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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
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7

Findings and Recommendations

This chapter summarizes the findings and recommendations discussed throughout this report.

KEY FINDINGS

KEY FINDING 2.1: DMREF’s focus on fundamental science and theoretical-experimental integration in a “bottom-up” framework has produced groundbreaking research on many fronts that has been critical to the progress of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), and work supported by DMREF will continue to be critical to the continued progress of the MGI as the program evolves in the future.

KEY FINDING 6.1: To have impact, advances in computational methods must be made available through codes that can be readily identified and adopted by researchers in the field.

KEY FINDING 6.4: Data (including negative results) should be considered research output on the same footing as physical insights, methods, materials, and processes.

KEY FINDING 6.5: DMREF is uniquely situated to promote the integration of theory, modeling, experimentation, data science, robotics, and other novel directions that may arise in materials research.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

KEY FINDING 6.6: Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence may enable a much faster way to obtain experimental data, thereby further reducing the time for materials optimization consistent with the MGI and DMREF goals.

KEY FINDING 6.10: Scientists at government laboratories typically have a perspective on the MGI that reflects their agencies’ mission; therefore, academic/laboratory partnerships can help academic researchers gain fresh perspective on the fundamental scientific challenges most relevant to the MGI. A recent DMREF program announcement (NSF 21-522) encouraged investigators to partner with groups at the Air Force Research Laboratory, and this led to a significant number of new scientific partnerships. The panel has a favorable view of such activity, and statistics on how these partnerships meet the goals will be interesting to see in the future. However, NSF should not give the impression that such partnerships are required for participation in DMREF, since this could narrow participation to a relatively small subset of the scientific community.

KEY FINDING 6.14: Many mission-oriented agencies conduct deep dives and detailed workshops to identify scientific and technical gaps for various functional areas and also develop roadmaps for these areas, which are valuable for guiding effort in fundamental research.

KEY FINDING 6.15: NSF could amplify the impacts of the DMREF program by easing the transition of successful basic science research to higher technology readiness levels.

KEY FINDING 4.1: The degree to which students are educated about the broader context and goals of MGI and the degree of integration and interdisciplinarity of their training are very uneven among different DMREF projects.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

KEY RECOMMENDATION 4.1: Students, postdoctoral associates, and other junior scientists associated with DMREF projects should develop substantial understanding of all aspects of the project, beyond those aspects that are the primary focus of their work. DMREF should encourage and help principal investigators to develop and implement the interdisciplinary training that this entails.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.1: DMREF should continue to welcome projects that identify and fill gaps in computational approaches to achieve critically needed improvements in breadth, accuracy, and efficiency.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.4: NSF and DMREF should take a leadership role to support the development of a national plan for a platform that creates interoperable systems that allow for comprehensive collection, dissemination, and use of computational and experimental data. Such an effort will also contribute to the global effort toward efficient and effective curation and maintenance of materials science data.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.6: DMREF should continue working toward the goal of integration of theory, modeling, experimentation, and related fields by funding integrated teams and by identifying and encouraging the development of innovative approaches that address the bottlenecks to successful integration.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.7: DMREF should enhance material discovery by revolutionizing experimental approaches to efficiently explore synthesis and processing parameter space through automated and autonomous processes that integrate synthesis, processing, characterization, analysis, and simulation.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.11: DMREF should continue to encourage partnership and collaboration between grantees and researchers in government laboratories to provide diverse perspectives on the fundamental scientific challenges most relevant to the Materials Genome Initiative.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.15: DMREF should engage with mission-oriented agencies to obtain input on identified fundamental science gaps that most critically need to be closed to address the nation’s needs as demonstrated in the Materials Genome Initiative’s national grand challenges.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.16: NSF should create new opportunities for translational funding, potentially through a supplemental mechanism, to provide timely support during DMREF projects that are at the cusp of deployment, with the potential for generating intellectual property or commercial spinoffs. Synergies should be sought, in particular, with the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and others such as the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry program, the Innovation Corps program, and the Partnerships for Innovation program.

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

FINDING 3.1: It appears that only around 10 percent of the DMREF 2021 projects had a strong connection to industry in such a way that the progression of

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

fundamental materials research toward eventual deployment and manufacturing had a clear path.

FINDING 4.2: Within a project team, students find that data sharing and data interpretation strategies are not sufficiently accessible or emphasized in their training, but they are eager to have ways that will enable them to learn more about the overall work being done and how to use the data to draw conclusions about the work.

FINDING 4.3: There is a lack of student training with respect to courses that create awareness of the field from various angles, and many students felt unprepared to understand the other side of the effort (e.g., an experimentalist not understanding the terminology used by modelers and vice versa) and thus less able to contribute deeply and broadly to the project.

FINDING 4.4: Culture and training are effective with respect to being focused within a specific discipline in which a student is enrolled but uneven with respect to the amount of foundational knowledge that a student requires to be able to contribute deeply and broadly to the discipline, while on the project and beyond.

