Publication Abstracts

Michaud 2009

Michaud, E.M., 2009: A Case Study of Consecutive Reorganizations of the Science Laboratories at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center. Ph.D. thesis. Rutgers University School of Public Service and Administration.

The research reported here seeks to explore cyclical reorganizations of government-owned and -operated scientific laboratories at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and determine the effects on civil service bench scientists.

The work takes the form of a case study following the guidelines imposed by Yin. It first delineates the relationship of science and power; it then proceeds to identify the process and context of the specific circumstances. The process is identified as organizational change and the context as the GSFC seen variously as one or many laboratories. The objective is to determine how a series of reorganizations affect the stated objectives of bench scientists that exist at the lowest line-level of the organizational hierarchy. Following a model described by Stake the research questions are bifurcated into those dealing with organizations grounded in the field of Public Administration and those relating to GSFC itself. The hypotheses are similarly bifurcated.

Three lenses are utilized in assessing the reorganizations of GSFC, attempting to emulate the model brought to prominence by Allison and Zelikow. The three organizational changes occurred consecutively in 1984, 1990 and 2005. They are examined through the triangulation of a functional/structural lens, a theoretical lens and finally and most substantively a human agency lens. The most recent organizational change occurring in 2005 and called a Transformation, as defined by French et al., is at the core of the study. It employs in-depth interviews that are analyzed through a methodology developed by Kvale. The reason for employing interviews to study the 2005 Transformation is compelling since it follows a business model in which internal and individual introspection adjust to outside conditions.

A series of 35 interviews were conducted borrowing freely from the instrument and protocol utilized by earlier studies of Bozeman and Rainey in their examination of laboratories of the Department of Energy (DOE). The issue here is whether government reorganizations can be viewed as instruments of control and whether independent research by government scientists is most profitably conducted in a loosely coupled and complex organization as described by Perrow. In this context, Price's curriculum model and his hierarchical/bureaucratic model were examined. The interview responses lead to the general conclusion that Goddard laboratories are embedded in a hybrid organization and might exist most comfortably within a combination of both the bureaucratic and curriculum paradigms.

Implications for further study include how organizational changes of research laboratories might be more carefully executed in the future and whether or not it is necessary for Field Center laboratories to completely align with NASA Headquarters for funding purposes. Also touched on in this section is the role of the public administrator as a conduit for the needs of both the bureaucracy and the bench scientist.

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BibTeX Citation

  author={Michaud, E. M.},
  title={A Case Study of Consecutive Reorganizations of the Science Laboratories at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center},
  school={Rutgers University School of Public Service and Administration},
  address={Newark, N.J.},

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RIS Citation

ID  - mi06810d
AU  - Michaud, E. M.
PY  - 2009
BT  - A Case Study of Consecutive Reorganizations of the Science Laboratories at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center
PB  - Rutgers University School of Public Service and Administration
CY  - Newark, N.J.
ER  -

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