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Assessment of the NASA Applied Sciences Program
improved decision-support tools; and (4) possible issues in ensuring that the extension of NASA’s research results into decision-support products maintains the scientific integrity of the data and models. As part of its assessment the committee examined ASP’s partnerships, community engagement, processes used to extend research results to partners with decision-support functions, and its means to measure and ensure success in these partnerships.
In its examination of ASP the committee found an energetic, structured, and enterprising program enmeshed in complex and changing circumstances related to the emerging federal government commitment to realize societal benefits from Earth observing systems. The systems engineering approach around which the program is organized is a framework for the program to coordinate a range of application areas and various research entities in NASA and across to partners; however, the committee identified several areas where the program could make significant steps to enhance its success in ensuring decision support for societal benefit through both federal and nonfederal partners (Box S.1). The committee recognizes that some of these steps can be enacted by ASP itself but that the success of the program and of the implementation of the recommendations in this report is also contingent on support and specific action from the broader NASA administration, coupled with consistent federal support. The committee also recognizes that addressing the broader NASA actions may require cultural and structural changes at higher levels within the agency, and has drawn these distinctions where appropriate to help ASP establish its role within NASA and toward the external community.
The NRC Decadal Study on Earth science missions (NRC, 2007a) specifically included a panel on applications and societal benefits, recognizing the importance of these issues in the coming decade. Much of this emphasis on societal benefits has emerged in the last 10 years, creating a time for special opportunities for innovative thinking and program refinement with respect to Earth system applications. The committee recognizes the recommendations put forward by this other NRC report and encourages the ASP, with support from NASA, to help implement the recommendations especially in the programs oriented toward Earth-system applications.