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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities 3 Instrumentation and Universities Instruments reside in many settings, including universities, industrial laboratories, national laboratories, and independent research institutions. The present committee, in accordance with its charge, is interested primarily in federally funded instrumentation in academic institutions. This chapter discusses the issues that surround instruments in the university setting. Academic researchers not only use instruments in their work but also develop new kinds of instruments. Further, instruments in academic settings are used not only to conduct research but also to provide education and training for the next generation of practitioners. As a result, they are often used by undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows as well as by staff scientists and faculty. Instrumentation and facilities at universities are often also of service to local research companies, which might not otherwise have access to such instruments and technical expertise. And, although instruments may be designed originally for one field of research, they will be often be used by researchers in many other fields, once their potential is known. INVESTING IN INSTRUMENTATION IN UNIVERSITIES As research progresses, improved and novel instruments become necessary to enable new discoveries and enhance scientific productivity. In the 19th century, the government was not an important patron of science in universities, and researchers turned to philanthropists and private organizations to fund an increasing need for
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities new and more powerful instruments. The 100-in. telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory and the 200-in. telescope at the Mount Palomar Observatory were both funded by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. In the 20th century, the need for federal support of science and the instruments that enable it became a fact of life. Maintaining a balance between supporting investigators and supporting the tools they require is a long-standing concern.1 The investment in instrumentation in universities typically involves several kinds of costs, which vary from instrument to instrument, including, Capital: The direct cost required for the purchase of a commercially available instrument or, often, the components for assembling an instrument that has advanced or unique capabilities not available commercially. Construction: The costs associated with installing or assembling an instrument. Development: These costs may include associated basic research and researcher salaries. Siting: The cost of locating an instrument in a facility, which may involve renovation and the purchase of peripheral equipment, such as clean rooms or shielding. Operation and maintenance: The costs associated with continual upkeep of the instrument, which may include continuing siting costs, energy costs, service contracts, and repair costs. PhD-level technical research support staff: The costs associated with the employment of staff to operate the instrument and assist researchers. Upgrade: The costs associated with updating an instrument as opposed to replacing it. Compliance: The costs associated with meeting ever higher health, safety, and environmental standards, including upgrades and re-engineering to maintain operation. Decommissioning: The costs associated with the disposal or repurposing of an instrument that is no longer of use. Among the important factors to consider, from the perspective both of the researcher and of the patron, is the lifetime of an instrument. The lifetime of an instrument will depend not only on the type of instrument but also on its continuing utility as a cutting-edge research tool. Some instruments are useful for decades; others become outdated in only 5-10 years. The lifetime of an instrument will also 1 Stine, J. K., and G. A. Good. 1986. Government funding of scientific instrumentation: A review of U.S. policy debates since World War II. Science, Technology & Human Values 11(3):34-46.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities vary with how it is used. Some workhorse instruments in universities may have greater wear and tear because of student use. The factors outlined above are important for nearly all major scientific instruments, even those costing as little as several hundred thousand dollars. But as the cost of an instrument increases, they become more and more critical. At the level of advanced research instrumentation and facilities (ARIF), instruments must be handled in a manner that does not compromise the investment. As the investment in instrumentation reaches into the millions of dollars, it is imperative that maximal benefit be derived from the instrument. Accomplishing that may rest on several key factors. First, it is important that downtime is minimized. Because of high demand, many ARIF are operated 24 hr/day 7 days/week, and downtime means a loss of efficiency and opportunity. In some cases, a long experiment will be compromised if an instrument breaks down in the middle. Downtime affects the productivity of researchers in a manner that costs money and competitiveness. Second, careful attention must be paid to maintaining ARIF at published specifications because often these expensive instruments are acquired precisely because they have resolution, sensitivity, or throughput that surpasses that of less expensive instruments. If an instrument is not operating at its specified limits, the investigators are not acting responsibly and are not gaining the advantage that such a large investment was intended to achieve in the first place. Third, it is critical that the instrument capabilities are constantly upgraded, whether with hardware or with software improvements, to ensure that it is kept up with advances in the field and related technology development. Doing so can Instrumentation and the Challenge of User Fees Many universities rely on user fees to cover maintenance contracts and operating support for advanced research instrumentation. If instrument use declines for any reason, the hourly user fee must be increased to pay for the fixed cost of operation and maintenance. That creates an unstable situation, which allows the cost of instrument use to increase to the point where the instrument becomes inaccessible to researchers. A dependence on user fees to offset ongoing costs thus has the potential to shape the direction of research. Even a temporary decline in use can initiate a cycle of spiraling cost, insufficient maintenance, or lack of upgrades that can paralyze operation. Only when universities have found creative solutions to the problem of user fees have major instrument resources remained available for research.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities substantially extend the lifetime of ARIF and requires a sophisticated operator who thoroughly understands the technology and is fully acquainted with the needs and goals of the researchers. These factors related to operation and maintenance directly affect the productivity and effectiveness of the research. ARIF are essential to the success of many investigators who depend heavily on the results that can be obtained with these instruments. Ineffective operation, downtime, and underperformance all lead to a waste of time and money for each research program that depends on the instrument or facility. Thus, not only is the investment in the instrumentation itself compromised but all the grants that depend on it are themselves affected, to say nothing of the many investigators whose work is compromised. For those and similar reasons, it is important to pay careful attention to the detailed plans for operation and maintenance of ARIF and to ensure that adequate funds are built into the budget for this aspect not to be a limiting factor in the operation of the facility and for the investment to be properly protected. MANAGEMENT OF INSTRUMENTATION IN UNIVERSITIES From a university administrator’s perspective, the acquisition of instrumentation may be the responsibility of either the researcher or the university, depending on its capital cost. Generally, the principal investigator is responsible when instrumentation is of such a small scale that it can be located in the researcher’s laboratory and it has a capital cost of less than about $50,000. Such instruments can be acquired as part of a research grant or with startup funds provided by the institution when a researcher sets up a laboratory. Instrumentation with capital cost beyond $50,000 usually requires the involvement of the university administration. The degree to which the leadership of a university is involved with instrumentation decision-making and fund-raising depends mainly on three factors: Cost of the instrument. Operation and maintenance costs. Space requirements, including renovation of rooms in existing structures and possibly a new building. If any of those factors is substantial, decision making regarding the instrument generally moves up the decision-making chain of the university, from department chair to dean to university vice-president, vice-provost, or vice-chancellor for research. Most ARIF would follow this decision-making path.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Cost of Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities The path that universities must follow to obtain ARIF has been extremely rocky in recent years for several reasons. First, especially at the National Science Foundation (NSF) but also to a smaller degree at some other agencies, there was a policy for a time that required universities to provide matching funds for major research programs. For example, NSF required 30% matching on all Major Research Instrumentation2 awards. That meant that an institution was obligated to contribute a substantial amount of funding each year if it wanted to use the award to acquire such instrumentation. This depleted the already constricted research budgets of universities and often pitted faculty against the administration. Last year, NSF changed its policy, and it no longer requires the large matching contributions. Second, the continuing erosion of state budgets for public universities (and the decline of the endowments of some private universities) has in many cases largely eliminated line-item equipment budgets. Some public universities receive no equipment allocation of any kind or receive only very small and highly restricted research funding. Third, as the focus of research, especially in engineering and the life sciences, has shifted to the microscopic level, the demand for sophisticated instrumentation Costs and Requirements Associated with an 800-MHz NMR with Cryoprobe Part of a facility housing instrumentation with total capital costs of $5 million Capital cost: $1.9 million Siting cost: New construction (not including environmental infrastructure): $900,000 Cost of installation: $60,000 Annual cost of operation (excluding support staff): $40,000 Cryogens: $10,000 Spectrometer repairs and upgrades: $10,000 Cryoprobe annual maintenance: $15,000 Administrative expenses: $5,000 Service contract for spectrometer: $25,000 Service contract for cryoprobe: $25,000 Annual Support staff salaries (before fringe benefits): $143,000 Expected lifetime: 25 years 2 This program is described in Chapter 4.