“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” -Leonardo da Vinci
It’s been a busy week here at Starts With A Bang, and with the two recent big posts — one on the eve of Planck and one just after the first big data release — I certainly wasn’t planning on writing one today. After all, there are only so many things one can do in a week, and we’ve certainly learned some unprecedented things about the Universe just over the last couple of days.
Planck is a mission from the European Space Agency (ESA), with a contributory role played by NASA and many other partners. Although both the ESA and NASA held press conferences, the ESA one happened while I was asleep, but the NASA one happened early yesterday morning my time, and I was able to attend remotely.
And perhaps it’s a good thing that NASA isn’t the primary funding source for Planck. Because as great as it was to be able to not only be a recipient of the education and public outreach that’s a part of NASA, to not only augment what I already know with the new finds, and to share all of that with you and the rest of the world, that all ends today.
Because — thanks to the sequester — there will be no more education or public outreach coming from NASA in any way, shape or form. They just released an internal document mandating the cessation of all education and public outreach activities. If you thought the sequester didn’t affect you, now it does, even if you don’t live in the United States. Below is the entire internal memorandum, with the important bits highlighted in bold by me:
Subject: Guidance for Education and Public Outreach Activities Under Sequestration
As you know, we have taken the first steps in addressing the mandatory spending cuts called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The law mandates a series of indiscriminate and significant across-the-board spending reductions totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
As a result, we are forced to implement a number of new cost-saving measures, policies, and reviews in order to minimize impacts to the mission-critical activities of the Agency. We have already provided new guidance regarding conferences, travel, and training that reflect the new fiscal reality in which we find ourselves. Some have asked for more specific guidance at it relates to public outreach and engagement activities. That guidance is provided below.
Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.
The scope comprises activities intended to communicate, connect with, and engage a wide and diverse set of audiences to raise awareness and involvement in NASA, its goals, missions and programs, and to develop an appreciation for, exposure to, and involvement in STEM. Audiences include employees, partners, educators, students, and members of the general public. The scope encompasses, but is not limited to:
– Programs, events, and workshops.
– Permanent and traveling exhibits, signage, and other materials.
– Speeches, presentations, and appearances, with the exception of technical presentations by researchers at scientific and technical symposia.
– Video and multimedia products in development (and renewal of existing products).
– Web and social media sites in development (excludes operational sites).
– External and internal publications, with the exception of Scientific and Technical Information as defined by NPD 2200.1B.
– Any other activity whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities.
Additional information regarding the waiver and review process will be issued by the Associate Administrators for Communications and Education. The Agency has already made tough choices about conferences and travel. For those activities planned to be held between the date of this memorandum through April 30, 2013, that your organization deems to be Agency mission-critical, the Headquarters Offices of Communications and Education will conduct a waiver process to promptly evaluate those specific efforts.
For future activities, the Offices of Communications and Education have established a process to assess and determine, in light of the current budget situation, what education and public outreach activities should be determined Agency mission critical and thereby be continued or implemented. We are requesting Mission Directorates and Headquarters organizations submit a summary of activities, including those planned by their respective programs and projects. We are also requesting that Centers submit a summary of Center-sponsored or supported activities. For public outreach activities, these should be submitted to David Weaver, Associate Administrator for Communications, no later than April 15, 2013. For education activities, these should be submitted to Leland Melvin, Associate Administrator for Education, also no later than April 15, 2013. Required summary and waiver documentation is being provided for distribution to Mission Directorates, Centers, programs, and projects through the Communications and Education Coordinating Councils. The Headquarters Office of Communications, working in conjunction with the Office of Education, will review the requested data and will make a timely and appropriate determination regarding what activities will go forward as planned.
This guidance is to be applied to all NASA employees, civil servants, and contractors (working through their contract officers). Leadership in our Centers, Mission Directorates, as well as individual program and project managers are responsible for ensuring that all public engagement activities, including the education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects, are suspended and submitted to the review process. This guidance applies to existing and future efforts at least through the end of FY2013.
As our budgetary situation evolves over the coming months, NASA senior managers will continue to review this guidance and adjust, as appropriate. We appreciate your cooperation during this challenging fiscal period. Any questions on this guidance should be directed to David Weaver, Associate Administrator for Communications, Leland Melvin, Associate Administrator for Education. Dr. Elizabeth Robinson, Chief Financial Officer, or David Radzanowski, Chief of Staff.
Thank to Jason Major for bringing this onto my radar, and if you haven’t yet contacted your senators and representatives about this mess… what are you waiting for? It’s your Universe, too; you have a right to share in what we know about it, so don’t let them take it from you!