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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medirine March 24, 2004 Dr. Hugh Van Horn Program Director Division of Materials Research National Science Foundation 4201 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, VA 22201 and Dr. Patricia Dehmer Associate Director Office of Basic Energy Sciences SC-10/Germantown Building U.S. Department of Energy 1000 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, DC 20585-1290 Dear Dr. Van Horn and Dr. Dehmer: I write to you as chair of the National Research Council's Committee on Smaller Facilities (COSF) to report on the progress of the committee's deliberations to date. Established by the National Research Council (NRC) with financial support from the National Science Foundation anct the Department of Energy, COSF is reviewing the current state of small and mid-sizec3 multiuser facilities for materials research in the United States. Its task is to recommend methods for optimizing the operation anc! use of existing resources and to consider strategies and actions needled to ensure such facilities' efficient and successful future operation. Information on COSF's charge anct its activities to date is appende~i to this report and elaborated on as needed in the text. This interim report identifies the key topics that the committee will explore in greater detail to develop the findings anal recommendations for its final report, to be released in the second half of 2004. Although they play a major, recognized role in materials research in this country, small and mid-sized multiuser facilities for materials research Referred to here simply as smaller facilities) are widely regarded as not being optimally developed or utilized. The 1999 NRC report Condensec! Matter and Materials Physics: Basic Research for Tomorrow 's Technology found that a greater burden now falls on small research centers in universities and government laboratories and that it is appropriate to strengthen this part of the nation's research infrastructure. Smaller facilities appear to face many issues in common, yet a stucly has never focused specifically on them. There was thus a recognized need to collect data on and study these facilities to help in determining effective ways to use existing resources more efficiently. The primary concerns driving this study are the scientific opportunities in a wide cross section of disciplines that might be missed because of these issues and perceived problems. Furthermore, the developments in instrumentation that take place in smaller facilities underpin critical tools for industry; these facilities also have an important role in the education of future industrial scientists and engineers. The charge given to the committee, cleveloped by the Solid State Sciences Committee of the NRC's Board on Physics and Astronomy in coordination with the sponsors, is given in Appendix A. To be most effective, the study is aimed for an audience that includes both federal program agencies and the wider materials research community. BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY · Tel 202-3343520. Fax 202-334-3575 ~ E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org NATIONALACADEMY OF SCIENCES · NATIONALACADEMY OF ENGINEERING · INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE · NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
As a consequence of the widely varied nature of smaller facilities for materials research in the United States, COSF has a broad membership composed of expert individuals with university, national laboratory, ant! inclustrial backgrounds. COSF inclucles facility users, facility managers and directors, and a wide range of materials and non-materials experts. The members of the committee and their affiliations are listed in Appendix B. Committee Activities The full committee first met in May 2003 and then in October 2003. At the first meeting, presentations were made by senior personnel with experience in operating user facilities in both university and government laboratory settings. The committee also heard from various agencies currently providing extensive support for instrument acquisition and facility operation. The major outcomes of this meeting were the committee's formulation of a preliminary definition of smaller facilities, its establishment of the study's general areas of investigation, and the articulation of a plan for carrying out a series of facility site visits over the summer of 2003. During summer 2003, subgroups of the committee, generally consisting of two to three committee members plus an NRC staff officer, visited various user facilities around the country. The purpose of these visits was primarily to gather some firsthand experience relating to planning, operation, and maintenance of typical smaller facilities; another important function of the visits was to hear clirectly from users and to learn about the commonalities across and differences between smaller facilities and other types of facilities. To minimize the time commitment involved, and to ensure maximum effectiveness, it was decided to target geographical areas that had clusters of similar facilities. However, the number of sites to be visited was limiter} by schedule and resources such that it was not possible to cover the full breadth of the United States. Sensitive to the need to obtain information about the resources, needs, and perspectives of other geographical areas, the committee agreed to invite additional testimony at future meetings and to develop a suitable questionnaire for distribution to a broact range of smaller facilities' managers and users. The committee's five separate site visit trips concentrated on the approximate geographical areas of Boston, upstate New York, Illinois, the San Francisco Bay Area, anti the Pacific Northwest. A total of 47 facilities were visited (see Appendix C). To ensure that broacIly similar information was obtained from each facility, a site visit checklist (Appendix D) was used as a guideline to facilitate discussion during the site visits. The full committee convened again in October 2003 to share the experiences and impressions gained by its various subgroups. Several presentations were made relating to the operation and organization of smaller facilities and the need for staff training. Extensive discussions followed relating to the - . . .. · · r ,1 ·, ~ ~ , 1 1 · 1 ~ ·, development ot a vision tor the committee s study, a working Fenton of a smaller facility, the characteristics of successful facilities and their best practices, current and future issues relating to facility operation, anti future committee activities. The committee also ctevelopect facility manager and user questionnaires (Appendix E) designed to gather general information to better inform the committee about the breadth of its purview; the questionnaires were not designed to be statistical data-gathering instruments. In ogler to obtain a stanciarct set of data, these questionnaires were also circulated to the smaller facilities that committee members tract visited over the summer. The Importance of Smaller Facilities In the modern era, scientific advances require access to sophisticated facilities and instrumentation, and the role of such facilities in materials synthesis, fabrication, characterization, and measurement is steadily increasing. In fact, these facilities are essential to the scientific infrastructure of the United States. There are significant opportunities for accelerating scientific advances in materials and nanotechnology research by invigorating such facilities and allocating their resources to best effect. Accordingly, COSF re-emphasizes the importance of smaller facilities. 2
