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, authoritative 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 will take place in 2018.
The “Space Studies Board” encompasses the Board itself, its discipline/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 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 2017, there were 21-23 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 2017 is illustrated in Figure 1.1. Taken together, the Board and its discipline/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 proceedings. 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 publication 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 2017 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 committees are the means by which the Board conducts its oversight of specific space research disciplines. Each discipline/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 discipline/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 publications, but oversee publications written by ad hoc study committees created under their auspices. As of January 1, 2017, the following four standing committees supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) were reconstituted as “discipline committees”: the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS), the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA)1, the Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space (CESAS), and the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP). The discipline committees function the same as standing committees, but the new status enables them to also draft publications containing consensus conclusions and findings on the implementation of their respective decadal surveys. The Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space (CBPSS)2 remained as a standing committee.
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 publications 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 publications 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 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 2017 are summarized in Chapter 3.
1 In collaboration with the Board on Physics and Astronomy.
2 In collaboration with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.
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 2017 are illustrated in Figure 1.1.
A major contributor to the quality of the SSB publications (Table 1.1 lists the 2017 releases) is the requirement that Academies publications be peer-reviewed. Except for the Space Studies Board Annual Report—2016, all of the publications 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 reviewers are subject to approval by the National Academies. The identities of external reviewers are not known to a publication’s authors until after the review has been completed and the publication has been approved by the RRC. The publication’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 publication and that the revised publication 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 publication’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 publication, 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 publication. Names of the external reviewers, including the monitor (and coordinator if one was appointed), are published in the final publication, 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 2017 are presented in Tables 1.2 and 1.3. During 2017, a total of 242 individuals from 74 colleges and universities and 46 other public or private organizations served as formally appointed members of the Board and its committees. Approximately 125 individuals participated in SSB activities either as presenters or as invited symposium participants. The publication review process is as important as the writing of publications, and during 2017, 76 different external reviewers contributed to critiques of draft publications. During 2017, the Board and committees included 45 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 SMD, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), NASA’s Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, NSF, NOAA, USGS, and DOE. Publications on NASA-wide issues were addressed to multiple NASA offices or the whole agency; publications on science issues, to SMD; and publications on exploration systems issues, to HEOMD. Within NASA, SMD has been the leading sponsor of SSB publications. Publications have also been sponsored by or of interest to agencies besides NASA—for example, NOAA, NSF, DOE, and USGS.
TABLE 1.1 Space Studies Board Publications Released in 2017
|Publication Title||Sponsor(s)||Oversight Committee or Boarda||Principal Audiencesb|
|America’s Future in Civil Space: Proceedings of a Workshop—In Brief||NASA||SSB||X||X||X||NASA/ARMD|
|Assessment of the National Science Foundation’s 2015 Geospace Portfolio Review||NSF||SSB||X|
|The Goals, Rationales, and Definition of Planetary Protection: Interim Report||NASA||SSB||X||X||ESF|
|A Midterm Assessment of Implementation of the Decadal Survey on Life and Physical Sciences Research at NASA||NASA||SSB ASEB||X||OMB OSTP|
|Powering Science: NASA’s Large Strategic Science Missions||NASA||SSB||X||OMB OSTP|
|Report Series: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science: Getting Ready for the Next Planetary Science Decadal Survey||NASA||SSB||X|
|Report Series: Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics: Small Explorer Missions||NASA||SSB BPA||X|
|Report Series: Committee on Solar and Space Physics: Heliophysics Science Centers||NASA||SSB||X||X|
|Review of the Restructured Research and Analysis Programs of NASA’s Planetary Science Division||NASA||SSB||X|
|Searching for Life Across Space and Time: Proceedings of a Workshop||NASA||SSB||X|
|Space Studies Board Annual Report—2016||NASA||SSB||X||X||X||X||DOE, USGS|
aOversight committee or board within the National Academies:
|ASEB||Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board|
|BPA||Board on Physics and Astronomy|
|SSB||Space Studies Board|
bPrincipal audiences: Federal agencies and others that have funded or shown interest in SSB publications.
|DOE||Department of Energy|
|ESF||European Science Foundation|
|NASA||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|NASA/ARMD||NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate|
|NASA/HEOMD||NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate|
|NASA/SMD||NASA Science Mission Directorate|
|NOAA||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
|NSF||National Science Foundation|
|OMB||Office of Management and Budget|
|OSTP||Office of Science and Technology Policy|
|USGS||U. S. Geological Survey|
TABLE 1.2 Experts Involved in the Space Studies Board and Its Committees, January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017
|Number of Board and Committee Members||Number of Institutions or Agencies Represented|
|Government and national facilities||20||8|
|Nonprofit and othera||42||23|
a Other includes foreign institutions and entities not classified elsewhere.
b Includes 45 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Medicine members.
c Includes 19 Board members and 223 committee members..
TABLE 1.3 Summary of Participation in Space Studies Board Activities, January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017
|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.
Enhancing outreach to a variety of interested communities and improving dissemination of SSB publications is a high priority. In 2017, 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 publications were disseminated in addition to the copies distributed to study committee members, the Board, and sponsors. The National Academies has developed a new searchable website which compiles all SSB reports since 1958 in chronological order (https://www.nap.edu/author/SSB/).
Formal publications 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 publications 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 publication, and the SSB maintains a substantial mailing list for distribution of publications to members of the space research community. The SSB publishes summaries of all new publications 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. Publications are posted on the SSB home page at http://nas.edu/ssb and linked to the National Academies Press website for publications 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 under way. Other interns, paid or unpaid, also join the SSB staff on an ad hoc basis. In 2017, 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.