Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

March 24, 2004

Dr. Hugh Van Horn

Program Director

Division of Materials Research

National Science Foundation

4201 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, VA 22201


Dr. Patricia Dehmer

Associate Director

Office of Basic Energy Sciences

SC-10/Germantown Building U.S. Department of Energy 1000 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, DC 20585-1290

Dear Dr. Van Horn and Dr. Dehmer:

I write to you as chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Smaller Facilities (COSF) to report on the progress of the committee’s deliberations to date. Established by the National Research Council (NRC) with financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, COSF is reviewing the current state of small and mid-sized multiuser facilities for materials research in the United States. Its task is to recommend methods for optimizing the operation and use of existing resources and to consider strategies and actions needed to ensure such facilities’ efficient and successful future operation. Information on COSF’s charge and its activities to date is appended to this report and elaborated on as needed in the text. This interim report identifies the key topics that the committee will explore in greater detail to develop the findings and recommendations for its final report, to be released in the second half of 2004.

Although they play a major, recognized role in materials research in this country, small and mid-sized multiuser facilities for materials research (referred to here simply as smaller facilities) are widely regarded as not being optimally developed or utilized. The 1999 NRC report Condensed Matter and Materials Physics: Basic Research for Tomorrow’s Technology found that a greater burden now falls on small research centers in universities and government laboratories and that it is appropriate to strengthen this part of the nation’s research infrastructure. Smaller facilities appear to face many issues in common, yet a study has never focused specifically on them. There was thus a recognized need to collect data on and study these facilities to help in determining effective ways to use existing resources more efficiently.

The primary concerns driving this study are the scientific opportunities in a wide cross section of disciplines that might be missed because of these issues and perceived problems. Furthermore, the developments in instrumentation that take place in smaller facilities underpin critical tools for industry; these facilities also have an important role in the education of future industrial scientists and engineers. The charge given to the committee, developed by the Solid State Sciences Committee of the NRC’s Board on Physics and Astronomy in coordination with the sponsors, is given in Appendix A. To be most effective, the study is aimed for an audience that includes both federal program agencies and the wider materials research community.

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