Looking Outside The Gates at NASA

NASA LaRC Internal Email: The 'Langley Story'

"Today I am announcing a major external communications initiative we've titled "Telling the Langley Story." This center-wide activity will help us develop a new, more compelling method to talk about our work, the role we play in NASA and our contributions to the public good. We've found that people outside our gates from the general public to policy makers to the next-generation workforce don't really understand who we are or what we do. Why? One, we don't always tell them in terms they understand and, two, we often don't tell them how what we do benefits them directly. We want to change that."

Keith's note: Interesting idea - but wouldn't it be nice if this was coordinated with HQ and that a similar survey used across all field centers so that you ask the right questions, get the right answers, and be able to understand the agency's issues as a whole? One should not squash the initiative to do this - but based on my conversations with folks at LaRC and elsewhere at NASA this is part of a knee jerk reaction to criticism about how TEDxNASA was operated - good and bad.

Instead of yet another poll, maybe NASA should just dust off the last 5 - 10 years' worth of studies and polls and get the information there. Its not as if these issues have not been raised again and again and again. Every time NASA Is confronted with some lingering issue the reflex action (the Coalition for Space Exploration has adopted this bad habit as well) is to do a survey or a poll. Of course, it takes forever to do these things and analyze the data. And yet what does NASA do when it actually gets the results? It either buries them or ignores them i.e. same result.

LaRC is like all other field Centers (especially GRC). They only get worried about their relevance when budget cuts loom ahead. Otherwise they just close the gates and ignore the world as per standard practice. NASA needs a policy and a mindset that operates across all field centers - all programs - one that pays attention to its relevance to taxpayers and its ability to serve them - one that facilitates a two way interaction. This policy needs to be at work 24/7/365 - not only when some passing fad sparks a transient interest in what is happening outside in the real world.

If LaRC was really serious about this survey they'd publish it online for all to see and post the results as soon as they were received. They should have asked the attendees at TEDxNASA to answer a short survey. I was there and never saw any attempt to do so. What a wasted opportunity. People showed up - that shows some interest, yes? Why not try to probe and quantify that interest? Perhaps NASA could take out a full page ad in the local newspapers with pre-paid postage and ask local residents the same questions that are being asked of LaRC employees.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 22, 2009 8:28 AM.

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