary science in Figure 3.1 for the decade 2013-2022. The dark solid line shows the assumed budget wedge for planetary sciences that was used for the decadal survey process. The chart shows all programs for planetary sciences recommended by the decadal survey, including supporting R&A (SRA), Technology, Discovery, New Frontiers and high-profile missions. The chart does not explicitly show mission activities from the prior decade that extended beyond 2013.

Figure 3.1 also shows—very clearly—the challenge of including a high-profile mission, such as the proposed Jupiter Europa Orbiter mission (JEO), which can have a major impact on other elements of the decadal program. With its projected cost of $4.7 billion, it would have been impossible to fit JEO as designed into any acceptable suite of activities for the Planetary Science Division.

Budget profiles also illustrate another challenge associated with the decadal survey process. Although the survey is limited to recommendations for a specific decade, some activities that are planned to start within the decade may extend well into the next decade and may even have peak spending in that decade. As such, the true extent of the decadal survey program continues well beyond the planning period and may represent a significant lien on the next decadal survey process. In addition, budget profiles generally only include prime mission funding for any future missions and do not allow explicitly for extended mission phases, which are highly likely to be approved for productive space missions.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

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FIGURE 3.1 Notional funding profiles for the planetary science decadal survey with recommended programs, in real-year dollars, for fiscal years 2013-2022. The heavy black line shows the projected (at the time of the decadal survey) available funding for the NASA Planetary Science Division (PSD), accounting for all commitments at the time (including the Mars Trace Gas Orbiter). The available funding grows sharply in the first few years of the decade as some current programs come to an end. The cost assumed for the Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO) is $4.7 billion, illustrating clearly why a reduction in the scope and cost of this mission was necessary. NOTE: Acronyms are defined in Appendix F.

Lesson Learned: Although extended mission phases are not generally budgeted for future missions in the decadal survey process, they may present significant hidden costs that may influence decadal survey implementation cadence.

It is inevitable that some programs recommended for initiation in the coming decade will extend well into the future. Even when started in the decade addressed in the survey, construction and operation may continue well into the following decade. Similarly, large ground-based facilities and infrastructure may have run-outs well beyond a decade.

Best Practice: It is important for the decadal survey committee to estimate and clearly describe and illustrate in its report potential liens on the following decade from its recommended program.

Balance Within the Recommended Program

Decadal surveys also attempt to establish an optimal balance of programs and activities. First and foremost, a discipline strives to achieve balance among its different scientific areas so that even if one or more of the subdisciplines has gained priority through the survey process, the others are able to continue to do important science, maintain technical expertise, and, most importantly, attract good students. It is also desirable and necessary to have a component of exploratory science to complement the more common goal-oriented approaches that push

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

particular parts of the discipline forward. Exploration comes about when new capabilities and sensitivities have been reached, and it is particularly effective in observatory-type activities where scientists are able to propose surveys and pointed observations beyond and apart from the scope of the original science objectives.

Balance must be considered between small, medium, and large missions; between competed and non-competed missions; between long time-continuity and science-focused missions (e.g., Earth sciences and heliophysics); between principal-investigator (PI)-led and (NASA) center-led missions; between missions and programs for research and those for technology, education, and workforce development; and between subdisciplines within each division (e.g., destination classes within the solar system for PSD). Lack of balance has negative consequences. For example, programs that strongly emphasize high-profile mission opportunities can make significant progress on one or two important topics but may lack the agility to respond to scientific developments, be unable to address questions that require diverse observations of complex systems, and lose scientific and technical expertise in disciplines that go too long without opportunities. Reducing support for theory, modeling, and data analysis may advance the start of the next project or continue existing programs, but will lead to inadequate exploitation of investments made in collecting observations and ultimately break the cycle that creates the scientific and technical innovations for the future. Given the importance of such balance to the health of the scientific community, it is important that the survey report describe how survey recommendations about balance were developed. Decision rules can be crafted to help ensure that balance is maintained in the program, as discussed in Chapter 4.

Best Practice: It is highly desirable that the decadal survey report includes clear discussions on how the decadal survey committee determined the optimal balance of programs and activities for the coming decade.

Interagency Issues

The primary role of the decadal surveys is to identify priority science goals and objectives and to provide an optimal implementation strategy that can be executed by one or more federal agencies. Most survey recommendations in planetary science and Earth science, and many in heliophysics and astronomy and astrophysics, are directed at the appropriate SMD division of NASA. Recommendations concerning ground-based observatories for astronomy and astrophysics and heliophysics are directed at NSF as part of the strategic planning process for these disciplines. In recent years, DOE has taken a greater interest in astrophysics research on the ground and in space, so it too is involved in the survey process. Similarly, an Earth sciences decadal survey is pertinent to and contains recommendations for NOAA and USGS. Cooperation among these agencies is obviously crucial to the success of a decadal program that requires the participation of multiple agencies. The important topic of interagency issues is revisited in Chapter 4.

Best Practice: It is incumbent on a decadal survey report to clearly delineate the respective roles of NASA, NSF, NOAA, USGS, and/or other federal agencies in implementing the science program when the capabilities and interests of multiple agencies are involved.

High-Profile NASA Missions

Within each division of NASA SMD, there are facilities and missions with the potential to have large-scale impacts on the program due to their strategic importance, scope, and/or size. These so-called high-profile missions10 address critical science goals or questions for the decade. They are uniquely characterized by an implementation

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10 A variety of names have been used to refer to these missions. Perhaps the most common term used is flagship; however, the term high-profile mission has become synonymous with mission cost rather than strategic importance or impact to the program. Using NASA’s Science Mission Directorate classification scheme, the missions under consideration here would be Category 1 (and occasionally Category 2) Strategic Missions per NASA Science Plan 2014, Appendix C, p. 115. High-profile missions, as the term is used here, refer to missions of significant importance to a program that are able to have substantial negative impact on program health if not implemented successfully or within fiscal constraints.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

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FIGURE 3.2 Annual expenditures in millions of dollars (normalized to fiscal year [FY] 2015) for the development and operation of high-profile science missions for all of the divisions within NASA’s Science Missions Directorate from 1969 to 2026. Also shown are the estimated costs associated with science-focused space shuttle launches, such as Magellan, Galileo, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO), Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), Chandra X Ray Observatory, and Hubble Space Telescope and its five servicing missions. Decadal surveys pay attention to both the peak expenditures during development and the integrated cost (including operations) of recommended missions in order to ensure the maintenance of programmatic balance. The figures quoted for FY 2015 and beyond, and all missions after Solar Probe Plus, are notional. Following official NASA practice, the cost of each space shuttle launch was assumed to be $400 million and allocated over 3 fiscal years. NOTE: Acronyms are defined in Appendix F. SOURCE: NASA Science Mission Directorate.

strategy that is performance-driven rather than cost-constrained.11 Although there are parallels to some large facilities in the NSF AST, this discussion focuses on NASA missions because the level of cost growth and its negative consequences has been a bigger problem for NASA.

High-profile missions tend to be associated with high life-cycle costs, as is illustrated in Figure 3.2 for NASA’s large science missions dating back to 1969 and projected out to 2026. Because of their importance to the community’s science ambitions, high-profile missions have the potential for a significant (negative) impact on performance across all activities within a division, and possibly across NASA SMD, for the coming decade if there is a mission failure or significant unanticipated cost growth. Because a substantial part of the science accomplished in a decade comes from smaller missions, it is important for surveys to strike a balance between larger, non-competed, high-profile missions and the competed line of smaller missions.12 Yet, high-profile missions continue to be critical

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11 Performance-driven missions are driven by specific measurement or other requirements rather than cost constraints. This is contrasted with (typically) PI-led cost-capped missions where de-scopes are required if a performance requirement cannot be met within pre-established cost constraints.

12 The 2007 Earth Science and Applications from Space survey committee recommended a “tilt away from facility-class implementations of large multi-instrumented platforms (such as EOS or NPOESS class) toward smaller missions to increase programmatic robustness” (NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space, 2007, p. 76).

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

parts of the program because certain missions cannot simply be broken down in an efficient or effective manner into smaller components and still accomplish the science goal.

When a decadal survey committee considers recommending a high-profile mission for any agency, the associated risks need to be considered as well. In recommending a high-profile, performance-driven mission, it is highly desirable that the survey committee recognizes that costs can rise dramatically if requirements are not well understood and/or readily met with existing technology. Because NASA’s high-profile missions often start with cost estimates of more than $1 billion, cost growth can pose a significant threat to programmatic balance, given individual division budgets of ≤$1.8 billion per year. It can be challenging, if not impossible, for a single NASA division to maintain a balanced portfolio of activities while supporting the development of a multibillion dollar mission in the face of significant cost growth. Thus, it is imperative that survey committees make clear which parts of a performance-driven mission are truly required, and where any compromises or de-scopes might be acceptable. Furthermore, these compromises must be sufficient to execute the high-profile mission within the discipline’s own budget. Both can be accomplished through clearly stated decision rules that set forth the criteria by which the high-profile mission retains or loses its priority under various circumstances (e.g., Mission X is the highest priority as long as it provides Y performance at a cost of less than Z; if Mission A performs at less than the predefined level, then Mission B becomes a higher priority).

When the projected costs of a mission grow large enough to threaten the balance of activities within its division, there can be consequences for the other NASA SMD divisions and possibly other NASA directorates. Because of its cost, JWST is the “poster child” of such high-profile missions, having already demonstrated this potential (see Box 3.1).

Lesson Learned: High-profile missions are special cases within each of the disciplinary areas, presenting great opportunities for major advances in understanding, but also carrying significant risk for maintaining a balanced portfolio of activities—should unanticipated cost growth occur.

Causes of Cost Growth in High-Profile Missions

Because cost growth in high-profile missions can have major impacts on other programs within a NASA SMD division or NSF AST, it is important to identify possible sources of cost growth early in mission/facility definition and development and to have a clear strategy for dealing with them should they occur. Cost growth can result from “science creep,” where science requirements for a mission or facility evolve and grow during development, and when unanticipated expenses result from technical and engineering requirements. Performance-driven missions are particularly susceptible to science creep (see Box 3.2)—members of the science team and external science community see opportunities to leverage a mission to address broader science goals, usually without fully appreciating the implications for cost or programmatic balance.13 This can be insidious; although the “creep” of requirements and its associated cost growth appear incremental, the effect is often cumulative, resulting in substantial cost growth over the long implementation timescale of a high-profile mission.

While it may be difficult to adequately account for future cost growth due to unanticipated engineering or technical challenges, early identification of potential issues and assignment of appropriate cost reserves can limit the impact on total cost. For this reason, although mission creep is essentially a program management issue, a decadal survey needs to think hard and—to the extent possible—anticipate the potential for cost growth of a high-profile mission. Later, as implementation begins, effective use of reviews at key development milestones, tied to clear decadal survey decision rules for continuation of a program or enactment of de-scope options, can provide some degree of protection from damaging cost growth (see Box 3.3).

This issue is not exclusive to NASA. For example, NSF’s participation in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international endeavor, was a high priority for Astro2000. This facility is the

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13 As highlighted in the Earth science midterm assessment, mission implementation teams tended to have a narrower focus on discipline priorities, in contrast to the decadal survey committee’s broader emphasis on Earth system science, leading to mission creep and cost growth (NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

BOX 3.1
James Webb Space Telescope

The recent, most serious case of a high-profile mission that exceeded its division resources is the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Early estimates of technical difficulty were substantially understated, and the project was critically underfunded throughout its development phase to 2011. This resulted in significant increases in cost and major launch delays, which led to further cost escalation.1 Ultimately JWST was determined to be an agency-wide priority mission, and the funding was moved out of the Astrophysics Division into its own funding line within the Science Mission Directorate.

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FIGURE 3.1.1 Major structural components of the James Webb Space Telescope being prepared for a cryogenic test. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA/Chris Gunn.

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1See JWST Independent Comprehensive Review Panel, Final Report, October 29, 2010, http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/499224main_JWST-ICRP_Report-FINAL.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

BOX 3.2
Requirements Creep

Mission creep can occur in missions of any size. The 2007 Earth science and applications from space decadal survey warned that “NASA and the scientific community must avoid ‘requirements creep’ and the consequent damaging cost growth.” 1 Yet, as noted in that survey’s midterm assessment, “absent a countervailing mechanism, there is a natural tendency for individual missions to become more responsive to single communities or disciplines rather than to the overall Earth system science community. For example, changes to the survey-recommended ICESat-2 mission were, in part, the result of pressures from a disciplinary community whose desires for a more advanced and capable mission than envisioned by the survey were not restrained by consideration of the budgetary impact on development of future missions serving different communities.”2 Changes in mission science emphasis led to technology development challenges, significant mission cost growth, and launch delay.3

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FIGURE 3.2.1 The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is the second generation of the laser altimeter ICESat mission and is scheduled for launch in July 2016. SOURCE: Courtesy of Orbital ATK.

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1 National Research Council (NRC), Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, p. 43.

2 NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA’s Implementation of the Decadal Survey, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012, p. 29.

3 See Dan Leone, “NASA’s IceSat-2 Busts Budget, Report Headed to Congress,” Space News, December 3, 2013, http://spacenews.com/38475nasas-icesat-2-busts-budget-report-headed-to-congress/.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

BOX 3.3
Decision Rules

Five large high-profile missions were identified and prioritized by 2011 planetary science decadal survey.1 The highest ranked of these missions were a Mars rover with sample-caching capability—as the first step toward Mars sample return—and a Europa orbiter mission (Jupiter-Europa Orbiter). The decision rules developed by the survey committee required both missions to trim their budgets significantly to retain their priority ranking. The decision rules further required that high-profile missions be de-scoped or delayed rather than negatively impact the other aspects of the planetary science portfolio. Following these rules—despite much lower-than-anticipated funding levels for the Planetary Science Division, the Mars community was able to develop a credible Mars 2020 mission that addressed most of the key goals of the decadal survey, while minimizing impact on the rest of the program. A re-scoped Europa mission was granted a new start in the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2016.

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FIGURE 3.3.1 An artist’s sketch of the Mars 2020 rover, NASA’s implementation of the 2011 planetary science decadal survey’s sample-caching rover. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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1 National Research Council, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

premier facility of submillimeter radio astronomy in the world. However, cost growth in ALMA construction and operations has been substantial, resulting in an erosion in NSF’s support for ground-based optical telescopes, particularly those “open-access” facilities run by the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and also for the program of research grants run by NSF AST.

In summary, high-profile missions remain a vital part of most decadal programs, but their execution within a containable budget remains a challenge, one that decadal surveys must address throughtfully and thoroughly. Smaller-scale competed missions, such as the Explorer and Discovery programs, are also key to accomplishing a decadal survey’s science goals and objectives, so it is imperative that survey committees consider both the benefits and risks of recommending high-profile missions in their deliberative process. High-profile missions should be reserved for the highest-priority science goals, those that cannot be accomplished in any other way. When a high-profile mission is recommended, it should be accompanied by clearly stated expectations regarding its implementation, denoting which aspects of the mission are essential to retaining the mission’s consensus priority and which can be further considered during design development to enable cost control.

Lesson Learned: Mission creep within high-profile missions and large facilities and a general unwillingness to de-scope or cancel large missions or facilities during development can result in large, negative impacts on other programs at the division and directorate level.

Best Practice: When recommending high-profile missions, survey committees are advised to explicitly state which aspects of the project are essential to retaining the mission’s consensus priority and which can be further considered during design development to enable cost control.

Best Practice: Clear decision rules for high-profile missions and large facilities that include both de-scope and cancellation options can provide some level of protection against unconstrained cost growth and possible collateral damage to other programs.

Consequences of the Long Timescales of High-Profile Missions

High-profile space missions are often multi-decadal in nature. The concepts for such missions often mature over many years before funding decisions are made and implementation can begin. During this early conceptual stage, significant evolution can occur in its science goals and objectives and its instrument and mission capabilities. While this evolution almost always results in cost escalation, it can also result in a mission or observing system that is significantly different from that originally conceived in a decadal survey. As an example, the high-profile Mars Science Laboratory mission (Curiosity) within NASA PSD evolved significantly in both architecture and cost from the original concept (as delineated in the 2003 planetary science decadal survey14) before the mission was launched in 2011. Despite such evolution, there is a tendency to keep the original mission as the highest priority for the program due to the large amount of resources already committed.

Best Practice: While high-profile missions are likely to retain their high ranking from one decadal survey to the next, evolution in mission concepts and changing science priorities may occur over time. As such, it is desirable that the survey committee and panels carefully evaluate all candidate mission concepts on their merits, rather than be unduly influenced by advocacy and inertia.

Once a NASA high-profile mission is launched, the mission lifetime often greatly exceeds the prime mission timescale, resulting in one or many proposals for extended mission phases that are evaluated in a congressionally mandated senior review process. Given the high development cost of these missions, there is a sensible desire to exploit them fully by gleaning as much science as possible from the mission before termination. While it is certainly true that science return on an extended mission is less costly than developing a new mission, the cost

_______________

14 NRC, New Frontiers in the Solar System, 2003.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

of maintaining existing capability can preclude the initiation of new missions that could make quantum advances in the field. While the senior reviews that evaluate extended mission proposals are more an issue of stewardship, the surveys can and should inform the senior review process by clearly articulating science and mission goals and relative priorities. As described above (see the section “The Existing Program”), a survey committee may choose to endorse existing activities that play an important role in addressing the survey’s science goals.

International and Interagency Collaboration on High-Profile Missions

High-profile NASA missions often fall in the upper range of cost envelopes that are possible within a division budget without adversely affecting the balance of programs within the division. NSF has faced similar challenges. Consequently, it is highly desirable to offset some costs through participation of other domestic agencies, foreign space agencies, or foreign governmental science agencies. While such participation is dealt with elsewhere in this report (see the Chapter 4 sections “Interagency Issues” and “International Activities”) and treated in detail in a 2011 National Research Council report,15 high-profile missions with international or interagency components are a special case.

Participation of organizations outside NASA can result in a far more capable mission than would be possible with division funding alone (see Box 3.4). The Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), is an excellent example. In particular, the Huygens probe developed by ESA provided significant complementary science capability in understanding the unique environment on Titan. Space programs like HST, Spitzer, Hayabusa, Planck, Herschel, SOHO and LISA; airborne platforms such as SOFIA; and ground-based NSF programs such as the Gemini Observatories and ALMA are other excellent examples of the benefits of international collaboration.

