NASA and Harvard University have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which will enable software developers to compete with each other to create the best computer code for NASA systems. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to "order" a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies.
Software developers will compete with each other to create a winning solution, as measured by internal code quality, performance against benchmarks, and the ability to be integrated into NASA systems. The competition will provide the researchers with a finished software solution at a lower cost than if they hired an individual developer or team.
"NASA is at the forefront of this cutting edge approach," said Jason Crusan, chief technologist for space operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We want to advance knowledge of how to manage these tournaments and gain solutions to technical mission requirements with real world results for operational and future programs."
This approach, often termed "crowd sourcing" or "broadcast search," lessens the effects of uncertainty in software development by searching for a problem's solution through multiple, parallel paths. Instead of relying on one individual or team, the researcher can access many, independent ideas, which increases the chances of a successful solution.