dination Office director reports to the director of the OSTP through the assistant director for technology. Twelve agencies participate, with each agency retaining its own funds, but, through the National Coordination Office, agencies are able to work together on technical and budget planning.
The other example using the National Coordination Office is the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI),37 which coordinates the multi-agency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology and is managed similarly. Twenty-three federal agencies participate in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, 11 of which have an R&D budget for nanotechnology. Other federal organizations contribute with studies, applications of results, and other collaborations. A third comparable program is the global climate change program. Again, the funding remains within each agency but supports a coordinated research effort.
Federal managers will probably be in the best position to determine the management of the proposed National Coordination Office for research infrastructure, but one model might be a design analogous to the management of the major research instrumentation (MRI) program of NSF. In that program, all proposals for instrumentation are submitted to a central source—the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA). This office then distributes the proposals throughout NSF for review. Proposal evaluations are then collected and prioritized, and funding decisions are made. The funding remains in the different divisions of NSF, but funds are also pooled to support the instrument based on the relationship to that office’s mission. A similar mechanism could be used at the interagency level with the National Coordination Office acting in a similar fashion to NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities.
At least 8% of the budgets of federal research agencies should be set aside for discretionary funding managed by technical program managers in those agencies to catalyze high-risk, high-payoff research.
An important subset of basic research is the high-risk or transformative research that involves the new theories, methods, or tools that are often developed by new investigators—the group demonstrably most likely to generate radical discoveries or new technologies. These opportunities are generally first identified at the working level, not by research planning staffs. Today, there is anecdotal evidence that several barriers have reduced the national capacity for high-risk, high-payoff work: