NASA Establishes Applied Sciences Advisory Committee

NASA Establishes Applied Sciences Advisory Committee

NASA is establishing an Applied Sciences Advisory Committee (ASAC) to provide guidance to the agency on implementation of a grants program designed to promote the integrated use of remote sensing and geospatial information at a state and local level.

The advisory committee is being created in response to language in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act.  Section 313 of the law requires NASA to establish “a program of grants for competitively awarded pilot projects to explore the integrated use of sources of remote sensing and other geospatial information to address State, local, regional and tribal agency needs” and Section 314 directs NASA to establish an advisory committee “to monitor the program.”   NASA initially complied with the law by forming an “Applied Sciences Analysis Group” under the Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) in 2008.  In announcing the creation of ASAC now, NASA said that the new committee will better meet statutory requirements.

Entities that provide advice to the government are governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), a law enacted in 1972 to help ensure the transparency of what formal advice the government is getting and from whom.   NAC is chartered under FACA and its subentities — committees, subcommittees, task forces and analysis groups — operate under a complex set of rules as to which can give “advice” and which can only provide “analysis.”    Analysis Groups (AGs), like the Applied Sciences Analysis Group, the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG), the Outer Planets Analysis Group (OPAG), etc., are in the category of providing analysis and serving as forums for discussion rather than giving “advice.”  The output of such discussions makes its way into the formal advisory process because individuals serve on both an analysis group and an advisory committee.   Whoever chairs the new ASAC, for example, will also be a member of NAC’s Earth Science Subcommittee.

Elevating applied sciences to FACA status and creating it outside of NAC presumably will raise its visibility and increase its independence, making it more influential.  Its 9-12 members will serve two-year, renewable terms and meet once or twice a year, reporting to the Director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

In addition to NAC and the new ASAC, NASA’s other FACA-governed entities are:  the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, the International Space Station Advisory Committee, the International Space Station National Laboratory Advisory Committee, and the National Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board.

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