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities User fees cover 100% of the operating costs, but less than 5% of the facility salary costs. The institution pays over 80% of the total facility salary costs, and the remainder comes from grants. Supported by a PhD-level laboratory director and a BS-level research assistant Space Requirements: 1,000 square foot room (size of room subject to level of shielding) Two additional 250 square foot rooms, one for electronic equipment and another for the operators and computer control. Environmental requirements: Very good temperature stability, with less than 1 degree Fahrenheit of drift per hour. Low vibration—the magnet is supported by a vibration-isolated slab cut away from the rest of the building and supported by concrete piers sunk into the bedrock. No ferrous metals close to the magnet, even embedded in the concrete. In a wider range, there can be no moving ferrous metals during an experiment. Space around instrument needs to be shielded. For a low-field NMR this is inexpensive, adding about $7,000 to the cost of a 400-MHz NMR, but $300,000 to the cost of a 800-MHz NMR. Source: David Vander Velde Director University of Kansas NMR Laboratory Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation “Unfortunately, public institutions have been seeing a downward trend in funding from the State, and the first place that is cut is funds for instrumentation. It would also be advantageous if NIH comes up with another instrumentation grant to cover bundled instruments (i.e. a number of lower cost items, e.g. centrifuges, fluorescence spectroscopy or microscopy). The higher cost instrument grants program was also not activated this year, equipment over $750,000. This needs to be reinstated. In order for investigators to continue quality research they need access to state of the art equipment…. [W]e are a growing institution adding new faculty. New instrumentation is not only needed but essential to attract the best and most promising scientists.” Thomas Yorio Vice President for Research Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences University of North Texas Health Science Center Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities “Acquisition of advanced research instrumentation with these capital costs must be part of a strategic plan that encompasses the academic, research and economic development missions of the university.” Anonymous source who is a Vice Provost for Research at a public university in New York Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation (once the domain largely of physics and chemistry programs) has expanded dramatically. Today, the need for expensive and complex instrumentation capable of probing phenomena at the molecular level—to say nothing of the expansion of astronomical observations across the entire electromagnetic spectrum—is straining institutional budgets to the breaking point. Fourth, instruments today include not only hardware but also software, databanks, and automated aids for data analysis and interpretation—collectively known as cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure has become a major component of such costs in all fields of research. As a result of such pressures, it is extremely challenging for a university to assemble sufficient funding for ARIF. This lack of access to ARIF can severely hamper research and teaching activities. Operation and Maintenance Costs Operation and maintenance of ARIF require commitments for service contracts, space and utilities, and technical and scientific support staff. Any plan for “To obtain such instruments is way beyond the time single researchers can commit for the cause of common good. The maintenance fees will represent the second level of unforeseen difficulties. We do not have any means/mechanism to raise, in addition to the purchase and maintenance costs, running and operating budgets and resources to provide for well-trained personnel to run such instruments and provide service to multiple investigators.” Katalin Csiszar Professor University of Hawaii Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities operation of a major item of instrumentation must address those issues in order to clearly establish the degree and character of the institutional commitment associated with the proposed acquisition. Most commercial instruments, such as a high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or an electron microscope, need a maintenance contract for service and repair and insurance against catastrophic failure. At an annual cost of about 5% of the capital expense, that is an important factor over the lifetime of an instrument. Space, utilities, and consumables can add considerably to the cost of a major piece of instrumentation. To achieve consistent high-level performance, PhD-level technical research support staff are essential to maintain the instrument in top operating condition, manage scheduling, evaluate and prioritize use, perform daily alignments and periodic calibrations, collaborate on research projects, implement upgrades and enhancements, train students, trouble-shoot, and coordinate service calls. A recently released National Academies report on midsize materials science research facilities and larger university-based facilities found a substantial number of facilities with annual operating budgets between $250,000 and $2 million, shown in Figure 3-1. Federal agencies were the most common source of support for those operating budgets (35%) followed by user fees (35%) and host institutions (27%).3 The facilities had from one to thirty staff; 30% had one to five staff. Figure 3-2 shows how annual operation cost can accumulate each year to be comparable to the initial capital cost of the instrument, with the example of an average field emission transmission electron microscope.4 The costs shown exclude support staff and refer only to an annual service contract with the instrument manufacturer. The contract costs the same every year. Space Almost all ARIF have special siting requirements. Institutional involvement is often needed in order to secure space as well as infrastructure for appropriate utilities—expenditures often not factored into the original acquisition cost. 3 National Research Council. Midsize Facilities: The Infrastructure for Materials Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2006. 4 National Research Council. Connecting and Sustaining Midsize Materials Research Facilities. In review.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 3-1 Midsize materials science facility operating budgets. Source: National Academies, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Midsize Facilities: The Infrastructure for Materials Research, 2006. FIGURE 3-2 Accumulation of operating costs for a transmission electron microscope. Source: National Academies, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Midsize Facilities: The Infrastructure for Materials Research, 2006.