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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4 Short Reports 4.1 On NASA Field Center Science and Scientists In response to a request for guidance on the roles and mission of science and scientists at the NASA field centers, the Space Studies Board sent the following letter to NASA Chief Scientist France A. Cordova on March 29, 1995. On behalf of my fellow Space Studies Board members, I would like to thank you for visiting with us on March 1 and for providing us with a broad discussion of the budget challenges facing NASA and of efforts under way to meet these challenges. You described NASA’s urgent need to identify ways to reduce staff levels in order to meet the Administration’s budget targets for future years. In particular, you described the process by which NASA senior management is exploring possible consolidations, redistributions, and reductions of science activities at NASA Headquarters and at the field centers. We subsequently pursued some of the issues you raised in conversations with Associate Administrators W. Huntress, H.Holloway, C.Kennel, and A.Ladwig. We also had the opportunity to discuss them during several intervals, including Executive Session periods, at our meeting and during a subsequent teleconference of our Executive Committee. During your visit, you requested a rapid response from the Space Studies Board to help you and other senior managers identify key principles to be considered for preserving or even strengthening NASA’s ability to carry out its goals in space research as you continue to explore downsizing options. Your interests were further clarified in your memorandum to me, dated March 9, 1995, which specifies two issues on which NASA seeks comments from the Board: The roles and mission of NASA center scientists, as they enable the national resource of space science; and Alternative management models for the science enterprise. In this letter we briefly present our observations regarding these issues. The urgency of your schedule, which requires a major management decision by mid-May, 1995, does not permit a more exhaustive study. Nonetheless, we hope these limited observations will be of some assistance. In its discussions, the Board proceeded from the premise that science will continue to play an essential role in NASA, as it has during the nearly four decades of the agency’s existence and as called for in the Space Act. The most recent NASA-wide strategic plan strongly reasserts the centrality of science to NASA; the three science offices span three of the five major NASA enterprises and arguably contribute to the others as well. At the same
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 time, we are mindful of the rapid evolution of the conduct of space science in NASA and note that reorganization, though painful, could provide an opportunity to strengthen the agency’s ability to function in new ways. 1. Roles and mission of scientists within NASA Before elaborating the functional roles of NASA scientists, we stress two points. First, we believe that the most important mission of NASA scientists is to bind NASA’s immense engineering and technical capabilities to the still larger and more diverse industrial and academic research communities across the country and around the world. Without such a tight binding, NASA cannot remain at the forefront of science, nor can these broad and diverse communities make the most effective and scientifically productive contribution to and use of the nation’s civilian space infrastructure. While it may take new forms, a close coupling between the agency and the spectrum of research communities will become even more critical in a new, leaner NASA, with its increased emphasis on NASA-university-industry partnerships like the Discovery program, long-lived, multicomponent research activities like the Earth Observing System, and multiuse orbiting research facilities like Spacelab and the International Space Station. Second, we believe that this binding requires that NASA have world-class scientists who, as a group, combine both the internal and external functional roles described below and are themselves sufficiently tightly integrated into NASA’s engineering and technical infrastructure. The very fact that NASA’s scientists serve both internal and external roles establishes a conduit between NASA and the research community. At the same time, these scientists must conduct their own independent scientific research at the frontiers of their disciplines in order to remain world-class. Such research is, therefore, itself another essential mission of NASA’s scientists. The specific functional roles of NASA scientists are associated with their clear mission of enabling the space science activities of the agency. These roles can be classified as internal, supporting the conduct of programs within NASA, or external, interacting with the broader research community. We believe that both kinds of roles have been and will continue to be of critical importance. Examples of important internal functional roles of NASA scientists include: Providing scientific leadership and expertise to support formulation of NASA policy and management of the agency; Providing the scientific component of implementation oversight for space science missions during development and operations phases; Providing direct and responsive scientific expertise for the definition, design, development, and operations of space assets and of supporting ground assets; Assuring the scientific quality and utility of NASA facilities in space and on the ground; Initiating and developing enabling technology and innovative instrumentation for space science through synergy with engineers and technologists; and Providing direct and responsive scientific expertise in the specification and oversight of NASA contracts and grants. Examples of important external functional roles of NASA scientists include: Conducting and overseeing selection of investigations and investigators, peer reviews, and advisory committees; Providing interfaces and facilitating interactions between extramural investigators and NASA’s technical capabilities and infrastructure in space and on the ground; Fostering new, interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary scientific research made possible by the unique opportunities offered by the space environment or space missions and by special supporting facilities and research assets at NASA’s field centers; and Providing both outreach to, and in-reach from, the scientific community, the educational community, and the public for space research, one of NASA’s most visible and widely accessible activities.
