The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network with an emphasis on studying planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their formation, evolution, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. A research coordination network is a virtual structure to support groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, divisional, and geographic boundaries. As such, this organization will serve as a safe place to support open communication.


1. Main NExSS Objectives

NExSS’ core objectives are:

  1. to further our joint strategic objective to explore exoplanets as potential habitable and inhabited worlds outside our solar system, and
  2. to establish a mechanism to break down the barriers between divisions and discipline-specific research activities. This requires input from all four of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) science divisions (Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science).

The success of NExSS will be determined by advancing these main objectives. Examples of progress could include:

  • Proposals and publications based on new collaborations formed as a result of NExSS participation
    • Products exploit the strengths of interdisciplinary teams working together
    • Develops scientific consensus between observers, modelers, and theorists where appropriate
  • Identification and execution of a team research effort that yields refereed publications and/or whitepapers
  • Strategic planning documents that contribute to decadal and roadmapping activities
    • Plans for utilization of current space telescopes
    • Input into science case(s) for future missions
    • Identification of targeted technology development
  • Enhancement of International partnerships
  • Input into prioritization of NASA science activities, elevating our science as a priority for NASA and for the country
  • Leads to change in the prioritization and funding within NASA
    • NASA SMD funding structure formally changed so as to expand opportunities for cross-division research

NExSS members are expected to contribute to these measures of success.


2. NExSS Communication

Each NExSS member is free to use whatever tools or sites that are most effective for their research, however, the main venue for NExSS communication is via the mailing lists administrated by the Co-Leaders:

and the NExSS website:

All members are strongly encouraged to join the NExSS Teams mailing list. Confirmation is necessary and might take up to a few days. All emails to the mailing list must be treated as confidential since sensitive information is discussed and disseminated on a regular basis. To keep the communication open and unhindered, never copy or forward emails to non-members. Emails intended for the broader community, or to the general public, should sent to the nexss_public list, which will be used for wider dissemination of announcements.

3. Organizational Structure

NExSS is built on open communication, open access, and the free flow of data and information. To promote the work towards achieving the main science goals of NExSS, the formal structure is organized as follows:

  • NExSS NASA Representatives (Drs. Mary Voytek, Shawn Domagal-Goldman): NExSS provides input to NASA HQ. The role of the Representatives is to report NExSS activities to NASA HQ SMD leadership, and provide guidance to NExSS membership on NASA HQ policy and funding.
  • NExSS Co-Leaders (Drs. Natalie Batalha, Tony Del Genio, Dawn Gelino): The role of the Co-Leaders is to serve as a point of contact for all NExSS members, to organize the in-person and virtual meetings, set up relevant agenda and ensure that the main NExSS objectives are being met. The current Co-Leaders were chosen by Mary Voytek from NASA HQ, and are currently funded to serve for a 3-year duration.
    • Future Co-Leaders are subject to change. Any changes will be made by the HQ Program Manager(s), and may depend on the existence of future NExSS calls.
  • NExSS Steering Committee (NExSS Co-Leaders and PIs of initial 17 NASA-selected Teams): The role of the Steering Committee will be to work with the NExSS Co-Leaders and NASA Representatives to develop and implement the vision of NExSS and to aid the Co-Leaders in decisions and/or logistical matters.
    • Requests for additional members to the Steering Committee will be brought before the current Steering Committee and need to be accompanied by a solid reason for the request. Requests need to increase the effectiveness of NExSS, and not just increase membership. An example of a valid reason to bring someone into the Steering Committee is that the person being requested brings a resource or technical capability, or enables networking with a community that is not currently represented on the Committee. The Steering Committee will be the decision making body for its membership.
  • NExSS Membership: NASA HQ has chosen initial membership of NExSS from selectable 2014 proposals from the NASA Astrobiology Institute CAN, Planetary Science and Astrophysics Division components of the Exoplanet Research Program, the Astrophysics Theory and Astrophysics Data Analysis Programs, and the Heliophysics Division’s Living With a Star Program. The composition of NExSS reflects the necessary expertise and complementation, as determined by the appropriate SMD Discipline Scientists, research leads and DDs, to maximize the investment in the network. The role of NExSS members is outlined in the following section.
    • Requests for future members will be a result of either NASA HQ proposal calls, or a request from current NExSS Steering Committee members to include a specific individual or group with specific scientific expertise that will aid NExSS in advancing its main objectives. Future membership requests will be considered by the Steering Committee.

