I recently came across a call for papers by NASA, asking for submissions of possible further missions using the Kepler spacecraft, given the mission-crippling loss of two reaction wheels. The call describes itself as a "Call for White Papers", and I am slightly confused by the term. What is a white paper, exactly? What other 'sorts of paper' can you call for, and how are they different?

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    – JRN
    Aug 18, 2013 at 23:59
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    @JoelReyesNoche: The Wikipedia article is pretty general and vague, and IMHO doesn't really help explain what sort of papers are being solicited in this case. Aug 19, 2013 at 3:46

1 Answer 1


Some funding agencies (e.g., DARPA, AFOSR) use the term "white paper" to mean a brief synopsis of a project idea; this is similar to NSF's "Letter of Intent". White papers help funding agencies evaluate project ideas quickly, and provide feedback to the proposer about whether or not they're interested, without having the proposer go through the (considerable) hassle of preparing a complete proposal.

Wikipedia shows other meanings of the term (link), but given the context my guess is that NASA is looking for a synopsis of your idea. You might look at this DARPA solicitation for an idea of what sort of information an agency might want to see in a white paper (see Section 4, and note the length limit).

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