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 2. Alternative management models for the science enterprise As you note in your memorandum, the Board has undertaken the Future of Space Science (FOSS) project, which includes an in-depth study of the broad question of alternative organizations for science in NASA. The Board task group charged with the organizational portion of the study is now only part way through a systematic assessment and is not, therefore, in a position to issue a meaningful report in time for the May deadline. As part of the recent Board discussion, however, we did consider the question of what fundamental principles should help define the roles of science and scientists in NASA. These principles, in effect, derive from the “roles and missions,” above. They may be of help in evaluating alternative ways of managing NASA science. If the most important mission of NASA scientists is to bind NASA to the broader research communities, then the most fundamental principle is to assure that this binding is maintained or even strengthened through any reorganization. This principle underlies many of the following more specific ones: Research quality should be excellent. Whatever role science assumes in NASA, there must be an uncompromising commitment to the highest standards. Maintaining excellence is essential for the effective discharge of both the internal and external roles described above. To be excellent, NASA scientists must, as a rule, engage in frontier research secured in open and fair competition with outside investigators, through selection based on uniform peer review. Exceptions for programmatic research or incubation of new ideas should be limited in scope and duration. NASA should maintain sufficient breadth of scientific activity to maintain connections to all the major disciplines involved in NASA’s research program. Not all subdisciplines need be present within NASA, nor is this feasible. But every external subdiscipline relevant to NASA’s research program should have a clear and natural connection to some part of the agency. Scientists who individually have broad or multidisciplinary talents or who represent emerging disciplines of interest to the agency have special value in this regard. NASA should also maintain appropriate depth in its science groups to maintain excellence. At one extreme, there must be at least a “critical mass” of collocated investigators in a subject to provide a productive, stimulating research environment. At the other extreme, center staffing in a discipline that greatly exceeds this critical mass may tilt the balance away from university research during a time of decreased resources. NASA science should be firmly integrated into the NASA infrastructure. Effective coordination of scientific research needs with technical and engineering capability is difficult to achieve and fragile because of the inevitable tensions between the two “cultures” of basic science and practical engineering. When these cultures work together, the resulting synergy yields spectacular successes, as NASA’s history attests. But this coordination requires continual nurturing, and cannot be maintained at arm’s length. Therefore, in addition to the essential need to have cognizant scientists at a center implementing a particular major research program, it is advantageous to strategically distribute science activities across the agency. Counter-arguments for greater consolidation arise from the desire for administrative efficiency and from the scientists’ own need to maintain a “critical mass” at any one location. These competing considerations should be carefully balanced in making any changes that might prove difficult to reverse. NASA should strengthen its sense of interdependency with the broader research communities. The need to achieve research quality through scientific competition has the danger of creating conflicts of interest and instincts of self-preservation at NASA centers. Scientists at NASA Headquarters have played an essential role in mitigating these negative tendencies in the setting of policy, the conduct of peer reviews, and the implementation of programs. As Headquarters staffing is reduced, this role must be maintained. Moreover, NASA should strive to assure that the centers themselves and their senior managers assume greater responsibility for a healthy partnership with the external industrial and university community. Formation of substantive partnerships across NASA and between NASA and external institutions is just one example of a way to foster a sense of interdependency. Another example at the working level is the actual cycling of working scientists around NASA, into NASA from outside institutions, and from NASA to outside institutions (through leaves or sabbaticals). The Board believes that these principles also apply to alternative organizational arrangements designed to carry out some of the scientific functions noted above but managed for NASA by nonprofit institutions like universities or by another (remote) center. The space program itself has many examples of alternative management approaches, for example the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology, the Applied Physics
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 Laboratory managed by the Johns Hopkins University, and the Space Telescope Science Institute managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. An assessment of the strengths and shortcomings of these and other management approaches could provide guidance for NASA as it strives to streamline its organizations and operations. The Board recognizes that sweeping changes are in store for NASA and its science programs. The final results of the FOSS study, now in progress, will address many of the above issues in more depth and detail. We are confident that NASA can continue to provide the nation excellent value in science, technology, and inspiration, building on its solid record of achievement. We look forward to continuing to work with you to assure an optimum return on the nation’s space research investment in the years ahead. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4.2 On a Scientific Assessment for a Third Flight of the Shuttle Radar Laboratory On April 4, 1995, the Space Studies Board and the Committee on Earth Studies sent the following letter to NASA Mission to Planet Earth Associate Administrator Charles Kennel. The Committee on Earth Studies of the Space Studies Board held a workshop at the Beckman Center from January 9th to January 11th to begin the study of spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems that you requested. The workshop was preceded by an extensive data-gathering phase that your staff performed with guidance from us as to our needs. It proved convenient to divide the data gathering into the categories of ecology, ice sheets and glaciers, oceanography, hydrology, solid earth, and technology. Your staff enthusiastically took on a difficult task in a compressed time frame, and they are certainly to be commended. You have also requested an early scientific assessment prior to the completion of the overall study to guide your decisions and/or planning for a third flight of the Shuttle Radar Laboratory (SRL); this letter provides that assessment. Beyond this brief science assessment, the overall results of the study you have requested of spaceborne radar systems must await the completion of the final report at the end of the study. We begin with a few general comments. Overview Comments The use of SAR for civil research and operational applications has been advanced by the series of Shuttle-based SAR flights (SIR-A, SIR-B, and the U.S.-Germany-Italy SIR-C/X-SAR) and the European Space Agency’s ERS-1. Some contributions have also been made by the Russian Almaz-1 and Japan’s JERS-1. NASA’s aircraft-based experimental system, AIRSAR, has played a vital role in complementing and enhancing the understanding of the space-based measurements, as have systems developed in Germany (E-SAR) and the Netherlands (PHARUS). The accompanying research and analysis (R&A) program has also played an indispensable role in advancing the utility of this technology. In spite of these commendable advances, there is no doubt that SAR systems remain less familiar and are less frequently employed than are more conventional electro-optical sensing systems. While both kinds of systems can be used to produce images of the Earth, the interpretation of the images is necessarily quite different between the two. As a result, the research and operational user communities have had a lengthier period to go through in learning how to use SAR data, and a major part of the learning has involved significant research in determining what the data show. That research continues. The moisture and frequency-dependent variable surface and vegetation penetration of microwaves, for example, certainly requires a reorientation of the thinking of image analysts. The problems of layover and shadowing also pose challenges in the interpretation of radar data. Lastly, until some of these issues are better understood, the research community cannot effectively include SAR data in processing algorithms that link near, short-wave, and long-wave infrared information. At the same time, however, the additional learning the community has undergone can pay dividends. Electrooptic sensors, as powerful as they have become, are inherently limited by cloud-cover, fog, and dust—all of which may be persistent phenomena in some regions of the world, or which may be expected to accompany natural disasters. Indeed, in most regions of the world, one cannot rely on being able to obtain a surface image from an electro-optical sensor at the time the image is most needed. Because of their day-night, all-weather capability, microwave systems may represent the only reliable approach to collecting data on a given region at a particular time. In addition, unlike electro-optical systems, the signals returned by radar systems are sensitive to the physical structure and moisture content of the surface being sensed and may offer avenues to obtaining results that are important for research and applications but are not otherwise obtainable. For all of the above reasons, there are some who believe with possible justification that, while radar imaging systems today play a secondary role to the electro-optical sensing systems, the role will be reversed in the future. Whether this “bullish” view proves to be correct or not is less important than is the acknowledgment that active microwave systems are demonstrating their worth, and that room exists for still further technological enhancement of their capabilities. Thus, although it is understandable why active microwave sensors have not occupied a more
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 prominent role in the early development of the planning for the Mission to Planet Earth, it should be expected that they will become increasingly important in the future—and likely be indispensable in some applications. Putting aside for the moment the committee’s generally favorable view of the long-term potential of SAR measurements for the Mission to Planet Earth, the committee recognizes that a major immediate issue that you are facing is deciding whether or not to seek a third flight of the Shuttle Radar Laboratory (SRL-3). Based only on scientific considerations, it is the committee’s judgment that such a flight would produce good scientific results, if the current instrumentation were simply reflown, but that it would produce especially worthwhile results if it were modified for dual-antenna interferometric measurements of topography. Support for that view is provided below. It is important, however, to note that the committee has no view or expertise on the cost of a third flight, the feasibility of modifying the instrumentation to add a dual-antenna capability within a given schedule, or the realism of gaining a third flight in the Shuttle manifest. Your staff has provided us with some information on these matters, but the committee has no basis on which to evaluate trade-offs. Even at this early stage in our deliberations, it is evident that the question of transitioning these results to an operational application is a complicated one, but also an important one. SAR is proving itself to be valuable; the community will not be content for it to remain in only a research status. In this regard, the committee has not yet examined the various orbit, coverage, and repeat-cycle issues that will be important in operational applications. The next section of this letter addresses the individual scientific disciplines in slightly greater depth, with principal emphasis on what could be obtained from a third SRL flight. Individual Disciplines • Ecology The committee notes that the data presented show that single-frequency, single-polarization SARs are sensitive to above-ground biomass differences in forests up to approximately 100 to 150 metric tons per hectare. Multichannel SAR systems that include low frequencies (L-band at 24-cm wavelength and P-band at 65-cm), and a higher frequency (C-band at 6-cm or X-band at 3-cm) can be used to estimate biomass levels up to 250 to 300 tons per hectare. This biomass range includes all forests except mature old-growth forests in temperate regions and some areas of tropical rain forests. Because of their sensitivity to structural characteristics, multiparameter SAR systems offer a means to classify vegetation cover. It has been demonstrated that SAR data can be used to detect deforestation and forest regrowth and discriminate among up to ten distinct vegetation types in a region with accuracies comparable to data obtained with electro-optical remote sensing systems (i.e., approximately 89%). SAR is also sensitive to temporally dynamic factors such as moisture content and freeze/thaw status. SAR appears particularly suited to detecting flooding in general and flooding under a wide range of vegetation cover in particular. For flooded forests, a lower-frequency (L- or P-band), HH-polarized SAR is required. For flooded herbaceous wetlands, a higher-frequency, HH- or VV-polarized SAR is better. The all-weather capabilities of SAR allow for repetitive coverage of flooded regions and provide a unique tool for use in disaster relief. There remain a number of open questions. What temporally varying factors influence SAR signatures in the full range of vegetation and climatic regions worldwide? How sensitive is SAR to variations in the amounts of foliage in forests? What is the use of interferometric SAR in vegetated regions? Were a mid-summer SRL-3 flight undertaken using the current equipment, it would enhance our understanding of the ability of multiparameter SAR to monitor Northern Hemisphere temperate crops and forests under full foliage conditions. The flight could enhance wetland delineation and mapping, and continue the analysis of forest regrowth. Collaboration with operational agencies could lead to an experimental test of the use of SAR in flood detection and relief planning. Modifying the instrumentation to include the interferometer boom would allow the evaluation of the utility of mapping topography in vegetated terrains. It would offer an enhanced digital elevation model that could improve the mapping of vegetation cover and canopy characteristics in topographically complex terrains. The flight would also provide added information that could be used to explore whether additional data on land-surface characteristics are present in interferometric SAR data.
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 • Ice Sheets and Glaciers Amplitude data alone permit the determination of snow facies, seasonal melt, surface morphology, ice velocity in rapidly moving regions, and iceberg production. The mapping of the snow facies of the Greenland ice sheet, for example, is a demonstrated capability that should be continued on an annual basis. Multi-image complex data (amplitude and phase) add full spatial fields of ice velocity and surface topography. Interferometric SAR is the most important development for determining the surface velocity and topography of glaciers and ice sheets. Given suitable orbital parameters, interferometric SAR can provide a unique data set that cannot be obtained by any other means. Single-frequency, single-polarization SAR will continue to contribute to research and operations. Multi-frequency SAR is required for probing the snowpack to different depths, but ascertaining the quantitative capabilities of these data requires further research. Snow-water equivalent cannot be measured for wet snow, because of the inability of the SAR signal to penetrate sufficiently into the snow. The snow-water equivalent of dry snow may be susceptible to measurement using multi-frequency polarimetric SAR, but this requires experimental verification. An SRL-3 flight would expand the data set needed to answer many of the remaining questions regarding the utility of the L-band or X-band in multi-frequency and interferometric investigations of ice sheets and glaciers. However, the geographic coverage would not be large, as the 57° orbital inclination limitation does not permit measurements on the major ice sheets. • Oceanography In coastal oceanography, single-frequency single-polarization SARs have demonstrated the capability to observe internal waves, surface waves, bathymetric features, and the location of ocean fronts. In the open ocean, the frontal location of major currents such as the Gulf Stream and California Current can be measured. Multi-frequency, multi-polarization SAR has shown a capability to distinguish between oil spills and natural surfactants. Although oceanography will be a significant element in the committee’s overall SAR study, the committee could not make a compelling argument for it being a driver for the reflight of the SIR-C/X-SAR equipment on an SRL-3. Even adding the interferometric capability does not offer a great deal to oceanography in the form that the interferometer is usually conceived. If it were feasible to rotate one of a pair of interferometer antennas by 45°, then the SRL-3 flight could be used to test the concept of ocean surface velocity determination and surface wind velocity