4. Membership Policy

Collaboration and the open exchange of information are vital to the success of NExSS. To facilitate complete and timely sharing among members, members agree to protect all intellectual property shared at all telecons, virtual and in-person meetings, via e-mail exchanges, etc. The intent is not to limit information exchange but to enable it. Information is to be taken in its broadest context; including data, results, figures, text, code, ideas, plans, goals, speculations, etc.

Members will contribute to NExSS objectives within the context of their NASA funded research. They will engage in coordinated activities leading to product deliverables as well as collaborative research. Members are encouraged to openly share information about team activities that evolve as a result of NExSS interactions. This includes posting information to the member-secure side of the NExSS website to facilitate intellectual exchange and open participation. Members may be asked to give status reports on collaborative NExSS investigations. Others may join the investigation at any time, with permission from the investigation lead. If a member decides that they no longer wish to lead an investigation, or that time constraints do not permit a timely completion of the paper or final report, the investigation should be offered to others. If two or more members wish to lead the same investigation, every effort will be made by the NExSS Co-Leaders to fairly decide who will run the investigation and be lead author.

In order to foster an atmosphere that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas, it is vital that all participants in NExSS should enjoy an environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. To that end, NExSS participants shall collaborate under the philosophy of equality of opportunity and treatment for all members, regardless of gender, gender identity or expression, race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, veteran status, or any other reason not related to scientific merit. Bullying or harassment, sexual or otherwise, is a form of misconduct that undermines the integrity of NExSS collaborations. Violators of this policy will be subject to discipline as explained below.

Similarly, NExSS members will conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the Ethics Policy adopted by the American Astronomical Society (AAS):

Blatant violations of this policy will be subject to discipline as explained below.

The NExSS Co-Leaders and NASA Representatives will resolve disputes. Violation of the standards for professional behavior by a member, as outlined above, will likely result in dismissal from NExSS. Improper conduct also includes but is not limited to: attempting to publish, present results, or submit proposals independently of NExSS if they are based on information presented to NExSS by other team members, and sharing information with non-NExSS members without the consent of NExSS.

5. Publication Policy

The publications that arise from collaborative efforts between NExSS scientists should follow the same basic protocols followed by other science investigations. The first author is the person who leads the investigation from conception to fruition and/or writes the bulk of the paper. Alternatively, the first author is the person who was selected by the co-authors to take the lead based on substantial merit.

All persons making a substantive contribution to the investigation should be invited to co-author the publication, contribute text, and review the manuscript for technical accuracy. Authors should make every effort to recognize minor contributions in the acknowledgements section of the manuscript. It is highly recommended that lead authors receive a written communication from all co-authors stating that they have read the paper and agree with the applied methods and conclusions.

NExSS scientists have the privilege of regular communication and exchange of ideas with experts from widely varying disciplines and geographical locations. With this privilege comes added responsibility. Because the consortium is large and disperse, because virtual modes of communication can be somewhat impersonal, extra vigilance is required to ensure that intellectual property is respected and that all contributors are adequately acknowledged or included in publications.

Ideas are a form of intellectual property. They are shared in NExSS meetings and telecons in the spirit of collaboration. One should not assume that information shared in NExSS communications can be used freely. We encourage both transparency and inclusiveness as a means of avoiding issues. Open dialog about the projects and papers teams are working on (related to NExSS goals) should reduce duplication of effort while also increasing collaborations between scientists with similar interests. We encourage PI’s to share such information at NExSS steering committee meetings where it will be recorded in meeting minutes.

NExSS scientists are encouraged to give ample opportunity for team members to author papers, especially those researchers in the formative years of their careers. We recognize that investigations forming the basis of a doctoral thesis require time to develop. It is expected that extra precautions will be taken to protect and encourage student research projects.

From time to time, problems arise. Most are the result of broken communication between individuals with good intentions. Occasionally, more serious conflicts arise. The NExSS co-Leaders and/or NASA representatives are willing to help mediate such situations. Blatant disregard of the ethical protocols described above, determined on a case-by-case basis, will not be tolerated and will result in discontinued access to NExSS mailing lists, web servers, telecons, and events.

6. Acknowledgement Statement

Publications that benefitted from NExSS collaborations should include an acknowledgement to your programmatic funding institution if you are not an NAI awardee. In addition, the statement below should be placed in the acknowledgement section immediately after your programmatic funding information. If you are an NAI awardee, your funding is from NExSS, and you only need to include the statement below:

The results reported herein benefitted from collaborations and/or information exchange within NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research coordination network sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.