Summary

Research instruments have revolutionized how we look at the world, refining and extending the range of our senses. From the beginnings of the enlightenment, development of the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on testable hypotheses, required the ability to make ever more accurate measurements. Instruments for research continue to grow more and more sophisticated. The Committee on Advanced Research Instrumentation was created to determine what federal policies could be put into place to enhance the design, building, funding, sharing, operation, and maintenance of advanced research instruments.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

On the basis of its deliberations and the fundamental importance of instrumentation to research, the committee recommends that each federal research agency1 establish centralized, transparent, and peer-reviewed programs for advanced research instrumentation and facilities (ARIF) that publicly solicit proposals.2 In particular, the National Science Foundation (NSF) should expand

1

The committee designates the following as federal research agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the US Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security.

2

See R4-3 of this report.



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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Summary Research instruments have revolutionized how we look at the world, refining and extending the range of our senses. From the beginnings of the enlightenment, development of the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on testable hypotheses, required the ability to make ever more accurate measurements. Instruments for research continue to grow more and more sophisticated. The Committee on Advanced Research Instrumentation was created to determine what federal policies could be put into place to enhance the design, building, funding, sharing, operation, and maintenance of advanced research instruments. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS On the basis of its deliberations and the fundamental importance of instrumentation to research, the committee recommends that each federal research agency1 establish centralized, transparent, and peer-reviewed programs for advanced research instrumentation and facilities (ARIF) that publicly solicit proposals.2 In particular, the National Science Foundation (NSF) should expand 1 The committee designates the following as federal research agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the US Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. 2 See R4-3 of this report.

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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities its Major Research Instrumentation program so that it includes ARIF whose capital costs are greater than $2 million but that are not appropriate for NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, which handles facilities that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.3 In addition, the National Institutes of Health should eliminate the $2 million proposal cap in its High End Instrumentation program, re-examine the balance between support of ARIF and support of research grants, and substantially increase its instrumentation investment.4 Each federal research agency ARIF program should require that proposals contain a business and management plan that includes information on space, technical staffing, and the long-term source of funding for operation and maintenance.5 These programs should support operation and maintenance costs when requested by institutions and use proposal evaluation criteria that enhance the geographic distribution, sharing, and efficient use of instrumentation. When it is appropriate, agencies should encourage researchers to present proposals to multiple agencies simultaneously. To capitalize on federal investments in instrumentation and to ensure that ARIF are effective and productive, each federal research agency should establish career development and support programs for the PhD-level technical research support staff vital to ARIF.6 INTRODUCTION TO INSTRUMENTATION In recent years, the instrumentation needs of the nation’s research communities have changed and expanded.7 The need for particular instruments has become broader, crossing scientific and engineering disciplines. The growth of interdisciplinary research that focuses on problems defined outside the boundaries of individual disciplines demands more instrumentation. Instruments that were once of interest only to specialists are now required by a wide array of scientists to solve critical research problems. The need for entirely new types of instruments—such as distributed networks, cybertools, and sensor arrays—is increasing. Researchers are increasingly dependent on advanced instruments that require highly specialized knowledge and training for their proper operation and use. This study is in response to a request from Congress in Section 13(b) of the 3-year National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 to assess the need 3 See R4-6 of this report. 4 See R4-7 of this report. 5 See R4-3 of this report. 6 See R4-5 of this report. 7 See F1-1 of this report.

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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities for an interagency program to establish and support fully equipped, state-of-the-art university-based centers for interdisciplinary research and advanced instrumentation development. The National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy Committee on Advanced Research Instrumentation was asked to describe the current programs and policies of the major federal research agencies for advanced research instrumentation, the current status of advanced mid-sized research instrumentation on university campuses, and the challenges faced by each. The committee was then asked to evaluate the utility of existing federal programs and to determine the need for and, if applicable, the potential components of an interagency program for advanced research instrumentation. The committee first developed a term, advanced research instrumentation and facilities, to describe the aforementioned set of activities. ARIF is defined as instrumentation and facilities housing closely related or interacting instruments and includes networks of sensors, databases, and cyberinfrastructure.8 ARIF is distinguished from other types of instrumentation by its expense, and in that it is commonly acquired by large-scale centers or research programs rather than individual investigators. The acquisition of ARIF by an academic institution often requires a substantial institutional commitment and depends on high-level decision-making at both the institution and federal agencies. ARIF at academic institutions are often managed by institution administration. Furthermore, the advanced nature of ARIF often requires expert technical staff for its operation and maintenance. METHOD In responding to its charge, the committee spoke with federal government officials and members of the science and technology policy community, and it surveyed academic institutions, researchers, disciplinary societies, and federal laboratories. KEY FINDINGS On the basis of the information gathered, the committee found that there is a critical gap in federal programs for ARIF. Although federal agencies do have instrumentation programs, few allow proposals for instrumentation when the capital cost is greater than $2 million. No federal research agency has an agencywide ARIF program. 8 See R2-1 of this report.

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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Instrumentation programs are inadequately supported. Few provide funds for continuing technical support and maintenance.9 The programs tend to support instrumentation for specific research fields and rarely consider broader scientific needs.10 The shortfalls in funding for instrumentation have built up cumulatively and are met by temporary programs that address short-term issues but rarely long-term problems. The instrumentation programs are poorly integrated across (or even within) agencies. The ad hoc ARIF programs are neither well organized nor visible to most investigators, and they do not adequately match the research community’s increasing need for ARIF. RECOMMENDED FEDERAL AGENCY ACTIONS The committee believes that each major federal research agency should enhance its ARIF policy. Some specific measures have been mentioned above. The committee’s proposed federal policy enhancements are in three categories: Program establishment and centralization. Proposal processing and transparent opportunities. PhD-level technical research support staff career development and support programs. In the case of program establishment and centralization, the committee believes that each federal research agency should create more clear opportunities for researchers to propose ARIF for federal funding by establishing centralized, transparent ARIF programs. The agencies should determine the appropriate balance between instrumentation and research grants and, in all instrumentation programs, determine the appropriate balance between small-, mid-, and large-scale instrumentation and facilities; sustain support for ARIF programs even when agency funding levels are stagnant or declining; and coordinate with ARIF programs at other agencies. RECOMMENDED MULTIAGENCY ACTIONS The committee recommends that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), as part of its National Science and Technology Council 9 See F4-2 and F4-6 of this report. 10 See F4-4 of this report.

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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities (NSTC) activities, enhance federal research agency coordination and cooperation with respect to ARIF.11 The NSTC can serve as a mechanism for federal agencies to work together to develop joint solicitations, invite researchers from diverse disciplines to present opportunities for ARIF that would be useful to many fields to multiple agencies simultaneously, seek out and identify best practices, and discuss the appropriate balance of funding among people, tools, and ideas, which could become part of the regular White House Office of Management and Budget-OSTP budget memorandum. The committee does not believe that there is a need for an interagency program to establish and support fully equipped, state-of-the-art, university-based centers for interdisciplinary research and development of advanced instrumentation. RECOMMENDED ACADEMIC INSTITUTION ACTIONS The committee believes that academic institutions’ policies regarding ARIF can be enhanced.12 Academic institutions should review their internal financial support and their planning and budgeting processes for ARIF to ensure that funds are identified to support the instrumentation properly, including operation and maintenance costs, technical staff support, and space. The funding and management of ARIF should be structured so that they are institutionwide, inasmuch as most ARIF are used by more than one research field in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. Academic institutions should work to enhance the career paths of ARIF technical research support staff by placing such staff in long-term, regular positions. Finally, academic institutions should continue to discuss the issue of federal agency support for operation and maintenance costs of instruments with the NSTC’s Research Business Models Subcommittee. CONCLUSION The health and progress of the science and technology research enterprise depend on many types of instrumentation, including the advanced instrumentation and facilities discussed in this report. By taking the actions recommended in this report, the nation will optimize its investment in research and thus the benefits that research provides to society. 11 See R4-8 of this report. 12 See Recommendations in Chapter 3 of this report.

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