In the realm of planetary science and exploration, data is the backbone upon which knowledge is built. At the forefront of the Planetary Data Ecosystem, Moses Milazzo, a small business owner, data processor, and NASA contractor, plays a vital role in ensuring the accessibility and usability of crucial scientific information. In an exclusive interview, Milazzo shared his insights into his work and its impact on the scientific community.

As the chief scientist in the Planetary Data Ecosystem at NASA, Milazzo is responsible for addressing community concerns regarding data access, ultimately shaping policies and grant proposals. His mission is clear: to make data more accessible to a wider range of individuals, regardless of age or profession.

“Without data, there is no understanding of the science and exploration,” Milazzo emphasized. He firmly believes that access to data is the cornerstone upon which new scientific discoveries are made. To facilitate this accessibility, Milazzo strives to ensure that data is presented in a usable and understandable manner for everyone, with the goal of fostering inclusivity and engaging the next generation of scientific pioneers.

"We build our knowledge and understanding of the solar system off of data," Milazzo claims.

While initially focused on imaging data as a remote scientist, Milazzo’s role has expanded to encompass all types of data processing and representation within the Planetary Data Ecosystem. By championing the importance of diverse datasets, he helps to build a comprehensive foundation for future discoveries and breakthroughs, even if direct attribution is difficult in such a vast ecosystem.

Looking towards the future, Milazzo envisions a NASA with an Office of Data Ecosystem and a broader expansion into various aspects of the organization. He advocates for a funding program that encourages proposals specifically aimed at enhancing data accessibility for the scientific community. His ultimate goal is to empower aspiring scientists by providing easy access to data and fostering an environment where anyone interested in conducting scientific research can readily find and utilize the necessary information.

Undoubtedly, harnessing and utilizing planetary data effectively poses several challenges. Milazzo acknowledges that new ideas require careful consideration and successful navigation. To ensure that no one is left behind, he draws on stories and past data archives to improve data access. Additionally, he actively collaborates with other scientists both within and outside of NASA, engaging in discussions, conferences, and workshops to enhance knowledge and address concerns collectively.

A key aspect of Milazzo’s work revolves around the sharing and accessibility of data within the scientific community. To achieve this, he emphasizes the importance of open data, striving to make it findable, accessible, interoperable, and reproducible (FAIR). 

Milazzo acknowledges the need for advanced technologies and methodologies as the volume and complexity of planetary data continue to increase. While he personally relies on tried-and-true software and computers, he recognizes the potential of machine learning and statistics. Furthermore, Milazzo encourages citizen science participation, enabling a broader spectrum of perspectives to better understand and interpret data. By engaging enthusiastic volunteers, he strengthens communication channels and nurtures a shared understanding of scientific concepts.

"We do a lot of citizen science, and we want a lot of different perspectives on data so that we can better understand what the data is telling us." Milazzo explained.

Above all, Moses Milazzo’s passion lies in providing equitable access to science for all, by fostering diversity and inclusivity within the scientific community. Recognizing the importance of closing the digital divide, he strives to bridge the gap and ensure that scientific knowledge reaches individuals from all walks of life.

With Moses Milazzo at the helm of the Planetary Data Ecosystem, the future of scientific exploration appears brighter, more inclusive, and more accessible than ever before. By championing the democratization of data and promoting collaborative efforts, Milazzo’s invaluable contributions pave the way for a new era of discovery and understanding in planetary science.

Interview and article by Ashley Alonso