Open Innovation Program Manager
Beth Beck doesn’t like to call it “big data.”
“We call it ‘big ideas’ or ‘big insights’ instead of “big data,” because what we really want from the data is the insights. What news can we learn from what we have?” Beck said.
Beck’s main responsibility is opening up the vast troves of NASA data to the public. But she said even as the agency works to release all its data since 1958, she is constantly trying to figure out how to help NASA adapt to a new data-driven landscape.
“What’s new [for NASA] is making data machine readable,” Beck said. “If you think about a large agency like ours, we have 10 centers around the United States, so every mission and program has servers where they keep their data. It’s a huge job to figure out where the data is.”
My goal is make change happen … even if we go kicking and screaming.
While Beck wishes NASA could be even further along in harnessing the powers of data, she is encouraged about the future, especially for young women who are interested in space.
“Last year, I went to Toronto for a challenge and hackathon, and I talked to some students, and what struck me is there was more girls than boys,” Beck said. “The girls were so engaged and so lively. It was so inspirational to me, because that was once me.”
Beck, who came into government through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, is happy to face new technological challenges as researchers continue to unearth discoveries.
“I’ve had many, many jobs at NASA, and there’s always been some new challenge,” she said. “That’s fun for me. My goal is make change happen. If the technology is available, and we grasp it, it will pull us into change, even if we go kicking and screaming.”
– Greg Otto