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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 4 Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 PANEL MEMBERS Arlene A.Garrison, University of Tennessee, Chair James W.Serum, Viaken Systems, Inc., Vice Chair Thomas M.Baer, Arcturus Engineering, Inc. Douglas C.Cameron, Cargill, Inc. Alan Campion, University of Texas at Austin Robert E.Ellefson, Inficon, Inc. Walter W.Henslee, The Dow Chemical Company E.William Kaiser, Ford Motor Company R.Kenneth Marcus, Clemson University James D.Olson, The Dow Chemical Company Athanassios Z.Panagiotopoulos, Princeton University Frank K.Schweighardt, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. Gary S.Selwyn, Los Alamos National Laboratory Michael L.Shuler, Cornell University Christine S.Sloane, General Motors Corporation Anne L.Testoni, KLA-Tencor Corporation Edward S.Yeung, Iowa State University Submitted for the panel by its Chair, Arlene A.Garrison, and its Vice Chair, James W.Serum, this assessment of the fiscal year 2001 activities of the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory is based on site visits by individual panel members, a formal meeting of the panel on February 20–21, 2001, in Gaithersburg, Md., and documents provided by the laboratory.1 1 U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory: Annual Report FY2000, NISTIR 6716, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., February 2001.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 LABORATORY-LEVEL REVIEW Technical Merit According to laboratory documentation, the mission of the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (CSTL) is to provide the chemical measurement infrastructure to enhance U.S. industry’s productivity and competitiveness, assure equity in trade, and improve public health, safety, and environmental quality. The activities of the CSTL support this mission and are consistent with the NIST mission to strengthen the U.S. economy and improve the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. The panel finds that the diverse array of projects under way in the laboratory successfully impacts a variety of industries. The high-quality technical work done by NIST staff also plays a vital role in the international metrology community. Finally, particularly through its work on health care and environmental standards, the laboratory is improving the lives of the American public. In all of these areas, the laboratory is careful to concentrate on aspects of industrial, international, or public problems that specifically relate to measurements and standards technologies. With this focus, the laboratory can be assured that it is using the unique expertise and capabilities available at NIST to perform research and provide products that no other organization can. Management is aware of the importance of channeling the laboratory’s scarce resources into areas in which NIST activities can have a unique and optimal impact, and this objective is reflected in strong strategic planning and project selection and evaluation processes. The panel compliments the laboratory on its work in this area. Evidence of good refocusing and reprogramming was observed (e.g., within the Surface Dynamical Processes Group), with a healthy number of programs beginning and ending. This past year, the laboratory identified nine strategic directions to guide the divisions in selecting new program areas and developing new competencies. These areas and competencies include nanotechnology, health-care standards, and data and informatics. The technical merit of the programs under way in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory continues to be excellent. The primary reason for the high caliber of the work at NIST is the impressive collection of staff. These people receive a large number of awards from external organizations as well as from organizations within the federal government; examples include the W.J.Youden Award of the American Statistical Association and the NOAA Environmental Hero Award. They also hold responsible positions in professional societies, on editorial boards, and in standards and trade organizations. In many scientific communities and industries, CSTL and its staff are the primary resource for accurate and useful technical information on relevant measurements and standards. The panel applauds the laboratory for playing a critical role in providing the underpinnings of current industrial practices and for supporting the research that is needed to achieve the technological advances that will allow U.S. companies to continue to participate in and lead the global economy. The Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory is organized into five divisions: Biotechnology, Process Measurements, Surface and Microanalysis Science, Physical and Chemical Properties, and Analytical Chemistry (see Figure 4.1). Later sections in the chapter detail the panel’s assessment of the goals, technical accomplishments, and impact of the individual divisions. Staff are physically located at a number of sites: about half of the Physical and Chemical Properties Division is in Boulder, the Analytical Chemistry and Biotechnology Divisions is in the new Advanced Chemical Sciences Laboratory in Gaithersburg, a small group from the Analytical Chemistry Division is in the NIST neutron reactor facility, and the remainder of the staff is in the old Chemistry, Physics, and Metrology buildings
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 FIGURE 4.1 Organizational structure of the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory. Listed under each division are the division’s groups. in the center of the Gaithersburg campus. While all of these placements are a logical consequence of efforts to meet the facilities needs of individual programs, the resulting geographical scattering of personnel is a significant challenge for laboratory and division management. It is important to maintain a sense of unity and cohesion among the laboratory staff, both to keep up morale and to foster the informal relationships that often lead to the most fruitful scientific collaborations. The panel encourages CSTL managers to consider mechanisms to facilitate informal cross-group, cross-division, and cross-building communications and to build awareness across the laboratory of what projects and capabilities exist at NIST and what NIST and laboratory-wide goals are. One of the important elements of laboratory programs across all of the divisions is an emphasis on international activities. To fulfill the mission of enhancing U.S. industrial competitiveness in light of the globalization of markets and companies, CSTL staff must be aware of and active in measurement and standards discussions throughout the world. The panel applauds the laboratory for its proactive and vigorous efforts in this arena. These efforts ensure that the staff remain knowledgeable about any technical developments related to metrology occurring in the international community and give NIST a chance to demonstrate the technical quality of American standards and measurement methods so that international standards organizations will recognize and include these approaches in any global regulations. The European Union has recently passed directives stating that, in the future, products sold in European markets must be manufactured or tested in ways traceable to “standards of the highest order,” for example, internationally recognized certified reference materials (CRMs). The first products for
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 which these requirements will be enforced (in 2003) are in vitro diagnostic devices, and CSTL staff are working with the U.S. makers of these devices to put the necessary standards in place. They are also moving proactively to develop CRMs in a number of other areas to support U.S. industry’s effort to freely access global markets. CSTL is also considering an initiative in the area of genetically modified organisms (GMOs); establishing cooperative agreements with relevant U.S. and European organizations and developing SRMs and measurement methods in this field would certainly have global implications. The work on CRMs and the GMOs proposal are just two of the many CSTL efforts in the global standards arena. Others include serving on international standards committees, leading intercomparisons among national measurement institutes, and developing new measurement techniques and methodologies that are adopted by organizations worldwide. These efforts all require a significant financial investment from the laboratory, particularly for staff time and travel expenses. However, the laboratory’s international activities are a vital component of its support of the U.S. economy and cannot be neglected. Program Relevance and Effectiveness The panel is pleased by the strong focus on industrial needs and processes in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory. The industrial sectors impacted by the laboratory’s work include semiconductors, biotechnology, health care, and chemical processing among others. There are also a number of government agencies that are well served by the activities of the laboratory, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NIJ, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Specific examples of how laboratory programs affect customers are outlined in the assessments of the individual divisions. The Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory effectively disseminates information about its results, products, and services to a diverse audience in industry, government, and academia. Some sense of the laboratory’s reach can be gained from the numbers of products sold in the past years: over 18,000 reference materials and over 4300 standard reference databases. Staff produced 604 publications, gave 761 presentations, and filled 504 slots on committees. All of these outputs have been and continue to be important elements of the laboratory’s dissemination strategy, and the panel recognizes the continuing value of staff efforts in these dissemination activities. In addition to these traditional mechanisms for dissemination, there is also the World Wide Web. The Internet is now the primary means of interaction between the CSTL and its customers from industry and academic institutions. The laboratory’s Web site has been greatly improved since last year’s assessment, but the panel believes that there is room for further improvement, particularly on the divisional Web sites. The panel notes that although the Web certainly can greatly increase the number of people who have access to information about NIST, an effective Web site is not easy to design or maintain. Resources may need to be reallocated to support this effort and to produce a site that meets customer expectations that NIST will provide them with accurate and timely information. One issue is usability for these external groups—that is, the ease with which NIST’s customers can find relevant information. Other issues are internal. Policies and procedures related to Web posting need to be more clearly communicated to the staff. Questions include the following: What are the rules about reviewing information before it is posted? Who is responsible for reviewing posted materials and keeping information and data up to date? How are decisions made about whether fees can or should be charged for access to data? The panel was pleased to hear that the question of charging for data is considered periodically, because the technology for cost recovery for Web-accessible databases is constantly changing, as are CSTL products and the needs of its customers. A major recent improvement in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory’s Web site is that a list of the technical areas in which the laboratory is working is now provided at the top of the main
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 laboratory Web page (<http://www.cstl.nist.gov/>). These areas are Chemical Characterization of Materials, Process Metrology, Chemical and Biochemical Sensing, Nanotechnology, Healthcare Measurements, Environmental Measurements, Microelectronics, Physical Property Data, Chemical and Biochemical Data, Bio-Molecules and Materials, DNA Technologies, and International Measurement Standards. Clicking on any of these areas leads the user to a pdf document with descriptions of and staff for all laboratory projects relevant to that area. Projects with a variety of applications are listed under multiple areas. This approach is echoed in the annual publication describing the laboratory’s recent achievements.2 The panel believes that organizing the public descriptions of laboratory projects in this manner has several possible benefits. The primary expectation is that the thematic groupings will make it easier for companies and other organizations outside NIST to determine which laboratory programs are relevant to their needs and concerns and to find the right people to approach with questions about current activities or requests for new projects. Another possible advantage is that the cross-divisional listing will help laboratory management and staff recognize areas of potential synergy or opportunities for new collaborative efforts. Laboratory Resources Funding sources for the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory are shown in Table 4.1. As of January 2001, staffing for the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory included 264 full-time permanent positions, of which 203 were for technical professionals. There were also 106 nonpermanent or supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and temporary or part-time workers. This year, the panel is particularly concerned about a number of issues related to staffing in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory. The total number of full-time permanent staff has been decreasing, and the panel observed several areas in which key projects had only a single staff member with the skills and experience to support the work. These cases render the laboratory vulnerable; cross-training of laboratory personnel is necessary to ensure continuity of basic laboratory activities. In other areas, staffing is below critical mass, and progress on important existing programs (such as work in atmospheric chemistry) and new projects (such as the initiative on measurements and standards related to genetically modified organisms) is being impeded. Finally, throughout the laboratory, the number of support staff has declined. The panel notes that the lack of technicians reduces the productivity of professional personnel, who are distracted from their project work by the need to perform routine maintenance on equipment. There are also very few Web programmers, and a great deal of Web-site design and maintenance is done by the technical staff, when they have time. Hiring people with specialized expertise in this area may help address some of the Web-related issues noted above by the panel, such as improving the usability of the sites and the timeliness of updates. The tight staffing situation is in part a result of relatively flat budgets within the CSTL, but it also reflects a strong economy and a competitive job market, particularly in areas like biotechnology. However, turnover among permanent laboratory staff has been low, and panel members observed high morale in all of the divisions. Therefore, the primary concern of the panel was how CSTL will refresh the staff—that is, attract new young personnel who will support the NIST work on meeting the future measurement needs of industry. National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral research associates 2 U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory: Technical Accomplishments FY2000, NISTIR 6716, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., February 2001.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 TABLE 4.1 Sources of Funding for the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (in millions of dollars), FY 1998 to FY 2001 Source of Funding Fiscal Year 1998 (actual) Fiscal Year 1999 (actual) Fiscal Year 2000 (actual) Fiscal Year 2001 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 37.8 37.9 37.7 36.7 Competence 2.0 2.4 2.4 2.1 ATP Measurement Services (SRM production) 2.3 2.4 2.2 1.7 OA/NFG/CRADA 9.6 10.9 14.2 14.3 Other Reimbursable 3.0 3.4 3.4 5.2 Total 57.7 60.0 63.2 63.0 Full-time permanent staff (total)a 280 276 275 264 NOTE: Funding for the NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories comes from a variety of sources. The laboratories receive appropriations from Congress, known as Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding. Competence funding also comes from NIST’s congressional appropriations but is allocated by the NIST director’s office in multiyear grants for projects that advance NIST’s capabilities in new and emerging areas of measurement science. Advanced Technology Program (ATP) funding reflects support from NIST’s ATP for work done at the NIST laboratories in collaboration with or in support of ATP projects. Funding to support production of Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) is tied to the use of such products and is classified as Measurement Services. NIST laboratories also receive funding through grants or contracts from other government agencies (OA), from nonfederal government (NFG) agencies, and from industry in the form of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). All other laboratory funding, including that for Calibration Services, is grouped under “Other Reimbursable.” aThe number of full-time permanent staff is as of January of that fiscal year. serving at NIST have always been good candidates for potential permanent staff positions, but the panel is concerned that the laboratory might be having trouble recruiting talented members of this group to join the staff. While this is probably a result of tight budgets and more lucrative offers from other institutions, the panel expects laboratory management to track this issue closely. Another element of laboratory programs that perhaps is being affected by the tight budgets and staffing limitations is the balance between projects with short-term goals and those with longer time scales and more basic research objectives. Both types are necessary to support the current and future measurement and standards needs of NIST’s customers, and the panel is generally pleased with the mix observed in the divisions. However, decisions about relative emphasis should be made strategically, and several cases were observed where pressures on divisional resources were tipping the balance toward shorter-term work in spite of plans for a more even balance. One case is in the Analytical Chemistry Division, where the production and certification of standard reference materials is a major responsibility and that occasionally becomes a significant burden. Another case is in the Biotechnology Division (and elsewhere), where the need to supplement internal funding (STRS monies) with funding from other sources (e.g., other governmental agencies or the NIST ATP) impedes the ability to make long-term hiring or programmatic plans, as external support is often reawarded year to year and can be delayed by processing.