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Just A Reminder: NASA Is Required To Tell Everyone What It Does

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
January 26, 2017
Filed under

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

17 responses to “Just A Reminder: NASA Is Required To Tell Everyone What It Does”

  1. David_McEwen says:
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    The highlighted portion of the law just says that NASA has to materially contribute to the expansion of human knowledge of Earth, etc. It says nothing about how, or how frequently, that knowledge is to be disseminated. It seems to me that publishing a few papers in a publicly accessible science journal would satisfy showing that the letter of the law was being complied with. We can only hope no one will interpret the law so narrowly.

    • Colin Seftor says:
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      Item 3 of Section 203 (a) of the 1958 Space Act is more on-point:

      Sec. 203. (a) The Administration, in order to carry out the purpose of this Act, shall–

      (1) plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;

      (2) arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations; and

      (3) provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof.

      • Daniel Woodard says:
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        The widest practical dissemination of information concerning its activities …. that’s a good point.

      • David_McEwen says:
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        Keith, perhaps you should update your graphic to reflect this portion of the law instead?

        • kcowing says:
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          Why don’t I just highlight the entire document.

          • David_McEwen says:
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            Probably not a bad idea, given this administration’s apparent anti-science tendencies, and NASA’s stagnation in recent years.

          • gelbstoff says:
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            NASA is not stagnant in Earth and Planetary Sciences. The research is great, we have missions under development, and the agency has been very active communicating results to the public (English and Spanish!). Can it be better? Certainly, but we are not stagnant.
            g

  2. BlueMoon says:
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    Keith, a reminder to you that the key word in your headline is “NASA.” You correctly wrote “NASA,” not “individual employees,” and not “self-selected groups of employees.” If individual NASA employees have issues with decisions NASA management makes about data interpretation and dissemination, they have appeal routes within NASA they should pursue before going “rogue.” Same as if a NASA employee disagrees with mission launch and flight operation decisions, for LOCV or mission success reasons.

    • kcowing says:
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      After 20 years of running NASAWatch I can assure you that those avenues do not always work and people have a constitutional right to free speech.

      • ThomasLMatula says:
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        Actually there are limits if you are a government employee if it is in relation to your public duties. Again, its is based on the job responsibilities an individual has as an employee versus their rights as private citizens.

        http://law2.umkc.edu/facult

        Free Speech Rights of Government Employees

        “In 2006, in Garcetti v Ceballos, the Court
        considered the First Amendment claim brought by a deputy district attorney in the Los Angeles DA’s office who had been transferred and denied a promotion because of his statements to supervisors criticizing
        the credibility of statements made in an affidavit prepared by a deputy sheriff. The Court, 5 to 4, rejected the employee’s claim, holding that the First Amendment does not protect public employees for “statements made pursuant to their official duties.”

        A more recent example was the county clerk who went to jail for refusing to comply with a court order to issue a marriage license to a LGBT couple to marry. Although she had a First Amendment Right to freedom of religion as a private citizen the right did not protect her as a government official.

        • fcrary says:
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          According to the link you provided, this is not as clear-cut as you imply. For example, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, Justice Kennedy noted that “”his expressions were made pursuant to his duties as a calendar deputy. That consideration–the fact that Ceballos spoke as a prosecutor fulfilling his responsibility to advise his supervisor about how to proceed with a pending case–distinguishes Ceballos’ case from those in which the First Amendment provides protection against discipline.” So “pursuant to their official duties” doesn’t mean anything related to work.

          Pickering v Board of Education is also mentioned, and in that case, the Court held that a teacher could write a letter to the editor criticizing the school board. This was protected speech because they were a “matter of public concern.”

      • Elvis says:
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        A constitutional right to free speech means that the government will not criminally prosecute you (unless you are disseminating sensitive or classified information, [EDITED]. However, the right to free speech does not guarantee you that there are no consequences, regardless of whether you work for the government or in private.

  3. mfwright says:
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    Rephrasing a famous quote, “Only little people have to follow laws.” Yes, getting edgy here but note the Space Act was written at a time when US wanted to distinguish themselves from USSR that limited information transfer. And this is important because there are many “little people” i.e. rank and file engineers that correspond with many others outside their depts (within reason as don’t want to give away proprietary info). Unlike many Soviet engineers were constrained.

  4. Granit says:
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    Looks like (d) says ‘…one or more…’ so Earth Science does not seemed mandated.

  5. ThomasLMatula says:
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    Sounds like just the job for a digital strategist, to ensure that NASA is in best practice compliance by maximization of their use of social media. A digital strategist could also serve to gather evidence of NASA’s compliance by the law.

    • Michael Spencer says:
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      I’m thinking of this and other comments you’ve made extolling the virtues of a digital strategist. At first it made sense to me, surprisingly. I saw digital strategist = choke point.

      But isn’t that still true? There’s an argument to be made for efficiency, but what would a DS do other than, well, shape the message?

  6. sunman42 says:
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    I keep hoping that this is why NASA Communications hasn’t received any gag orders.