determination. Were these latter capabilities to prove successful, then the oceanographic community could become a stronger driver for future advanced SAR missions. • Hydrology Snow hydrology has already been discussed above. Soil moisture is a key variable in both research and operational applications. Aircraft, truck-mounted, and ERS-1 measurements have shown that surface soil moisture is correlated with radar backscatter. However, the nature of the correlation is strongly affected by surface roughness and slope and vegetation cover. The instrument responds to soil moisture in the top few centimeters, not the deeper soil moisture. The earlier SRL flights did not provide the data necessary to assess the utility and desired parameters for a multi-parameter SAR system to measure soil moisture on a routine basis. The previous flights took place during seasons when the soil moisture was evenly distributed. A midsummer flight would offer the opportunity to continue the investigations at a more favorable time. Obviously, hydrology would be a major beneficiary of a modification of the SRL to produce a topographic map within its latitudes of coverage. • Solid Earth SAR has demonstrated its utility as an all-weather, geologic mapping tool that offers high spatial resolution. A steerable antenna provides rapid site revisit. Multi-frequency SAR is required for precision measurements to remove the effects of variable ionospheric delays. Even with multi-frequencies, however, the removal of artifacts due to the variable wet tropospheric delays requires ancillary ground-based observations (e.g., Global Positioning
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 System (GPS) observations). Multi-polarization data may facilitate lithologic discrimination, but their quantitative use has not been established. The most compelling uses of SAR for solid earth studies involve interferometric SAR. A major achievement would be the construction of a global digital elevation model that is referred to a single, global geodetic reference system. Interferometric SAR has demonstrated the capability to image surface deformation at the millimeter level on regional scales. This capability would permit the measurement of large-scale topographic changes associated with earthquake cycles, small-scale topographic changes due to volcanic inflation/deflation, lava flows, erosion, human activities, migration of mobile geologic features (e.g., sand dunes and glaciers), and incipient landslides. However, the role of multi-polarization, multi-frequency SAR in this application is unclear at this time. Regarding your question about the complementary nature of SAR and the GPS, detection of motion with SAR is complementary to GPS observations at point locations in several ways. One is the obvious continuous spatial imaging provided by SAR as opposed to the point positions obtained with the GPS. The second is that the GPS can provide full three-dimensional vector motion determinations, while SAR gives only displacements along the line of sight. A third is the continuous monitoring capability of the GPS, which permits the resolution of temporal variations of crustal motions in earthquake or volcanic eruption cycles. An SRL-3 would allow the continuation of experiments to test the above possibilities. In its present form, the SIR-C/X-SAR equipment does not appear likely to add greatly to the science base. If the orbit is not an exact repeat of SRL-2, the value would be that of obtaining data from some new regions. If an exact repeat orbit is attained, there may be the opportunity for limited interferometric analyses using data from the two missions. On the other hand, modifying the mission to provide continuous interferometry would provide the digital elevation map mentioned above for the region from 57°N to 57°S latitude. In the opinion of key members of our committee, this could be one of the most useful NASA missions ever flown for geology and land-use studies. Final Comments The committee hopes that these initial observations are of assistance to you. In summary, the unmodified SRL equipment would permit useful, but nevertheless incremental, extensions of the previous results, while the addition of an interferometer boom would produce a new set of important data. Please pass on to your staff our appreciation for their responsiveness and professionalism. The preparations for the workshop were exceedingly well done and greatly eased our task. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board and John H.McElroy Chair, Committee on Earth Studies
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4.3 On Clarification of Issues in the Opportunities Report On April 19, 1995, the Space Studies Board and the Committee on Microgravity Research sent the following letter to Mr. Robert Rhome, director of NASA’s Microgravity Science and Applications Division. In response to the questions you originally raised at its February 8, 1995, meeting, the Space Studies Board’s Committee on Microgravity Research is pleased to offer clarification of the recommendations made in its report Microgravity Research Opportunities for the 1990s. The committee received your letter, dated February 27, 1995, in which you outlined several questions that were of greatest interest to you. The committee subsequently met on March 31, 1995, to finalize its response to questions posed in your letter. The questions and the accompanying committee responses are given below. 1. The Committee notes that although reproducibility of results is a critical element of laboratory science, nonetheless a balance should be established between reflight opportunities for reproducibility and the flight of experiments that address new scientific issues. Are there any decision rules or general criteria that NASA should apply to test whether we are meeting the intent of this likely recommendation? Response: The requirement that experiments must incorporate new science in order to re-fly should not be a “decision rule.” The committee acknowledges that hard and fast rules cannot be applied to reflight decisions and that the judgment and experience of Microgravity Science and Applications Division (MSAD) scientists and engineers must play key roles in striking a balance between reflight opportunities and new experiments. General criteria that the committee believes would be usefully applied in making these decisions include scientific importance, flight availability, competition from other experiments, and past experiment performance, all of which should be weighted heavily. The probability that the experiment will achieve its operational and scientific objectives is also an important consideration. This can be determined in part by evaluating the scientific maturity of the investigation, including the success of the ground-based investigation and the appropriateness of the theoretical modeling. However, this statement should not be construed as advocating a higher priority for investigations based on the length of their tenure in the microgravity program. Reflight of experiments should be subject to the same peer review criteria as any other experiment. 2. As there may be specific reasons to augment the microgravity research with a variable-g capability of extended duration, shared utilization of a centrifuge on the Space Station for microgravity research would appear to be desirable. If shared use were not possible, what relative priority would the Committee give to development of a unique centrifuge for this purpose over other hardware development programs already underway within NASA’s microgravity research activities? Response: A general-purpose variable-g centrifuge has a lower priority than other hardware development programs already under way within NASA’s microgravity research program. The committee recognizes, however, that gravity as a variable is an important issue and that the development of special-purpose centrifuges may be justified in the future for specific experiments. 3. The Committee is aware of the importance to NASA of categorizing experiments according to their minimum facility requirements to maximize scientific return and cost-effectiveness. NASA MSAD would be very interested to learn from the Committee how to test for ‘cost effectiveness’ as NASA struggles to become “better, faster, cheaper.” Response: The Opportunities report points out that minimum platform facilities should be utilized where possible in the interest of lowering experiment costs. Although the role of cost-effectiveness in creating a “better, faster, cheaper” program is a legitimate and important issue, it is beyond the scope of this report. The committee believes that question is not answerable without considerable further study. 4. Tradeoffs must be evaluated when suggesting to principal investigators that general-purpose laboratory equipment, versus experiment-specific equipment, be used to support their scientific protocols. MSAD is aware that in seeking cost effectiveness there may be some degradation of scientific results and it would be helpful to hear how the Committee would expect MSAD to evaluate and/or reconcile these tradeoffs?
