What’s Your Favorite NASA Mission Soundtrack?

NASA recently commissioned a song for one of its missions (H/T STEMDaily).  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been orbiting our moon since 2009, taking readings of the lunar surface.  Maybe so so we don’t forget about it, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center wanted a song to capture the inspiration that comes from studying the moon.  Ideally the song would also encourage interest in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The resulting song, “The Moon and More” was developed by musicians Matt Cusson and Javier Colon (who won the first season of the NBC competition show The Voice).  Cusson produced the song, and the two recorded a video with a *space shuttle* for a backdrop (at least for part of the video).

While it’s not a mission requirement, NASA has used music to promote its missions before, and will likely do so again.

Health And Human Services Department Trying To Increase Access To Clinical Trial Data

On Friday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced actions that should increase the availability of clinical trial data.  This parallels an announcement from the Vice President focusing on clinical trials concerning cancer.

The overall goal of these policies is to make the clinical trial much more effective.  The announcements focus on making it easier to use clinicaltrials.gov and similar online resources for accessing and sharing clinical trial data.  Under the final rule issued by HHS, more trials involved with FDA-regulated drug, biological and device products will need to provide registration data and results on clinicaltrials.gov.  This should also make it easier to find clinical trials that need participants.  The rule takes effect on January 18, 2017, and affected parties must comply within 90 days of that date.

The NIH policy applies to all NIH-funded clinical trials, which means that some clinical trials not otherwise covered by the HHS rule will fall under the NIH policy (primarily early stage trials for FDA-regulated drugs, biologics and devices and small device feasibility trials).  It also takes effect on January 18, 2017.

Complementing the expansion of registration requirements are new compliance measures.  Both the HHS rule and the NIH policy allow for marking the clinical trial as non-compliant on ClincalTrials.gov and for withholding grant funds.  The HHS rule allows for monetary penalties, and the NIH policy would allow for non-compliance to be considered in future grant applications.

Additionally, the NIH is working to improve the usability of ClincalTrials.gov and may be using the recently released redesign of trials.cancer.gov.  While White House Innovation Fellows assisted with the trials.cancer.gov redesign, NIH intends to work with the 18F group at the General Services Administration to improve the clinical trials website.

Blow Your Kazoo For A New Kids Magazine

The first issue of Kazoo premiered last month (H/T Mic.com).  Aimed for girls between 5 and 10, the magazine is chock-a-block full of activities and interesting articles, with lots of science and adventure thrown in.  The quarterly was founded by Erin Bried and funded in large part through a Kickstarter campaign.  Based on this interview at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, she intends Kazoo to be vast and contain multitudes of things young girls can’t find in other magazines.  Bried has more than 16 years experience as a magazine writer and editor, and has also written three books full of how-to goodness.  Clearly some amount of that will seep into Kazoo if it hasn’t already.

Take a (quick) look inside the first issue.

By all means, check and see if it’s at your local bookstore (and ask them to carry it if they don’t).  Subscriptions and individual issues are also available online (along with some swag).  (For those who might balk at the price, think about how much time young readers will spend immersed in the pages.  It’ll be worth it.)

Calling All Rhyming Maxs

Tom McFadden, fresh off of his featured appearance as Joseph-Louis Lagrange in William Rowan Hamilton, has a rhyming quiz going on at his YouTube channel.  That’s right, a rhyming quiz, and it’s called Fill in the Planck.

There are two quizzes so far, one on the JUNO spacecraft and the most recent on water.  The idea is to complete each rhyme in the verse.  Tom has also set up a verse in the comments that you can complete (as opposed to filling in a blank).  Make sure to read the comments and full video description to get all the necessary information.

No word on how long the series will be, but Tom is teasing some new longer content in the near future.  For this academic year Tom has been able to commit half of his time to Science With Tom, so more video goodness is on they way.

NASA Implements Public Open Access Proposal For Its Funded Research

Last week NASA announced a public portal through which the public can access research funded by the agency.  It’s part of NASA’s open access policy, required by the 2013 Obama Administration policy encouraging research agencies to make more of their funded research available to the public.  The agency requires its funded researchers to deposit their juried conference proceedings and peer reviewed articles in PubMed (one of several agencies that either do so now, or will soon).

The public portal is broader than the PubMed link.  Besides NASA’s PubMed section, the site also links to NASA’s data.gov section, which includes the agency’s publicly available datasets.  You can also check out the agency’s data management plan (its requirements for researchers to support the long term management of and access to the research data they produce), and the OSTP policy that nudged all this in the first place.

I really hope that other agencies look closely at this portal and feel free to copy as many elements of it as possible.

Government Releases Federal Source Code Policy

On Monday the federal Chief Information Officer, Tony Scott, announced the release of the Federal Source Code policy.  It covers custom source code developed by or for the Federal Government, and is intended to encourage its sharing and re-use by other government agencies.  Additionally, at least 20 percent of this source code must be shared with the public, and the policy will encourage agencies to share more.

The policy is straightforward, and includes general guidance for agencies to determine when and how to develop custom source code.  It also encourages the sharing of source code as open source software.  This supports government transparency, and it also allows for improvement of the shared code through the collaborative ethos of the open source community.  This isn’t the first time that the government is sharing source code, as federal agencies have been sharing code on Github for some time.  This includes the new data.gov website, which will serve as a portal to custom federal source code and a resource for agencies working to comply with the policy.

Agencies have 90 days to develop a policy for complying with the Federal Source Code policy.

Draft Arctic Research Plan Open For Public Comment

Last week the White House released the draft Arctic Research Plan for 2017-2021.  It’s available for public comment through August 21.  The U.S. Global Change Research Program wants people to sign up online for an account at its website in order to comment.  It also appears that signing up for such an account is the only way to read the draft plan.

There are nine research goals for the plan:

  1. Enhance understanding of health determinants, and support efforts that improve the well-being of Arctic residents;
  2. Advance process and system understanding of the changing Arctic atmospheric composition and dynamics and resulting changes to surface energy budgets;
  3. Enhance understanding and improve predictions of the changing sea-ice cover;
  4. Increase understanding of the structure and function of Arctic marine ecosystems and their role in the climate system, and advance predictive capabilities of regional models;
  5. Understand and project the mass balance of mountain glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet and the consequences for sea level rise;
  6. Advance understanding of processes controlling permafrost dynamics and the impacts on ecosystems, infrastructure, and climate feedbacks;
  7. Advance an integrated, landscape-scale understanding of Arctic terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and the potential for future change;
  8. Strengthen coastal community resilience and advance stewardship of coastal natural and cultural resources by engaging in research related to the connections among people, and natural and built environments; and,
  9. Enhance environmental intelligence gathering, interpretation, and application to provide decision support.

If you’re still not sure whether or not to sign up for an account in order to review and comment on the plan, check out the FAQ page.  It describes how the draft plan differs from the existing plan, and outlines not only the research goals listed above, but the policy drivers for the plan.  Listed below, the drivers are the desired outcomes of the plan, which would be informed by the research goals.

  1. Enhance the well-being of Arctic residents. Knowledge will inform local, state, and national policies to address a range of goals including health, economic opportunity, and the cultural vibrancy of native and other Arctic residents.
  2. Advance stewardship of the Arctic environment. Results will provide the necessary knowledge to understand the functioning of the terrestrial and marine environments, and anticipate globally-driven changes as well as the potential response to local actions.
  3. Strengthen national and regional security. Efforts will include work to improve shorter-term environmental prediction capability and longer-term projections of the future state of the Arctic region to ensure defense and emergency response agencies have skillful forecasts of operational environments, and the tools necessary to operate safely and effectively in the Arctic over the long term.
  4. Improve understanding of the Arctic as a component of planet Earth. Information will recognize the important role of the Arctic in the global system, such as the ways the changing cryosphere impacts sea-level, the global carbon and radiation budgets, and weather systems.

This plan does appear to include more research on socio-economic impacts related to the Arctic.  Once the comments have been submitted, the intention is to submit the plan to the relevant federal agencies in September.  This may seem like a rush, but with the Arctic Science Ministerial scheduled for late September in Washington, D.C., I think it makes sense to have some form of the plan in front of the people likely to attend the Ministerial.