Cover: Facilitating Information Sharing Across the International Space Community

Facilitating Information Sharing Across the International Space Community

Lessons from Behavioral Science

Published May 2, 2013

by Kirsten M. Keller, Douglas Yeung, Dave Baiocchi, William Welser IV


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Research Questions

  1. What are the key psychological and motivational barriers to information sharing?
  2. What steps can the U.S. Air Force take to facilitate improved information sharing among spacefaring entities?

An increasing number of countries and organizations have realized the advantages of space-based assets. A handful of countries can launch their own unmanned orbital missions, while others have relied on partnerships with other countries to launch their payloads. In addition, private companies are working to provide the public and private sectors with additional spacelift capacity. Increasing space activities, however, have also increased both the number of operational satellites and the amount of space debris. The latter, in particular, has renewed interest among such entities as the U.S. military and private spaceflight companies in reducing future debris populations using political and technical means. But doing this effectively requires these diverse space organizations to share information that has traditionally been treated as proprietary or sensitive. This report examines some of the behavioral and psychological barriers that may prevent diverse entities from sharing data and processes more freely and suggests ways the U.S. Air Force might be able to overcome them to encourage the information sharing that will help the community as a whole address the growing space congestion problem.

Key Findings

The Extent to Which Relationships with Others Are Viewed as Competitive or Cooperative Influences the Likelihood of Information Sharing

  • The possession of unique information is seen as a competitive advantage.
  • The more space community members view each other as competitors, the less likely they will be to share information.

Sharing Information Requires Considerable Trust

  • The existence of defense and intelligence satellites, which require a certain degree of secrecy and security, may make it impossible to build complete trust.
  • The extent to which there is a lack of trust among members of the space community, there will be little motivation to share information. Members may also be less likely to believe that information others share is accurate.

Attitudes and Beliefs Affect Willingness to Share

  • Individuals are more likely to share information they perceive as belonging to the community — as a public good.
  • Insofar as individuals see themselves as community members and their information as benefiting the whole community, they are more likely to share that information.

Cross-Cultural Differences Affect Willingness to Share

  • Cross-cultural differences among members of the space community may influence their willingness to share information.
  • To the extent that other organizations and international agencies within the space-community are seen as out-group members, organizations in collectivist cultures may be less willing to share information.


  • Show each organization in the space community that the benefits of information sharing outweigh the perceived risks.
  • Encourage organizations to see themselves as members of a broader group: the space community.
  • Establish space situational awareness data as a public good that benefits the entire space community.
  • Build trust among members through successful information transactions over time and transparency of processes and systems.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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