What NASA Has Been Doing About Open Science

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We have recently started a new Science category on It’s FOSS. We covered how open source approach is impacting Science in the last article. In this open science article, we discuss NASA‘s actively growing efforts that involve their dynamic role in boosting scientific research by encouraging open source practices.

How NASA is using Open Source approach to improve science

It was a great initiative by NASA that they made their entire research library freely available on the public domain.

Yes! Entire research library for everyone to access and get benefit from it in their research.

Their open science resources can now be mainly classified into these three categories as follows:

  • Open Source NASA
  • Open API
  • Open Data

1. Open Source NASA

Here’s an interesting interview of Chris Wanstrath, co-founder and CEO of GitHub, about how it all began to form many years ago:

Uniquely named “code.nasa.gov“, NASA now has precisely 365 scientific software available as open source via GitHub as of the time of this post. So if you are a developer who loves coding, you can study each one of them every day for a year’s time!

Even if you are not a developer, you can still browse through the fantastic collection of open source packages enlisted on the portal!

One of the interesting open source packages listed here is the source code of Apollo 11‘s guidance computer. The Apollo 11 spaceflight took the first two humans to the Moon, namely, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin ! If you want to know more about Edwin Aldrin, you might want to pay a visit here.

Licenses being used by NASA’s Open Source Initiative:

Here are the different open source licenses categorized as under:

2. Open API

An Open Application Programming Interface or API plays a significant role in practicing Open Science. Just like The Open Source Initiative, there is also one for API, called The Open API Initiative. Here is a simple illustration of how an API bridges an application with its developer:

Image source: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/what-is-an-api/

Do check out the link in the caption in the image above. The API has been explained in a straightforward manner. It concludes with five exciting takeaways in the end.

How An Open API Model Works in Industries | Image source: http://www.apiacademy.co/

Makes one wonder how different an open vs a proprietary API would be.

NASA Open API Live

Targeted towards application developers, NASA’s open API is an initiative to significantly improve the accessibility of data that could also contain image content. The site has a live editor, allowing you check out the API behind Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

3. Open Data

NASA’s Open Data Portal

In our first science article, we shared with you the various open data models of three countries mentioned under the “Open Science” section, namely, France, India and the U.S. NASA also has a similar approach towards the same idea. This is a very important ideology that is being adopted by many countries.

NASA’s Open Data Portal focuses on openness by having an ever-growing catalog of data, available for anyone to access freely. The inclusion of datasets within this collection is an essential and radical step towards the development of research of any kind. NASA have even taken a fantastic initiative to ask for dataset suggestions for submission on their portal and that’s really very innovative, considering the growing trends of  data science, AI and deep learning.

The following video shows students and scientists coming up with their own definitions of Data Science based on their personal experience and research. That is really encouraging! Dr. Murtaza Haider, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, mentions the difference Open Source is making in the field of Data Science before the video ends. He explains in very simple terms, how development models transitioned from a closed source approach to an open one. The vision has proved to be sufficiently true enough in today’s time.

NASA Open Data Portal: Main Menu

Now anyone can suggest a dataset of any kind on NASA. Coming back to the video above, NASA’s initiative can be related so much with submitting datasets and working on analyzing them for better Data Science!

NASA Open Data Portal: Dataset Suggestion Form (Popup)

You just need to signup for free. This initiative will have a very positive effect in the future, considering open discussions on the public forum and the significance of datasets in every type of analytical field that could exist. Statistical studies will also significantly improve for sure. We will talk about these concepts in detail in a future article and also about their relativeness to an open source model.

So thus concludes an exploration into NASA’s open science model. See you soon in another open science article!

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