David Bennett, research associate professor of physics, has been named to the 12-person executive committee of the Exoplanet Exploratory Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG). The group is part of a new NASA approach to science-based evaluation of projects as updates to an every-decade survey to identify the big questions science addresses. Bennett’s appointment is through 2011.
The approach is modeled on the success of the Solar System Exploration Division that devised a widely-accepted sequence of missions to Mars. Analysis groups are focused on current scientific data, and the executive committee oversees the group’s work. “The analysis groups themselves are open to pretty much anyone that wants to join,” Bennett says. The steering committee oversees the analysis groups. “You want to get the benefit of these people’s work, but you don’t want to have to worry about whether there’s some conflict of interest there. We can send out a call to the community saying, ‘This is a question that NASA thinks is important. Can you help solve it?’ The idea is to recruit some of the experts in the field, so we can get some more detailed answers to these questions."