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KM Reality Award winner NASA Safety Center

This article appears in the issue January 2014, [Vol 23, Issue 1]


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NASA Safety Center

The NASA Safety Center (NSC) was established in October 2006 to support the safety and mission assurance (SMA) requirements of NASA's portfolio of programs and projects. Focused on improving the development of personnel, processes and tools needed for the safe and successful achievement of NASA's strategic goals, the NSC is comprised of four functional offices: Technical Excellence, Knowledge Management Systems, Audits and Assessments, and Mishap Investigation Support.

The processes initiated were designed to provide knowledge management, collaboration and information management to the NASA community related to planning and implementing lifecycle safety, risk management and mission assurance activities.

The primary goal of the program is to become the collaboration environment and central repository for safety information for the agency, and to provide cross-organizational collaboration. There are two key approaches: 1. Support multiple NASA objectives (safety and mission assurance, knowledge management, risk management) and 2. Enable mission success (key knowledge access, knowledge capture, knowledge sharing and reuse, enable workgroups and collaboration).

The main goal was to begin collaboration among the centers in the domain of SMA, as well as to become the repository for and provide access to case studies and tools/techniques, minimizing duplication of effort and leveraging successes among the program executives, program managers, project managers and the SMA community members. Primary metrics include collaboration activity, both ongoing and related to specific NASA missions, as measured through utilization of the knowledge management tool and NASA's standard measurements of the success of its safety and mission assurance initiatives.

NSC chose a robust, scalable, integrated collaboration and search solution, with the unique ability to extract concepts from content, significantly improving search results. The application provides both jump-start capabilities (roadmaps/guides) and fingertip-benchmarking tools (a window on how other NASA project managers have implemented assurance processes). But more importantly, virtual collaboration enables people to connect across the enterprise who may not have engaged otherwise.

The KnowledgeNow application provides capabilities such as document management, discussion forums, wikis, blogs, program management tools and professional networking through a community of practice model, and concept search enables the discovery of internal content. The system is comprised of more than 1,000 virtual communities supporting over 8,000 members.

The NASA Safety Center program:

  • promotes cross-organization collaboration through tools like wikis, blogs, discussion forums and professional networking;
  • enables categorization of the search results by content type-people, documents, forums, communities, action items and wikis;
  • provides immediate access to NASA best-practice assurance planning documents (e.g., quality assurance plans, risk management plans, software assurance plans, system safety plans, etc.);
  • delivers a vast library of documents from across the agency representing virtually every NASA center;
  • addresses lifecycle SMA planning needs from the earliest concept development to operations and disposal; and
  • contains process and procedure documents, handbooks, manuals, requirement documents, tools and techniques, video libraries and more.


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