Resource Spotlight

Open Science

Blue Earth with words Open Science on top; circle around Earth with colored circles and icons representing open science elements

NASA’s groundbreaking open data policy provides unrestricted access to almost 80 petabytes of Earth science data in NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) collection. NASA's Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program ensures that these data are fully available to any user for any purpose, and promotes and facilitates the open sharing of all metadata, documentation, models, images, and research results along with the source code used to generate, manipulate, and analyze these data. The agency's underlying objectives are that openness of data is fundamental, security of these data is essential, and freedom and integrity for using these data are crucial.

NASA, along with the White House and other federal agencies, has designated 2023 as A Year of Open Science. Throughout the year, a concerted effort will be made throughout the federal government to show the many benefits of making data fully and openly available. NASA's Open-Source Science Initiative (OSSI) and the Transform to Open Science (TOPS) mission are creating resources and funding opportunities to further increase the use of NASA data by a broader community. A great place to start is the Guide to NASA’s Year of Open Science; you can read about the latest events on the TOPS GitHub page.

This page provides a deeper look at how ESDS defines open science and the evolving paradigm of open-source science, facilitates the unrestricted use of NASA Earth science data, and supports agency-wide open science initiatives.

What do we mean by Open science and open-source science?
Double ended arrow with a color transition from red on left indicating closed system and blue on right indicating open system. 4 rocket icons along line highlight elements of closed and open science systems.
NASA open-source science practices place the agency closer to a fully open system (right side of image). New technologies and practices will enable NASA to continue to become more fully open-source. Credit: NASA ESDS.

NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program defines open science as a collaborative culture enabled by technology that empowers the open sharing of data, information, and knowledge within the scientific community and the wider public to accelerate scientific research and understanding. A system based on open science aims to make the scientific process as transparent (or open) as possible by making all elements of a claimed discovery readily accessible, which enables results to be repeated and validated.

Out of this open science concept, an evolving paradigm called open-source science is emerging. Open-source science accelerates discovery by conducting science openly from project initiation through implementation. The result is the inclusion of a wider, more diverse community in the scientific process as close to the start of research activities as possible. This increased level of commitment to conducting the full research process openly and without restriction enhances transparency and reproducibility, which engenders trust in the scientific process. It also represents a cultural shift that encourages collaboration and participation among practitioners of diverse backgrounds, including scientific discipline, gender, ethnicity, and expertise.

Since 1994, NASA Earth science data have been available without restriction to all users for any purpose, and since 2015, ESDS has ensured that all data systems software developed through NASA research and technology awards have been made available as open-source software.

Open Data
The EOSDIS archive is expected to grow significantly with the addition of data from upcoming missions (shown by orange area) that are part of NASA's Earth System Observatory. Data from the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) and NASA/Indian Space Research Organization Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) missions are projected to increase the EOSDIS archive volume to more than 250 PB by 2025 or 2026, based on current launch schedules. Table based on data from the ESDIS Metrics System (EMS).

The unrestricted availability of NASA Earth science data is the foundation of all ESDS activities, and the program has remained at the forefront of technological advances to ensure the efficient delivery and use of these data. As the volume of EOSDIS data continue to grow (more than 65 PB in January 2022), ESDS is undertaking a groundbreaking effort to move this Big Data collection into the Earthdata Cloud. Having this data collection in the cloud will provide more efficient use of this vast archive, including the ability to conduct analyses in the cloud and merely download the results––a tremendous savings in computing time and processing requirements. New missions that are part of NASA's Earth System Observatory will generate higher volumes of data than any previous missions, all of which will be openly available through the Earthdata Cloud as early in the scientific process as possible.

The ESDS commitment to open-source data is also predicated on the collaborative use of these data. Through the Earthdata Cloud as well as efforts such as the cloud-based Multi-Mission Algorithm and Analysis Platform (MAAP), ESDS is enabling a broader base of users to interact with these data early in the scientific process. Using a standard internet connection, users in Arizona and Abu Dhabi, for example, can work together to analyze an EOSDIS dataset in real-time without having to download these data.

Open Tools
NASA Worldview enables the interactive exploration of more than 1,000 imagery layers. Users can compare more than 20 years of MODIS full Earth imagery, create animations, and easily track natural events using data curated by the NASA Earth Observatory Natural Event Tracker (EONET).