In its final report the committee will address a number of the important roles that smaller facilities play in materials research, several of which represent significant opportunities for smaller facilities for the future. It is widely recognized that user facilities can and should play a major educational role, especially when located at universities, since they are able to help link researchers across campuses, institutions, and even regions. Teaming between institutions large and smallcould be encouraged by provicting adclitional incentives and benefits. Similarly, stronger links between universities and national laboratories (including cross-agency links, which would combine strengths of NSF and DOE) could be enhanced. A strategy for reinvigoration of instrumentation development within the United States collie incorporate a significant role for smaller facilities. Moreover, given the growing recognition that many innovations will occur at the intersection of the sciences (physical, chemical, biological, and medical), cross-fertilization of ideas across the traditional disciplines will become an ever more important function of smaller facilities. Finally, user facilities couici serve to initiate and enable research experiences above and beyond K-12 education levels, to include community colleges and smaller schools. Vision for the Study A need for regional facilities is now being more wiciely acknowledged, but the locations of such facilities have to be carefully considered, taking into account areas of high concentration of science and industry as well as clearly identifier! user communities (perhaps as a result of self-initiated proposals). Conversely, there are educational ant! inspirational benefits to locating some facilities at smaller schools that have not traditionally had access to such resources. To provide capabilities that satisfy local, regional, and national needs in advanced materials research, a strategic plan for the development and operation of smaller user facilities is required that also recognizes the escalating costs of instrumentation. The committee will address such a strategic plan in its final report. Identifying the instruments in existence and on the horizon that fall in the price range of a smaller facility is an essential aspect of the committee's study. In addition, the likely clemand and future outlook for novel instrumentation have to be assessed. This information should become more apparent once responses to the facility surveys have been collectecI. By identifying the essential ingredients of successful facilities, the committee can recommenc! approaches that will leac! to greater efficiency and effectiveness within the U.S. materials research enterprise, consistent with the limitations of finite resources. Likewise, learning about and clarifying the challenges that smaller facilities face are essential steps toward developing approaches that can be mapped and implemented at the national level as appropriate to tackle their problems. Working Definition of a Smaller Facility For the purposes of this study, the committee proposes the following working definition of a smaller facility in materials research: A smaller facility is a facility that owns and operates one or more pieces of equipment at an institution and is characterized by the following criteria: Facilitates scientific and/or technological research for multiple users; Has a resident staff to assist, train, and/or serve users; Provides services on local, regional, or national scales; Is open to all qualified users subject to generally agreed-upon rules of access; and Has a replacement capitalization cost of between approximately $ ~ million and $50 million and an annual operating budget (including staff salaries, overhead, supplies, routine maintenance and upgrades, and so on) in the range from about $100,000 up to $20 million (2004 (lollers). 3
This definition is a preliminary guideline: the committee recognizes that not all smaller facilities will meet all elements of this definition. Indeed, a number of the facilities it visited over the summer of 2003 would not qualify as smaller facilities for materials research, and yet they provided valuable and relevant information. The basis for this definition and the taxonomy of smaller facilities will be further elaborated in the committee's final report. The committee believes that smaller facilities also distinguish themselves in other ways. A smaller facility often meets one or more of the following aciclitional criteria: Provides a unique or special service that is not generally available at an indiviclual investigator's laboratory; Fulfills a particular scientific niche/role in the research enterprise; Has a clear mission that addresses a well-defined or emerging need for a well-defined community; Plays a leading role in education, workforce training, and workforce development; Facilitates instrument/technology development and/or training; Promotes synergy and communication among its users and with others; Fosters cross-disciplinary and cross-sector interactions, including scientific, medical, and engineering endeavors; and Represents a means for coordinating scientific endeavors among other facilities or institutions with complementary capabilities. As a result of its continuing study, the committee may modify its definition to reflect other considerations yet to be identified. Characteristics of Successful Smaller Facilities Based on evidence gathered in their site visits and on the committee members' own experiences, it became clear that successful smaller facilities share a number of characteristics. Many of the following characteristics were observed to be key ingredients in the more successful facilities. Successful user facilities generally contained equipment that facilitates both routine and state-of-the- art research, and they incorporated a mix of permanent scientific and technical staff. In some cases, operation of the facility also advanced the technology (instrumentation and/or techniques anchor applications). Open and reasonable access to the user community was commonly provided; successful facilities