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Many ARIF need special environments that are essential for their operation. For example, high-performance electron microscopes require extremely stable laboratory spaces with special controls to reduce vibration, acoustic noise, electromagnetic interference, and thermal gradients. The cost to construct a suitable laboratory space or modify an existing one cannot be neglected. Likewise, utilities and consumables can add substantially to the cost of operation and maintenance. Many academic institutions suffer from a shortage of space, and accommodations for ARIF must be negotiated with the administration and be specially justified. PhD-Level Technical Research Support Staff Technical support is an important element of advanced instrumentation. Staff members can provide expertise for optimal use, for development of techniques and instrumentation, and for assistance with data analysis and interpretation. Those functions are especially important for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary use of such equipment, which involves many researchers who are not expert with the instrumentation in question. Sometimes support functions are left to graduate students. That is often inefficient, in that their expertise is variable, the service level is uneven, and such work is of limited pedagogic value to the students. The cost of equipment downtime scales roughly with the capital cost, so major research instrumentation requires dedicated technical research support staff for efficient operation. For many types of ARIF, it is essential that a skilled PhD-level researcher be in charge because of the instrumentation’s high cost and sophistication. Such a person can ensure that the latest enhancements are implemented, that the software is kept up to date, and that experiments are optimally designed to get the best results. It is, of course, important that students learn to use such instrumentation, so it is critical that skilled staff be available for training and advice. In addition to training students and keeping instruments up to date, technical research support staff are common collaborators in research projects, often serving as coauthors of papers, and play a key role in managing instruments and setting prioritites for use. Few universities have well-defined policies for supporting such staff; most make no provisions for it at all. It commonly falls to the individual faculty member to patch together funding from various other users and funding sources to try to support technical help. That is often a time-consuming and frustrating process for the researcher; all too often, these ad hoc arrangements fall apart after a year or two and have to be painfully reconstructed.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities “Instrumentation in this price range is often accompanied by the need for specialized facilities. Funding agencies should require that institutions demonstrate the ability to provide appropriate facilities, have a mechanism to insure multiple PI access, and have a plan to provide on-going support and maintenance of the instrument.” Anonymous source who is a director of special projects at a public university in California Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation CENTRALIZED UNIVERSITY FACILITIES A criticism sometimes raised about major research facilities in universities is that they tend to be the province of one department or one college even though they may have been established as multidisciplinary facilities (with multiple contributions to the initial proposal). That sometimes leads to a concern that either accessibility of those outside the responsible unit is not adequate or support for other users is inadequate or not readily available. Furthermore, the support staff have a more limited role and less engagement with other investigators throughout the institution. It has been suggested that one way to remedy the situation is to create more centralized instrumentation resources by placing them under a centralized office, “The purchase of expensive instrumentation must recognize the long-term commitment that is incurred in staffing the facility with adequately skilled operators. The user pays model does not always produce the needed revenue, so that a back-up mechanism needs to be explored. Whether to buy our own instrument or enter into a service agreement with a national lab, or some other entity, should be debated on a case-by-case basis.” Digby Macdonald Professor Pennsylvania State University Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities such as a university office of research. Such placement might provide for more even-handed treatment of all users, would tend to make the instrumentation more visible to the central administration, would give the support staff wider visibility and potentially a more promising career path, and might reduce duplication and underuse. It could also provide more assistance to novice users who might want to learn how the instrumentation could facilitate their research. A highly skilled staff member could facilitate broader cross-fertilization of approaches and ideas by introducing users to each other and by disseminating novel ideas and techniques to the user community. Possible disadvantages are that the office of research does not control space, does not have adequate budget control, does not have adequate staff to oversee technical staff, does not have the expertise, and does not have the interest. Furthermore, such centralization might be resisted by the dominant users who would have first-line responsibility and interest in ensuring the success of the facilities (their research success depends on it). Those users would most likely have invested more resources than others and would therefore expect to have more control. They might argue that a facility that is designed to serve all serves none well. In contrast, when a facility is in a school or college, access by and service to other units often are not commensurate with the needs of the research community or the demands of the research programs involved. Hence, however organized in an institution, there should be, at a minimum, an institutionwide oversight group that ensures effective use of expensive instrumentation resources. These are complex issues that need to be carefully addressed, but as the cost of instrumentation continues to rise and the demand expands, some institutional attention to these issues may yield a more satisfactory strategy than not having access to such instrumentation at all. The recent (2005) National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy report Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) discussed this issue and recommended5 that Institutions should develop equitable and flexible budgetary and cost-sharing policies that support IDR. For example, institutions can Streamline fair and equitable budgeting procedures across department or school lines to allocate resources to interdisciplinary units outside the departments or schools. Create a campuswide inventory of equipment to enhance sharing and underwrite 5 National Academies. Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities centralized equipment and instrument facilities for use by IDR projects and by multiple disciplines. Credit a percentage of a project’s indirect cost to support the infrastructure of research activities that cross departmental and school boundaries. Allocate research space to projects, as well as departments. Deploy a substantial fraction of flexible resources—such as seed money, support staff, and space. The committee supports the findings of the report and believes that adopting the outlined recommendations would greatly enhance the effectiveness and productivity of ARIF facilities. INSTRUMENTATION FUNDING Locating sufficient funding in a government grant to pay for a major instrument and its operation and maintenance costs is extremely challenging. When funding for instrumentation on university campuses is assembled, it is typically a combination of external funding (federal and nonfederal) and funding from the university itself. In some cases, those who use an instrument that is not part of their own laboratory may be required to pay user fees; funds to pay user fees may be part of a federal grant that supports the research being conducted. For example, the federal government might be willing to support the capital cost of an instrument, but not its operation and maintenance costs. Operation and maintenance costs are typically paid by the institution. User fees may also offset a portion of those costs. In the case of institutions that support instrument capital, operation, and maintenance costs, one option for doing so is through the institution’s facilities and administration (F&A) mechanism6 (see box). That can be challenging, how- 6 Some might argue that F&A costs already provide for building renewal and space upgrades. This is problematic. First, the allowed building component in the F&A rate may be only 5 percentage points or so of the 50% for the F&A rate (or 10% of total indirect cost if the rate is 50%). An institution with $500 million a year in grant activity will typically collect somewhere around $100 million in F&A reimbursements. At 10% for facilities this amounts to about $10 million to maintain, upgrade, and replace a research-intensive physical plant that may have a replacement value of $2-$5 billion or more. The $10 million or so for the buildings and improvements cost pool is an important contribution but pales in comparison with the costs of maintaining the physical plant that supports the research enterprise. (A related problem is the low cost basis for buildings that are 30-50 years old, whose original construction cost may have been only a few million dollars. Hence, the depreciation-related cost recovery is negligible compared with the cost of replacement.)
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities What Are Facilities and Administrative Costs? Federally funded research is a prominent feature at all major American research universities today. Before World War II, however, federal support for research as we know it was virtually nonexistent. The situation changed dramatically during the war as the federal government invested heavily in the discovery and development of new technologic tools to support the war effort. During and after the war, the Office of Naval Research engaged faculty members at universities to carry out contract research for special projects. In the process, institutional costs (known as overhead, indirect, or F&A costs today) were addressed. It became apparent that a successful university-based research infrastructure could expand and improve only if the costs incurred in connection with these Navy contracts—beyond the obvious direct costs of research—were reimbursed. After World War II, discussions of F&A cost rates continued between universities and the federal government. In 1958, a formal and extensive set of guidelines for determining F&A costs was issued as Bureau of the Budget (today’s Office of Management and Budget) Circular A-21. Circular A-21 has been revised over the years. F&A costs are those involving resources (such as utilities and space) used mutually by different individuals and groups, so it is difficult to assess precisely which uses should pay what share. Direct costs are easily assigned to a specific research project and paid by its direct grant funding. The F&A cost rate is calculated as follows. First, all F&A costs in the institutions are assigned to one of nine cost-pool groups related to primary functions. These include ever; in 1991, the Office of Management and Budget placed a cap on the administrative costs for which universities can be reimbursed, an amount substantially less than the actual cost of research.7 In addition, federal, as well as institutional, policy Likewise, the equipment pool may be 3-5 percentage points (of the 50% rate) and therefore generate $6-$10 million a year for all equipment needed to support the research enterprise, including the computing infrastructure of the institution, as well as such mundane things as desks, chairs, and filing cabinets for staff, new computers for employees (every 3-5 years), and vehicles for service personnel. Although some of those items have been reclassified technically as “supplies” in the last few years, the fact remains that the funds have to come out of the cost pools. In other words, although there is some money in the pools for equipment, the demands are so diverse and large that the pleas of the researcher often go unnoticed. 