Earth Observing System:

Broader Involvement of the EOSDIS User Community Is Needed

IMTEC-92-40: Published: May 11, 1992. Publicly Released: May 13, 1992.

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Samuel W. Bowlin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), focusing on the degree of international and domestic user involvement and its importance in the EOSDIS planning and development process.

GAO found that: (1) NASA has not done enough to ensure the incorporation of EOSDIS users' input in defining EOSDIS requirement and planning documents and in the system's design; (2) NASA expects the largest number of EOSDIS users to be earth scientists who are not affiliated with the Earth Observing System (EOS) Program, but despite recommendations from scientific committees, NASA has primarily obtained input from EOS investigators and other NASA-affiliated users; (3) during the EOSDIS design and development process, NASA developed three main sets of EOSDIS requirement and planning documents and used various mechanisms to obtain user input; (4) NASA has issued guidance and mechanisms for obtaining future user input during EOSDIS development, but has not ensured that all segments of the user community will be adequately represented; and (5) estimates of the number of EOSDIS users and the work load those users will generate are still uncertain, even though NASA has completed major portions of its conceptual development and system requirements process.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has assured Congress that it will take aggressive action to expand and invigorate existing user advisory groups and panels over the next several years.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should strengthen input from the full range of anticipated EOSDIS users by either establishing a new independent committee that represents the broad global change research community or strengthening existing advisory groups, such as the EOSDIS Advisory Panel, to achieve the necessary broad representation. In addition to EOS investigators, the committee or committees should represent federal agencies involved in global change research, earth science researchers not affiliated with NASA, and foreign and commercial organizations involved in global change studies. The objectives of those committees should include: (1) providing for the dissemination of information about EOS and EOSDIS to the global change research community; (2) evaluating the EOSDIS request for proposals and the EOS data requirements to determine whether they meet the needs of the user community and, if not, recommending specific modifications; and (3) monitoring the continued evolution of EOSDIS throughout the contractor's development of the system to ensure that EOSDIS will meet the broad user community's needs.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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