ESA_Lab@UCLan: Assessing the public value of ESA programmes

ESA_Lab@UCLan: Assessing the public value of ESA programmes [Apr/2021]

As the world is confronted with challenges from a triple crisis (health, economic and climate), the past years of progress to reduce social inequality and improve global cooperation are threatened. Now, more than ever, international organisation have a strong mandate to design missions addressing the human needs of citizens living in a risk society.

As part of a research project conducted within the ESA_Lab@UCLan, the University of Central Lancashire undertook an analysis aimed at measuring the public value from ESA programmes as perceived by European citizens. Based on a conceptual framework that draws upon a distinctive synthesis of theories of public value, human values and needs, the project participated in the development and implementation of an innovative measure of the public value. The approach centres upon the perception of an organisation by reasonable, informed citizens assessed against a comprehensive and inclusive set of human value categories.

The human values assessed within the framework were spread across four broad categories:

- Openness to change: values that emphasise independence of thought, action and feelings, and readiness for change (i.e. self-direction, stimulation)

- Self-Enhancement: values that emphasise the pursuit of one's own interests and relative success and dominance over others (i.e. achievement, power)

- Self-Transcendence: values that emphasise concern for the welfare and interest of others (i.e. benevolence, universalism)

- Conservation: values that emphasise order, safety, self-denial, preservation of the past and resistance to change (i.e. tradition, conformity)

The results revealed a positive contribution of ESA programmes to the common good:

- The external analysis (2 campaigns with a total 400 responses) shows significant level of ESA perceived value contribution to the public sphere.

- The internal responses show a lower perception of ESA performance than externally, except for human values comprised in the self-enhancement category.

- Using the European Social Survey, a quantitative analysis was performed to confront ESA results with the public value priorities of the citizens. Results show ESA is contributing to openness to change and self-enhancement, and performing slightly under for conservation/self-transcendence values.

Overall, the outcomes of this research helped highlight how ESA may position itself as a public value organisation and provides recommendations on ESA communication and overall strategy. An empirical study of this type, based on original data, is rare in public value research and this project has been breaking new ground in the acquisition and analysis of human values in the public value management process. Moreover, it enabled the development of a portable and scalable Public Value framework. Given the democratic nature of Space for Earth activities, and the importance of the public perception of ESA value among funders and stakeholders, this research gives a complementary appreciation of the overall value of ESA and space activities.

The next steps of this collaboration will be to reach a deeper understanding and use of public value management tools. Using public value and the risk society framework to unlock the potential of satellite imagery and information, additional research will aim at showing how the impact of ESA Space for Earth missions may be optimised in terms of human values. This research will further give insights for action and communication essential to mobilise citizens in the co-production of solutions to mankind most pressing problems.

For more information, please contact: Rick Wylie (, Gianluigi Baldesi ( or Estelle Godard (

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