Katie Baynes Named Earth Data Officer

The shift from her role as deputy chief science data officer to this new position brings greater focus to NASA Earth science data.
Earth Data Officer Katie Baynes. Baynes will take on new responsibilities overseeing the SMD Earth science data element. Image courtesy of Katie Baynes.

A reorganization of NASA’s Office of the Chief Science Data Officer (OCSDO) will help streamline data operations across NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and bring a greater focus to the agency’s Earth science data through the creation of an Earth Data Officer. Katie Baynes, current deputy chief science data officer, will shift to this new position while Kevin Murphy will continue as the agency’s chief science data officer (CSDO).

This new position enables Baynes to concentrate more on Earth data operations—a role she is familiar with through her previous work as deputy program manager of NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program.

“Kevin [Murphy] has been doing a couple of jobs—his full time Earth data systems job and his work as CSDO,” Baynes says. “As time went on, I tended to pick up more of the Earth data systems and science data systems tasks so he could focus more on the Science Mission Directorate tasks since his role is really across all of NASA’s science endeavors. This [reorganization] allows him to work more independently across the SMD and allows me to focus my attention on Earth [data].”

As part of this OCSDO reorganization, the office will move from the SMD’s Earth Science Division (ESD) to the Planetary Science Division (PSD). PSD will gain staff, budget, and activities related to NASA’s Core Data and Computing Services Program (CDCSP), the Transform to Open Science (TOPS) mission, and open science policy. ESD will retain Earth science data oversight and all activities specific to Earth Science objectives.

"NASA has tens of thousands of open datasets in our repository that anyone can access at any given time,” says Dr. Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Increasing access to open science is paramount to NASA's Science Mission Directorate, the science community, and the public. This reorganization ensures that our treasure trove of data across NASA Science can continue to expand upon the science we have, to gain more opportunities for the science we need [to] advance our understanding of our home planet and how we can better preserve it for the benefit of all.”

The OCSDO was established in 2021 to oversee synergies and collaborations across the agency’s science divisions and advance the state of the art in cloud computing, machine learning, and other data management and analysis activities. A key responsibility is ensuring that NASA data are available without restriction to facilitate their use in research, mission development, and other activities fostering open science.


Open science refers to 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. 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.

“Open science and the movement and direction of open science practices has been a core value of the [agency’s] Earth science data systems portfolio, and it will continue to be,” Baynes says. “We expect to be at the forefront of creating a world class data system, creating interoperable data products, and enabling interdisciplinary science transparency into the scientific process.”

Baynes observes that her new position enables her to focus more on the role Earth science data play in enabling decision makers and policymakers to use these data to make science-based decisions. This also provides greater opportunities for her and the OCSDO to formulate new missions and prepare for future data products and satellite missions. Specific to ESDS, this includes a greater emphasis on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to Earth science data, work that is being done by the ESDS Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT) and at several NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs).

The OCSDO reorganization makes NASA’s data operations well-positioned for future work—work that will be undertaken using more data that will be more easily available to more global data users.

“We’re looking at not only the researchers of today, but the next generation of researchers and people who want to answer questions about the environment around them,” Baynes says. “Refocusing our efforts on the impacts of the Earth system on people where they live is going to be a really exciting challenge, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”