Along with open data, NASA's ESDS also provides a wide range of tools and applications for working with these data and the code behind these tools and applications. The Earthdata Data Tools page provides descriptions and links to resources created by EOSDIS Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) for functions such as searching for and subsetting data. In addition, specialized tools, such as NASA Worldview and Giovanni, enable users to interactively explore hundreds of visualized data layers, overlay multiple layers, do comparisons, create animations, and much more.

Additional resources for using and working with NASA data include:

Algorithm Publication Tool
The Algorithm Publication Tool (APT) developed by NASA's Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT) enables open, reproducible science by helping scientists write standardized, high-quality algorithm documentation collaboratively. Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents, or ATBDs, help ensure reproducible science by documenting key scientific assumptions made when writing algorithms and by promoting better understanding of Earth observation data.

Earthdata Code Collaborative (ECC)
The ECC is a platform for development, testing, and discovery of EOSDIS applications and services. The ECC provides a ready-to-use framework for running tests every time a codebase changes and makes recommendations about what testing frameworks and approaches to use.

The Pangeo project is helping the Earth science community analyze data in the cloud so they can spend less time downloading and managing data. The project is partially funded by NASA's Advancing Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science (ACCESS) Program, which develops technologies to effectively manage, discover, and utilize NASA’s archive of Earth observations for scientific research and applications. Pangeo’s collaborative tools allow researchers to access, process, and analyze NASA data in the commercial cloud without having to download the data. Their ecosystem of interconnected open-source tools use software from Project Jupyter. Project Jupyter software allows users to create and share collaborative workflows in open-source notebooks that contain code, equations, and visualizations.


Multi-Mission Algorithm and Analysis Tool (MAAP)
MAAP is a joint effort of NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), and brings together data, algorithms, and computing capabilities in a common cloud environment to facilitate the sharing and processing of data from field, airborne, and satellite measurements. Key features of MAAP are full and open access to mission data through the MAAP Dashboard, the use of open-source code, and unrestricted access to data and ancillary information.

Geographic Information System (GIS)
GIS is a collection of computer-based tools for organizing information from a variety of data sources to map and examine changes on Earth. The ESDS vision is to identify and deliver high value Earth science data in formats compliant and compatible with GIS standards; to ensure data are interactive, interoperable, accessible, and GIS-enabled through primary GIS platforms; and to provide the maximum impact to research, education, and public user communities requiring visualization and spatial analysis. The ESDS Geographic Information Systems Team (EGIST), located at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, was created to provide sustained program-wide support to enable the appropriate use and adoption of GIS technology in support of Earth science research and applied science for EOSDIS data. More information is available on the Earthdata GIS Data Pathfinder.

Agency-Wide Open Science Initiatives and Resources

NASA's Open-Source Science Initiative (OSSI) is a comprehensive program of activities to enable and support moving science towards openness, including policy adjustments, supporting open-source software, and enabling cyberinfrastructure. OSSI aims to implement NASA’s Strategy for Data Management and Computing for Groundbreaking Science 2019-2024, which was developed through community input.

From 2022 to 2027, NASA's Transform to Open Science (TOPS) initiative will accelerate the engagement of the scientific community in open science practices through events and activities aimed at:

  • Lowering barriers to entry for historically excluded communities
  • Developing a better understanding of how people use NASA data and code to take advantage of the agency's Big Data collections
  • Increasing opportunities for collaboration while promoting scientific innovation, transparency, and reproducibility

Other Resources

NASA Open Data, Services, and Software Policies

NASA Open Innovation sites provide access to agency-wide data, application programming interfaces (APIs), and code, and are under the Office of the Chief Information Officer:

  • NASA Open Data Portal ( is NASA's central public open data site for the public
  • NASA API Portal ( is a clearinghouse site for information about NASA APIs and serves as a passthrough site to NASA APIs located elsewhere.
  • NASA Code Portal ( contains information on links to all open-sourced NASA code projects.
Get Involved
citizen science

NASA and ESDS have many ways you can benefit from and contribute to our open science efforts. Since all code used in ESDS applications and tools is open source, you can create your own instance of Worldview to pull imagery from Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) or download code from any of the NASA GitHub sites. In addition, ESDS competitive programs such as Advancing Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science (ACCESS), Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program (CSESP), and Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) provide opportunities for you to contribute data and observations to ongoing scientific investigations or compete for funding opportunities to help advance your open science initiatives. More information about ESDS collaborations and data processes is available on the Earthdata Engage page.

Last Updated
Mar 28, 2023