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 Response: The committee believes that it would be a mistake to restrict investigators to generic facilities. MSAD should continue to provide opportunities for the development of experiment-specific hardware—as well as access to generic facilities. However, since experiment costs for the former are expected to be significantly greater than for the latter during the space station era, it is reasonable to judge proposals for research requiring new hardware more rigorously than those for research utilizing facilities already in place. Investigators requesting the development of complex new hardware would therefore have to compete for more limited flight opportunities than would other investigators. This policy would need to be clearly stated in the NASA Research Announcements. 5. The Committee is aware that much of the extant NASA infrastructure and procedures were developed for missions in space with purposes other than laboratory science and that there has been an effort made in the past to simplify and unify the interactions among centers and between centers and NASA headquarters. MSAD has also worked very hard to ensure that principal investigators are continually involved with the development of experiments. MSAD believes that considerable progress has been made in these regards and would like to learn from the Committee if continuing concerns in this area are related to activities within the microgravity science research program (versus the way NASA does business, i.e., Spacelab from MSFC, mission from JSC and integration by KSC) and if these concerns are based on a community consensus or are more indicative of anecdotal exceptions to the improvement trend. Response: The committee recognizes the considerable progress MSAD has made in the last few years in reducing the difficulties experienced by investigators interacting with NASA centers and their requirements. Room for further improvement still exists, however, and MSAD should remain vigilant on this issue. Opportunities remain for streamlining the diverse requirements imposed on investigators by the centers. Procedural requirements, particularly those pertaining to safety, are often applied across the board to experiments with very different needs and levels of risk. One possible improvement that MSAD might consider is to allow more flexibility in imposing NASA requirements on different experiments. 6. Since 1991, NASA’s microgravity science research program has been pursuing the objective of expanding the ground-based portion of the program from 73 investigators in 1992 to over 300 ground-based investigators in 1998. As of February 8, 1995, there were 209 ground-based investigators supported by the program. Does the committee consider this target population to be adequate for the end of this decade in order to ensure the future supply of high-quality flight experiments? Response: The committee is pleased with the direction of the ground-based program and the acknowledgment by MSAD leadership that the Research and Analysis program provides the intellectual underpinning of the microgravity program. The committee believes that the target of 300 ground-based investigators is adequate to ensure a reasonable supply of quality investigations for future flight opportunities. This judgment is based in part on the significant increase in the quality of research proposals made to the MSAD program in recent years. 7. Prompt documentation of experimental results should be required and enforced. There has been considerable discussion within NASA about access to experimental data. The observational sciences have traditionally shared their data with the community almost as soon as the picture is developed. On the other hand, laboratory research data is not usually archival in its raw state. Should NASA reconsider its policy relative to microgravity science research which provides the principal investigator exclusive rights for up to one year after receipt of data in order to verify, analyze, and publish the data and the conclusion that can be drawn therefrom? Response: The committee recognizes that the issue of archiving flight data from microgravity experiments is extremely important and timely. This subject is therefore being addressed in an upcoming committee study. 8. There have been several comments offered that suggest that the growth of large inorganic crystals need not be a priority of this program. It would be helpful if the Committee would help in defining the term ‘large’ as it has several different meanings to different research groups. For example, something over 2 centimeters in diameter could be considered large, whereas industry might interpret large as 4–10 centimeters in diameter. Response: Size, per se, is not the issue in the report’s recommendations concerning the growth of large inorganic single crystals. Large in this context refers not so much to the quantitative crystal size as to the type of crystal that is the objective of the experiment. The large inorganic single crystals studied by NASA are usually grown for use
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 in semiconductors, detectors, oscillators, and lasers. The committee in its report stated that carrying out the growth of these large inorganic single crystals in space contributes little to the fundamental understanding of crystal growth or to improving terrestrial commercial practice. We hope that these clarifications of the report’s recommendations prove useful to you and your staff. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board and Martin E.Glicksman Chair, Committee on Microgravity Research
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4.4 On Peer Review in NASA Life Sciences Programs The Space Studies Board and the Committee on Space Biology and Medicine sent the following letter to Dr. Joan Vernikos, director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, on July 26, 1995. The Committee on Space Biology and Medicine is pleased to respond to your letter of February 21, 1995, requesting that it evaluate the status of NASA life sciences research programs and peer review within the Human Exploration and Development of Space Strategic Enterprise in light of the recommendations of the recent NASA Federal Laboratory Review (NFLR). As you requested, the committee has focused on aspects of the organization of life sciences research within NASA and on the appropriateness of the external peer review system that the Division of Life and Biomedical Sciences put into effect in 1994. Specifically, the committee was asked to consider the following questions: Are life sciences research and operational support clearly differentiated in the present organization and funding processes? Will these distinctions be clarified and accommodated by changes recommended by NFLR? Are any changes in distribution of life sciences research programs and resources within NASA that might result from implementation of NFLR recommendations likely to affect the scientific strength of the research program either positively or negatively? Is research merit review being applied appropriately to both intra- and extramural research? Would implementation of NFLR recommendations strengthen or weaken merit review and thereby the scientific program? Are procedures for evaluating the effectiveness and equity of merit review currently defined and in place? Would implementation of NFLR recommendations affect these evaluations either positively or negatively? The committee devoted its meeting of April 12–14, 1995, to these questions. Published materials available for its consideration included the NFLR report (NASA Federal Laboratory Review, NASA Federal Laboratory Review Task Force of the NASA Advisory Council, February 1995) and the recent letter (March 29, 1995) from the Space Studies Board to Dr. France Cordova on the role of NASA scientists and alternative management models for the science enterprise. In addition, the committee heard presentations from you, Dr. Frank Sulzman, Dr. Earl Ferguson, and Dr. Harry Holloway on the current organization of life sciences research and operational support programs within NASA and issues arising out of ongoing restructuring and downsizing of NASA; Dr. Ron White presented a detailed analysis of the results of the newly implemented 1994 external peer review process. This letter summarizes the committee’s discussion and conclusions on the above issues. The committee has not been able to fully address all of the