Space Operations:

NASA Is Not Archiving All Potentially Valuable Data

IMTEC-91-3: Published: Nov 2, 1990. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) management of space science data to determine whether NASA: (1) archived all of its valuable data; and (2) had a mechanism in place to allow scientists to provide input on what types of data should be archived.

GAO found that NASA: (1) did not archive data from some important missions and its principal data archival and dissemination facility, the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC), had incomplete data for many important missions; (2) had a policy that permitted destruction of valuable data; (3) did not enforce its policy requiring the preparation of project data management plans for each mission; and (4) needed better management safeguards, since current policies permitted the disposal of original data and there was no guarantee that analyzed data were archived before original data were destroyed. GAO also found that scientists: (1) participated in the NASA Space Science and Applications Advisory Committee and its subcommittees and in management operations working groups, but did not participate in mission-level teams that made critical data management decisions; and (2) believed that their participation in key data management areas was ineffective.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has investigated ways to strengthen involvement of the scientific community. Increased involvement on future missions is likely to occur.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should determine what additional actions could be taken to involve scientists more in the development and operation of mission data management systems.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In cooperation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), NASA has revised its records disposition handbook.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should establish and enforce an internal controls system to ensure that original data are not destroyed until NSSDC has received all appropriate archival data.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA will annually assess mission compliance. NASA has revised its guidance on the responsibilities and importance of preparing project data management plans.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should ensure that all missions develop and submit approved project data management plans.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has included requirements for these sciences in the revised data management policy.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should revise data management policy to specify archiving requirements for data produced by life science, microgravity, aircraft, balloon, and sounding rocket missions, and data from NASA instruments flown on shuttle missions and foreign spacecraft.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The revised data management policy was issued on March 5, 1992.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should revise data management policy to recognize the need to archive selected original data of potential long-term scientific value.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA recently completed the data census. NASA plans to acquire missing data by late 1994.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should require NSSDC to identify and, if warranted and cost-effective, obtain all outstanding archival data from past missions not yet delivered to its archives.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA is strengthening representation of scientists on mission-level data management committees.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should determine what additional actions could be taken to more strongly encourage missions to include participation of outside scientists on mission-level data management committees.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 

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