To meet the government’s urgent need for an independent adviser on scientific matters, President Lincoln signed a congressional charter forming the National Academy of Sciences in 1863 to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science.” As science began to play an ever-increasing role in national priorities and public life, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1964, and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), which was established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine. Collectively they are referred to as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). More information is available at http://nationalacademies.org.
The original charter of the Space Science Board was established in June 1958, 3 months before the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) opened its doors. The Space Science Board and its successor, the Space Studies Board (SSB), have provided expert external and independent scientific and programmatic advice to NASA on a continuous basis from NASA’s inception until the present. The SSB has also provided such advice to other executive branch agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Department of Defense, as well as to Congress.
The fundamental charter of the Board today remains that defined by NAS President Detlev W. Bronk in a letter to Lloyd V. Berkner, first chair of the Board, on June 26, 1958, which established the Space Science Board:
We have talked of the main task of the Board in three parts—the immediate program, the long-range program, and the international aspects of both. In all three we shall look to the Board to be the focus of the interests and responsibilities of the Academy-Research Council in space science; to establish necessary relationships with civilian science and with governmental science activities, particularly the proposed new space agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency; to represent the Academy-Research Council complex in our international relations in this field on behalf of American science and scientists; to seek ways to stimulate needed research; to promote necessary coordination of scientific effort; and to provide such advice and recommendations to appropriate individuals and agencies with regard to space science as may in the Board’s judgment be desirable.
As we have already agreed, the Board is intended to be an advisory, consultative, correlating, evaluating body and not an operating agency in the field of space science. It should avoid responsibility as a Board for the conduct of any programs of space research and for the formulation of budgets relative thereto. Advice to agencies properly responsible for these matters, on the other hand, would be within its purview to provide.
The Space Science Board changed its name to the Space Studies Board in 1989 to reflect its expanded scope, which now includes space applications and other topics. Today, the SSB exists to provide an independent, authori-
tative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications, and it serves as the focal point within the National Academies for activities on space research. It oversees advisory studies and program assessments, facilitates international research coordination, and promotes communications on space science and science policy among the research community, the federal government, and the interested public. The SSB also serves as the U.S. National Committee for the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council for Science.
The SSB is a unit of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences (DEPS). DEPS is one of the major program units of the National Academies through which the institution conducts its operations on behalf of NAS, NAE, and NAM. Within DEPS, there are a total of 13 boards that cover a broad range of physical science and engineering disciplines and mission areas.
Members of the DEPS Committee (DEPSCOM) provide advice on Board membership and on proposed new projects to be undertaken by ad hoc study committees formed under the SSB’s auspices. About every 3 years, DEPSCOM reviews the overall operations of each of the DEPS boards. The next review of the SSB should take place in 2018.
The “Space Studies Board” encompasses the Board itself, its standing committees (see Chapter 2) and ad hoc study committees (see Chapter 3), and its staff. The Board is composed of prominent scientists, engineers, industrialists, scholars, and policy experts in space research appointed for 2-year staggered terms. They represent seven space research disciplines: space-based astronomy and astrophysics, heliophysics (also referred to as solar and space physics), Earth science and applications from space, solar system exploration, microgravity life and physical sciences, space systems and technology, and science and technology policy. In 2016, there were 19-23 Board members. The Executive Committee (XCOM) assists the chairs of the Board in oversight of activities. A liaison member of the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) and the U.S. representative to COSPAR are ex officio participants. A standing liaison arrangement also has been established with the European Space Science Committee (ESSC), part of the European Science Foundation.
The organization of the SSB in 2016 is illustrated in Figure 1.1. Taken together, the Board and its standing and ad hoc study committees generally hold as many as 30-40 meetings during the year.
Major Functions of the Space Studies Board
The Board provides an independent, authoritative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications and serves as the focal point within the National Academies for activities on space research. The Board itself does not conduct studies, but it oversees advisory studies and program assessments conducted by ad hoc study committees (see Chapter 3) generally formed in response to a request from a sponsor. All projects proposed to be conducted by ad hoc study committees under the auspices of the SSB must be reviewed and endorsed by the chair and vice chair of the Board (as well as other National Academies officials).
Decadal surveys are a signature product of the SSB, providing strategic direction to NASA, NSF, the Department of Energy (DOE), NOAA, USGS, and other agencies on the top priorities over the next 10 years in astronomy and astrophysics (joint effort with the Board on Physics and Astronomy), solar system exploration, solar and space physics, Earth science and applications from space (joint effort with the Division on Earth and Life Studies), and biological and physical sciences in space (joint effort with the ASEB). The Board serves as a communications bridge on space research and science policy among the scientific research community, the federal government, and the interested public.
The Board ordinarily meets at least two times per year (spring and fall) to review the activities of its committees and to be briefed on and discuss major space policy issues. Every second year, the Board hosts a workshop on a topic of current interest, resulting in a workshop report. The latest of these workshops was held in 2016 (see Chapter 4).
International Representation and Cooperation
The Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for COSPAR, an international, multidisciplinary forum for exchanging space science research. Board members may individually participate in COSPAR scientific sessions to present their research or present the results of an SSB report to the international community, or conduct informal information exchange sessions with national entities within COSPAR scientific assemblies. See Chapter 2 for a summary of COSPAR’s 2016 activities.
The Board also has a regular practice of exchanging observers with the ESSC, which is part of the European Science Foundation (see http://www.esf.org/).
Space Studies Board Committees
The Executive Committee, composed entirely of Board members, facilitates the conduct of the Board’s business, permits the Board to move rapidly to lay the groundwork for new study activities, and provides strategic planning advice. XCOM meets annually for a session on the assessment of SSB operations and future planning. Its membership normally includes the chair and vice chair of the Board and at least one Board member for each discipline.
Discipline-based standing committees are the means by which the Board conducts its oversight of specific space research disciplines. Each standing committee is composed of about a dozen specialists, appointed to represent the broad sweep of research areas within the discipline. Like the Board itself, each standing committee serves as a communications bridge with its associated research community and participates in identifying new projects and prospective members of ad hoc study committees. Standing committees do not, themselves, write reports, but oversee reports written by ad hoc study committees created under their auspices.
In 2016, SSB had five standing committees:
- Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS),
- Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA),1
- Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space (CBPSS),2
- Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space (CESAS), and
- Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP).
In 2016, during the negotiations of the new NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) core contract with the SSB, it was determined that the standing committees supported by SMD (CAA, CAPS, CESAS, and CSSP) will be reconstituted as discipline committees. The new status will enable them to draft reports containing consensus conclusions and findings on the implementation of their respective decadal surveys.
Ad Hoc Study Committees
Ad hoc study committees are created by National Academies action to conduct specific studies at the request of sponsors. These committees typically produce reports that provide advice to the government and therefore are governed by Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Ad hoc study committees usually write their reports after holding two or three information-gathering meetings, although in some cases they may hold a workshop or symposium in addition to or instead of information-gathering meetings.
In other cases, workshops are organized by ad hoc planning committees that serve as organizers only, where
1 In collaboration with the Board on Physics and Astronomy.
2 In collaboration with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.
a workshop proceedings is written by a rapporteur and does not contain findings or recommendations. In those cases, the planning committee is not governed by FACA Section 15, since no advice results from the workshop.
The ad hoc study committees that were in place during 2016 are summarized in Chapter 3.
Much of the work of the SSB involves topics that fall entirely within its principal areas of responsibility and can be addressed readily by its members and committees. However, there are other situations in which the need for breadth of expertise, alternative points of view, or synergy with other projects leads to collaboration with other units of the National Academies.
The SSB has engaged in many such multi-unit collaborations. Other boards with which the SSB has worked most often are the ASEB, the BPA, and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. The SSB has also collaborated with the Board on Science Education, the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law, the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, and the Ocean Studies Board, among others. This approach to projects has the potential to bring more of the full capability of the National Academies to bear in preparing advice for the federal government and the public. Multi-unit collaborative projects also present new challenges—namely, to manage the projects in a way that achieves economies of scale and true synergy rather than just adding cost or complexity. Collaborative relationships between the SSB and other units during 2016 are illustrated in Figure 1.1.
A major contributor to the quality of SSB reports (Table 1.1 lists the 2016 releases) is the requirement that National Academies reports be peer reviewed. Except for the Space Studies Board Annual Report—2015, all of the reports were subjected to extensive peer review, which is overseen by the Report Review Committee (RRC). Typically 7 to 10 reviewers (occasionally as many as 15 or more) are selected on the basis of recommendations by NAS and NAE section liaisons, SSB members, other National Academies volunteers, and staff. The appointment of reviewers is subject to approval by the National Academies. The identities of external reviewers are not known to a report’s authors until after the review has been completed and the report has been approved by the RRC. The report’s authors, with the assistance of SSB staff, must provide some response to every specific comment from every external reviewer. To ensure that appropriate technical revisions are made to the report and that the revised report complies with policies and standards of the National Academies, the response-to-review process is overseen and refereed by an independent arbiter (called a monitor) that is knowledgeable about the report’s issues. In some cases, there is a second independent arbiter (called a coordinator) that has a broader perspective on policy issues affecting the National Academies or a more narrow focus on the subject matter of the report, depending on the expertise of the monitor. All of the reviews emphasize the need for scientific and technical clarity and accuracy and for proper substantiation of any findings, conclusions, and recommendations presented in the report. The names of the external reviewers, including the monitor (and coordinator if one was appointed), are published in the final report, but their individual comments are not released.
Another important method to ensure high-quality work derives from the size, breadth, and depth of the cadre of experts who serve on the SSB and its committees or participate in other ways in the activities of the SSB. Some highlights of the demographics of the SSB in 2016 are presented in Tables 1.2 and 1.3. During 2016, a total of 267 individuals from 66 colleges and universities and 44 other public or private organizations served as formally appointed members of the Board and its committees. Approximately 202 individuals participated in SSB activities either as presenters or as invited symposium participants. The report review process is as important as the writing of reports, and during 2016, 36 different external reviewers contributed to critiques of draft reports. During 2016, the Board and committees included 56 members of NAS, NAE, or NAM. Being able to draw on such a broad base of expertise is a unique strength of the advisory process of the National Academies.
The SSB’s efforts have been relevant to a full range of government audiences in civilian space research—including NASA’s SMD, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), NASA’s Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, NSF, NOAA, USGS, and DOE. Reports on NASA-wide issues were
TABLE 1.1 Space Studies Board Reports Released in 2016
|Report Title||Sponsor(s)||Oversight Committee or Boarda||Principal Audiencesb|
|Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box||NASA||SSB||X||X||X|
|Extending Science: NASA’s Space Science Mission Extensions and the Senior Review Process||NASA||SSB||X|
|New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment||NASA NSF DOE||SSB BPA||X||X||DOE|
|Space Studies Board Annual Report—2015||NASA||SSB||X||X||X||X||DOE, USGS|
aOversight committee or board within the National Academies:
BPA Board on Physics and Astronomy
SSB Space Studies Board
bPrincipal audiences: Federal agencies and others that have funded or shown interest in SSB reports.
DOE Department of Energy
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NSF National Science Foundation
USGS United States Geological Survey
TABLE 1.2 Experts Involved in the Space Studies Board and Its Committees, January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016
|Number of Board and Committee Members||Number of Institutions or Agencies Represented|
|Government and national facilities||21||7|
|Nonprofit and othera||45||22|
a Other includes foreign institutions and entities not classified elsewhere.
b Includes 56 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine members.
c Includes 27 Board members, and 240 committee members.
TABLE 1.3 Summary of Participation in Space Studies Board Activities, January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016
|Academia||Government and National Facilities||Private Industry||Nonprofit and Other||Total Individuals|
NOTE: Counts of individuals are subject to an uncertainty of ±3 due to possible miscategorization.
addressed to multiple NASA offices or the whole agency; reports on science issues, to SMD; and reports on exploration systems issues, to HEOMD. Within NASA, SMD has been the leading sponsor of SSB reports. Reports have also been sponsored by or of interest to agencies besides NASA—for example, NOAA, NSF, DOE, and USGS.
Enhancing outreach to a variety of interested communities and improving dissemination of SSB reports is a high priority. In 2016, the SSB continued to distribute its quarterly newsletter by electronic means to subscribers.
The Board teamed with other units of the National Academies (including boards within the Division on Earth and Life Studies, the BPA, the National Academies Press, the Office of News and Public Information, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) to exhibit at the national meetings of the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the American Meteorology Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. More than 1,500 reports were disseminated in addition to the copies distributed to study committee members, the Board, and sponsors. A DVD compilation of SSB reports since 1958 is also included with the annual report and disseminated by mail and at exhibits and meetings.
Formal reports delivered to government sponsors constitute one of the primary products of the work of the SSB, but the dissemination process has a number of other important elements. The Board is always seeking ways to ensure that its work reaches the broadest possible appropriate audience and that it has the largest beneficial impact. Copies of reports are routinely provided to key executive branch officials, members and staffs of relevant congressional committees, members of other interested units of the National Academies, and federal advisory bodies. Members of the press are notified about the release of each new report, and the SSB maintains a substantial mailing list for distribution of reports to members of the space research community. The SSB publishes summaries of all new reports in its quarterly newsletter. The SSB also offers briefings by committee chairs and members or SSB staff to officials in Congress, the executive branch, and scientific societies. Reports are posted on the SSB home page at http://nas.edu/ssb and linked to the National Academies Press website for reports at http://www.nap.edu.
The Space Studies Board has operated a very successful competitive internship program since 1992. The Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship is named after Dr. Berkner, the Board’s first chair, who played an instrumental role in creating and promoting the International Geophysical Year, a global effort that made it possible for scientists from around the world to coordinate observations of various geophysical phenomena.
The general goal of each internship is to provide a promising undergraduate student an opportunity to work in civil space research policy in the nation’s capital, under the aegis of the National Academies. Internships are offered twice a year; in the summer for undergraduates and in autumn for undergraduate and graduate students. Interns typically work with the Board, its committees, and staff on one or more of the advisory projects currently underway. Other interns, paid or unpaid, also join the SSB staff on an ad hoc basis. In 2016, the SSB had the pleasure of hosting four interns through the summer and fall programs.
For current intern opportunities at the SSB, and a list of past SSB interns, visit the SSB website at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052239.