Yesterday, my SETI Institute colleagues and I had a discussion about the importance of NASA in the minds of people in the USA, and around the world. The achievements of NASA are definitely universal and the latest interest of people for Curiosity, the car-sized rover which landed recently on Mars, is a vivid example. It is inspirational for the scientists to see that our friends and family follow with interest, the development of the mission, its challenging landing, the first step of the rover, and more recently its first self-portrait.

The NASA planetary exploration program is a superb scientific and exploration endeavor, but it also has ripple effects on our life. To explore these new worlds, we challenge scientists & engineers to create and use new technologies. The program also inspires the young generation to be interested in science, mathematics and technology.

 [left] My son proudly showing an MSL-Curiosity mockup that we made for his kindergarden class (credit: F. Marchis). [right] A self-portrait of the rover taken using its arm-camera in Sol 32 (credit: NASA / JPL / MSSS / Emily Lakdawalla)

Is there any way we could quantify this social impact of NASA and rate it with respect to other brands and institutions?

Using modern tools available today on the web, it is today possible to find an answer to this question.

  • Using the web site,  I found out that NASA (#28) is the first scientific agency logo recognized by people in the world.
  • I also use howsocial to calculate the social magnitude of NASA in the past week (Aug 27-Sep 3). The social media magnitude is a quantification of the brand/institution impact on the social web. The score (from 0 to 10) is determined by analyzing a sample of the activity on up to 36 popular websites (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, LinkedIm, Tumblr,…). With a magnitude of 6.4, NASA has an excellent score, similar to the Olympics and leading with NIH (7.8) the rank of  top scientific institutions with a large social impact.

Below a list of brands, personalities, institutions and their score calculated using Howsocial. It is also interesting to see that SETI Institute with a respectable score of 4.6 is the fourth scientific institute in this list.

  1. Google 8.2
  2. Apple 8.1
  3. Nike 8.0
  4. NIH 7.8
  5. Obama 7.8
  6. Romney 7.8
  7. McDonalds 7.7
  8. Justin Bieber 7.6
  9. Shell 7.5
  10. Microsoft 7.3
  11. Lady gaga 7.3
  12. Toyota 6.9
  13. Dell 6.8
  14. NBC 6.7
  15. IBM 6.7
  16. Coca-cola 6.6
  17. Olympics 6.5
  18. Volkswagen 6.5
  19. NASA 6.4
  20. Madonna 6.2
  21. Firefox 5.8
  22. WWF 5.7
  23. Greenpeace 5.7
  24. Fedex 5.6
  25. NSF 5.2
  26. DOD 5.1
  27. AT&T 5.0
  28. USAF 4.9
  29. Symantech 4.9
  30. Depeche Mode 4.7
  31. SETI 4.6
  32. JPL 4.4
  33. CERN 4.2
  34. Portishead 4.1
  35. DARPA 4.0
  36. SpaceX 3.7
  37. CNRS 3.1
  38. Uwingu 2.5
  39. Planetary Resources 1.8

Of course, in an ideal world some of us would like NASA and all the scientific institutions to have a better score, but science cannot compete against companies with multi-billion marketing budget. This list shows that even if the social impact of NASA, and science in general, comes mostly from our supporters, the fans of space exploration, NASA has an excellent score.

To make sure that NASA Space exploration program still continues to inspire all of us , please take the time to write to the source the President’s budget – the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). Check out the campaign webpage of the American Geophysical Union or the Planetary Society. Your letter should be sent today. Together we can.

Clear skies,

Franck Marchis

Comments (2)

  1. It impacts 100% previous time we couldn’t have contact them & know about them but now through social networks we can interact them

  2. It impacts 100% previous time we couldn’t have contact them & know about them but now through social networks we can interact them

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