The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite provides daily, global soil moisture measurements from space. SMAP data will be used by dozens of federal agencies to assess and monitor hydrologic phenomena.
A pioneering technology transfer program was designed by USDA and NASA scientists to engage SMAP end users and to build a broad user base for SMAP applications through pre-launch activities. USDA scientists served on the SMAP Science Team and provided leadership to the SMAP Applications Working Group, using their knowledge of agricultural stakeholder needs, which thereby operated to anticipate how the SMAP data might be useful to these stakeholders.
NASA scientists, for the first time, provided simulated data through a user-friendly portal so users had the opportunity to conduct simulated applied research and to build prototypes. It was this combination of respective agency expertise, facilities, and commitment that enabled the effective and extensive transfer of the SMAP technology.
So how was it done? The first step was to engage potential SMAP users. The USDA/NASA team began by holding a series of SMAP Applications Workshops in which hundreds of scientists, engineers, managers and potential users came together to identify an array of SMAP applications and compile a list of potential users to form the inclusive SMAP Applications Working Group (ApplWG). The Early Adopters were included in planning and presentations at annual SMAP Applications Workshops and Tutorials.
The SMAP Early Adopter Program was the heart of the technology transfer effort.
The ApplWG comprised a wide breadth of over 700 users interested in SMAP products for applications, but it did not provide the depth of user involvement required to facilitate technology transfer and prepare for post-launch application. Consequently, as a second step, the SMAP Early Adopter Program was conceived to 1) facilitate feedback on SMAP products pre-launch, and 2) accelerate the use of SMAP products post-launch. The SMAP Early Adopter Program was the heart of the technology transfer effort.
A support system was put in place to transform the Early Adopters and the SMAP mission into a single community functioning as a team. Each Early Adopter was coupled with a SMAP Science Team contact who provided personal help when necessary. At quarterly teleconferences of Early Adopters and the SMAP Science Team, we shared the latest SMAP information, answered questions, and arranged for Early Adopters to share latest research results with web-enabled presentations.
The Early Adopters were included in planning and presentations at annual SMAP Applications Workshops and Tutorials. An outreach video was produced with interviews of Early Adopters to inspire new SMAP users and cultivate broad community support for the SMAP mission (https://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/applications/). In this way, the Early Adopters became the face of the mission at most events. By spreading the load across the whole SMAP project, it was not a massive effort to accommodate the needs of the Early Adopters.
The result was an unprecedented transfer of SMAP technology to users and critical feedback from users to the mission to improve product specifications and distribution for post-launch applications. This was a first-time, one-of-a-kind program that has since been implemented in every NASA Earth Observation mission since SMAP. This work led directly to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the expanded collaboration between USDA and NASA signed by USDA Deputy Secretary Harden and NASA Deputy Administrator Newman on 15 July 2015 at NASA’s Ames Research Center (press release http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAOC/bulletins/10fa152).