NASA officials specifically asked the committee to identify any strategies (see Figure 2.1)—that is, what the committee believes are more appropriately termed guiding principles—that the draft document misses. In addition to identifying possible new guiding principles, the committee also identified concerns with the overall framework.
The draft document’s introduction of leadership priorities appropriately asserts that leadership is required for SMD to deliver on NASA’s four core values (i.e., safety, integrity, teamwork, and excellence). However, the addition of leadership as a core value (see Figure 1.1) within SMD leads the committee to question whether the values of SMD are distinct from those of NASA itself. Rather, the importance of leadership by and within SMD can be asserted when introducing the directorate’s four leadership priorities. This could be achieved by moving portions of the text in the “leadership” section of the draft document into the preamble of the section “Who We Are.”
Recommendation: Do not insert leadership as a fifth core value. Rather, the importance of leadership should be asserted when introducing the four leadership priorities.
The high-level headings (the guiding principles) as written do not include language to make clear the mechanism(s) by which they will be fulfilled; thus, there is no way of knowing how SMD might determine in the future whether or how progress has been made.
Recommendation: Describe the guiding principles in enough detail to provide definition, context, and examples whenever possible.
Some descriptions of guiding principles do not include definitions that sufficiently or accurately explain the intended meaning. Some are not sufficiently developed with helpful examples. However, some of the examples that are included are odd, inappropriate, and/or inconsistent with the stated principle. A specific instance can be found in the text related to the guiding principle, “Pursue public-private partnerships in support of shared interests with industry” (i.e., the draft document’s Strategy 3.5). The example given refers to a private foundation, a foreign space agency, and a not-for-profit organization and begs the question of why these specific endeavors were chosen as examples. The selection of examples requires care, as readers will attach significance to the examples chosen.
SMD Associate Administrator Thomas H. Zurbuchen’s presentation to the committee included a list of items representing the 2024 Future State (Figure 5.1). This list provides a sense of what the successful implementation of the draft document might look like in 2024. However, this topic is not included in the draft document reviewed by the committee. As it stands, there are currently no measures of success identified in the draft document. Without such measures, sustainable improvement will be difficult to assess.
Recommendation: Describe the desired future state. The 2024 Future State slide presented to the committee may be an appropriate starting point for a section on this topic.
The draft document appropriately identifies that a key NASA SMD principle is the “importance of diverse teams to most effectively tackle strategic problems and maximize scientific return” (see explanatory text for Strategy 4.1). However, diversity of thought and backgrounds is not a means toward “Inspiration,” the current location of Strategy 4.1; it is, rather, a critical contributor to achieving “Innovation.”
Recommendation: Move the guiding principle “Increase the diversity of thought and backgrounds represented across the entire NASA Science portfolio through a more inclusive environment” from the section on “Inspiration” to the section on “Innovation.”
The draft document describes the benefits of diversity and inclusivity well. However, the only specific approach for achieving these goals is listed as “initiating several efforts designed to address the problem of harassment” (see explanatory text for Strategy 4.1). The elimination of harassment is certainly essential but by itself does not achieve a diverse and inclusive environment. The National Science Foundation and American Geophysical Union have particularly thorough documents addressing these goals and the elements needed to achieve them;1,2 they may serve as a basis for developing a NASA SMD strategy for achieving diversity and inclusivity.
Recommendation: Expand the discussion of diversity and inclusion by recognizing the variety of approaches necessary to achieve this goal.
The draft document does not discuss workforce development as a part of its leadership priority on inspiration. Effective development of the workforce requires recruiting, mentoring, and retaining a diverse workforce.
Recommendation: Spell out the aim and means to effectively collaborate with universities, research institutions, and industry in carrying out SMD’s programs as well as developing the diverse future workforce.
Recommendation: Add a new guiding principle 4.1, “Develop the Future SMD Workforce.” This principle should explicitly incorporate the importance of mentorship, recruiting, and training, as well as link to the principle about increasing diversity of thought and backgrounds (in “Innovation”).
2 AGU Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, 2019, https://ethics.agu.org/agu-diversity-and-inclusion/.