questions raised in your letter. Rather than directly assessing specific recommendations contained in the NFLR report, the committee preferred to treat the issues underlying the NFLR, independent of the various possible interpretations of the NFLR recommendations themselves. Those issues involved the appropriate use of peer review for NASA life sciences research, as well as potential organizational and administrative changes for NASA life sciences research. In addition, your need for a prompt response in light of the rapid evolution of the restructuring process precluded a more extensive study of some of the issues. Recognizing that it has not commented on many detailed matters treated in the NFLR report, the committee hopes that the following observations on some of the major issues will be helpful to you. Organizational and Administrative Issues for NASA Life Sciences Research Organizational differentiation between life sciences research and operational support depends on a clear understanding of the terms. The committee applied the following definitions to distinguish among fundamental research, operational (strategic) research, and operational support: Fundamental research studies ways in which gravity or the space environment affects living organisms, including humans, and seeks to understand the basic mechanisms underlying such effects. Fundamental research is generally best addressed by investigator-initiated proposals drawn from the entire national and international research community, both within and outside of NASA. Operational (strategic) research in the life sciences addresses problems related to the presence of humans in space and their short- and long-term ability to survive and function in that environment. In many instances, operational research may be performed most effectively at NASA centers.
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 Operational support consists of the existing technology that is necessary for spaceflight missions and includes in-house operations necessary for research experiments to be conducted in space. Operational support is necessarily concentrated at NASA centers. By these definitions, life sciences research and operational support are not always clearly differentiated in NASA’s organizational and management structure. Blurring is especially evident with respect to operational research, which arises from specific operational needs and seeks to answer operational questions or solve operational problems. The problem arises when a clear distinction is not maintained between operational research and operational support for NASA life sciences, with the result that research activities are inadequately reviewed as support activities. Careful design and conduct of such research are essential if meaningful data are to be obtained (particularly when the experiments must be carried out in space). The committee believes that rigorous peer review is the best way to assess operational research protocols and guarantee that quality and benefit are maximized. Further, it cannot be expected that the limited number of center-based NASA life scientists can include all areas of expertise that may be required to address the full spectrum of operational research problems. Moreover, additional downsizing of the intramural scientific work force, likely to result from stringent budget constraints, can only increase the dependence of NASA centers on the external scientific community. The committee recognizes the imperative to downsize NASA headquarters and decentralize aspects of program management but is convinced that strong centralized planning, coordination, and oversight of all NASA life sciences research will continue to be necessary to ensure quality and cost-effectiveness, to facilitate advantageous interactions among centers, and to minimize potential redundancies in center programs. The committee is particularly concerned about transfer of elements of program management such as project selection to centers whose in-house programs include life sciences research. On-site science program managers charged with making funding decisions affecting both in-house NASA scientists and external applicants would inevitably be subject to conflicts of interest that could seriously damage the credibility of the selection process and the relationship with the larger external research community. The committee also notes that life sciences research is a major priority for the International Space Station Alpha (ISSA). Effective establishment of research goals and priorities and coordination of research efforts across the entire research community are essential to prepare for the new opportunities and for efficient exploitation of those opportunities. Core expertise in the space life sciences resides in both the intra- and extramural scientific communities; neither is adequate alone. The planning and coordination required to set and meet research goals for ISSA utilization are best accomplished centrally, especially given the international dimensions of the scientific enterprise aboard the space station. NASA centers should to the extent possible develop and maintain focus and coherence in their intramural research programs. However, the essential role of NASA scientists as the interface between external investigators and mission development and operations may impose requirements for a breadth of expertise that works against development of a critical mass in any given subfield of research. The committee supports recommendations that Ames Research Center (ARC) explore means of providing a broader intellectual environment for NASA scientists. The committee adds a similar recommendation for Johnson Space Center (JSC). Peer Review of Life Sciences Research All life sciences research in NASA—whether intramural or extramural, fundamental or operational—will best serve NASA’s mission and scientific goals if it is of the highest quality. The committee believes the time-tested process of external peer review is by far the best mechanism for carrying out merit review in order to ensure consistent scientific excellence. Applying the same peer review process to in-house and extramural research is also important to maintaining the credibility of intramural NASA research in life sciences and the respect of the extramural scientific community. Properly constituted external peer review does not in itself constitute a threat to the integrity of core intramural research programs and resources. The committee defines as “core” (1) the research, conducted at centers and primarily of the operational research type, that is essential to accomplishing the goals of the center’s mission and strategic plan; and (2) unique facilities and resources that are necessary for carrying out NASA-supported research activities, either intra- or extramural. Clearly, panels designated to review proposals concerned with operational research questions and with experiments to be carried out in space should include appropriate expertise, and much of the necessary practical experience and expertise will be found among the scientists at NASA. The committee
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 sees no reasons based on intractable conflict of interest or other considerations that would preclude expert NASA scientists from serving on peer review panels together with their extramural colleagues, as long as appropriate guidelines for conflict of interest were observed. (For instance, NASA scientists would be unable to serve on a panel reviewing their own work.) In addition to the valuable practical perspective that NASA scientists would bring to proposal evaluations, such service would no doubt be a positive factor in gaining full acceptance of external peer review by the intramural community of NASA life scientists. Unique core facilities and resources at NASA centers and other sites are important to extramural as well as intramural research activities and as such are an important focus of interaction between NASA life scientists and their external colleagues. To ensure their optimal utility as research resources for the entire life sciences community, such facilities should also receive periodic peer review including both external and internal users as reviewers. Especially in times of budgetary constraint and downsizing, questions regarding the continued effectiveness and ultimate lifespan of technological support facilities should be addressed by hard-headed examination and the broadest possible input. Although a significant amount