Date: Nov. 23, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Earth and Space Science Missions Have Fewer Risks if Conducted by a Single Government Agency
"A common misperception among policymakers and individual agencies is that collaboration on these missions will save money or somehow boost capabilities," said
The committee examined case studies from previous domestic and international missions, received briefings from several agencies, and drew upon committee members' own experiences to reach its conclusions. While there are varying amounts of cooperation among agencies, the report says that generally the more interdependent agencies are for mission success, the higher the degree of complexity and risk associated with the project.
The report notes that while an agency will often enter into a partnership because its individual share of the mission is made more affordable, the risks involved in meeting schedules and performance objectives are typically underestimated. International collaboration suffers from the same increase in cost and complexity; however, the partnership can decrease
"In many cases, an individual agency would do well to consider alternatives to full partnerships and instead buy specific services or coordinate spaceflight data from other agencies," said Daniel N. Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder and co-chair of the committee. "However, if full collaboration is deemed to be warranted, then the agencies must take special care to ensure that disciplined attention to systems engineering and best practices for project management are followed."
If the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, or Congress wants to encourage a particular interagency research collaboration, then it should provide specific incentives and support for these missions such as protecting interagency projects or providing freedom to move necessary funds across appropriation accounts, the report says. There is a need for coordinated oversight of interagency collaboration; however, OMB and OSTP are not suited to day-to-day oversight. Some alternative governance mechanism may be required to facilitate accountable decision-making across multiple agencies.
The report recommends criteria that should be met by agencies to jointly pursue earth and space science missions. Partnerships should add significant scientific value that could not be achieved by a single agency; utilize unique capabilities housed within an agency that are necessary for the success of a mission managed by another agency; help facilitate the transition from research to operations if these functions require a change in responsibility from one agency to another; or meet a compelling need such as building capacity at a cooperating agency. The report also recommends key elements to incorporate in every interagency collaboration.
The report also examines long-standing problems associated with partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in support of climate research. It concurs with a previous Research Council report that recommends action by an executive branch entity above the agency-level to correct mismatches of authority and responsibility, inconsistent mandates, and budgets that are not well suited for emerging needs.
The study was sponsored by NASA. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering,
Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant
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Pre-publication copies of Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Space Studies Board
Committee on Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation on Space and Earth Science Missions
D. James Baker (co-chair)
Global Carbon Management Program
William J. Clinton Foundation
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
Principal Director of NASA Programs
Charles L. Bennett 2
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Senior Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Professor and Director
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center
Assistant Research Professor
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Orbital Sciences Corp.
Center for Aerospace Policy Research
Todd R. La Porte
Professor of Political Science
Climate Response Fund
Scott N. Pace
Space Policy Institute, and
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Annalisa L. Weigel
Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Engineering Systems Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael S. Witherell 2
Vice Chancellor for Research
A. Thomas Young 1
Executive Vice President
Lockheed Martin Corp. (retired)
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF