Friday, April 13, 2012

NASA Abdalati’s Response To 50 Esteemed Professionals Is Managerial Negligence – An Embarrassment

NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati has issued a response to the letter of protest from 50 former esteemed scientists, engineers and astronauts. Unfortunately, his response only adds to NASA’s embarrassment.
Abdalati’s dismissal without due-process investigation is premature and reckless. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Normally when a professional organisation gets a high level complaint from such a number of esteemed members, the first step is confirm and to look into it seriously. Something like: “Thanks - we’ve received your complaint; we’ll look into it and get back to you”.
Apparently the chief of NASA no longer bothers taking the precaution of following up and investigating high-gravity issues from within. He just dismisses them off the bat. Not only is this inappropriate, but it is also reckless managerial behavior.
Abdalati has failed to exercise due diligence in the face of a serious matter.
Here’s NASA’s “us-against-them” response:
NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate. As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue ‘claims’ about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.
“Our Earth science programs provide many unique space-based observations and research capabilities to the scientific community to inform investigations into climate change, and many NASA scientists are actively involved in these investigations, bringing their expertise to bear on the interpretation of this information.
We encourage our scientists to subject these results and interpretations to scrutiny by the scientific community through the peer-review process. After these studies have met the appropriate standards of scientific peer-review, we strongly encourage scientists to communicate these results to the public.
If the authors of this letter disagree with specific scientific conclusions made public by NASA scientists, we encourage them to join the debate in the scientific literature or public forums rather than restrict any discourse.”
Sheesh – no wonder the Challenger blew up! Have they not learned anything?
Instead of sweeping serious issues under the carpet, how about contacting those with the grievance and looking into it to see if there is something behind it? Did you even bother to call them?
Did NASA tell Morton Thiokol engineers to take the peer-review route in 1986?! Who are they kidding?
NASA’s knee-jerk dismissal of the letter of complaint is dubious, and reveals an organisation that is no longer functioning correctly. Its off-hand decision to dismiss the letter is amateur, unprofessional and stunningly negligent. Here, unwillingness to investigate is cover-up.
Abdalati’s handling of this matter is a scandal, and is on par with a CEO ignoring a letter from 50 women managers bringing up sexual harassment issues.
Moreover, open scientific discourse begins by looking into claims of serious deficiencies, and not ignoring or suppressing them.