of NASA-sponsored life sciences research is supported outside the Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA), the committee has little information about the nature of these programs or current mechanisms and criteria for evaluation and selection of this research. The committee believes, however, that the same principles of external peer review should be applied to all NASA life sciences research whatever the specific program of origin. Criteria and mechanisms should be developed for evaluating both the ongoing operations of peer review and the long-range efficacy of the system in fostering excellence in research in space biology and medicine. Appropriate criteria and procedures appear to be in place for evaluation of the OLMSA’s new peer review process for life sciences with respect to equity and efficiency of operation. These include detailed analyses of scores and funding success rates on the basis of applicant demographics and solicitation of and response to feedback from applicants as well as review panel chairs and panel members. The committee was very favorably impressed by data summarizing the initial 1994 experience with the new process, which gave strong evidence that the system was equitable and effective in its operation and was being applied appropriately to both intramural and extramural research proposals. The committee strongly supports continuation of the OLMSA’s new peer review process. Continued effort should be directed to shortening the time from submission of proposals to their review and especially to reducing the interval between review and final funding decisions. Evaluation of the long-range efficacy of the current peer review system in fostering scientific excellence must necessarily await accumulation of sufficient experience over time to judge final outcomes. The committee suggests that a minimum of 3 to 5 years will be necessary to permit meaningful conclusions to be drawn. Development of useful criteria and mechanisms for analysis of outcomes is often a complex and difficult process, but the experience of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation suggests that it will be important to identify appropriate criteria as soon as possible in order to be able to collect data appropriate to the desired analyses. Possible criteria include, for fundamental research, publication of results in peer-reviewed journals of accepted quality and analysis of impact as indicated by frequency of citation and other means. Criteria for evaluating operational research should assess the impact of the research findings on operational problems, for example, improvement of protocols and procedures for flight, improvement in physiological responses of astronauts to the space environment, achievement of spin-offs, or improvement in the cost-effectiveness of operations. The committee wishes to thank the NASA personnel who provided the information used in this review. The committee hopes that the above guidance will be useful to you in the coming months as NASA continues its restructuring and streamlining plans. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board and Mary Jane Osborn Chair, Committee on Space Biology and Medicine
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4.5 On the Establishment of Science Institutes On August 11, 1995, the Space Studies Board sent the following letter to NASA Chief Scientist France Cordova. The Space Studies Board is pleased to respond to your request of June 8, 1995, for comments on several issues related to NASA’s proposed concept of establishing science institutes as part of its Zero Base Review. You requested a rapid response with our initial comments in order to meet your schedule for further definition of the concept and the possible establishment of pilot institutes. Your presentation to the Board during our meeting of June 8, together with some background material mailed earlier to all members, was the starting point for our deliberations on this topic. Our discussions continued on the following day with the Associate Administrators for Space Science and Mission to Planet Earth and the Deputy Associate Administrator for Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications. A subset of the Board, together with members of the Future of Space Science (FOSS) Steering Group, also had the opportunity to discuss the proposed institutes with the Administrator, Mr. Daniel Goldin. Your written request asked for input on three points, which I summarize here: (1) the institute concept and the conditions under which institutes could meet the stated goals of “strengthening the quality of NASA’s science and expanding communication and cooperation with the external community (academia and industry)”; (2) the makeup of NASA’s proposed “Institute Framework Team” and additional issues it should consider; and (3) lessons learned by the community from its experience with other, existing research institutes. Given the need for a rapid response, this letter focuses on the first two points, although some of the Board’s response is necessarily shaped by the combined experience of our members with existing institutes, as requested in point (3). In addition to space scientists, the members present during our discussions included individuals with experience with Defense Department and industrial laboratories. This response draws on the Board’s assessment of the roles and missions of NASA center scientists contained in my letter to you of March 29, 1995 (the Center Science Letter). Please note that the following observations are based on our understanding of ideas and plans still in a seminal state, with many important details not yet filled in. At the most general level, the Board believes that the formation of science institutes, under the management of external academic or industrial research entities, and for some carefully selected portions of NASA science, may contribute to the stated goals. It will be a challenge to NASA management, to the affected centers, and to their non-government partners to ensure that the adopted structures and processes achieve the goals stated in your letter, namely, to strengthen the quality of NASA’s science and to expand communication and cooperation with the external community. The Board assumes that any plan for establishing science institutes would be part of a larger science plan that considers how national space research goals will be met by the sum of NASA’s science activities, including both civil service and non-civil service components. Key elements of this plan would be charters for each institute that are broad enough to permit the institutes to take advantage of their independence from NASA but focused enough to implement their assigned roles in the overall science plan. These charters should be customized to each institute, and there must be incentives for each institute to adhere to its charter. Planning should also reflect a realistic appraisal of prospects for future funding (especially from non-NASA sources) for institute activities. The Board’s Center Science Letter states that the most important mission of NASA scientists is to “bind NASA’s immense engineering and technical capabilities to the still larger and more diverse industrial and academic research communities across the country and the world.” It further states that “this binding requires that NASA have world-class scientists who, as a group, combine both…internal and external functional roles…and are sufficiently tightly integrated into NASA’s engineering and technical infrastructure.” That letter identifies key examples of external and internal functions for NASA scientists and then describes four principles or qualities of NASA science that would support the stated mission. In brief, these qualities are (i) scientific excellence and depth, (ii) sufficient scientific breadth, (iii) firm integration into NASA’s technical and engineering infrastructure, and (iv) interdependency among NASA centers and with the external community. Certain internal and external functions described in the Center Science Letter, such as participation in policy formulation and selection of external investigators, are properly the province of government employees, but should not be vested in field centers in order to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest vis-à-vis outside scientific competitors. It is therefore the recommendation of the Board that these functions be retained by Headquarters, where they would be discharged by government employees.
