The Nelson Scout was designed to supplement the Oberth Science Vessels in their duty of exploration on the fringes of Federation held territories. Where the Oberth was adequate for scouting and exploring within areas which had previously been mapped by larger exploratory cruisers they found themselves too weak and too slow to journey alone into dangerous uncharted territories. The Nelson Scout was built from the beginning for strategic speed, being able to outrun most ships of the period with its short bursts at high warp speeds.
The Nelson does pay a price for its warp speed advantage. Nelson Scouts are only minimally armed and have weak shield generators that are not resilient to damage. Because of this fact the Nelson Scouts fell out of favor in the fleet and ceased to be used, the hulls instead mothballed or scrapped. By the 2270's, the Oberth continued on as the premier exploration ship of Starfleet, with larger dedicated explorers such as the Soyuz Scout taking up the slack.