FINDING 4.5: It was difficult to determine how much broadening participation efforts resulted in increasing diversity of students in the DMREF groups. The National Science Board Vision 2030 has shown how large the gap is with regard to the number of women and underrepresented minorities in the workforce. It states that the number of women will need to double while the number of underrepresented minorities will need to more than double in order for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce to resemble that of U.S. demographics.

FINDING 5.1: The review of international efforts responding to the goals of the MGI includes many that support research similar to projects supported by DMREF, though their organization is generally quite different. The differences in organization seem to reflect differences in different countries’ systems for funding research, not judgments about the effectiveness of different funding modes.

FINDING 6.2: The research supported by DMREF is heavily reliant on cutting-edge high-performance computing infrastructure. While the United States remains a leading player in high-performance computing, in the past two decades Asia and Europe closed the gap and consistently claim the top spots in the rankings of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Access to appropriate high-performance computing resources for DMREF research is becoming increasingly challenging as the materials research community expands.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

FINDING 6.3: A focused effort to create a complete resource for experimental and computational data would be of great value to the materials community.

FINDING 6.7: The volume of data from some materials experiments constrains the important effort that should be devoted to curation, deep analysis, and scientific discovery from these large data sets.

FINDING 6.8: It is unclear whether collaborations among DMREF recipients are encouraged.

FINDING 6.9: Individual recipients of DMREF grants are not generally aware enough of the resources available to them within NSF.

FINDING 6.11: At present, not all university or academic researchers are aware that they can access these advanced capabilities and furthermore at essentially no cost. NSF should encourage all DMREF projects to explore the tools and capabilities at these national user facilities and include plans for potential use of these facilities.

FINDING 6.12: There is a need in the materials community to establish and sustain data repositories, as well as facilitate the integration of distributed tools and platforms that generate data in federated systems.

FINDING 6.13: There is a need for the materials community to create methods, procedures, and a culture that values the curation of data that are interoperable and reusable, and formally acknowledges and rewards the generators of data.

FINDING 6.16: There are large variations in how much the participating students know about the DMREF program.

FINDING 6.17: The DMREF program provides excellent opportunities for budding scientists to be trained at the intersection of theory, simulation, experimentation, and data science. However, there is a range to which the trainees are exposed to integration of these disciplines and the concepts of the MGI.

FINDING 6.18: DMREF has fully or partially funded more than 250 research programs across the United States to date, which provide valuable insights into how an interdisciplinary team works effectively or ineffectively. This provides an opportunity for NSF to examine what makes a midscale scientific research team successful; one such study has already been performed.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

FINDING 6.19: The DMREF effort would benefit from further training of future computational materials scientists and engineers as interdisciplinary researchers.

FINDING 6.20: There are a number of initiatives across the world. It is important to coordinate among various initiatives to align on best practices/approaches, and learnings and to collaborate for data infrastructure, data/metadata standards, formats, and ontologies. Otherwise, there is a risk of reinvention of the wheel and having a patchwork of inconsistent approaches that hinder effective interfacing between the diversity of archives and tools.

FINDING 6.21: There may be opportunities to share learnings, capabilities, and training via international initiatives. It may also be possible to discover new connections and synergies with a broader ecosystem of industrial partners, start-ups, and incubators within the global network to find pathways for progressing fundamental materials research toward deployment and manufacturing.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS

RECOMMENDATION 3.1: The DMREF program needs to find pathways to substantially increase collaboration and participation with industry. The DMREF program should also consider pathways to increase academia’s awareness and training in project management and implementation strategies.

RECOMMENDATION 3.2: The DMREF program should consider the following steps to improve commercialization potential:

  • Setting targets for a specific percentage of projects in the DMREF portfolio that receive commercialization support from programs such as Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry, Innovation Corps, and Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers;
  • Soliciting advisors from U.S. companies that design, develop, and manufacture products to represent a portion of the reviews for DMREF proposals;
  • Staffing a commercialization director for the program to ensure intellectual property gets filed and technology transfer functions at funded universities are effective;
  • Holding project review sessions specifically for industry to get a snapshot of what is being developed;
  • Keeping a compilation of filed patents, and following licensing activities, to monitor technology transition to commercial products; and
  • Developing a post-DMREF effort that provides support for working with industry on promising DMREF outcomes, including testing at production scale.
Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

RECOMMENDATION 4.2: Faculty leading DMREF projects, or involved in DMREF, should consider course offerings for students that provide them with the breadth of training needed to gain the foundational knowledge required. NSF should consider providing funding opportunities for design of new types of courses or new ways of educating students in such interdisciplinary projects where they can receive the foundational knowledge that is needed.

RECOMMENDATION 4.3: A DMREF student team award should be established by DMREF leadership to reward the skills development espoused by the program.

RECOMMENDATION 4.4: Information on demographics of student and postdoctoral researcher teams needs to be made available to the materials community. This should include statistics on gender, underrepresented minority status, disability status, and geographic distribution, among several others, and if possible, subsequent career paths of students and other junior researchers.

