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‘Confidential’ Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research



 
 
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  #1  
Old October 21st 03, 03:55 AM
James Oberg
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Default ‘Confidential’ Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

‘Confidential’ Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research
Keith Cowing, NASA Watch -- STATUS REPORT
Date Released: Monday, October 20, 2003
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10726
Internal Report Paints Bleak Picture of Human Life Science Research at NASA
Editor's note: the following document was generated in 2003 for internal use
at NASA Johnson Space Center.
You can download the entire 100 page report (with appendices, charts, etc.)
here (5.6 MB PDF).
The first portion of the document describes how the Space and Life Sciences
Division at NASA JSC is supposed to conduct business. The second part of
this report (excerpts below) opens by saying "Despite the apparent order of
the process described above, the reality of the current program tells a more
chaotic story."
The third section of this report "Recommendations" ends with "The issue is
clear. Voodoo science is not worth the cost. The limb of the fault tree Life
Sciences is perched upon is perilously close to breaking."
The last portion of this report contains a detailed statistical analysis of
JSC life science research.
None of the problems described in this document arose overnight. Indeed,
they are the result of decades of bad decisions - both at JSC as well as at
NASA HQ. These problems are also the result of a failure on the part of
advisory committees - both those sponsored by NASA as well as those
chartered external to the agency.
Having been deeply involved myself in the advisory, peer review, and payload
integration aspects of NASA's life sciences programs in the 1980s and 1990s,
I saw much of this with my own eyes. It hasn't gotten any better.
NASA may soon be handed a new mandate for humans to do new things in space.
Unless NASA gets its life sciences research house in order, NASA will not be
able to respond to that mandate.



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  #2  
Old October 21st 03, 04:25 PM
Jim Kingdon
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Default "Confidential" Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10726
Internal Report Paints Bleak Picture of Human Life Science Research at NASA


Interesting.

One of the most interesting problems is (perhaps) the hardest to fix.
The sample sizes are really small and what resources there are (in
terms of crew time, number of subjects, etc) get divided up between
different investigators, some of which are doing duplicative research.

The report, of course, calls for eliminating duplication. Which might
make sense in some of these cases, but anyone who has followed large
organization politics knows that taking this too far eliminates all
internal competition. Especially bad in science, where reproducing a
result is considered more than just a frill.

There are plenty of other things in the report, some of which would be
easier to fix.
  #3  
Old October 22nd 03, 12:56 AM
external usenet poster
 
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Default 'Confidential' Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research


"James Oberg" wrote in message
.. .
'Confidential' Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research
Keith Cowing, NASA Watch -- STATUS REPORT
Date Released: Monday, October 20, 2003
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10726
Internal Report Paints Bleak Picture of Human Life Science Research at

NASA
Editor's note: the following document was generated in 2003 for internal

use
at NASA Johnson Space Center.


Uh oh---somebody is in serious danger of "getting it" with regards to NASA
Life Science experimentation. It will take some time to wade through 100
pages to be sure.

I can personally attest to the poor scientific and statistical methodology
used in this experimentation (I once used a very basic "t"-test to
demonstrate the valid duration of a dilution marker---my civil-service
counterparts responded as though I were performing magic). The experimental
hardware I saw (and
sometimes worked on) ranged from badly maintained to fraudulent. It is
also clear that NASA's refusal to regularly submit to effective independent
scientific peer review makes much of their experimentation questionable or
useless.

They have been performing the same haphazard mix of make-work tests on
unfortunate (and probably helpless) astronauts for 30 years. Where are the
effective countermeasures for prolonged spaceflight? Such things are
improbable---NASA would have to actually make spaceflight one of its
priorities to accomplish them. The real tragedy is that men and women are
placing their lives at risk (or worse) to obtain these data.

JJ Robinson II
Houston, TX
****************
* JOKE *
****************
* SERIOUS *
****************
* SARCASTIC *
****************
* OTHER? *
****************




  #4  
Old October 23rd 03, 01:09 AM
Derek Lyons
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Default "Confidential" Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

Jim Kingdon wrote:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10726
Internal Report Paints Bleak Picture of Human Life Science Research at NASA


Interesting.

One of the most interesting problems is (perhaps) the hardest to fix.
The sample sizes are really small and what resources there are (in
terms of crew time, number of subjects, etc) get divided up between
different investigators, some of which are doing duplicative research.

The report, of course, calls for eliminating duplication. Which might
make sense in some of these cases, but anyone who has followed large
organization politics knows that taking this too far eliminates all
internal competition. Especially bad in science, where reproducing a
result is considered more than just a frill.


NASA has an increasing problem when it comes to doing science, in that
each new probe/experiment/sensor must be *new*, in order to generate
new and exciting press releases.

D.
--
The STS-107 Columbia Loss FAQ can be found
at the following URLs:

Text-Only Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq.html

Enhanced HTML Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq_x.html

Corrections, comments, and additions should be
e-mailed to , as well as posted to
sci.space.history and sci.space.shuttle for
discussion.
  #5  
Old October 23rd 03, 01:12 AM
Derek Lyons
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default 'Confidential' Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

wrote:
The real tragedy is that men and women are
placing their lives at risk (or worse) to obtain these data.


And how else is the data to be obtained?

D.
--
The STS-107 Columbia Loss FAQ can be found
at the following URLs:

Text-Only Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq.html

Enhanced HTML Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq_x.html

Corrections, comments, and additions should be
e-mailed to , as well as posted to
sci.space.history and sci.space.shuttle for
discussion.
  #6  
Old October 23rd 03, 01:14 AM
Derek Lyons
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default "Confidential" Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

Jim Kingdon wrote:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10726
Internal Report Paints Bleak Picture of Human Life Science Research at NASA


Interesting.

One of the most interesting problems is (perhaps) the hardest to fix.
The sample sizes are really small and what resources there are (in
terms of crew time, number of subjects, etc) get divided up between
different investigators, some of which are doing duplicative research.

The report, of course, calls for eliminating duplication. Which might
make sense in some of these cases, but anyone who has followed large
organization politics knows that taking this too far eliminates all
internal competition. Especially bad in science, where reproducing a
result is considered more than just a frill.


Equally unnerving is the section where the author essentially claims
any experiment without a known valid solution *prior to flight* is
valuless.

D.
--
The STS-107 Columbia Loss FAQ can be found
at the following URLs:

Text-Only Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq.html

Enhanced HTML Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq_x.html

Corrections, comments, and additions should be
e-mailed to , as well as posted to
sci.space.history and sci.space.shuttle for
discussion.
  #7  
Old October 23rd 03, 01:49 AM
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default 'Confidential' Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

How about competent, intelligently conducted and managed experiments
sensibly selected for their scientific, technical, and engineering merit for
the benefit of human space exploration or whatever the American people
determine is an appropriate set of goals for the program? I know this
sounds far-fetched, maybe impossibly starry-eyed---because it has been such
a long time since NASA allowed such ideas to get in the way of its agenda.

JJ Robinson II
Houston, TX
****************
* JOKE *
****************
* SERIOUS *
****************
* SARCASTIC *
****************
* OTHER? *
****************

"Derek Lyons" wrote in message
...
wrote:
The real tragedy is that men and women are
placing their lives at risk (or worse) to obtain these data.


And how else is the data to be obtained?

D.



  #8  
Old October 23rd 03, 03:08 PM
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default 'Confidential' Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

Ooops---I mean, what data? That seems to be the core of the problem, that
the data obtained are of questionable value in the first place.

I'm reminded of when we discovered in the early '90's that the data
collected from astronauts with the exercise respiratory mass spectrometer on
Skylab (!) had never been processed. One of our subcontractors proposed to
go see what they would have learned had they bothered to process the data.
I'm also reminded that the MS was built by Perkin-Elmer.

JJ Robinson II
Houston, TX
****************
* JOKE *
****************
* SERIOUS *
****************
* SARCASTIC *
****************
* OTHER? *
****************


"Derek Lyons" wrote in message
...
wrote:
The real tragedy is that men and women are
placing their lives at risk (or worse) to obtain these data.


And how else is the data to be obtained?

---clip---


  #9  
Old October 23rd 03, 08:02 PM
Andrew Gray
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Posts: n/a
Default "Confidential" Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

In article , Derek Lyons wrote:

NASA has an increasing problem when it comes to doing science, in that
each new probe/experiment/sensor must be *new*, in order to generate
new and exciting press releases.


Or, at least, "better". Getting a significantly more high-powered camera
around Mars will get good PR, even though many missions have
photographed it...

--
-Andrew Gray

  #10  
Old October 24th 03, 01:25 AM
Derek Lyons
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default "Confidential" Internal Report Slams NASA Life Science Research

Andrew Gray wrote:

In article , Derek Lyons wrote:

NASA has an increasing problem when it comes to doing science, in that
each new probe/experiment/sensor must be *new*, in order to generate
new and exciting press releases.


Or, at least, "better".


Better isn't bad, better is in fact a damm good idea, and very common
in science.

Getting a significantly more high-powered camera
around Mars will get good PR, even though many missions have
photographed it...


There's photographs, and then there's photographs. You need different
resolutions, different sun angles, different seasons.... And that's
just visible light. (But you are right, cameras get a
disproportionate amount of PR, even if they are a valid payload,
because it's something that John Q. Public can relate too.)

D.
--
The STS-107 Columbia Loss FAQ can be found
at the following URLs:

Text-Only Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq.html

Enhanced HTML Version:
http://www.io.com/~o_m/columbia_loss_faq_x.html

Corrections, comments, and additions should be
e-mailed to , as well as posted to
sci.space.history and sci.space.shuttle for
discussion.
 




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