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As a followup to an earlier report, the GAO completed a survey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) handling of scientific data. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the new policy on handling data obtained from space science projects. NASA management instruction (NMI) and handbooks related to the acquisition and management of space science data were reviewed, and the implementation of the new policy was tested on four projects.
Because none of the projects being managed under the new policy have been launched, the GAO was not able to determine whether the policy is effective in enhancing the timely submission of data to the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC). The data handling policy is not being implemented in a consistent manner. Under the new policy, each program scientist is responsible for insuring that the letter notifying investigators that they have been selected to participate in a space science investigation stipulates that he or she will contribute to the writing of a Project Data Management Plan before receipt of flight data. Only one of the projects in the GAO survey used notification letters containing the required language. It is the GAO opinion that specifying in the letter of notification the data handling obligations of all parties participating in a space science investigation is an essential first step in assuring effectiveness of the NASA May 1978 data handling policy.