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 The panel is very pleased to report that CSTL facilities have undergone major improvements. In Boulder, Physical and Chemical Properties Division staff located in rapidly deteriorating Building 3 were moved into much better space in a facility recently vacated by other Department of Commerce personnel. In Gaithersburg, there were major renovations to the work space of some groups in the Surface and Microanalysis Science Division. These two positive steps toward providing laboratory staff with the environments they need to continue to perform measurements and standards activities at worldclass levels build on the occupation of the new Advanced Chemical Sciences Laboratory in 1999 and hopefully will be capped by the completion of the planned Advanced Measurement Laboratory, which is under construction now and due to be finished in 2004. This state-of-the-art building should address the remaining facility issues impeding work in the CSTL. DIVISIONAL REVIEWS Biotechnology Division Technical Merit According to division documentation, the mission of the Biotechnology Division is to provide the measurement science infrastructure necessary to advance the commercialization of biotechnology by developing the scientific and engineering technical base, reliable measurements, standards, data, and models to enable U.S. industry to quickly and economically produce biochemical products with appropriate quality control. The Biotechnology Division has four groups: DNA Technologies, Bioprocess Engineering, Biomolecular Materials, and Structural Biology (the last-mentioned forms the NIST segment of the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology [CARB], a cooperative venture with the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute). The division also has a new effort in bioinformatics. The ongoing programs are appropriately aligned with the division mission, and the scientific work carried out in this division is of high quality and comparable to that at research-oriented universities and in leading industrial laboratories. The challenge for NIST will be selecting the projects that are most critical and that will have the greatest impact on this rapidly growing and changing field. The DNA Technologies Group continues to develop the intellectual and technical base necessary to support and expand NIST’s critical role in supplying DNA-related SRMs that are used for human identity testing and forensics, for DNA diagnostics, and for measuring DNA damage. The efforts in human identification, in collaboration with and supported by NIJ, are clearly world-class. They have yielded SRMs that are widely used, and staff have developed and continue to maintain a popular database on short tandem repeats (STRS).3 Areas in which excellent progress has been made in the past year include the effort to develop higher throughput and more accurate techniques for examining Y chromosome variation; the project on mitochrondrial DNA sequencing, which issued a new SRM in fiscal year 2000; and the development of a heteroplasmic mitochrondrial DNA SRM for detection of heteroplasmy and low-frequency mutation. NIST has been funded as a biomarker assay validation site for the National Cancer Institute program Early Detection Research Network. Here, the division’s work on chromosome and biomarker validation 3 The NIST Short Tandem Repeat DNA Internet DataBase is available online at <http://www.cstl.nist.gov/biotech/strbase/>.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 focuses on measurement technologies that use quantitation of chromosomal breakage as a cancer susceptibility test. This work is in the forefront of DNA diagnostics. Similarly, NIST has made significant investments in understanding the effects of oxidative stress on aging DNA, an area in which there are no accurate measurement technologies and standards. Related projects focus on methods to determine the extent and type of DNA damage and on studying mechanisms for DNA repair. To enable accurate measurements, the division is preparing SRM 2396, which consists of 12 stable, isotope-labeled DNA bases; this SRM will allow researchers to use gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry techniques to study damage and repair of oxidatively stressed DNA. In the area of tissue engineering, the panel commends the Biotechnology Division for correctly recognizing that tissue characterization methods are needed to ensure that tissue-engineered materials are free of mutations and modifications and for focusing on the identification and development of biomarkers, standards, and measurement technologies that will ensure the safety and viability of such materials. This issue is very important to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and to industry and is large and complex, but the panel is pleased to note that the Biotechnology Division is carefully targeting its limited resources at specific facets of the problem where its contributions can have the most impact. Given the complexity of the issues, it is extremely important that NIST and FDA efforts be coordinated. The panel was concerned that there did not appear to be any active collaborations with the FDA at this time, but an April meeting between staff from the two institutions may lay the groundwork for a formal agreement that identifies the areas of complementary interest and prevents duplication of effort. The Bioprocess Engineering Group has had significant successes and is in a transitional period as it refocuses its efforts. Although the work on preparative bioseparations has been productive and staff continue to contribute in the area of DNA separations, the number of personnel on this project is now below the critical level. In biospectroscopy, the panel was impressed by the developmental work on a particle-fluorophore SRM for flow cytometry and genomic microarrays. Current microarray technology is, at best, only semiquantitative, so efforts to increase the rigor and quantitative reliability of microarrays would have a significant and broad impact on research in biotechnology and genomics. In biothermodynamics, the staff have put together a Standard Reference Database (SRD) for thermodynamics of enzyme-catalyzed reactions.4 This database is important for industrial users and has the potential to augment emerging genomic databases with relevant kinetic/thermodynamic information. Some of the users will be biologists with limited math/physics background, and the panel suggests that NIST could make the database more accessible by developing sample problems that demonstrate how the database is used. For example, the development of an updated table such as Table 15 (“Gibbs free energies of formation from the elements for compounds of biological interest”) in the classic microbial energetics article by Thauer et al. would be useful.5 In the biothermodynamics area, the experiences of staff in the Physical and Chemical Properties may be relevant, and if coordination is not already occurring, perhaps more interaction would be useful. In biocatalytic systems, a recent accomplishment is the synthesis of a highly integrated approach to understanding and characterizing biotransformation in the chorismate pathway. This pathway is of commercial interest, and NIST’s use of a combination of techniques to simultaneously probe the structure and the thermodynamics of the enzymatic transformations is unique. Over the course of this work, 4 The Thermodynamics of Enzyme-Catalyzed Reactions database (NIST SRD 74) is available online at <http://wwwbmcd.nist.gov:8080/enzyme/enzyme.html>. 5 R.K.Thauer, K.Jungermann, and K.Decker, Energy Conservation in Chemotrophic Anaerobic Bacteria, Bacteriology Review 41(1):100–180 (1977).