RECOMMENDATION 4.5: To broaden the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in DMREF programs, principal investigators are encouraged to engage minority-serving institutions (including Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in meaningful and productive collaborations that are mutually engaging and scientifically beneficial.

RECOMMENDATION 6.2: The Materials Genome Initiative and DMREF initiatives should continue to promote and accelerate a culture of reproducibility of computational procedures, shareable and reusable workflows, and interoperability among software tools.

RECOMMENDATION 6.3: For the United States to maintain its competitiveness and leadership in materials research, NSF should continue to innovate and expand U.S. high-performance computing infrastructures, including those based on next-generation computing platforms and those designed for material simulations.

RECOMMENDATION 6.5: The DMREF website should provide web links to all of the disparate databases where DMREF principal investigators store data and include descriptions of the database content.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

RECOMMENDATION 6.8: DMREF should incentivize the deposition and curation of experimental data on synthesis, processing, and characterization of materials, and consider addressing scientific issues limiting the integration of heterogeneous data from diverse experimental and modeling sources, including uncertainty quantification, error propagation, verification and validation, and methods to create trust in the data set for subsequent engineering decisions.

RECOMMENDATION 6.9: The DMREF program should more actively encourage inter-team collaboration among the DMREF grantees; this should be communicated more clearly to the grantees and proposers, including by continuing to develop, disseminate, and promote information, resources, and connectivities via dmref.org and other online team management tools.

RECOMMENDATION 6.10: The DMREF program should do more to help DMREF grantees find resources available through other NSF programs. Improvements to the DMREF website could be a mechanism toward achieving this goal.

RECOMMENDATION 6.12: NSF should encourage all DMREF projects to explore the tools and capabilities at national user facilities and include plans for potential use of these facilities.

RECOMMENDATION 6.13: DMREF should coordinate with other NSF programs and U.S. funding agencies to develop a long-term plan for software infrastructure for materials simulations that will underpin the next generation of DMREF research.

RECOMMENDATION 6.14: DMREF should coordinate with other NSF programs and U.S. funding agencies to develop policies for handling data and a long-term plan for materials data infrastructure that will underpin the next generation of DMREF research.

RECOMMENDATION 6.17: The DMREF program should collaborate with industry-oriented programs (e.g., the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs) to develop calls that specifically address needs of the DMREF community and may be addressed by industry.

RECOMMENDATION 6.18: The DMREF program should encourage DMREF principal investigators to take advantage of supplementary funding (e.g., through programs such as INTERN) to enable students to conduct internships at relevant industrial or government laboratories as a formal part of the training program.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

RECOMMENDATION 6.19: To increase the depth to which researchers are trained in all aspects of the Materials Genome Initiative, the DMREF program could provide guidance about how junior scientists can be given cross-disciplinary experiences.

RECOMMENDATION 6.20: In order to help principal investigators provide students and postdoctoral researchers with a background on best practices in Materials Genome Initiative research, the DMREF program could consider facilitating the creation of a webinar series, a workshop, or training material targeted at this group.

RECOMMENDATION 6.21: NSF should consider supporting the development of infrastructure for effective collaboration (e.g., an electronic laboratory notebook platform that also serves as a collaboration platform, as well as data sharing), if a lack of infrastructure is identified. Such technology should not only enable effective communication between team members but also reduce the barrier in practicing the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) principles in data curation to optimize the output of collaborative science.

RECOMMENDATION 6.22: The DMREF effort should also include the training of future computational materials scientists and engineers as interdisciplinary researchers possessing both domain knowledge and familiarity with modern high-performance computing and computer science techniques.

RECOMMENDATION 6.23: This field is ripe for the emergence of an “International Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) Summit” to be held every few years, where researchers from all countries and diverse types of organizations can share their coordination efforts on the goals of the MGI and their visions concerning roadblocks and opportunities. NSF is encouraged to cooperate with other U.S. agencies to help create such a forum.

RECOMMENDATION 6.24: The DMREF program and the principal investigators should increase collaborations with global partners.

RECOMMENDATION 6.25: The DMREF leadership should explore opportunities for targeted funding schemes to enable collaboration and coordination efforts between DMREF and global initiatives.

Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Findings and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) was launched in 2011 by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to help accelerate the design, discovery, development and deployment of advanced materials and to reduce costs through the integration of advanced computation and data management with experimental synthesis and characterization. A broad range of federal agencies - including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense - are part of the MGI effort and have invested more than $1 billion in resources and infrastructure accumulative since the start.

The efforts of NSF have been focused largely within the Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF) program, which supports the development of fundamental science, computational and experimental tools for generating and managing data, and workforce that enable industry and other government agencies to develop and deploy materials that meet societal needs and national priorities. At the request of NSF, this report evaluates the goals, progress, and scientific accomplishments of the DMREF program within the context of similar efforts both within the United States and abroad. The recommendations of this report will assist NSF as it continues to increase its engagement with industry and federal agencies to transition the results from fundamental science efforts to reach the MGI goal of deploying advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost that meet national priorities.

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