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NASA Unwraps Open Government Plan

Awards, social networking, and collaboration are key to making the space agency's activities more transparent.

NASA on Wednesday publicized specifics details of the open government plan it submitted last month to the Obama administration, highlighting awards, social networking, and collaboration efforts aimed at making the agency's activities more transparent.

The plan -- revealed in a post on the White House blog by NASA CIO Linda Cureton and CFO Beth Robinson -- shows the space agency engaging in new challenge and award programs for scientists and inventors to foster technology innovation. It also is experimenting with social networking technology as part of its strategy to better communicate its activities with the public, and is trying to encourage more participation from both the general public and partners to achieve its mission, according to the post.

When government agencies revealed their open government plans in April, NASA's was among the most comprehensive. In fact, the agency won kudos in a recent audit from watchdog group for having the strongest open government plan.

The NASA Open Government Plan is the first of more in-depth profiles of Open Government plans the administration will showcase on the White House blog, according to the post.

In addition to encouraging agencies to make their activities more transparent by using technology, the Obama administration also is encouraging them to use awards and challenges more to provide incentives for technology innovations.

NASA has incorporated this notion into its open government plan with its Centennial Challenges program, which offers awards to people who build prototypes of technology and innovation for use in the space and aeronautics sector.

To encourage more participation with inventors of new technology, the agency is establishing a Participatory Exploration Office. The office will be in charge of getting more citizens involved in NASA's activities, according to the post.

On the social networking front, NASA is using social engagement tools in a variety of ways, according to the post. The agency is using them to collect feedback from the public on ways it can improve its transparency, and also is providing live access to missions through NASA TV and various social media sites.

NASA also is collaborating and reaching out to its partner organizations as part of its open government plan, according to the post.

For instance, the agency is using what it calls Space Act Agreements to work with companies like Google, General Motors, and the European Space Agency. The agreements allow companies that have expertise in areas in which NASA does not to share technologies with the agency.

NASA also has an active licensing program to bring its technology to the private sector as well as state and local governments, it said. The agency said it has made 1,600 technology transfers to enhance such industries as health and medicine, transportation, manufacturing, and public safety.

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