Despite the clear advantages of such collaborative missions, the challenges to successful implementation can be large, with differing planning cycles, funding systems, and priorities.16,17,18 Such issues present major challenges for decadal surveys, particularly for high-profile missions, where joint participation is often required to meet decadal budget requirements. As such, sponsoring agencies may wish to provide specific instructions to survey committees on how they deal with such missions.

Best Practice: Strong preferences by the agencies on how to deal with high-profile missions and interagency and/or international participation in missions and facilities need to be spelled out in the statement of task.

Supporting Research Infrastructure and Activities

Decadal surveys provide NASA and, where appropriate, NSF and other federal agencies, with recommendations on the highest-priority science for the coming decade. To accomplish these science objectives, the survey recommends a suite of missions that could be flown and facilities that might be developed in the coming decade, as well as the infrastructure and activities needed to support the science for that field, prepare technologies and workforce for future missions, and educate and engage the public in space sciences (see Box 3.5). These recommendations reflect the need to maintain a level of scientific research and analysis that maximizes the return on past and current missions and prepares the way for futures ones. They also identify where funding is needed to maintain technology development and facilities that are essential for future missions.

_______________

15 NRC, Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.

16 For a detailed discussion of this topic see, NRC, Assessment of Impediments, 2011.

17 See, also, NRC, Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.

18 For specific examples relating to the NASA/NOAA/DoD NPOESS program see, for example, NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

BOX 3.4
Collaborative Missions

Joint international missions are common in all the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) disciplines. In heliophysics, Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO, 1995 launch) and Cluster (relaunched in 2000 after a 1996 launch failure) are two shining examples with extensive European Space Agency (ESA) partnership. Yohkoh (1991 launch, a.k.a. Solar-A) and Hinode (2006, a.k.a. Solar-B) are examples NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) partnership on smaller-scale missions. International cooperation between NASA and ESA has been critical to the success of large Earth science system missions Aqua, Aura, and Terra (the Earth Observing System (EOS) platforms, a collaboration between NASA, ESA, Canada, Japan, and Brazil) and smaller-scale missions such as Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM, a collaboration between NASA and JAXA). NASA-ESA collaborations on astrophysics missions include the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Herschel, Planck, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, also with Canadian Space Agency [CSA]). NASA has collaborated on numerous satellites built by JAXA missions, most recently Astro-H (JAXA) and Astro-E2 (Susaku).

images

FIGURE 3.4.1 An artist’s conception of the core observatory spacecraft of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, a joint activity with NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

BOX 3.5
Supporting Research Infrastructure and Activities

Supporting research infrastructure and activities include the following:

• Research and analysis (including theory and modeling),

• Technology development,

• Rockets and launch infrastructure,

• Deep Space Network and Near-Earth Network,

• Shared facilities (ground networks, telescopes, calibration/validation facilities or assets),

• Laboratory-based experimentation and sample curation,

• Data management and archiving facilities, such as the Planetary Data System,

• Education and engagement/public outreach, and

• Workforce development activities.

images

FIGURE 3.5.1 Theory and modeling are an important component of the scientific enterprise. Illustrated here are four time steps from a complex, three-dimensional computer simulation of an impact between the Moon and a hypothetical satellite, roughly 4-billion-years ago. SOURCE: Courtesy of Erik Asphaug (Arizona State University) and Martin Jutzi (University of Bern).

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

Best Practice: In developing the recommended decadal program, survey committees and panels are advised to include explicit consideration of various forms of programmatic balance. This might include, for example, the balance across the subdisciplines, between mission and non-mission activities, between novel and continued observations, across mission and facility cost, and between program elements (e.g., R&A, technology, infrastructure, missions) and activities (e.g., education, engagement, and workforce development).

Research and Analysis

R&A activities are the principal means by which the scientific community addresses the science goals of current decadal surveys and lays the scientific and technical foundations for future surveys. They cover a wide range of activities. For NASA, they are mostly associated with analysis and application of space science data. For NSF, R&A is funded through its divisions to support data analysis in a variety of ground-based facilities, such as radio and optical telescopes. Theoretical and laboratory research is also supported in the portfolio of both agencies.

Data analysis supported by NASA’s R&A programs may come from space missions, suborbital missions, NASA-supported ground-based observatories, or laboratory experiments and/or analysis. R&A at NASA is traditionally funded through subdisciplinary grant programs within each SMD division, as delineated in the annual solicitations for research opportunities in space and Earth-sciences (ROSES).19 Grants funded through ROSES, and through the grants programs of NSF and other agencies, are a critical component in realizing decadal science goals and objectives, providing essential support the broader scientific community needs to use the wealth of information collected through science activities at the agencies. Full exploitation of hard-won data and measurements requires adequate funding for analysis by individuals and teams of scientists. Decadal surveys typically acknowledge the importance of R&A activities and may also provide recommendations on associated programs to ensure appropriate funding balance is achieved or maintained between collecting data and the analysis and application of that data.

