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Bryan Mendez
/ Categories: In-Focus, Helio Forum

Reflections on Reporting the Accomplishments of NASA SMD Education Professionals

[This is one of a series of blog posts about our six-year involvement leading the NASA Heliophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum. ]

After you’ve done your fantastic work educating students and teachers, after you’ve inspired the public about the exciting science that NASA is doing, it’s time to tell people what you have accomplished. The NASA Science Mission Directorate science education and public outreach forums have been there to help projects tell their stories of success. There are many ways that education and public outreach (E/PO) project managers have been requested and required to report on their activities to NASA. Here are some example and how the forums helped.

Nuggets/Highlights – Timely info on major E/PO activities, usually focused on events. Each month, the forums sent out requests for projects to submit PowerPoint slides reporting on their big recent accomplishments. These were then packaged up and sent on to NASA HQ where they were used in weekly reports given to upper management.

Progress Reports – Each project directly funded by the SMD E/PO program was required to submit an annual report summarizing the activities of each year and the impacts measured. Project managers were encouraged to share these reports in the project profiles on the E/PO community workspace.

OEPM (Office of Education Performance Measurement) – E/PO Project managers are required to report to this NASA Office of Education database system on an annual basis. The types of information reported are: total funding amount for the fiscal year; Core data, including project description, participant competitiveness description, activity contact person, indication of directorate-level priorities alignment, NASA center partnerships, listings of publications, funding proposals, patents, and technology transfers for the project (if applicable), alignment of evaluation to NASA goals and metrics; reference documents; Project activity data such as numbers of direct/indirect interactions, along with affiliations with any other NASA projects (categories of audiences depend on form used), event duration (during reported fiscal year only), activity location (city, state, zip code), products developed (examples: online STEM teaching tools, higher education courses, etc.), and types of activities supported by the project. The forums held annual training webinars to help SME E/PO Community members use OEPM and enter the required data. The forums also held NASA HQ to set up projects for reporting and to track which community members required access. Getting access to the system was often the most difficult part of the process.

Data Call – For the past 7-8 years, SMD has collected critical information on its projects to use for a variety of purposes in reporting to its stakeholders. In the past, this was done via excel worksheets that the Forums distributed and collected from community members. More recently, the Forums have used the Project Profiles on the SMD E/PO Community workspace to collect this information. These data include: OEPM Project/Admin level set-up data; Project contact info (general and OEPM); Home Forum; Activity URL; Funding Source; Budgets and Expenditures; Audience metrics; NASA and non-NASA project partners; Project start/end date (dates do not have to be associated only with the current fiscal year); Pictures/captions; Project status; Products used in the project (ideally linked to NASA Wavelength listings); Participant quotes; Goals, objectives, evaluation design, measures, impacts; and Evaluator name and contact information. The intent was that these data could be used to answer any number of Ad Hoc data requests that NASA might receive from various stakeholders (Congress, the White House, etc.).

The forums also provided community members opportunities to share their activities with each other during the monthly tag-up teleconference. The online workspace was always available for a post to update other community members of an activity. There were also opportunities for sharing accomplishments at Meetings of Opportunity at conferences and at community retreats.

Reporting on your projects could certainly consume large spans of time, and it could be confusing. It was often frustrating to spend this time and not know how or if the information provided was being used. But the community always recognized the importance of telling their projects’ stories and provided NASA with tales of accomplishments large and small.
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