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Implementing an Applied Science ProgramThe work implied in the NASA Applied Science Program requires a delicate balancing act for the those doing it. At the implementation level there are multiple tensions intrinsic to the program. For example each application of an existing product to a decision support process requires deep knowledge about the data and deep knowledge about the decision making process. It is highly probable no one person has this range of knowledge. Otherwise the decision making process would already be using the data. Therefore, a team is required. But building a team usually requires time, especially across agencies. Yet the program mandates efforts of relatively short duration. Further, those who know the data are scientists, which makes them essential to the program. But scientists are evaluated on their publication record. Anything which diverts a scientist from the research for his next publication is an anathema to him and potential death to their career. Trying to get another agency to use NASA data does not strike most scientists as material inherently suitable for publication. Also, NASA wishes to rapidly implement often substantial changes to another agency's process. For many reasons, such as budget and program constraints, speed is important. But the owner of a decision making process is tightly constrained, usually by law, regulation, organization and custom. Changes when made are slow, cautious, even hesitant, and always done according a process specific to the situation. To manage this work MSFC must balance these and other tensions. Some things we have relatively little control over, such as budget. These we try to handle by structural techniques. For example by insisting all of our people work on multiple projects simultaneously we inherently have diversification of funding for all of our people. In many cases we explicitly use some elements of tension to be productive. For example the need for the scientists to constantly publish is motivation to keep tasks short and to the immediate point. As another example, the DSS agency and it personnel are treated as integral to the effort at every step. Thus, their ways of doing things, their problems and their assets become part of the solution. MSFC also manages the Applied Science work' within a strategic framework.' First, the scientists are necessarily at the core of all of this work as well as all of the work within the larger' organization. We therefore strive to keep a roughly 50-50 balance between the work done on tasks funded directly by the research side of NASA's Science Mission Directorate and funding from the applied side. Done at both the organization level and the level of the individual, this keeps the scientist both happy and productive over the long term. We also try diligently to remove as much burden from the scientist as practical by employing people such as the authors and others to do tasks not requiring; scientific knowledge. We also have designed our effort to take full use of external partners. We actively seek and support, including fund, people from multiple organizations to join us as committed collaborators. In this we use today's money and today's problem to help us diversify and strengthen for tomorrow. MSFC also considers the Applied Science work holistically. Each element is viewed as a step in a larger process. At a management level we can chose to emphasize or encourage certain areas which service long term goals. Thus, if we think work in a particular area should be developed, we can start with the smaller, less costly elements and grow.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Rickman, Doug
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Presson, Joan
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
July 23, 2007
Subject Category
Space Sciences (General)
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
27th International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium(Barcelona)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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