Scientific research to increase our knowledge of Mars as a planetary system is a key activity that NASA funds. The primary mechanism for providing this funding is what is known as Research and Analysis (R&A) programs. Scientists from all over the United States (university professors, NASA center researchers, etc.) submit research grant proposals to these programs. The proposals are peer reviewed and selected for funding based on the quality of science.
The dedicated Mars research program is the Mars Data Analysis Program (MDAP). The goal of MDAP is to enhance the scientific return of data collected during Mars missions. Data used in the program must be publicly available 30 days before the proposal submission deadline. Currently there are 108 active grants and 10 active NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships (NESSF) for graduate students.
Mars research is also well represented in other R&A programs in the Planetary Science Division (primarily in the Solar System Workings and Habitable Worlds Programs).
Results of research activities are published in peer reviewed publications and presented at scientific conferences