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Critical science questions must form the basis of research and data analysis (R&DA) programs at NASA, a recently published report by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council (NRC) emphasizes. The report also warns that NASA is expecting more from its programs without assurances of adequate funding.

Called “Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis,” the report makes a number of recommendations, including the suggestion that NASA's science offices improve the link between R&DA programs and strategic plans. For example, it says the agency should link NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) to science questions in the plans and evaluate the balance between the programs' common subelements. These subelements include theoretical investigations, new instrument development, groundbased research, and data management.