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 expertise from CARB was integrated into this project in support of the goals of the Bioprocess Engineering Group. The panel was impressed by the array of skills developed during this work, and the ability to do an integrated analysis of a metabolic pathway is quite remarkable. The panel believes that this project has been very productive and is nearing completion. The next challenge will be determining how the group can exploit the knowledge and expertise developed in the chorismate pathway work; this will be difficult in part because it is unclear if staff with the relevant computational and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) capabilities will continue to be available. In biocatalytic systems, staff also plan to develop an initiative on GMOs. This work would focus on SRM and measurement methods development, and the panel believes that such an effort is timely and completely consistent with the NIST mission. Initial work in this area is progressing well, but staffing levels are below critical mass and are impeding progress. The work under way in the Biomolecular Materials Group is quite futuristic in nature. It is not as directly connected to customers as work in other groups, and many of the potential applications are years away; however, the panel found the projects scientifically exciting and potentially relevant to a number of NIST programs. For example, the work on nanopores and nanotechnology could contribute to bioMEMS and to techniques for sequencing DNA molecules and could serve as a tool for biosensors. Also, the work on biomimetic membranes is clearly relevant to efforts to understand basic biomolecular assemblies, especially those involving lipid-protein interactions, and it has the potential to serve as a basis for drug screening assays (although this application remains to be validated). Eventually the expertise gained on how to modify and characterize biointerfaces should be useful in the Biotechnology Division’s work on tissue engineering. The Structural Biology Group forms the NIST component of CARB, a joint undertaking with the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. CARB focuses on advanced studies in structural and theoretical molecular biology and seeks to foster the local and national biotechnology industry. Its work is highly complementary to the division’s efforts on the PDB, which are built upon the NIST expertise in structural biology. The panel found that the quality of the science done at CARB is high, as evidenced by several external awards received by staff in recent years. The nature of the work is generally consistent with the NIST mission, although the presence of a university partner changes the environment somewhat. For example, NIST staff at CARB have more responsibility for student training than other NIST personnel and have easier access to funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Bioinformatics program is a new effort with several initiatives. The most visible and currently most important is responsibility for NIST’s role in the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics, which includes work on software and database support for the Protein Data Bank (PDB).6 The division’s work in this area is a key element of a national resource that will become even more important as the medical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries, like academia already, grow increasingly dependent on structural bioinformatics to make the advances and breakthroughs these industries are built on. In its support of the PDB, NIST is well situated to handle the critical issues related to uniformity, data standards, value addition through the compilation of synonyms and citations, and integration of the PDB with data from the international research community. The panel believes that Biotechnology Division staff in this area are discharging their duties with the highest level of scientific rigor. The panel supports the group’s newer initiatives, including the development of specialized databases, such as for HIV proteases, and the development of an application program interface 6 The Protein Data Bank is available online at <http://www.pdb.org>.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 (API) for NMR/x-ray data. This API will be an important tool for protecting underlying data from the constant format changes associated with the evolution of electronic media. Program Relevance and Effectiveness The Biotechnology Division reaches out to its many customers in a variety of ways. Hosting and attending workshops with a targeted list of invitees has proven particularly effective. Staff also interact extensively with individual organizations, including other NIST units, companies, university researchers, and other government agencies. These efforts have been effective, but given the large number (at least several thousand) of biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, and medical device companies, it is unrealistic to expect the staff in this division to be able to make every potentially fruitful connection. The number and variety of potential customers also complicate efforts to disseminate information on NIST results and products, but the division has done what it can in these circumstances, including publishing scientific articles and posting information on the Web. The Protein Data Bank is an obvious example of this last mechanism, but other divisional databases are online, and the DNA Technologies Group has made particularly good use of this approach. The fine record of publication by division staff indicates that NIST is maintaining its commitment to the scientific community, as well as to industry, which is appropriate, given the relevance of basic research to the nurturing of start-up companies in this field. In general, the panel believes that the Biotechnology Division has done a good job of putting together a set of programs that are directed at meeting current customer needs or laying the groundwork for meeting probable future needs. Current and past projects have impacted a number of industries and research communities. One area in which the effects of NIST work are immediate and obvious is the program with the NIJ on standards and methods for human identification; the division’s results are instantly put to use in the forensics community and can be seen to be having a critical impact on society as a whole. Below the panel discusses other areas in which divisional programs are relevant to and affecting NIST’s customers. One main field targeted by the Biotechnology Division is genomics and proteomics, which will be a key driver of life-sciences-based technologies over the next several decades. The DNA Technologies Group has done an excellent job of developing programs that deal with important aspects of this field (e.g., human identification, biomarkers and STRs, and mitochrondrial DNA). However, there are many global problems, like technologies for genome-level sequencing, mRNA expression, and proteomics, that remain largely unexplored. When scientists begin to use emerging techniques in these areas, significant issues about data quality and reliability will arise, and tackling these sorts of data-related issues would be consistent with NIST’s mission and suited to the expertise in this division. For example, the Bioprocess Engineering Group has already developed fluorescence standards that can be applied to mRNA arrays. In general, division and laboratory management need to closely monitor developments in the genomics area to allow identification of other opportunities where it is possible for NIST programs to make a difference. Another NIST program that contributes to general research in genomics is the PDB. This database, which incorporates structures from researchers all over the world, is of ever-increasing importance to the world’s scientific community and is a resource for academic, government, and industry researchers. Staff in this area maintain close ties with the relevant customers through a formal advisory board, an electronic user information line, regular participation in workshops, and involvement in the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics. The Bioinformatics Group appears to be very responsive to input from customers and highly committed to providing the best possible services for its user community. In another high-profile area, scientific results related to GMOs are sought after by industry and
