Some resources for conducting public policy analysis, using James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as an example

I was recently walking through research with a student on the James Webb Telescope (JWST) and the costs involved in the project. I thought I would lay out that process here.

Go to the Wiki first. I know people might look down upon Wikipedia, but for government projects, the site will save you a lot of time.

Then check the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO provides Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars. From the GAO, just two examples of interesting reports:

Next go to the Congressional Research Service or CRS. EveryCRSReport is a site that publishes reports by Congress’s think tank, the Congressional Research Service, which provides valuable insight and non-partisan analysis of issues of public debate. Not every CRS report is available to the public, but I found this paper on the JWST.

Next, I would check the agency itself for information. Use the site’s search function and then use Google Site search. You are likely to get different results, but I did find “James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP)” from this method.

Budget requests are a great source of information. Here are NASA’s budget requests. For example, on the 2006 Budget Request: “The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)–identified by the National Research Council as the top priority for astronomy and physics for the current decade–is a large, deployable infrared astronomical space-based observatory. JWST will enter development in 2006 and is scheduled for launch in 2011. The mission is a logical successor to the HST, extending beyond Hubble’s discoveries into the infrared, where the highly redshifted early universe must be observed, where cool objects like protostars and protoplanetary disks emit strongly, and where dust obscures shorter wavelengths.” is another important resource. was created to consolidate in one place all public reports from Federal Inspectors General (IGs) in order to improve the public’s access to independent and authoritative information about the Federal Government. IG reports are really key to understanding how projects are working or not. The reports can be found here. After a little digging, I found an IG report on JWST. I know there are more out there.

To finish this first round of search I would then try to read as many hearings as you can find. is a great resource and also check Congressional Hearings transcripts.

Also, don’t discount the trade press. I searched SpaceNews search.

First published May 23, 2022