Technology Development

The scope and scale of technology development can vary between highly specific or broadly supported and, thus, involve considerations beyond a particular subdiscipline or even discipline. In the context of a decadal survey, it is expected that individual subdiscipline panels will recommend both short-term needs for technology development as well as more forward-looking, long-lead development priorities.20 The decadal survey committee prioritizes these and incorporates them into its recommendations for across-the-discipline technology development for the decade. The full program of activities for each discipline for the coming decade is laid out in the decadal survey report, including recommendations on a balance of missions, research, technology, and supporting infrastructure and activities that are needed to sustain the program and engage stakeholders and the public.

Best Practice: It is desirable that discussion of technology development in the decadal report be included in both the survey recommendations section and in the panel reports, so that technology requirements for the coming decade (and beyond) can be adequately captured, while identifying subdiscipline-specific requirements.

Rockets and Launch Infrastructure

Launch costs continue to be a significant and uncertain cost driver for NASA SMD missions. In noting the influence of escalating launch costs on the scope of missions that can be performed within a specific cost category, decadal surveys are able to review the current status of launch vehicle options and provide recommendations as

_______________

19 For more information about ROSES see, for example, NSPIRES, NASA Research Announcement “Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES)–2015,” Solicitation NNH15ZDA001N, released February 13, 2015, http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary.do?method=init&solId={9F1341A9-6D0F-F075-C993-276263B186ED}&path=future.

20 Examples of long-lead-time technology development include nuclear powered energy generation for probes to the outer solar system (planetary), large mirrors and energy-resolving detectors (astrophysics), active cooling for operation on the surface of Venus (planetary—inner solar system), and active cooling for cryogenic sample containment (planetary—primitive bodies).

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

to whether or not launch expenses should be included in proposals for cost-capped missions and what additional options may be available (such as dual manifesting or hosted payloads on commercial launches).21 In addition, where radioisotope power or heating systems are included in a spacecraft, decadal surveys are able to make recommendations about how the costs associated with compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act may be apportioned by NASA.

Support Infrastructure

NASA ground-based support infrastructure and activities include those involved with spacecraft communication and data downlink, data management and archiving, sample receiving and curation, cross-cutting program support (e.g., planetary protection considerations), as well as analysis of extraterrestrial samples. Such infrastructure and facilities need to be discussed in the decadal surveys and their importance noted, in as much as they are needed in support of the implementation of the decadal survey science goals. Without such support from the decadal surveys, needed upgrades and improvements may fall victim to declining budgets and a tendency to support mission activities over necessary supporting infrastructure and activities for the coming decade and beyond. NSF also provides key programs in technology development, such as detectors, and the building and maintenance of advanced scientific instrumentation for ground-based telescopes and other facilities.

Education, Engagement, and Workforce Development

The decadal surveys also have a role in ensuring that the science associated with implementation of decadal survey goals is translated into the broader community, including into the educational environment. A full discussion of this topic and its ramifications is beyond the scope of the current report.22 Nevertheless, the committee is compelled to note that NASA and NSF are uniquely placed to engage people of all ages in science and encourage young people into careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which are critical to the future health and vitality of this nation.

There are no more important resources than human capital. Capturing the minds of young people—potential scientists and engineers, making sure educational opportunities are widely available to them, and having them spend their careers in pursuit of the science goals of the survey, is the ultimate goal. Through the excitement of the recommended science program, and success in communicating it to the public, decadal surveys open doors to the future.

COMMUNICATION OF THE RECOMMENDED PROGRAM

Most of the time and energy of the survey committee and panels is spent developing priority science goals and objectives and then tracing these into a recommended program of activities. Once defined, it is imperative that appropriate attention be paid to communicating the program through the decadal survey report. Most stakeholders will be unaware of what went into shaping the decisions that were made—and not made—and so it is incumbent upon the survey committee to communicate sufficient context and depth that its recommendations can be correctly understood.

The Decadal Survey Report

The decadal survey report is the principal medium in the communication of decadal survey findings and recommendations. The printed report can be a single volume (e.g., Planetary2011, Earth2007, and Helio2013) or two volumes (Astro2010). There may also be web-based supporting documentation, including community white

_______________

21 See, for example, NRC, Vision and Voyages, 2011, pp. 266 and 276-278.

22 For a more complete discussion of issues associated with the communication of space science goals and achievements with the public and the educational community respectively, see NRC, Sharing the Adventure with the Public: The Value and Excitement of “Grand Questions” of Space Science and Exploration—Summary of a Workshop, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011; and Sharing the Adventure with the Student: Exploring the Intersections of NASA Space Science and Education—A Workshop Summary, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2015.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

papers. The survey committee, with supporting chapters or volumes representing the work of the panels, prepares the main component of the report. Additional communication after the termination of the decadal survey process occurs through presentations by members of the survey committee to the sponsoring agencies, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, congressional offices and committees, and other appropriate federal agencies. In addition, congressional hearings and town halls at scientific conferences and society meetings are used to disseminate decadal survey recommendations and clarifications to the broader scientific community and interested public. Popularized descriptions of the decadal survey report are important vehicles for conveying the highlights of the survey to the general public.

Lesson Learned: While the survey report is the primary result of the decadal process, engagement of stakeholders and the broader community in the survey recommendations is also critical to the success of decadal surveys. Communication by the decadal survey committee leadership and members with science community groups and at science and society meetings promotes broad community buy-in.

Best Practice: Community acceptance and buy-in on decadal survey recommendations requires careful documentation and communication by the survey committee of their decision-making process for developing science goals and objectives and tracing these into a recommended program of activities for the decade.

Best Practice: When drafting the decadal survey report, it is best that authoring committees remain mindful of the wide audience for the report, including the international discipline community, federal agencies, Congress, the federal executive branch, and the public, to ensure clear and effective communication of the community’s consensus science priorities as expressed in the decadal survey report. Professional societies, such as the American Astronomical Society and the American Geophysical Union, can be very effective in disseminating the survey program to a wide audience.

Clarity of Intent

Based on lessons learned from recent decadal surveys, the following areas merit particular attention during report preparation: cost appraisal, strength of priorities, implementation detail, scope of review, and use of lists.

Cost Appraisal

Although much attention has already been paid to assessing the fidelity of cost appraisal (see Chapter 2 and Appendix B on the CATE process), effectively communicating how cost estimates will be used is equally important. As discussed in the Earth science midterm assessment,23 the committee’s intention to use provided costs as a sense of relative scale was unclear to the Earth Science Division director at SMD; as a result, cost estimates were simply discarded as overly optimistic, rather than used to push back against significant early cost growth, as the committee intended.

Best Practice: When drafting a decadal survey, it is important to clarify the intended use of the cost appraisal for each mission or facility. Is it for a configuration that is intended to serve as (1) a “proof of a concept” that merely establishes the scale of the project; (2) a cost estimated for a mature, well-studied concept; (3) a cost cap; or (4) something else entirely.

Strength of Priorities

It is desirable that decadal survey committees consider how best to capture the degree to which the community’s priorities remain constant for an array of foreseeable eventualities. If the top-priority mission overruns significantly,

_______________

23 NRC, Earth Science and Applications from Space, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

does it remain the top priority, or is there a limit beyond which consensus fails due to competing priorities and/or a need to maintain a balanced program? A survey committee can provide guidance in such circumstances via decision rules (see Box 3.3). A more complete discussion of decision rules can be found in Chapter 4.

Best Practice: To the extent possible, it is desirable that survey committees craft text that describes the priority activities—why they are the priorities and under what circumstances those priorities might change. So-called “decision rules” that are clearly identified in the survey report can help with this process. Collections of all decision rules in a single section, with traceability back to the body of the report, will facilitate clear communication of the decadal survey’s intent.

Implementation Detail

In drafting the survey report, it is best if the committee describes the extent to which implementation details are provided. Is the recommend mission a reference mission subject to further post-survey development, or is the recommendation for a specific implementation architecture, likely one that has a history in the discipline? For example, planetary science decadal surveys often recommend a specific mission architecture that represents years of careful consideration by the community. In contrast, in Earth science, where access to space is comparatively routine, there are likely to be several acceptable implementation options.

Best Practice: It is important for the survey report to clarify the extent to which implementation details are prescriptive or notional, in order to ensure that agencies understand the committee’s intent when developing implementations strategies.

Scope of Review

What is not said can have as much impact as what is said. Failing to mention specific program elements or current projects can easily be taken as a sign of low priority. Similarly, claims can be made that a particular program was not appropriately considered (even if it was considered and not prioritized) if the program is not explicitly mentioned. Erring on the side of over-communicating can be helpful, particularly to make clear cases where a program was indeed considered but a consensus was reached that it should not be prioritized, as was the case with Space Interferometry Mission in Astro2010.

Best Practice: In some cases, it is desirable for the survey committees to document not only the missions and facilities that are part of the recommended program, but also those that were considered but not prioritized, as well as the rationale behind decisions.

Usage of Lists

Lists and tables can be very helpful in itemizing priorities in a clear and concise way. Those in the community who treat them as the only recommendations, however, may use them out of context. Earth2007, for example, made numerous recommendations; however, most consider the list of missions for making new measurements as the primary recommendation from this survey. In fact, a closer read makes clear that the overarching recommendation is for a balanced program emphasizing Earth system science. The table of missions represents explicit priorities for only one part of the program (new measurements) and is listed in phased mission groups rather than priority order—however, since the survey report’s release, the term “tier” has been repeatedly used by non-committee stakeholders to imply a relative priority. Similarly, in Helio2013, an integrated Heliophysics Systems Observatory was a key recommendation aimed at providing balance opportunities.

Lesson Learned: A single, unified list is expected by many stakeholders—and when one is not provided, the closest thing to it will be used—more often, misused. It is very important that the survey report carefully

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×

describes the recommended program in its entirety, with proper emphasis on lists of prioritized missions and facilities.

Panel Reports: Publish or Perish?

The panel reports of a decadal survey are key elements because they provide traceability of the survey’s recommended program back to the community. In each panel, science priorities and technological capabilities are weighed and joined to produce an optimal science strategy for that part of the discipline. Therefore, panel reports provide the most complete description and rationalization for the missions and facilities recommended to and by the survey committee. However, the survey committee must choose among many worthy programs and activities that have been prioritized by the subdiscipline panels and prioritize across the discipline. It is unavoidable that the committee’s description—in the survey report—of the disposition, emphasis, and specifics of each prioritized activity will differ from what has been written in the panel reports.

The survey committee’s decadal report is the “document of record” but, not infrequently, panel reports have been quoted for their more detailed or somewhat different descriptions or evaluations of elements of the program, including those that have been incorporated into the survey program, but also those that have not. Consumers of the report, for example, the agencies or Congress, have been petitioned by stakeholders using selected material from panel reports which have, essentially, no standing when differing or elaborating beyond the survey committee’s recommendations. This can, and sometimes does, lead to confusion, if not deliberate misdirection.

Lesson Learned: Individual chapters representing the work of the panels provide important information and the back-story to the final recommendations of the decadal survey in terms of both science priorities and implementation strategies. As panels represent subdisciplines within the decadal survey; all of their priorities do not necessarily align with the survey committee, but are used as critical input into the discussions of the survey committee.

Best Practice: Development by each panel of prioritized science goals and implementation strategies ensures that its community’s science priorities are fully understood and considered for incorporation into the recommended program for the coming decade.

Best Practice: A clear articulation of the roles played by the survey committee and panels in absorbing, analyzing, and prioritizing the community’s science goals, within and across the discipline, is essential for securing community support for the finished survey—a crucial element of a decadal survey’s credibility to stakeholders.

Lesson Learned: As the best and most detailed record of community input, a decadal survey’s panel reports are a fundamental part of the survey’s work product. It is essential that they be made public along with the committee report. Publishing the survey committee report and the panel reports together, as has often been done, has the important advantage of providing traceability within one document of the decadal survey process of science and program prioritization.

Because only the committee report expresses the consensus recommendations of the survey, it is important that “For Reference Only” or similar warnings appear in the margin of each page of the panel reports. Also, by presenting the panel “program” as a set of priorities rather than “recommendations,” panels can avoid confusion and ambiguity relative to the decadal survey’s recommended program.

Best Practice: To make clear the utility of panel reports and to reduce ambiguity as to their use, decadal committees can choose to publish the panel reports in the same volume as the survey report, adding clear labeling that the panel reports are for reference only.

Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3 The Decadal Survey's Recommended Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21788.
×
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The National Research Council has conducted 11 decadal surveys in the Earth and space sciences since 1964 and released the latest four surveys in the past 8 years. The decadal surveys are notable in their ability to sample thoroughly the research interest, aspirations, and needs of a scientific community. Through a rigorous process, a primary survey committee and thematic panels of community members construct a prioritized program of science goals and objectives and define an executable strategy for achieving them. These reports play a critical role in defining the nation's agenda in that science area for the following 10 years, and often beyond.

The Space Science Decadal Surveys considers the lessons learned from previous surveys and presents options for possible changes and improvements to the process, including the statement of task, advanced preparation, organization, and execution. This report discusses valuable aspects of decadal surveys that could taken further, as well as some challenges future surveys are likely to face in searching for the richest areas of scientific endeavor, seeking community consensus of where to go next, and planning how to get there. The Space Science Decadal Surveys describes aspects in the decadal survey prioritization process, including balance in the science program and across the discipline; balance between the needs of current researchers and the development of the future workforce; and balance in mission scale - smaller, competed programs versus large strategic missions.

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