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 already in Building 2 are adequate, and space is presently under renovation in Building 1 to meet the needs of data entry personnel in the TRC. In Gaithersburg, staff appear to be generally satisfied with their physical facilities, although the panel continues to be concerned. In some laboratories, air cleanliness, dust control, and air filtration are still insufficient; the quality, capacity, and reliability of the power supply are still problematic; and the exhaust and ventilation systems are still inadequate. While the current quality of the Gaithersburg facilities is generally comparable to that available at research universities, these deficiencies will eventually interfere with the division’s ability to perform the type of high-precision experiments that are needed to supply industrial and academic researchers with the accurate, high-quality data that are the hallmark of this division. In terms of capital equipment, no funding issues appear to be limiting the initiatives undertaken by division scientists in Gaithersburg or Boulder. In fact, some of the apparatus in the division is not even available in industrial laboratories. Analytical Chemistry Division Technical Merit According to division documentation, the mission of the Analytical Chemistry Division is to serve as the nation’s reference laboratory for chemical measurements and standards to enhance U.S. industry’s productivity and competitiveness, assure equity in trade, and provide quality assurance for chemical measurements used for assessing and improving public health, safety, and the environment. The panel determined that the activities of the Analytical Chemistry Division are well managed and that the division’s work serves the fundamental role of maintaining U.S. reference standards and standard methodology for analytical chemistry. The ongoing projects fulfill the NIST goal of making a unique contribution commercially and technically, and the panel believes that the division’s programs play a critical role in defining the nation’s measurement infrastructure. For example, last year the division staff certified roughly 18,000 of the more than 34,000 SRMs generated and sold by NIST. These standards touch products in nearly every sector of commerce in the United States, and the measurement infrastructure based on the standards of the Analytical Chemistry Division plays a significant role in supporting the industries that sustain the U.S. economy. Other important elements of the division’s work include helping to ensure regulatory compliance for EPA and the FDA by providing reference materials relevant to health and safety and transferring technical expertise in measurement technologies within and outside the United States. The division uses metrology workshops to train staff of national measurement institutes from countries throughout the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa. Measurement methods and experiences are also disseminated via division staff’s participation on scientific committees; in fiscal year 2000, division personnel filled 121 committee assignments. The international stature of the division was confirmed in a September 2000 report describing the evaluation of the division by an international peer review committee.14 This group, chaired by the president of the CIPM Consultative Committee for the Amount of Substance (CCQM), found that the division conducts “excellent and well-documented work and delivers adequate services to industry and society.” 14 The international peer review of the Analytical Chemistry Division was conducted by a panel that met October 25–28, 1999, at the NIST site in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The panel included nine members from national measurement institutes around the world. The panel’s report was based on this visit and was issued in September 2000. Copies may be obtained from the NIST Analytical Chemistry Division.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 The primary challenge facing the division in fulfillment of its mission is how to distribute time, effort, and resources among developing new measurement technologies, supplying current SRMs, and assessing the need for maintaining or improving existing SRMs. Work in the first category results in the development of more precise and accurate measurement technologies that allow staff to identify and prepare SRMs previously thought impossible to prepare and to improve the shelf life and accuracy of existing standards. These investigative projects are crucial if the division is to maintain the reputation and quality of the NIST portfolio of standards. Another facet of the division’s activities that competes for staff time and division resources is its growing international responsibilities. Interactions among national measurement institutes and the policies of international standards organizations have become critical components in the global economy, and Analytical Chemistry Division staff have crucial roles to play in leading international intercomparisons and serving on standards committees. The panel is pleased to note that division management has both a strategic plan to guide decisions about which topics to focus on and a business plan to manage the large number of products (e.g., SRMs) for which the division is responsible. One positive result noted by the panel is the development of a more cohesive strategy for current work and future SRM production in the biomedical area. The new approach takes into account the rapid pace of change in this industry and how the division can make a substantial contribution by defining new certified reference materials, especially for health care and food-related applications. This year the panel also observed improvements in the mission-driven work process used by division staff. There appears to be a greater consideration of what formal elements contribute to the quality process and of how the division might better maintain control of the business metrics that must in part define its work. For example, at the time of last year’s assessment, the division was behind on production of a number of SRMs, but this year the panel was very pleased to note that stocks are up to date. There is room for further progress, which might include a more formal quality process, such as that outlined under ISO/IEC Standard 17025 and recommended by the international peer review committee mentioned above. Elements of such a process could include work practice documentation and records of instrument performance. The technical merit of the work under way in the Analytical Chemistry Division is very high, even better than the panel has observed in the past, and the panel’s assessment is supported by the many letters the division receives from external customers expressing gratitude and praise for the division’s work. Staff in the Analytical Chemistry Division are organized into five groups: Spectrochemical Methods, Organic Analytical Methods, Gas Metrology and Classical Methods, Molecular Spectrometry and Microfluidic Methods, and Nuclear Analytical Methods. In addition, NIST has a satellite laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, that focuses on the quality of analytical measurements for contaminants in the marine environment and is managed by the Analytical Chemistry Division. Some of the impressive accomplishments of the past year are highlighted in the individual discussions of each group later in this section. The division’s programs apply the competencies built up in the groups to provide the measurement standards, accurate and reliable compositional data, and research in new measurement science that are all critical to the overall success of CSTL and NIST. The division focuses on six areas: analytical instrument performance and calibration; chemical characterization of materials; environmental monitoring and technology; forensics, defense, and security applications; health care and clinical chemistry; and nutrition, contamination, and adulteration of foods. All of the groups contribute to multiple program areas, and examples of successful collaborations with both internal and external groups were seen throughout the division. However, the panel encourages division staff to seek out more interactions and partnerships between the various groups in order to gain a broader perspective on current projects. Senior management should investigate ways to encourage and reward such partnerships. One mecha-
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 nism to support further efforts in this direction could be to upgrade the internal NIST Web site listing staff expertise and laboratory capabilities throughout NIST. Staff should be particularly alert for opportunities in which the unique capabilities available throughout the division, especially in the Nuclear Analytical Methods Group, might complement efforts in other groups. The Spectrochemical Methods Group conducts research on the development, critical evaluation, and application of methods for the identification and measurement of inorganic chemical species using optical, mass, and x-ray spectrometries. An important element in the success of this group’s programs is its interdisciplinary approach. Major emphasis has been placed on developing methodologies that enhance the traceability of secondary reference materials through both instrumentation and statistical methods. Current technologies of interest include high-performance, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (HP-ICP-OES) and the use of matrix-independent x-ray fluorescence for metals analysis. Both techniques are being evaluated by NIST to determine if practical methodologies can be laid out to enable general applications in the private sector. The goal of the group’s work on statistical methods is to enable more effective and efficient value assignment of SRMs within NIST (and hence expedite the development of new SRMs) and to provide useful tools to enhance traceability between NIST SRM values and reference materials from