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Executive Summary

Whether NASA is using social networks to allow students to interact directly with astronauts or creating a Cloud Computing Platform to give unprecedented access to scientific data, NASA has embraced Open Government. Our founding legislation in 1958 instructed NASA to "…provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information…" The principles of Open Government have been embedded in NASA operations for 50 plus years. This plan is our start in revisiting these concepts and creating a new level of openness and accountability in our policies, technology, and overall culture. The plan will evolve over time as we continue to see success in these areas and work to replicate it throughout the Agency.

The NASA Open Government Plan is divided into two main sections: the "Framework and Leadership" section and 25 fact sheets. The "Framework and Leadership" section describes NASA's history of openness and outlines our framework for approaching Open Government. This framework is based on: a perspective of continuous learning; integration of policy, technology, and culture; and the rapidly changing external environment. We believe that integrating Open Government Principles into existing systems (e.g., governance councils and performance management system) provides the best framework for success. Through this plan we establish a solid foundation for institutional change based on the five NASA Open Government principles:

  1. Increase Agency transparency and accountability to external stakeholders.
  2. Enable citizen participation in NASA's mission.
  3. Improve internal NASA collaboration and innovation.
  4. Encourage partnerships than can create economic opportunity.
  5. Institutionalize Open Government philosophies and practices at NASA.

The 25 fact sheets in this plan highlight specific activities at NASA that meet and, in many cases, exceed the requirements Open Government Directive. Three "Flagship" initiatives describe NASA's most recent efforts and commitment that take Open Government to a new level. Each "Flagship" initiative focuses on one of the interconnected tenets of Open Government:

  • Policy: NASA is working to make open source software development more collaborative at NASA to benefit both the Agency and the public.
  • Technology: NASA Nebula, the U.S. government's only cloud computing platform, offers an easier way for NASA scientists and researchers to share large, complex data sets with external partners and the public.
  • Culture: The creation of a new NASA Participatory Exploration Office will infuse more public participation into NASA's mission.

In addition to the "Flagship" fact sheets, this plan highlights four other new initiatives that demonstrate how NASA is more open and participatory, such as NASA's contributions to Data.gov and Open Innovation Pilots. More than half of fact sheets outline ongoing initiatives at NASA that have been in place for some time and our efforts to make them even more open and collaborative. Some fact sheets describe ongoing activities unique to NASA that showcase our history of giving the public open access to our missions such as NASA TV and opportunities for public participation and collaboration such as Education Activities and Centennial Challenges, NASA's prize program. Other fact sheets describe areas that apply to all Agencies, such FOIA, Congressional outreach, declassification, and records management. All of the initiatives, both new and ongoing, described in this plan outline how these areas will make improvements in the Open Government principles in the short and long term. The fact sheets all follow the same structure to enable easier browsing and comprehension. Each one is written by the respective initiative, project, or program giving them the opportunity to communicate what they do, how it fits into Open Government, their goals for the next two years, useful links, and two anecdotes that embody Open Government. The Web site www.nasa.gov/open/plan has the entire plan online, where each fact sheet is its own Web page.

The Open Government Directive calls on NASA to do what it does best-innovate. In our history, we have achieved seemingly impossible goals, from reaching the Moon to advancing fundamental knowledge about our place in the universe. In the past we would create the technologies to achieve these goals through internal teams and collaborations. NASA must now innovate how we innovate, focusing on technologies that advance humanity into space while more directly involving citizens and public-private partnerships. The Open Government Directive also calls on us to change the way we do business, and as a result turn us into a twenty-first-century space program for a twenty-first-century democracy.