also focused on sending users back to their home institutions with high-quaTity, useful ciata. Critical self-assessment was common, and a mechanism to take account of feedback from users was important. Successful operation was enabled by stable, Tong-term funcling sourcets), with local institutional support, and it was often enhanced by having an enthusiastic and broad user base, as well as effective and energetic management. Challenges Facing Smaller Facilities The committee has identified a number of issues that can have a significant impact on both the establishment and the operation of a smaller user facility. These issues affect not only the ability of a smaller facility to operate optimally but also such facilities' ability to work in concert. These challenges are summarized briefly here and will be discussed at greater length in the committee's final report as the subject of specific recommendations. Two competing trends are apparent in the materials research enterprise. The capabilities of new instrumentation are advancing at a remarkable rate and they enable and incleect are essential to significant advances in materials research and clevelopment. Both the capital costs and the cost of support and maintenance for these instruments are escalating to the point that individual institutions experience 4
severe difficulty in providing equipment to their user base. It is challenging for smaller facilities to be responsive to both of these trencts. Funding sources for existing facilities are highly diverse, ranging from local to regional to national agencies, as well as the private sector. Cost-sharing for the acquisition of expensive instrumentation is usually a standard requirement, but the amount required seems highly variable. Meeting the imposed cost-sharing obligation often represents a major obstacle for smaller institutions. It is difficult, in light of this variability, to specify the most desirable models or to recommend the best funding practices. However, by providing suitable incentives, it may be possible to encourage institutions to team together as partners, and this action might go a long way toward overcoming what are widely perceived to be serious fun(ling gaps and the loss or denial of opportunities to participate in ground-breaking materials research. Staffing at both technical and scientific levels is a basic requirement for successful facility operation over the Tong term, but the sources of staff funding are diverse and variable. Staff support often depends to a large extent on the financial commitment of the home institution to the facility and on the size of the local user base. Stable and long-term support for staff, allowing a viable and worthwhile career path, is essential. Operation and management practices can have a major impact on whether a facility's users accumulate meaningful and reliable data. Mechanisms for ensuring convenient access to user facility resources for internal, anti especially external, user communities are a major concern. If properly taken into account, user feedback can contribute to maximizing a facility's usefulness, and possibly also assist in extending its lifetime. Facility self-assessment is perceived as a necessity, but some additional mechanism for providing oversight on behalf of the user community also has to be developed. The overall health of the smaller-facility enterprise within the United States couict benefit from a well- establishec! set of policies at the national level regarding management, funding, and goals. There are no clear-cut answers to the need for further instrumentation clevelopment itself within the realm of operations of a user facility. Conversely, novel types of applications are invariably developed, and these should be transmitted in a timely fashion to other facility users. Teaming between scientific institutions and industrial partners is likely to become increasingly mutually beneficial and complex. The nature and extent of partnerships with industry may depend both on the services being renclered and on the scale of the industrial partner. Materials synthesis anchor preparation of samples can be a serious obstacle to research, especially for users obliged to travel elsewhere to utilize smaller facilities. In some cases, making these capabilities available onsite at the user facility location could be helpful. Thus, the most successful institutions or team centers for materials research may need to encompass modern facilities for fabrication, synthesis, characterization, and materials property testing. Smaller facilities often serve a variety of competing purposes. The balance between instrumentation development ant} routine operation, both nationally and in incliviclual facilities, is one example. Likewise, the balance between training students (where equipment breakage is an inevitable part of the learning process) and maintaining a state-of-the-art facility, where only staff and highly trained users are allowed access (to protect the fragile equipment), is another. The balance between these somewhat conflicting goals can affect both the management of and the ability to obtain funding for a facility. A final challenge relates to the perceptions of proposal reviewers, review panels, and the funding agencies when considering requests for instrumentation acquisition. Proposals for "workhorse" instruments for routine characterization are not as well received as those requesting "racehorse" types, yet both types are equally important for the national infrastructure in materials research. Future Plans In abolition to dissemination of this interim report in the spring of 2004, the committee will be conducting a series of town-hall meetings, coinciding with annual meetings of the major related scientific societies (e.g., the March American Physical Society Meeting and the Spring Materials Research Society s
Meeting). The purpose of these open meetings will be to provide opportunities for discussion of this report and to gather feedback from the community. The facility manager and facility user questionnaires will be distributed at both town meetings to solicit responses from the broader community; additionally, the questionnaires are being distributed by committee members to their colleagues and by NRC staff to the targetecI sets of smaller facilities such as the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers ant! the DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers. The committee recognizes the need to engage both facility managers ant! users as well as potential users of future smaller facilities. The committee will then reconvene as a whole late this spring to prepare the craft of its final report. ~ trust that this letter provides you with a sense of where the COSF deliberations are going and look forward to transmitting a full report to you in the second half of 2004. Sincerely yours, Is/ Robert Sinclair, Chair Committee on Smaller Facilities 6