The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired

Keith's note: The NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer is charged with lots of things and has dabbled over the years in "Open Government" - something that the Obama Administration championed and the Trump people ignored. There is a website called OpenNASA that is supposed to be a focal point for NASA's engagement in Open Government. When you click on the NASA Open Government Plan (the "most recent" report from 2016) you see a CIO who left NASA a year ago. The current CIO seems to have had no interest in revising this activity.

Let's look at the OpenNASA main page. Note that says: "Page Last Updated: Dec. 4, 2019 Page Editor: Jason Duley NASA Official: Beth Beck". Beth Beck retired from NASA in 2018. And yet she is listed as the NASA official on virtually all of the OpenNASA pages. Anyone from outside NASA who wants to contact Open NASA is going to have a hard time. As a matter of fact despite, being established to promote openness, this website has no way to contact the page's authors or the NASA CIO. No link or email address or phone number. Nothing. Isn't this a little ironic that the NASA CIO makes it hard to interact with all of this supposed openness? In fact, this site does not even have a link to the NASA CIO organization itself - or even to NASA.gov.

But wait there's much more.

Let's look at the top menu items (all pages have "Page Editor: Jason Duley NASA Official: Beth Beck"). So even though she has left NASA nearly 3 years ago she is listed as the responsible NASA official. Unless of course she is not and the CIO folks have not found a replacement. That said some pages still list her as the responsible official even though they were updated several years after her departure. So how do you contact this program? BTW email addresses are not provided for either Beth Beck or Jason Duley.

These main pages are all stale - here is when they were last updated: Open Data: 17 March 2017; Explore With Us: 4 September 2015; Data Stories 24 August 2015; Innovation Space: 4 September 2015; and About: 2 September 2015.

The API page, Data, and Code pages have no notice of when to when they were last updated. There's lots of information on these pages to be sure but how does a visitor know that this is up to date? There is no way to contact anyone about these pages. This is code folks. It is in constant motion. A static code page is an oxymoron.

The Datanauts page says "Reach higher and explore deeper. Whether you're a software engineer or coding newbie, join our NASA Datanaut community to engage with each other and subject matter experts to solve data challenges. It really IS Rocket [Data] Science." It was last updated on 1 June 2018. The "current class" listed happened in 2018 and it says
"The Datanauts are now in session." with a login link." I actually participated in one of their events a few years ago but my username and password do not work and the "forgot username" link does not send me anything by email.

If you click on the icons you can see from a quick glance that the Datanauts are apparently predominantly female and very diverse. This is certainly worthy of praise. The site pays that this effort is/was "NASA's Datanaut program is part of our Women in Data focus." Alas nothing is offered by this program for males or people identifying across the LGBTQ spectrum. Or disabled people. You can't please everyone but this site could do a better job explaining why only women were recruited and whether this activity was planned to be expanded so as to be more inclusive and diverse.

There does not seem to be any report posted as to why this program was conducted, how much it cost, what the results were, who the intended audiences were, and how it relates to other NASA educational activities. This is an overtly educational effort with a focus on diversity and international participation. The NASA STEM Engagement Office makes no mention of this effort either. Nor does the NASA Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity. Many of the participants were from foreign countries yet the NASA's Office of International and Interagency Relations makes no mention of this. Nor do any of these NASA offices reference Datanauts.

There is a link to Space Apps 2012 but all you get is "Server Error (500)". Oddly there is no mention of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge which overlaps immensely with the Datanauts and has an intrinsic international component - and that effort makes no mention of Datanauts.

At the bottom of the page there is a "How to Engage" topic. Data Bootcamp is a broken link. The Data Fellows page was last updated in 2015 and there is no way to apply to actually become a Data Fellow. There is a link to Other Challenges which seems to go to a site outside of OpenNASA or CIO. The page seems to be up to date but makes no mention of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge so it has some omissions.

There is also a link to a blog page that goes to "Space Data Daily". This blog is hardly a "daily" thing since the top two stories were posted on 6 May 2020. Then there was one posted before that on 4 November 2019 etc. A Mission solutions link points to lots of things that were done - but only in 2015 and 2016.

This OpenNASA page is actually an example of the exact opposite. I called it closed openness. This page only links to things within its direct purview. It ignores linking or referring to its parent organization, other relevant parts of NASA, and NASA itself. It allows pages that are almost 6 years out of date to site online replete with broken links, main contacts who no longer work at NASA, and highlights upcoming events from 2018 but nothing from 2019, 2020, or 2021. More perplexing, this OpenNASA website makes no mention whatsoever of the NASA@Home efforts and other agency outreach done - in an "open fashion" - during the pandemic. And as to the Datanauts program, it seems to be a useful activity. Yet we have no idea what it accomplished and whether lessons learned are being applied elsewhere.

At a minimum, someone from NASA CIO should convert this site into an archive of past programs and label it as such. Someone from the real world outside of NASA - a student or a researcher - in search of the things that this site purports to offer could well end up hitting dead links and stale pages and decide that there is nothing for them here. As such, unless it is fixed, this website has started to become disinformation - and that is not what the CIO is supposed to be all about, right?

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on March 27, 2021 3:39 PM.

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