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 Considering the proposed institutes in terms of the four principles or qualities presented in the Center Science Letter, the Board offers the following observations and recommendations: SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE. The major motivation given for establishing science institutes is to enhance scientific excellence. The Board believes that a proper institute structure could well contribute to this goal. Process is also important: plans should be openly developed, widely understood, and methodically and consistently implemented. Otherwise, uncertainties and turmoil during the transition could degrade current scientific quality by driving the best (and therefore most employable) scientists out of NASA and its research programs. SCIENTIFIC BREADTH. Institutes with well-defined charters could fit into an overall NASA science activity that meets the agency’s requirements for breadth across the relevant disciplines. It is unclear whether interdisciplinary research, a valued by-product of scientific breadth, would be better enabled at the proposed institutes than in-house at the centers. INTEGRATION. Achieving tight integration into the NASA engineering and technical infrastructure may prove more difficult for external institute personnel than for in-house civil service scientists. At least in the pilot institutes under discussion, the scientific activities to be collected in external institutes are not the main focus of their parent centers. In such cases, where the science programs may be less reliant on the primary technical infrastructure of the parent center, the need for, and potential benefit from, tight integration are reduced. On the other hand, many of the functions identified in the Board’s Center Science Letter entail field center scientists strongly influencing or even directing activities in key engineering and technical areas. Where institute scientists are expected to exercise these functions but are viewed as “contractors,” those roles could be compromised. It might be useful to find existing examples where non-government scientists have successfully taken leadership roles in relation to a government laboratory. (The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is not such a case, since there the entire center is staffed with non-civil servants.) INTERDEPENDENCY. Greater interdependence between centers and the outside community might be achieved if the institutes can maintain firm ties to both. It is less clear how institutes would strengthen interdependency among centers or work to soften a center’s insularity or defensive posture. The Center Science Letter recommends that “NASA should strive to assure that the centers themselves and their senior managers assume greater responsibility for a healthy partnership with the external industrial and university community.” Formation of institutes should not be allowed to diminish this ongoing responsibility. With respect to your second point, the composition of the “Institute Framework Team,” the Board strongly supports the suggestion that such a team have vigorous external participation. Any plan for establishing institutes will stand or fall on its details, and we have provided some issues for the Team’s consideration. Independent perspectives from outside NASA should have an important role formulating those details and addressing these issues. As you know, the FOSS study is addressing science organization within NASA in a more comprehensive manner, including the question of science institutes. The final report of the FOSS study will include consideration of your point (3). Every attempt is being made to expedite completion of this report, as Mr. Goldin requested, and we hope that it will help make a significant contribution to the NASA reinvention process. We hope that these brief comments are helpful and look forward to additional discussions on these important issues at future meetings. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board
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Space Studies Board Annual Report 1995 4.6 On “Concurrence” and the Role of the NASA Chief Scientist On December 12, 1995, the Space Studies Board and the Committee on the Future of Space Science sent the following letter to NASA Chief Scientist France Cordova. On behalf of our colleagues, we wish to thank you and your associates in NASA management for the detailed and thoughtful response you are developing to the recent report of the Space Studies Board’s Committee on the Future of Space Science, entitled Managing the Space Sciences. It appears from these draft responses and from the discussion of them at the Board meeting on November 28 that the report uses the term “concurrence” in a way that has led to some misunderstanding. This letter is intended to clarify the report’s recommendation that the NASA Chief Scientist be given formal concurrence authority with respect to matters of science budgets, programs, and plans. In the report, “concurrence” is not meant to imply an additional level of line management interposed between the NASA Administrator and the science associate administrators. On the contrary, the intent of the report is that the associate administrators will continue to present their plans, budgets, and programs directly to the Administrator, as at present. They will report, as now, directly to the Administrator. The report’s recommendation on concurrence does propose the establishment of a formal procedure whereby, at presentations of plans and budgets by the science associate administrators, the Administrator would ask the Chief Scientist for a position on what has been proposed. The expectation would be that if the Chief Scientist did not support a particular proposal, he or she would explain why not. Of course, the Administrator would be completely free, as he is now, to overrule the views of the Chief Scientist (as he is also free to reject proposals made by senior line management). In practice, the Chief Scientist consults with the associate administrators throughout the process of developing plans and budgets, and the great majority of potential sources of disagreement and nonconcurrence would be resolved long before they reach the Administrator. The committee and Board believe that the proposed concurrence mechanism corresponds fairly well to present, but informal, practice. The committee’s report suggests, however, that this mechanism, if formalized and adopted by the Administrator, would strengthen the coordinating role that the Chief Scientist is expected to perform across the agency’s science programs. The committee and Board further expect that formalizing the concurrence function of the Chief Scientist would increase the appeal of that position to highly qualified candidates in the future. Members of our committee would be pleased to meet with NASA officials to discuss this or other recommendations of the report; such a meeting might provide a good opportunity, in particular, to explore the report’s recommendations on the research prioritization process. Signed by Claude R.Canizares Chair, Space Studies Board and John A.Armstrong Chair, Committee on the Future of Space Science
Representative terms from entire chapter: