NASA Releases Science Policy Draft for Public Comment

Share This

Publication date: 
24 August 1995

Buffeted by the fickle winds of fiscal policy, NASA has seen its
budget shrink by 30 percent over the last two years, with more to
come.  This has resulted in drastic reductions, restructuring, and
in some cases outright termination of programs.  Making these
changes in a reasonable and efficient manner calls for a clear
statement of the space agency's policies and principles.  NASA has
articulated policies for its science programs in a July 25 draft
document entitled "Science in Air and Space: NASA's Science Policy
Guide."  The draft will be open for public comment for six months.

NASA policies "were, in many cases, established in the early
1960's," the document acknowledges, and "conditions are now
changing in ways that require a reexamination of these policies."
In the post-Cold War era, more emphasis is being placed on
international cooperation, global economic competitiveness,
deficit-reduction, contributions to larger national goals, and
partnerships with industry and academia.

"It is now clear that both the public and the political system
expect benefits broader than purely scientific ones to be derived
from NASA research programs and missions," the draft states.  In
addition to contributing to the nation's basic scientific
knowledge, NASA has identified four areas in which the agency can
make significant contributions to larger national goals: the
economy, the environment, education, and exploration.  In addition,
NASA will explicitly direct "attention and resources" towards such
areas as developing new technologies, providing a basis for
(environmental) policy decisions, contributing towards foreign
policy via international collaborations, developing the
capabilities of universities and industry, contributing to math and
science education and public outreach, and improving the health and
well-being of Americans.

The 31-page guide provides an in-depth discussion of how to measure
the quality of research programs, as well as how to broaden
participation in them, and the responsibilities of participants.
It concludes, "This reexamination of NASA's basic policies
concerning the conduct of its research program has reaffirmed the
essential soundness of many of NASA's traditional policies....  At
the same time, it has described many areas of change and
identified...a number of issues or critical areas where further
changes are necessary or a more thorough analysis required."  These
areas include: balancing flight missions and supporting research
programs; assessing the peer review process; developing metrics for
evaluating the performance of NASA science programs; encouraging
and assessing the breadth and diversity of participation; defining
and maintaining world-class capabilities at NASA Centers; enabling
the most productive use of NASA research facilities; developing
technology transfer policies for international cooperation;
determining the best data dissemination approaches; leveraging
resources to improve scientific literacy and public outreach; using
NASA programs to enhance industry's technology base; and
determining the appropriate number of scientists, technologists,
and students for the agency to support.

"Science in Air and Space" is available on the World Wide Web at, or by calling

Explore FYI topics: