Confusing Educational Statistics Circulating Within NASA

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

624 KB Powerpoint

5.3 MB Powerpoint (Back up information)

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, these two presentations have been circulated within the agency for a couple of days. They are meant to show how successful NASA is in reaching the public. The numbers in the presentations often do not make sense - either representing more people of a certain category than actually exist in the U.S. or preposterous numbers such as 8,536,026,247 GB of website data transfer. That is a vast amount of data - i.e 8.5 billion gigabytes.

Also, no clear description is given as to whether people are being counted once or multiple times - nor how this data was collected - other than a statement that "data are based on completed participant feedback forms and do not represent all participants." As such, the picture painted by these 'metrics' is confusing, misleading, improbable, and in many cases, simply wrong.

Here are just a few problems with these numbers as outlined in this Powerpoint presentation:

  1. In 2003, 15 times more teachers are reported to be involved in NASA activities (66,877,982) than there are in the entire country. [Page 5]
  2. Just about every student in the U.S. (64,496,712 out of an estimated 69 million) is reported to having been involved with NASA activities in 2003. [Page 9]
  3. Internet data transfer volume between 2001 and 2002 apparently dropped from 8,536,026,247 GB to 123,866 GB due to "hacker damage". Given the odd gyrations of the numbers on this chart it is doubtful that the author knew what they were reporting. [Page 20]
  4. The external media audience for 2003 is estimated as 444,391,421 which is about 150 percent of the current U.S. population (292,000,000) [Page 21]

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