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  • Enabling Innovation and Collaboration Across Geography and Culture: A Case Study of NASA's Systems Engineering Community of Practice

    Paper number



    Ms. Keri Murphy, Jet Propulsion Laboratory / CalTech, United States


    Ms. Daria Topousis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, United States



    Authors:  Daria Topousis and Keri Murphy
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    Gregory L. Robinson
    NASA Headquarters
    Note:  The work discussed in this abstract was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    In 2004, NASA faced major knowledge sharing challenges due to geographically isolated field centers that inhibited personnel from sharing experiences and ideas.  Mission failures and new directions for the agency demanded better collaborative tools.  In response to these needs, the NASA Engineering Network (NEN) was formed to provide a multi-faceted system for overcoming geographic and cultural barriers.  The NEN integrates communities of practice with a cross-repository search and the Lessons Learned Information System, allowing expertise captured in communities to be shared with a larger audience.  
    With the push to send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars, NASA recognized that systems engineering would have to improve across the agency.  Of the ten field centers, seven had not built a spacecraft in over 30 years, and had lost systems engineering expertise.  The Systems Engineering Community of Practice came together to capture the knowledge of its members using the suite of collaborative tools provided by NEN.  The community is open to all personnel, thereby providing a forum for experiences to be shared, leading to equally competent levels of systems engineers across all centers.
    The NEN provided a secure collaboration space for over 60 practitioners across the agency to assemble and review a NASA systems engineering handbook.  Once the handbook was complete, they used the open community area to disseminate it.  By using NEN, the community was able to forego costly face-to-face sessions or the confusion of passing multiple Word files around and instead focus on the online community as a means of gathering input and guidance from practitioners.  
    The community continues to drive the need for new technology.  Endeavors have focused on integrating existing NASA directives into the community’s culture  and improving communication mechanisms among practitioners.  As new communities are established in NEN, they are able to take advantage of the best practices and technical innovations developed by the Systems Engineering Community of Practice.  
    This case study explores both the technology and the social networking that made the community possible, describes technological approaches that facilitated rapid setup and low maintenance, provides best practices that other organizations could adopt, and discusses the vision for how this community will continue to collaborate across the field centers to benefit the agency as it continues exploring the solar system.
    This paper has not been presented at previous meeting.  Financing of at least one author to the IAC meeting is assured.  
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-08.D5.2.2.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.