Author Topic: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency  (Read 9308 times)

Offline Star One

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #20 on: 11/03/2017 03:53 PM »
Actually, the agency is always defined by public opinion, ultimately.  That heavily influences why we have this problem.

What the public has seen in the press over the past couple of years has been mostly science related, since it has dealt with our science missions on Mars, to Pluto, on the ISS, and so on.

The only other NASA news has been rocket engine tests and such about the SLS and Orion, but over the past number of years the most news - and public excitement - has been about our science missions in space.

Iíd dispute that to a degree now that NASA has reinstated its X Plane program as thatís starting to pick up public coverage, which will only increase as the program advances. That is aeronautical research at its purest.

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #21 on: 11/03/2017 03:54 PM »
I'm at a loss as to why this matters. I read the OP's opener and remain unenlightened.

Thanks for moving it to its own thread though, it was clogging up the thread it spawned from.
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Offline meberbs

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #22 on: 11/03/2017 04:00 PM »

the problem is you are trying to pigeon-hole the agency into one descriptive word, when in fact it has many missions in varying fields and for varying purposes.  But the word "science" encompasses those missions far more than "space" does.

No, the problem isn't me.  The problem is that society is clumsy with it's language, and thus people broadly pigeon hole items and activities.  (This in fact, IMHO, is the real issue when it comes to discussions about whether we are too "politically correct" - people don't understand and accept how clumsy we are with language).
You are trying to boil down something to a single word that cannot be boiled down to a single word. You are making the problem of "people are clumsy with language" worse, not better.

And I disagree that science is more encompassing - I would submit space is more encompassing.  Science only works if you require everyone to view every activity as fundamentally a science activity.  And most people reject that as well. 
Multiple people here have explained why space is not more encompassing, and the explanations do not require viewing every activity as fundamentally "science," only that engineering is application of science. You have provided no evidence that "most people reject that," in fact this thread itself is counter evidence. Even abandoning any argument similar to "science covers everything NASA does," your original point still fails because you insist on saying that "NASA is a space agency" which doesn't cover much of what NASA does.

Now if you are talking about public perception, that is a different thing, but the agency shouldnt be defined by public opinion

Actually, the agency is always defined by public opinion, ultimately.  That heavily influences why we have this problem.
You are wrong and I am very glad for that fact, because if NASA was defined by public perception it would not exist. Seriously, I have talked to multiple people who think that NASA either went away or basically does nothing anymore since the retirement of the shuttle. This is a sign of some major shortcomings for NASA PR that can be discussed elsewhere. There also seems to be general unawareness in the public of the aeronautics portion of NASA. I have never seen anyone confused about what NASA does because of it being referred to as a science agency. The problem that you are claiming to exist is the one public perception problem for NASA I have never seen any evidence of and you appear to be the only person who thinks it exists.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #23 on: 11/03/2017 04:49 PM »
The example of planetary protection is ultimately a legal issue,

Can you cite the relevant legal statutes?

I did in the intro.  The legal statutes fall out from Article VI and IX of the OST.  This makes the US government liable for activities carried out by commercial companies, and requires the US to continue to monitor and regulate activities. 

This is partly where FAA/AST's payload review process comes in - https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/launch_reentry/expendable/payload/

If you fail to go that route, you are likely to run into issues of export control.  So, even if you are launching on a foreign launcher, you'll go through a payload review process.  Now, a big problem in this is that there isn't a legal entity that is overseeing all space activities - FCC handles some, FAA/AST handles some, and OSC handles some, but there are areas that no one oversees, but the US is liable for all activities, and the State department will step in and block launches or exports if they could result in a treaty violation.  This is why the Moon Express permit was important last year - it crossed a major threshold, and why we'll need something like HR 2809.  Here is another good explainer that covers it
https://spacefrontier.org/2016/08/moonexpressapproval/

So, does that answer your question?
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #24 on: 11/03/2017 04:52 PM »
I appreciate what you are saying because of it's association to being "elitist in nature" in these highly polarized times. First, can you apply the "scientific method" to those occupations you mentioned?  My only suggestion as I have encountered the general public is to ask them first to have an open mind and that no one person has "all" the answers. Second, as I have told my students, "the more I know, the more I realize what I don't know"... "Simply learn how to learn and learn how to think" There is nothing wrong with saying "I do not know"... Allow our friend Commander Data to elucidate...

With regard to your question - I would submit that it is possible to apply the scientific method to almost all activities.  The scientific method, in many respects, is a more systematized version of logic and critical thinking.  But, as state, most people don't perceive the world that way, and don't think that way. 

I fully agree that having people have more open minds is a good thing, and to push them that way.  The problem is that the world remains messy (including communications)

(and if you want to get to a word I REALLY get annoyed at, it's exploration - but that's a different discussion)
When it comes to the scientific method, there really is no room for interpretation. The key is reproducibilty in the result no matter who or where the experiment is conducted when all variables are controlled.
Because the "world is messy" is not a good reason to lower the bar in our institutions but to ask the populace to rise to the occasion...
Let me know how that works out, because IMHO, most of the populace has decided it doesn't want to. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #25 on: 11/03/2017 04:55 PM »
Actually, the agency is always defined by public opinion, ultimately.  That heavily influences why we have this problem.

What the public has seen in the press over the past couple of years has been mostly science related, since it has dealt with our science missions on Mars, to Pluto, on the ISS, and so on.

The only other NASA news has been rocket engine tests and such about the SLS and Orion, but over the past number of years the most news - and public excitement - has been about our science missions in space.

I would argue that there is a big item which you are missing, which is hugely important, and does get discussed in the press - the rise of commercial space, and NASA's involvement in it.  Things like Commercial Crew and COTS and SpaceX fall outside of science, but are space related and NASA related. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #26 on: 11/03/2017 05:02 PM »
I'm at a loss as to why this matters. I read the OP's opener and remain unenlightened.

Thanks for moving it to its own thread though, it was clogging up the thread it spawned from.

To answer your question, I'll borrow an adage from my boss

"When you are trying to communicate with someone, to be successful, you have 4 steps that you have to be responsible for
1)  What you think you are saying
2)  What you actually said
3)  What the other person heard you say
4)  What the other person think they heard you say"

In short, its that communication is very complicated, and because people lack nuance, they frequently make a mess of it. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #27 on: 11/03/2017 05:11 PM »
I suspect we are at an impasse for the first part of your response.  However, I did want to address a specific point.


You are wrong and I am very glad for that fact, because if NASA was defined by public perception it would not exist. Seriously, I have talked to multiple people who think that NASA either went away or basically does nothing anymore since the retirement of the shuttle. This is a sign of some major shortcomings for NASA PR that can be discussed elsewhere. There also seems to be general unawareness in the public of the aeronautics portion of NASA. I have never seen anyone confused about what NASA does because of it being referred to as a science agency. The problem that you are claiming to exist is the one public perception problem for NASA I have never seen any evidence of and you appear to be the only person who thinks it exists.
[/quote]

The lack of a clean and clear positive public perception about NASA IS the problem, and is the point I am getting at.  For better or worse, there is an ivory tower view when it comes to science - you can only do it if you are exceptional.  Its very similar to the perception of what it takes to be an astronaut - very very exceptional.  If Space becomes a place that average people reach towards, and NASA is the enabler of that, then NASA won't have a PR problem.  But I don't see those ideas being embraced.  And until that is addressed, NASA will always be stuck, like we have been for a good long time.
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline incoming

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #28 on: 11/03/2017 05:39 PM »
Do yourself a favor - google "federal science agencies"

You will see, right across the top of the screen, several agencies' logos, NASA among them. All of the agencies listed (NOAA, NIH, etc) do other things in addition to science. As I said in the other post, there is only one government agency that ONLY does science and that is the National Science Foundation.

You are right - language does matter.  And you don't get to unilaterally decide to change how a term is commonly used, formally or informally, no matter how much you want to.

Informally, "science agency" means an agency that does a relatively significant amount of science.  Formally, "federal science agency" means an agency that sponsors or performs scientific research. This is important because it means by law the agency must have a scientific integrity policy, must have an open access policy for the extramural research they sponsor, etc. 

NASA is a science agency both in the commonly used informal sense and the formal use of the term. You may have some other point you are trying to make about the democratization of space - find a different way to make it.
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 05:41 PM by incoming »

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #29 on: 11/03/2017 05:52 PM »
Do yourself a favor - google "federal science agencies"

You will see, right across the top of the screen, several agencies' logos, NASA among them. All of the agencies listed (NOAA, NIH, etc) do other things in addition to science. As I said in the other post, there is only one government agency that ONLY does science and that is the National Science Foundation.

And I tend to be of the opinion that those agencies aren't science agencies either, and the only science agency is NSF.

You are right - language does matter.  And you don't get to unilaterally decide to change how a term is commonly used, formally or informally, no matter how much you want to.

I acknowledge I don't get to unilaterally decide this, but I do get a say in it (since I am part of the community).  Hence, I make my case and stand by it.

Informally, "science agency" means an agency that does a relatively significant amount of science.  Formally, "federal science agency" means an agency that sponsors or performs scientific research. This is important because it means by law the agency must have a scientific integrity policy, must have an open access policy for the extramural research they sponsor, etc. 

I get very nervous when someone says "informal" definition - because not everyone necessarily agrees with it.  As for the formal definition - can you show me a link to where it falls in either US code or something similar?

It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline meberbs

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #30 on: 11/03/2017 06:06 PM »
I suspect we are at an impasse for the first part of your response.  However, I did want to address a specific point.
You want clarity and preciseness and better public understanding of what NASA does. I stated that you cannot boil down what NASA does to a single word. How exactly are we at an impasse?

The lack of a clean and clear positive public perception about NASA IS the problem, and is the point I am getting at.
If you think that saying "NASA is a science agency" impedes this, then saying "NASA is a space agency" is just as bad.

You are right - language does matter.  And you don't get to unilaterally decide to change how a term is commonly used, formally or informally, no matter how much you want to.

I acknowledge I don't get to unilaterally decide this, but I do get a say in it (since I am part of the community).  Hence, I make my case and stand by it.
Guess what, everyone else in this thread has made a case too, and they all disagree with you. At what point do you realize that you are the one whose definition doesn't match common usage, and that you are definitely failing at #3 and possibly at #2 from your list above?

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #31 on: 11/03/2017 07:13 PM »
I suspect we are at an impasse for the first part of your response.  However, I did want to address a specific point.
You want clarity and preciseness and better public understanding of what NASA does. I stated that you cannot boil down what NASA does to a single word. How exactly are we at an impasse?

And I say that although you can't boil it down to a single word, most people do that, and so we have to find something better.  You seem to be saying (and feel free to correct me) that we can't boil it down, and we shouldn't try, and we should try and push people not to do that.  I don't believe that is viable.  Further, you said that you don't need to take an extreme all encompassing view of what science is, but I disagree (see my points about lawyers vs applied legal scientists).  While I can't point to the exist place of disagreement, I can see that this is a philosophical disagreement. 

The lack of a clean and clear positive public perception about NASA IS the problem, and is the point I am getting at.
If you think that saying "NASA is a science agency" impedes this, then saying "NASA is a space agency" is just as bad.
  I disagree. 

You are right - language does matter.  And you don't get to unilaterally decide to change how a term is commonly used, formally or informally, no matter how much you want to.

I acknowledge I don't get to unilaterally decide this, but I do get a say in it (since I am part of the community).  Hence, I make my case and stand by it.
Guess what, everyone else in this thread has made a case too, and they all disagree with you. At what point do you realize that you are the one whose definition doesn't match common usage, and that you are definitely failing at #3 and possibly at #2 from your list above?

1)  This isn't actually a hugely populated thread with lots of people providing comments. 
2)  I think that it does provide more clarity, because it allows for discussions of development and the like, and I've gotten responses from non-space people who seem to understand my point. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #32 on: 11/03/2017 07:28 PM »
And I tend to be of the opinion that those agencies aren't science agencies either, and the only science agency is NSF.

This is fun.

What other aspects of reality do you redefine in your universe?


Offline Nomadd

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #33 on: 11/03/2017 07:38 PM »
And I tend to be of the opinion that those agencies aren't science agencies either, and the only science agency is NSF.

This is fun.

What other aspects of reality do you redefine in your universe?


Are you implying that this thread should be moved to the "Spock's beard" sub forum?
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 07:38 PM by Nomadd »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #34 on: 11/03/2017 07:48 PM »
And I tend to be of the opinion that those agencies aren't science agencies either, and the only science agency is NSF.

This is fun.

What other aspects of reality do you redefine in your universe?


Are you implying that this thread should be moved to the "Spock's beard" sub forum?

I think this thread is rather goofy. But allow me to quote Abraham Lincoln:

"How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg."


Offline meberbs

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #35 on: 11/03/2017 07:55 PM »
And I say that although you can't boil it down to a single word, most people do that, and so we have to find something better.  You seem to be saying (and feel free to correct me) that we can't boil it down, and we shouldn't try, and we should try and push people not to do that.  I don't believe that is viable.
You simply aren't going to find a perfect single word unless you go for the tautological answer (NASA), because there simply isn't a single word in the English language that completely defines what NASA does. You can do much better if you allow short phrases instead, to start with "science and engineering."

Also, to help you with your point #4 from above, when you say "I don't believe that is viable," I hear "People can only understand a single word at a time, because I said so and people other than me are incompetent"

Further, you said that you don't need to take an extreme all encompassing view of what science is, but I disagree (see my points about lawyers vs applied legal scientists).  While I can't point to the exist place of disagreement, I can see that this is a philosophical disagreement.
No, it is not a philosophical disagreement, it is you completely missing the point of what I said by taking it out of context. The point was that the definition of science chosen does not change the original counterargument I made. Your statements regarding the definition of science are irrelevant.

If you think that saying "NASA is a science agency" impedes this, then saying "NASA is a space agency" is just as bad.
  I disagree. 
So you are saying it is okay for people to be ignorant of the aeronautic work done by NASA?

1)  This isn't actually a hugely populated thread with lots of people providing comments. 
2)  I think that it does provide more clarity, because it allows for discussions of development and the like, and I've gotten responses from non-space people who seem to understand my point.
1) There has been a good variety of people from this forum who have responded.
2) It is a good assumption that those "non-space people" were ignorant of the aeronautic work done by NASA. In this case your correction of them would have been a reinforcement of the incorrect idea that NASA only does space. Therefore, rather than providing more clarity, you strengthened their ignorance.

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #36 on: 11/03/2017 08:21 PM »
I appreciate what you are saying because of it's association to being "elitist in nature" in these highly polarized times. First, can you apply the "scientific method" to those occupations you mentioned?  My only suggestion as I have encountered the general public is to ask them first to have an open mind and that no one person has "all" the answers. Second, as I have told my students, "the more I know, the more I realize what I don't know"... "Simply learn how to learn and learn how to think" There is nothing wrong with saying "I do not know"... Allow our friend Commander Data to elucidate...

With regard to your question - I would submit that it is possible to apply the scientific method to almost all activities.  The scientific method, in many respects, is a more systematized version of logic and critical thinking.  But, as state, most people don't perceive the world that way, and don't think that way. 

I fully agree that having people have more open minds is a good thing, and to push them that way.  The problem is that the world remains messy (including communications)

(and if you want to get to a word I REALLY get annoyed at, it's exploration - but that's a different discussion)
When it comes to the scientific method, there really is no room for interpretation. The key is reproducibilty in the result no matter who or where the experiment is conducted when all variables are controlled.
Because the "world is messy" is not a good reason to lower the bar in our institutions but to ask the populace to rise to the occasion...
Let me know how that works out, because IMHO, most of the populace has decided it doesn't want to.
I'm fine with that, it's a free country...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob, Physics instructor, aviator, vintage auto racer

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #37 on: 11/03/2017 08:56 PM »
NASA is currently run as a science agency and this has detrimental effect on settlement. To see why, consider the humans vs robots debate. If science is your goal there's no need to send humans unless you're trying to study humans. This is exactly the justification for why the ISS exists - we're studying humans so we need humans, otherwise they wouldn't be there. This is exactly backwards. Settlement of the solar system, and eventually the stars, is the goal. Everything NASA does should be in support of that goal. Instead of every mission needing to have some science goal (no matter how weak the justification), every mission should have some settlement goal. So when some group says they want $1B to send a rover to Mars and another group says they want $1B for a space telescope, the usual priorities and compromises still apply but at some point it should be asked - how does this support settlement?

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #38 on: 11/03/2017 10:07 PM »
Settlement of the solar system, and eventually the stars, is the goal.

Your goal. Not NASA policy. Not United States policy.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Language matters - why I say NASA is not a science agency
« Reply #39 on: 11/03/2017 10:10 PM »
Your goal. Not NASA policy. Not United States policy.

Actually, settlement has been identified as the overarching goal of NASA by every review that's ever been done and there's been numerous attempts to write it into the Space Act. "Expanding the sphere of human influence into space" and other such words have appeared in numerous authorization acts.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

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