7 Comments of Columbia University to National Science and Technology Council Research Business Models Subcommittee.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Facilities cost Buildings and improvements. Interest (on debt associated with certain buildings, and so on). Equipment (which includes only items of equipment purchased with nonfederal funds). Operation and maintenance (utilities and so on). Library. Administration cost General administration (personnel, purchasing offices, and so on). Department administration (college and department staff). Sponsored projects administration. Student services administration. Once all F&A costs attributable to research are identified and calculated for a fiscal year, the sum becomes the numerator in the F&A cost rate. The modified total direct costs for the corresponding year are the denominator. A component rate is calculated for each of the nine cost-pool groups. For example, the University of Washington’s on-campus organized F&A cost research rate in FY 2000 was 52%. That includes 26% for facilities and 26% for administration costs. Source: Adapted from Kwiram, A. L. An overview of indirect costs. Journal for Higher Education Strategists 1(4):387-436. may prohibit flexible strategies that would make acquisition of such instrumentation more feasible (for example, applying user fees to a sinking fund). In a period of ever more constrained resources, there are no obvious solutions to the issue of whose responsibility it is to support the operation and maintenance of ARIF that are on university campuses but used for activities supported by federal agencies. The Research Business Models subcommittee of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s National Science and Technology Council provides a venue for such issues to be discussed by academic institution leaders, researchers and federal research agencies, although policies exclude consideration of financial changes to the current system.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities SURVEY RESULTS As part of its work, the committee conducted a survey of academic institutions to get a better understanding of the issues surrounding major instruments on university campuses. For the full results, see Appendix C. A few key items of interest are highlighted here. As discussed more fully in Appendix C, the committee does not consider the results of the survey to be representative of universities as a whole. The results underestimate the number of ARIF on university campuses and should not be used for budgeting purposes. Of the institutions that responded to the commitee’s survey, many did not have any ARIF. As shown in Figure 3-3, more than half the respondents do not have any ARIF that has been purchased or constructed in the last 5 years, and institutions that do have ARIF have only a handful. The types of ARIF that were reported by institutions were in a wide array of science and engineering fields. Figure 3-4 shows the types of ARIF at the universities that responded to the survey, categorized by instrument or field. The most common individual instruments were magnetic resonance imagers and NMR spectrometers. A full list of the instruments and facilities reported can be found in Appendix C. FIGURE 3-3 Number of ARIF reported by institutional survey respondents. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 3-4 ARIF at institutions, by field. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation. The university administrators and instrument or facility managers were asked by the committee whether they had any thoughts concerning ARIF and whether they face any particular challenges with respect to ARIF. Figure 3-5 shows the frequency of the major categories of concern expressed by institutions. Most institutions commented on continuing costs or administrative challenges regarding the instrument. Perhaps the most surprising results of the university survey concern the sources of support listed for the ARIF reported. Probably because of the high cost, 62% of the institutions reported more than one source of funding for the initial cost of ARIF acquisition. The distribution of numbers of funding sources is shown in Figure 3-6. The host institution was the most common source of funding for ARIF. For almost half (48%) of the ARIF reported in the survey responses, the host institution was one of the sources of support. If all institutions and ARIF are totaled, host institutions were also the largest contributors of support for the initial capital cost for ARIF. Figure 3-7 shows the distribution of sources of support for ARIF. The largest and most common contributors were the host institution, NSF, and state governments. As can be seen in Figure 3-8, the instrumentation reported in the survey falls into two categories. Most acquisitions fall just beyond the range of the present NSF
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 3-5 Major challenges that institutions face with regard to ARIF. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation. FIGURE 3-6 Number of funding sources specified. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 3-7 Frequency of ARIF capital cost sources of support. Note: The fraction of ARIF supported by various funding sources. For example, institutions contributed to the capital costs of 48% of the ARIF reported. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation. FIGURE 3-8 Itemized ARIF, by capital cost. