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Questions for Beth Beck Regarding

By Keith Cowing
October 4, 2011
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Keith’s 4 Oct note: Astronaut Ron Garan recently returned to Earth. While he was on the ISS he was a rather active, creative, and effective communicator. However, the vast majority of what he sent back to Earth did not appear on a website. Instead, it appeared on his own effort – the officially semi-official “Fragile Oasis“. Beth Beck from HEOMD runs this site. The site is operated independent of NASA PAO and of any oversight by NASA’s office of communications. Contrary to established agency policy Beck decided to run it outside of the NASA portal and makes little if any effort to coordinate with the way that the rest of the agency coordinates with NASA PAO. Indeed, if you even try to find who owns the domain you are unable to do so since that information is hidden.
Now this effort has created a project wherein a Fragile Oasis Prize which is apparently going to be given out to people. Prize medals were even flown in space. According to the website: “By becoming a Fragile Oasis Crewmember, you will be able to nominate and vote on projects that you believe are making the world a better place. You can encourage those that you feel are making a difference and receive encouragement from others. You can discover people and organizations with similar goals and interests and get involved with beneficial projects.”
Ron Garan did a wonderful job while he was in space as he reached out to people back on Earth – one that is worthy of emulation by future crews. It is unfortunate that Beth Beck chose to implement this project in a way that diminished its reach via the vastly more popular web audience.
Questions for Beth Beck:
– How much has the effort cost NASA HEOMD to date? What is the budget for this entire project?
– How long will this project continue?
– Who owns the content on this website? Who actually owns the domain
– Which contractors have been paid to run and how much has each of them been paid?
– How were the contractors that operate selected and how is their performance on this activity tracked?
– What are the metrics you use to track effectiveness?
– What are your web traffic numbers? What is the age and geographical break down of your web traffic?
– How much web traffic did send (refer) to How much web traffic did send to
– What information do you retain for people who visit and join your website and is this being done in accordance with NASA/government requirements?
– How many people have signed up to “join” your website?
– What target audience(s) is this project designed to reach?
– How many times have Tweets been retweeted or mentioned?
– How many of the images and videos that Ron Garan sent back to Earth were published on a website?
– Why is this official (is it official?) NASA website not hosted within the portal?
– What are the criteria for evaluating and selecting Fragile Oasis prize winners? Who are the judges?
– How long does this competition last? How many prizes will be awarded?
– Why have there been no NASA press releases about this prize?

One last thing. Beth Beck does not like public scrutiny when it comes to questions like the ones I have asked. Not at all. Sources inside the agency report that she has formally complained to the NASA Office of General Counsel about my repeated public comments and formal inquiries about how she does her job and how her projects accomplish their intended purpose. You will recall that her disastrous NASA Buzzroom efforts were featured on NASA Watch.
Any communications or outreach person with skin this thin is most certainly in the wrong job.
Ron Garan’s Earth Gazing – Who Is Actually In Charge of NASA Public Affairs?, earlier post
Keith’s 5 Oct update: I haven’t heard anything from Beth Beck or anyone at HEOMD or I did not really expect to hear anything. They also deleted the link I put to this posting on the FragileOasis Facebook page. So … I guess I’ll just submit a FOIA request – and then wait for months as they drag their feet developing a non-answer to my request.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.