secondary sources. The Organic Analytical Methods Group has a long history of productive research on generating new chemistries that can be employed in separation science. In particular, the development of new stationary phases of high selectivity and specificity has been very successful. A very important extension of this research is the effort to develop uniform approaches for characterizing the performance of liquid chromatography columns. One of the major challenges in the field of liquid chromatography is the variability observed between vendors in the performance of what should be equivalent stationary-phase materials. This variability has important consequences in areas such as quality assurance and control in the pharmaceutical sector. The understanding of the fundamental chemistries involved in liquid chromatography separations gained in the division over the last few years has led to the development of a broad set of metrics that can be applied to the evaluation of individual column performance and expected retention behavior. This year’s accomplishments include the completion of two new SRMs that will facilitate column characterization and classification, and the logical extension of this approach to gas chromatography columns is currently under way. The Gas Metrology and Classical Methods Group conducts research in a variety of areas, including titrimetry, gravimetry, the thermodynamic basis for pH, and wet chemical and electroanalytical methods. This group leads NIST and the global standards-setting community in identifying areas in which SRMs and NIST-Traceable Reference Materials (NTRMs) are needed and develops and distributes the products. Current program areas are directly in line with NIST objectives and are well directed in support of the goals of sponsoring agencies. In the area of pH measurements, the group is very active internationally, participating in a key comparison and directing a pilot study through CCQM. Last year, the group completed an SIM pilot study and played an active role in the revision of an IUPAC document in order to assure continued traceability of pH to sound thermodynamic principles. These activities serve to ensure the quality of measurement methodologies throughout the world. Locally, the group continues to improve its array of SRMs. As they worked on electrolytic conductivity standards, staff realized that new packaging technology could enhance the storage of conductivity solutions. Therefore, during the past year, all conductivity solutions references produced by NIST were packaged in sealed 50-ml ampoules, which solved transpiration problems and allowed NIST to sell SRMs with multiyear shelf lives. The panel commends the group for these efforts, which significantly reduced the SRM reissue rate. The Gas Metrology and Classical Methods Group houses the NIST-Traceable Reference Material (NTRM) program for gas mixtures. Management of this program, as well as work on regular SRMs for
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 the specialty gas industry, is a significant burden for the group and the division, and the panel suggests that NIST staff reach out to the specialty gas industry to discuss whether there might be any new approaches by which NIST could meet industrial needs more efficiently while not overwhelming division staff and resources. The NTRM model has proven to be a good approach, and the panel is pleased by laboratory management’s continuing efforts to improve implementation and refine the process. Expansion of the NTRM program to optical filter and metal alloy reference materials is under way in the Analytical Chemistry Division, and perhaps CSTL should consider if the approach would be applicable to work in other divisions. The Molecular Spectrometry and Microfluidic Methods Group conducts research and develops new technologies for molecular spectrometry standards and applications and for microfluidic devices, methods, and applications. Areas in which standards and traceability are provided include molecular spectrometry for chemical analysis, quantitative forensic analysis, instrument interfacing, and data interchange. A key accomplishment of this group was the development of a new, high-accuracy reference spectrophotometer (HAS-II) for the optical filters program. This unique instrument has many important features, including several automated capabilities, such as automated wavelength selection and light source switching, automated light intensity leveling, and automated environment monitoring. A large number of SRMs were produced and recertified using this spectrophotometer. A significant goal of the group is developing an NTRM program for optical filters, and the panel is pleased that progress in this area is continuing. Three companies have been identified as the initial manufacturers for these NTRM, and they all hope to have products ready for sale some time in 2001. The group is collaborating with the Process Measurements Division and the NIST Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory on the development of techniques needed to support the development of microanalytical laboratories (labs-on-a-chip based on microfluidic devices). This competence project has allowed the division to branch out into an important new area. A ultraviolet micromachining instrument was installed and numerous collaborations are in place, not only with the other NIST groups but with universities and industrial laboratories as well. Other collaborative work includes a productive relationship with George Washington University in support of the group’s forensic analysis program, which is developing methods for the analysis of gunpowder, gunshot residue, and explosives residue. The Nuclear Analytical Methods Group focuses on nuclear-based techniques for identification and quantification of chemical species. The measurement capabilities that reside within this group are insensitive to the chemical state of the samples and are nondestructive; these characteristics make the work in this group an excellent complement to the projects under way in the Spectrochemical Methods Group. The Nuclear Analytical Methods Group is located some distance from the rest of the CSTL, but the facilities and expertise available make it a valuable resource for the laboratory. While there are good examples of key collaborations, the panel is concerned that the full potential of this group to support and complement the traditional analytical metrology under way elsewhere in the division has not been realized. An example of the usefulness of this group’s techniques can be seen in the recent collaboration with the Surface and Microanalysis Science Division. The staff from the Nuclear Analytical Methods Group provided the key expertise in instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) that was necessary to produce a new SRM for arsenic levels in silicon that will be of great value to the semiconductor industry. INAA techniques were also used to good effect during the recent international certification of a reference material for chromium in marine sediment. NIST analysis showed that certain procedures used by the Canadian National Research Council were inadequate, allowing the approach to be corrected prior to certification and preventing a potential inaccuracy of over 300 percent. In other areas, the group initiated a pioneering research program on the use of cold neutron beams as analytical probes for both prompt gamma activation analysis and neutron depth profiling. The outstanding technical perfor-
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 mance of the Nuclear Analytical Methods Group has been recognized by 12 formal letters of acknowledgment; leaders from the electronics industry (e.g., Advanced Micro Devices), the chemical processing sector (e.g., DuPont), interagency customers, and universities all have commended the unique expertise and results that this group provides. A component of the Analytical Chemistry Division is located in Charleston, South Carolina, as part of the Hollings Marine Laboratory. The mission of this component is to assess and improve the quality of analytical measurements in the marine environment through interlaboratory comparisons and reference material development and to improve the abilities to assess trends in marine environmental quality by expanding the cryogenic banking of environmental samples. In the past year, staff have made significant progress in a number of areas, including coordination of interlaboratory comparison exercises for various environmental monitoring and quality assurance programs in support of marine mammal heath and specimen banking of marine mammal tissues and seabird eggs. Program Relevance and Effectiveness The Analytical Chemistry Division produces scientific results and SRMs that are of vital importance to U.S. industry. The measurement methods and reference materials developed in the division enable the manufacture of many products and help companies comply with government regulations. The division is very active internationally in order to ensure that the most advanced and accurate techniques and standards are used throughout the world and that U.S. industry is able to participate in all regions of the global marketplace. While the number of areas in which