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
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