NASA's Inconsistent Support of the International Space Apps Challenge | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

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Patrice McDermott

May 14, 2012, 10:32:12 AM5/14/12

If you are wondering why I sent this along, it is about the final initiative in the National Action Plan.  What I find interesting – reflecting an altogether too common problem – is this:

But when it came to promoting this activity NASA issued one press release on 9 March 2012. The only time NASA public Affairs made any mention of this activity after that was a single Tweet via @NASA - but only after the event had concluded. Had NASA PAO been more proactive the participation would have certainly been higher.

NASA PAO does not see the activities conducted by the Open Government Initiative as being "news" - that is quite obvious by now. Indeed, NASA PAO goes out of its way not to promote these activities or to only go through the motions and do the least amount of PR when they do. This is all somewhat baffling when you see NASA PAO hyping its own social media activities - again, sans any known metrics that demonstrate their value. Yet this apps challenge has numbers, deliverables, and a growing external community that can be easily identified.

NASA claims to have a communications and public engagement strategy under development. One would think that such a strategy one would see a way to encompass all that the agency does, its relevancy to the nation and its citizens, how it fits in with the rest of the world, and how it is investing in our collective future. Instead I see nothing but chaos in this regard. Many parts of NASA purposefully ignore what other parts are doing. Overlapping education and public engagement projects compete with one another and drain already depleted budgets. And when you listen to presentations and discussions on this topic in front of the NASA Advisory Council, it becomes abundantly clear that no one at NASA seems to care enough to make fixing this situation a priority.

As such, I think it is inexcusable that NASA has not made more of an effort to promote things such as the International Space Apps Challenge - especially when the White House places such a priority on things like this. There is much risk in this ad hoc and dysfunctional public engagement policy at NASA. Now that the first apps challenge event was such a success, efforts like this could continue - without overt NASA involvement - thus making NASA less - rather than more relevant. If that happens NASA only has itself to blame.


Patrice McDermott, Executive Director




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