NASA Has A "Many Voices" Problem When It Comes to CASIS

Keith's note: In a public Zoom telecon today between the National Academies of Science, NASA, CASIS, ASGSR, news media, public etc. about the recent CASIS IRT report Craig Kundrot, Director of NASA Space Life & Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) said that CASIS is no longer going to be issuing grants. That's odd since this is not mentioned anywhere in the IRT report.

So I asked Kundrot via email "In the Zoom telecon today you said that CASIS will no longer be issuing/writing grants. I do not see that anywhere in the IRT report. Has HEOMD made the decision to halt the issuance of grants by CASIS? If so can you send me information on when that decision was made?"

His response: "You did not miss it; it is not in the NASA response to the IRT report. The IRT report does say, "Recommendation 3.2: CASIS use of funding and access to do research, even if it is designed to ultimately be marketable, is in conflict with every model of successful commercialization. " and our NASA position is that CASIS should not be issuing grants, at least while we are in this transition period with leadership, the User Advisory Committee and roadmaps. These were verbal conversations that occurred after the IRT report was received. They are not documented."

If you look at Kundrot's chart (larger image) that he showed during the teleconference it reflects what he said in the meeting i.e. "CASIS will cease issuing grants". What does that mean? Research grants? Educational grants? Some grants but not others? Or all grants? There is no wiggle room in his comments or chart wording. In his email response to me Kundrot tried to dial back his statement a bit to say that this applies to the transition period. As best as I understand this issue from NASA and ISS research community sources this is a rather premature statement by Kundrot. At one point in this telecon there were 104 participants. I scanned the list. It was a who's who of NASA and the ISS research and commercialization community - with some news media - chaired by a former NASA Administrator (Dava Newman) -- and Charlie Bolden dialed in and asked a question. Its is not as if I am the only one who heard all of this.

One of the key issues raised by the IRT is that NASA and CASIS simply did not communicate enough nor did they do so with clarity or transparency. This was characterized as being due in part to "many voices" coming from NASA in a confusing and often contradictory fashion. To the best of my knowledge this decision by SLPSRA for CASIS to not issue grants was not communicated to the affected parties - or the broader user and research community - until today's Zoom telecon. Not exactly the best way to be transparent.

NASA HQ would do well to take this aspect of the IRT report to heart as well: "NASA has used CASIS and its results mainly for public relations and has played an insufficient role in driving what CASIS does. CASIS has been left to define and re-define success based on a "many voices" approach from NASA that has driven inflexible and potentially damaging board and operational behaviors. Changes in NASA personnel in the NASA-ISSNL liaison role, with accompanying high variability in strategic guidance has exacerbated this problem."

It is time to stop speaking with many voices, NASA, and start speaking with one. Just sayin'

CASIS IRT Report Released (Update)

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 17, 2020 3:58 PM.

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