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Project Title:

Survey of Surveys: Lessons Learned from the Decadal Survey Process
PIN: DEPS-SSB-13-01        

Major Unit:

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Sub Unit: Space Studies Board DEPS

RSO: Smith, David

Subject/Focus Area: Earth Sciences; Policy for Science and Technology; Space and Aeronautics

Project Scope
The NRC will convene an ad-hoc committee to consider lessons learned from the most recent NRC decadal surveys in space science.  Primary attention should be devoted to the most recent surveys--i.e., solar and space physics (2012), planetary science (2011), astronomy and astrophysics (2010), and Earth science and applications from space (2007)--but important lessons derived from earlier surveys may be noted. The study will also review and consider the first round of NRC mid-decade assessment reports in astronomy and astrophysics (2007), planetary science (2007), solar and space physics (2009), and Earth science and applications from space (2012). The issues identified during the NRC workshop Lessons Learned in Decadal Planning in Space Science held in November 2012 will be a major input to the committee’s deliberations. 

The committee will formulate a set major lessons-learned from the recent decadal survey planning process and present a set of options for possible evolutionary changes and improvements to this process, including the statement of task, advanced preparation, organization, and execution.       

The proposed study aims to provide a foundation for strengthening future surveys by analyzing and integrating findings in the sources above to address, in particular, the following issues.

•           The committee will identify best practices for a well-structured statement of task that will result in a report that reflects the consensus of the authoring community, meets short-term needs of the sponsoring agencies, and addresses the interests of other important constituencies, all while remaining relevant in the face of technology and science advancements, budget evolution, and international cooperation opportunities over the decade (and the following decade, for the largest projects).  This analysis should recognize the primacy of science goals over implementing missions.  The committee should consider, in particular, the pros and cons of a two-phase decadal survey process that results in a science prioritization report first and then, after a period of community interaction with NASA and mission formulation, a separate implementation prioritization report; and

•           While not offering any recommendations to change them, the committee will examine the impacts of the procedures and policies of the NRC (regarding the confidentiality of committee deliberations) and of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (regarding the embargo of pre-release budget formulation) on the operation of decadal survey studies.  The committee will consider how to mitigate the impact of these conditions (the so-called “blackout problem.”)—in particular the impacts of the fact that during critical phases of survey recommendations development, sponsors often cannot share budget (and budget-related planning) information due to the OMB's embargos on releasing information on the President’s budget request and the survey committee cannot share details of its ongoing deliberations with the sponsors.

The project is sponsored by NASA.
The approximate start date for the project is March 2014.
A report is expected to be issued in June 2015.

Project Duration: 16 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 06/10/2014
 Meeting 2 - 06/23/2014
 Meeting 3 - 08/14/2014
 Meeting 4 - 08/25/2014
 Meeting 5 - 12/08/2014
 Meeting 6 - 01/30/2015


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices(2015)