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FCW : June 30, 2014
For one thing, it is no longer an agency of white men in starched shirts and skinny ties. A visit to today s Mis- sion Control, for example, will reveal a mélange of men and women of all ages and ethnicities. This is true across the agency. The backgrounds from which these people come --- whether it be traditional middle-class suburban America, a forested township in Ten- nessee, a neighborhood in Mumbai or some other part of the world --- are equally diverse. This is not your father s NASA. However, the agency has also changed in some ways that are less desirable. While more demographi- cally liberal, it is a more operationally conservative operation than it was in the past. This is in part a natural and proper outgrowth of experience and the maturing of space exploration. NASA doesn t need to take the same chances it did in the 1960s. It doesn t need to prepare and y missions every 10 weeks, as it did in the Gemini years, to test orbital endurance and rendez- Innovation 14 June 30, 2014 FCW.COM NASA technology can involve rockets and satellites, but the agency uses IT to innovate at all levels. Long before the sequester and tightened bud- gets, for example, NASA had turned to videoconferencing to cut costs. NASA hosted its rst Virtual Executive Summit in October 2012 as a series of prerecorded and live ses- sions, activities and interac- tions hosted through NASA s human resources portal and Adobe Connect. Nearly 500 NASA leaders participated in the virtual events. According to of cials, the agency saved $750,000 in travel expenses and another $250,000 in logistics and venue costs --- for a total of more than $1 million in savings. The summit, which took place throughout the month of October, proved that communications, collabora- tion and learning could be delivered in a distributed virtual environment, said Erica Bovaird, NASA s chief learning of cer. Last year, the agency announced plans to reduce travel expenses by more than $20 million by using Web and videoconferencing solutions. Virtual technology also allows agencies to host more events. NASA was able to do six times as many events in 2013 as it did in 2011. Estelle Dodson, integrative sciences and technologies manager at NASA s Astrobiology Institute, said that given current travel restrictions, cultural changes and improvements in technol- ogy, virtual conferencing is a great option for agencies. "There s been a real change in people s receptive- ness to videoconferencing, " she said. "Also, improvements in videoconferencing ability itself, the reliability, the qual- ity, all these things increased at the same time that the generation was entering the workforce about ve years ago that had really spent a lot of their life online already and were really comfortable with video. " Dodson has been doing videoconferencing events since the opening of NASA s virtual institute in 1998. The institute brings together uni- versity and NASA research- ers worldwide to collaborate, train others and develop best practices for ef cient virtual conferencing. Virtual conferences might not be as sexy as moon shots and Mars rovers, but Bovaird said the innovation is similar. "This human capital project... required ingenuity in techni- cal, systems and content requirements...a dramatic change in workforce culture, and a deep curiosity and belief in the bene ts that this could offer, " she said. --- Colby Hochmuth NASA cuts costs with virtual conferencing
May 30, 2014
June 15, 2014