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities and National Institutes of Health limit of $2 million, with few special cases in the $10 million-$20 million window. The distribution suggests that there is a serious need for ARIF installations but that institutions can acquire them only if the price is within $1 million or so of the federal limit. No doubt other ARIF-category installations exist that were not reported, but it is likely that most of them required multiple funding sources. Moreover, often the true costs are significantly greater than the available funding, and frequently budget compromises are made at the expense of the technical support staff that is essential for effective operation. The near-future needs for ARIF in the $2 million-$5 million range in universities are substantial, including tools for materials science and nanoscience, high-resolution transmission electron microscopes, NMR spectrometers, and beam lines for high-energy physics and biological and chemical applications. The full list (see Appendix C) no doubt underrepresents the need for instruments costing over $5 million; that few instruments in this category show up in the survey indicates that most institutions cannot fulfill such needs with their own resources. Thus, a serious task that lies ahead is to develop a more comprehensive catalog of genuine needs for the advancement of scientific research, to establish a priority ranking of the needs, and then to develop a systematic budget and scientific strategy for them. FINDINGS F3-1: ARIF are used by researchers in many science and engineering fields; reside in many settings, including universities and colleges, industrial laboratories, national laboratories, and independent research institutions; and are used by undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, and faculty. Both workhorse and racehorse instruments play a critical role in educating and training the next generation of scientists and engineers for future employment opportunities. F3-2: Anecdotal evidence suggests that development of new instrumentation in the academic setting is declining. A decrease in instrument development has the potential to hinder the overall advancement of ARIF, the research that uses ARIF, and the ability to provide the next generation of researchers with the skills and resources they need to use their imaginations to develop new kinds of instruments and techniques. F3-3: Obtaining full support for ARIF can be challenging, because the costs involved include not only capital cost but costs of construction, development, siting, operation, maintenance, PhD-level technical research support staff, upgrading, and decommissioning. As a result, internal academic institution
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities funds are a major source of financial support for ARIF. Investing in such instruments requires relatively high-level decision-making. Locating funding for ARIF is difficult, so support often must be cobbled together from multiple sources, both federal and nonfederal, including academic institutions, independent research institutions, private foundations, and state legislatures. Because of the need for substantial institutional resources, decision-making for most ARIF generally moves from department chair to dean to institution vice-president or vice-provost for research. That path has been extremely rocky in recent years because of federal agency practices, such as the requirement for matching funds (no longer the case), and the continuing erosion of state budgets for public institutions, which has in many cases largely eliminated line-item equipment budgets. F3-4: Few academic institutions have well-defined policies or systematic provisions for career paths for PhD-level technical research support staff. A lack of administrative support places a burden on individual faculty members to locate resources for salaries. Maintenance of ARIF by graduate students or postdoctoral scholars is not cost effective; the expertise and thus the service level are too variable. Furthermore, the pedagogic value to graduate students charged with instrument support is limited, and the tenure of postdoctoral scholars is too short to provide continuity. F3-5: Space for ARIF places special demands on an institution and can be quite expensive. Many ARIF require special environments that demand the renovation of existing space or the construction of new space. The costs of installation and appropriate utilities for ARIF often are not factored into the original acquisition cost and are thus difficult to support. F3-6: When the federal government provides support for the capital cost of an instrument, it typically does not support the continuing operation and maintenance costs. Those costs are often borne by the academic institution or individual researchers. In some cases, operation and maintenance may be able to be supported through the general federal grants that offset the institution’s overhead costs. RECOMMENDATIONS R3-1: Academic institutions should review their financial support and their planning and budgeting processes for ARIF to ensure that funds are identified to support existing instrumentation properly—including such elements as op-
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities eration and maintenance costs, technical research support staff, and space— and to provide the institutional resources necessary for researchers interested in developing instruments. R3-2: Given that most ARIF are used for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, the funding and management of such instrumentation should be structured so that it has institution-wide, or even user community-wide, characteristics and should be reviewed regularly in a performance-based manner. That could involve a more centralized management structure in an administrative office for research. Facilities organized in an academic institution may benefit from having an institution-wide oversight group. R3-3: Academic institutions should enhance the career paths of PhD-level technical research support staff essential for ARIF by establishing long-term and stable staff positions for the lifetime of the instruments. These experts are vital to research involving ARIF, and their continued support would greatly enhance institutional and federal investment in ARIF. R3-4: Academic institutions should continue to discuss the issue of federal agency support for operation and maintenance costs for instruments with the Research Business Models Subcommittee of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s National Science and Technology Council.
Representative terms from entire chapter: