Open Source Software
Policy Options for NASA Earth
and Space Sciences
Committee on Best Practices for a
Future Open Code Policy for NASA Space Science
Space Studies Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by Contract No. NNH17CB02B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
Cover: Design by Jonathan Lutz, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern, Space Studies Board.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-48271-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-48271-2
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25217
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Open Source Software Policy Options for NASA Earth and Space Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25217.
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COMMITTEE ON BEST PRACTICES FOR A FUTURE OPEN CODE POLICY FOR NASA SPACE SCIENCE
CHELLE L. GENTEMANN, Earth and Space Research, Co-Chair
MARK A. PARSONS, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Co-Chair
LORENA A. BARBA, George Washington University
KELLE L. CRUZ, City University of New York Hunter College
BRENDA J. DIETRICH, NAE,1 Cornell University
CHRISTOPHER L. FRYER, Los Alamos National Laboratory
JOE GIACALONE, University of Arizona
SARA J. GRAVES, University of Alabama, Huntsville
JOSEPH HARRINGTON, University of Central Florida
ELVA J. JONES, Winston-Salem State University
MARIA M. KUZNETSOVA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
CLIFFORD A. LYNCH, Coalition for Networked Information
MELISSA A. McGRATH, SETI Institute
AARON RIDLEY, University of Michigan
ABIGAIL A. SHEFFER, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
NATHAN J. BOLL, Associate Program Officer
ANESIA WILKS, Senior Program Assistant
CARSON BULLOCK, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
JONATHAN LUTZ, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
JACOB ROBERTSON, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
FIONA HARRISON, NAS,1 California Institute of Technology, Chair
JAMES H. CROCKER, NAE,2 Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (retired), Vice Chair
GREGORY P. ASNER, NAS, Carnegie Institution for Science
JEFF M. BINGHAM, Consultant
ADAM S. BURROWS, NAS, Princeton University
MARY LYNNE DITTMAR, Dittmar Associates, Inc.
JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara
JOSEPH FULLER, JR., Futron Corporation
SARAH GIBSON, National Center for Atmospheric Research
VICTORIA E. HAMILTON, Southwest Research Institute
CHRYSSA KOUVELIOTOU, NAS, The George Washington University
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, NAE, University of California, Los Angeles
ROSALY M. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
STEPHEN J. MACKWELL, Universities Space Research Association
DAVID J. McCOMAS, Princeton University
LARRY PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory
ELIOT QUATAERT, University of California, Berkeley
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of Toronto
HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire
MARK THIEMENS, NAS, University of California, San Diego
ERIKA WAGNER, Blue Origin
PAUL WOOSTER, Space Exploration Technologies
EDWARD L. WRIGHT, NAS, University of California, Los Angeles
COLLEEN HARTMAN, Director (after August 6, 2018)
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director (until March 2, 2018)
RICHARD ROWBERG, Interim Director (March 2, 2018 to August 6, 2018)
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator (until June 30, 2018)
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
MARGARET A. KNEMEYER, Financial Officer
1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
The Committee on Best Practices for a Future Open Code Policy for NASA Space Science of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was charged to investigate and recommend best practices for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as it considers whether to establish an open code and open models policy, complementary to its current open data policy. The committee’s complete statement of task is reprinted in Appendix A.
To address its task, the committee worked with a lawyer who specializes in open source software licensing and intellectual property rights as an unpaid consultant, held three in-person meetings and many teleconferences during its work from October 2017 through August 2018, and solicited community input via white papers and presentations. The meetings included extensive conversations with NASA leadership from diverse areas within the organization, including the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS), and the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), as well as with policymakers from other government agencies. The committee also received presentations from a broad range of stakeholders, including researchers across the SMD disciplinary communities, leading experts in computer science and open source architectures, representatives from academic journals and publishing organizations, and the lead author of a concurrent National Academies advisory report on open science. The committee’s broad call for white papers was primarily targeted at the SMD disciplinary communities but was open to anyone who wanted to provide input to the study process. The white paper call and listing of received papers is reprinted in Appendix C.
The committee was careful to remain within the scope of its task by defining the complex issues and policy options that NASA will need to consider when deciding to implement a future open code policy, while avoiding any recommendations as to whether or not NASA should implement such a policy. Chapter 1 of this report describes the motivation, goals, and processes undertaken during the study. Chapter 2 provides fundamental background materials, such as the definitions of common terminology, references to relevant legal statutes, and information about open source software as a licensing model and as a development model. Chapter 3 describes the past and current states of software and data management policies at NASA and other related government institutions. Chapter 4 delineates the lessons learned from prior experience with open source software, aggregated from community input. Chapter 5 presents a series of policy options identified by the committee that reflect the choices NASA will need to make in balancing the competing needs of stakeholders while meeting a variety of legal obligations, often conflicting, summed up in the maxim, “as open as possible, as closed as necessary.” Chapter 6 presents a summary discussion.
The committee would like to thank the many generous individuals at NASA and other U.S. government agencies and within the greater scientific community who contributed to the study process through presentations, written input, and discussions. A special thanks goes to the staff of the Space Studies Board—Abigail Sheffer, Nathan Boll, Anesia Wilks, Richard Rowberg (interim director), and former director Michael Moloney. Finally, the committee would like to acknowledge and thank Diane Peters, general counsel at Creative Commons, for the invaluable legal insight and expertise she provided throughout this study.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Robert F. Sproull, NAE,2 University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
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