the division is currently making an impact is quite large, the number of potential topics for programs is gigantic. The panel commends the division for having recently improved its review process for the prioritization and selection of projects. There is now a formal system in place that assesses potential activities based on their relevancy to the NIST mission and commercial and technical impact of potential technological advancements. A strong system of prioritization is very useful for selecting which projects to start and stop in such a way that division activities strengthen the U.S. economy and contribute to public health and welfare in a cost-effective way and that nonproductive efforts are eliminated. The panel notes that in the current environment, where budgets are tight and there is significant emphasis on quantifiable impact, initial project plans could productively be supplemented by both business and technical metrics. The end result of any new reference material or measurement technology development should be described in terms of a quantifiable return to NIST’s customers. Such upfront arguments about future impact can help to support CSTL efforts to explain the importance of current programs to the various organizations that provide NIST’s funding. The value of the Analytical Chemistry Division’s past work has been quantified in a variety of ways. For example, economic impact studies are done to analyze the effect of a specific NIST product or program on a given industry and to calculate formal rates of return on the NIST investment. This past year, two such studies were completed on division projects. The first looked at the benefits, such as improvements in product quality and production efficiency and reductions in transaction costs, that accrued from the development and distribution of SRMs for sulfur in fossil fuels.15 Industries affected included the fossil fuel extraction and processing industry and the users of the fuels, such as electrical 15 Sheila A.Martin, Michael P.Gallaher, and Alan C.O’Connor, Economic Impact of Standard Reference Materials for Sulfur in Fossil Fuels, Planning Report #00–1, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., February 2000.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 utilities and the steel industry. The study showed the very positive results of NIST’s work: a significant benefit-cost ratio (113) and a large social rate of return (1056 percent). The panel applauds the technical achievement behind this impact, which is the utilization of a very accurate technique (isotope dilution thermal ionization mass spectrometry) for certification of the SRMs. This approach is unique to NIST and has been at the center of SRM certification activities for over 15 years. The second economic impact study examined the consequences of the NIST cholesterol standards program.16 Although the analysis was limited to four of the eight SRMs the division has put out in this area and to the first three levels of the supply chain that utilizes these products, the results still indicate a significant social rate of return (154 percent) and benefit-to-cost ratio (4.47). These numbers do not take into account the considerable positive effects associated with reducing the costs of retests and the number of cases in which patients are mistreated as a result of inaccurate measurements of samples. Again, the division’s ability to make an important difference is based on the development and application of specialized methodologies, in this case isotope dilution gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. During the coming year, NIST plans to commission economic impact studies on two more Analytical Chemistry Division programs: optical filters SRMs and NTRMs for gas mixtures. In the latter area, the panel expects the analysis to document significant economic value, as the division’s standards serve a $19 billion specialty and bulk gas production industry, one of the broadest commercial markets in the world. The division activities that have been or will be formally studied by economists are not the only programs that are impacting industry. As a whole, the division portfolio contains many projects that are closely focused on meeting the metrology needs of U.S. companies. In many cases, a key element of these successful projects is the ability to involve external organizations in the NIST work, as partners, consultants, or just a source of information. For example, in the Spectrochemical Methods Group, the HP-ICP-OES methodology is already routinely used in support of the Spectrometric Solution (3100 Series) SRM program, and the panel believes that the potential impact of this work is significant because about 2000 instruments employing solid-state array detector technology are in use worldwide. The panel applauds the NIST staff’s ability to involve external parties in this project; formal and informal collaborations exist with a number of other U.S. national laboratories, instrument vendors, a commercial producer of certified reference materials, and several national measurement institutes in other countries. The practical applications of the technical work done in the Organic Analytical Methods Group come in a wide variety of industrial sectors, including the clinical/health, environmental, food/nutrition, and forensic science sectors. The division staff are incredibly active in reaching out to all of these communities to ensure that the relevant external organizations are aware of NIST programs and contribute to and benefit from them. Examples include interagency activities involving NOAA, DOE, EPA, NIJ, and DOD; international comparisons through CCQM, SIM, and the North American Metrology Association (NORAMET); and coordination of quality assurance programs and general outreach activities to facilitate communications with current and potential SRM customers. All of these efforts are excellent examples of how NIST can serve relevant communities by developing new technologies and producing SRMs. In addition to producing new results, division staff serve industry by continuing to support and upgrade current SRMs and related measurement methods. For example, when the EPA criticized the 16 David P.Leech, The Economic Impacts of NIST’s Cholesterol Standards Program, Planning Report #00–4, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., September 2000.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 fertilizer industry and the NIST-developed SRMs for including excessive amounts of perchlorate, division personnel investigated this charge and demonstrated how the measurement procedures used by the EPA had given incorrect results. This intervention saved the fertilizer industry money and prevented misleading methodologies being used in the future. Sometimes the true impact of the division’s work cannot begin to be measured in economic terms. The Gas Metrology and Classical Methods Group has worked with the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development to facilitate the safe implementation of inhaled nitric oxide (INO) therapy for newborns. A workshop was organized to test relevant clinical instruments, which measure nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, and the results were used by ASTM and industry to draft a standard procedure for the instrument testing that is done before the equipment is put into continued operation in hospitals. The importance and quality of the division’s contribution is evidenced by the fact that the European Union has taken the rare step of adopting this standard procedure, even though it was developed in the United States. The potential impact of this work is huge, as INO therapy could help save the lives of 2000 U.S. newborns annually. The above paragraphs describe just a few examples of the industrially relevant work ongoing in the Analytical Chemistry Division. This work, which provides tools that impact specific products or sectors, is informed and supported by the diverse activities with international components that are currently under way in the division. These activities give division staff a fuller understanding of the needs of U.S. companies in foreign markets and a greater familiarity with the most advanced technologies, methods, and reference materials in use throughout the world. Demand for reference materials is escalating at a rapid pace worldwide, and the panel notes that the division has made great strides in the past year on its efforts to address the current industrial needs for certified reference materials. Division staff are leading or participating in a number of programs relevant to the chemical measurements needed for international trade. With the organization Cooperation in International Traceability in Analytical Chemistry, NIST is working to establish vertical traceability links between the NMIs and testing labs in every country in the world. The division also has a number of projects under way to put nationally/ internationally recognized certified reference materials into place to enable U.S. manufacturers to comply with European directives. Examples include reference methods and materials for troponin-I, a marker for myocardial infarction; glycated hemoglobin, a marker for diabetes status; homocysteine, a marker for heart attack risk; and prostate specific antigen. The Analytical Chemistry Division effectively communicates its technical findings to U.S. industry and the network of organizations that support world commerce. A primary element of this dissemination is information about and sales of over 800 reference materials produced or certified within the division. The staff published 140 documents in peer-reviewed journals and presented 171 scientific talks in fiscal year 2000. In addition to the industrial customers that have been discussed in detail, the division also supplies key services to other governmental organizations; for example, last year it provided chemical measurement quality assurance services in support of 25 programs within 11 federal and state agencies on a cost-reimbursable basis. The panel’s biggest concern about the division’s dissemination efforts is the limited progress that has occurred on utilizing and updating the division’s Web site. The NIST, laboratory, and division Web presence would benefit from a design that reflects an improved strategy for guiding visitors to important information (e.g., via a list of critical links) or helping them find specific data (e.g., via a specialized search engine). A specific focus on meeting the needs of technically directed commercial customers would be appropriate. A useful Web site would provide the division with yet another opportunity to explain and support the value of traceability to NIST, a primary product of the CSTL.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 Division Resources Funding sources for the Analytical Chemistry Division are shown in Table 4.6. As of January 2001, staffing for the Analytical Chemistry Division included 69 full-time permanent positions, of which 56 were for technical professionals. There were also 24 nonpermanent or supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and temporary or part-time workers. The staff of the division form a capable and responsive group of interactive teams with the special measurement expertise needed to fulfill the division’s mission. Members of the technical staff are formally recognized for their achievements by NIST and the Department of Commerce as well as by external organizations. These honors highlight the quality of the division personnel and the importance of the work under way. Examples of recent awards include a 1999 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for work in collaboration with EPA and the remote sensing community on improving the quantitative database of infrared spectra for use in real-time monitoring of airborne chemical contaminants within and around plant facilities, a 1999 NIST Measurement Services Award for “leadership in the development of measurement methods and standards for the clinical laboratory and nutritional labeling communities,” and the 2000 W.J.Youden Award in Interlaboratory Testing for the work on the micronutrients measurement quality assurance program. The panel observed a very high level of morale in the Analytical Chemistry Division. A prime source of job satisfaction appears to stem from the international reputation of NIST, which is perceived as a positive reflection of the staff efforts. The phrase “traceable to NIST” carries a great deal of weight in industrial and international standards communities, and the staff takes much pride in contributing to this traceability. The division management (group and project leaders and the division chief) are supportive of staff. However, the panel believed that improvements could be made in one area: more TABLE 4.6 Sources of Funding for the Analytical Chemistry Division (in millions of dollars), FY 1998 to FY 2001 Source of Funding Fiscal Year 1998 (actual) Fiscal Year 1999 (actual) Fiscal Year 2000 (actual) Fiscal Year 2001 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 8.1 8.5 8.4 8.4 Competence 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 ATP 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.3 Measurement Services (SRM production) 2.2 2.2 2.2 1.4 OA/NFG/CRADA 2.2 2.0 2.4 2.2 Other Reimbursable 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.9 Total 13.9 14.6 14.9 14.5 Full-time permanent staff (total)a 67 66 68 69 NOTE: Sources of funding are as described in the note accompanying Table 4.1. aThe number of full-time permanent staff is as of January of that fiscal year.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 timely informal recognition and acknowledgment of individual contributions. Ensuring that the technical staff feel appreciated is a key part of maintaining employees’ enthusiasm for working at NIST. The panel believes that management, particularly senior management at the division and laboratory level, should find informal ways to communicate to the staff that their contributions are valued. Such praise can be a powerful incentive, for example, to encourage the development of intergroup collaborations. The most important staffing-related issue confronting the Analytical Chemistry Division is the increasing number of responsibilities that need to be met by a constant number of personnel. The demand for new SRMs and advanced measurement technologies continues to increase as the materials, biotechnology, and semiconductor industries grow. In addition to the complex technical projects in support of these new industries, staff also have increased duties related to interfacing with customers and participating in international activities. All of these activities are competing with the basic requirements of established SRM programs in which production and maintenance work cannot be neglected, all of them take human resources away from fundamental research. In addition, the staff is spread so thin that in many programs, only one person has the necessary expertise to address the metrology problems under investigation. While comprehensive cross training is very difficult to arrange in highly specialized technical areas, the panel notes that the unique capabilities the division has developed to service the nation’s measurement and standards needs must be preserved. In addition, a scientist might benefit from having another perspective on his or her project or even just another technical person with whom to consult. There are many possible responses to the staffing crunch in the Analytical Chemistry Division. A primary tactic is forming partnerships, as the Gas Metrology and Classical Methods Group has done in the NTRM program for gas mixtures. Other options include encouraging long-term guest researchers, hiring selectively to increase the staff complement, and increasing the overall funding of the division. In the last option, one possible mechanism is obtaining money from other government agencies. The panel cautions that NIST’s ability to make independent decisions about implementing projects in support of NIST’s strategic directions must be maintained. However, it would certainly be useful for the division to seek funding in support of its longer-term research. In the matter of hiring new staff, the NRC postdoctoral research associate program is a good source of temporary workers and of candidates for permanent positions. However, to best attract and retain talented people for this program, the division should be very careful to assure that the associates are exposed to a broad array of opportunities. If students and associates feel they are too much involved in established programs or SRM support, they may become discouraged or the division may miss out on an exciting research opportunity or new, leading-edge metrology development. As for facilities and equipment, the panel notes that certain very expensive analytical instrumentation is needed by the division in a few areas (e.g., an NMR facility in Gaithersburg and a vibrating cryomill for the new laboratory in South Carolina). These instruments are needed to allow state-of-the-art measurement work to continue and ensure that division staff are able to develop future generations of metrology. Although the acquisition of such capital items impacts the whole division budget, individual groups must document the reasons the items are needed.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 2001 MAJOR OBSERVATIONS The panel presents the following major observations: The technical activities in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory continue to be of the highest caliber. The identification of strategic directions will help guide the selection of new programs and allow the laboratory to organize its responses to changing industry needs across its divisions. The panel commends the laboratory on its wide array of important international activities. The World Wide Web now serves as the primary interface between NIST and its diverse array of customers. The laboratory should continue its efforts to enhance the usability of its Web site and should focus on how this tool can best be used to enhance dissemination of NIST results and products. Staffing levels within the laboratory are a concern; the panel observed some projects below critical mass and others with single-point coverage. Tight budgets and a competitive external job market are affecting the laboratory’s ability to hire new staff in key areas.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: