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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities 4 Federal Agency and Interagency Programs and Activities This chapter describes current federal agency and interagency programs and activities for the support of instrumentation, particularly advanced research instrumentation and facilities (ARIF). The focus of this chapter is on federal programs and activities that support extramural instrumentation acquisition and development. Most of the federal programs described in this chapter use a peer-review process to evaluate proposals. This process differs among agencies and programs and is described most in depth in the section on the National Science Foundation (NSF). HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF FEDERAL FUNDING OF INSTRUMENTATION The federal government has supported science for over 150 years, but World War II served as a great transition point in federal sponsorship of basic and applied research. With the government’s support, the nation’s science and engineering enterprises, especially in universities, made large strides and saw great growth. With the changing landscape of scientific research and the new discoveries that accompanied it, instrumentation became an increasingly important component of federal support of research. A 1947 report from President Truman’s Scientific Research Board, led by John R. Steelman, observed that complex instrumentation had become a vital component of modern science. The Steelman report noted that equipment, libraries, and
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities laboratory space were all needed “not only in terms of the contemplated program of basic research, but to train scientists for research and development programs in the future.” It also observed that the facilities and instruments needed for science were shifting “from mere shelter and relatively uncomplicated instruments to elaborate structures and expensive specialized equipment.” Federal support of instrumentation has waxed and waned over the last 60 years. The late 1960s ended a period of expansion in science, but in the 1970s and 1980s instrumentation was singled out for federal attention as an important issue in science policy. NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES In the first 10 years after the 1950 founding of the NSF, the agency increasingly recognized that costs of scientific instruments were outpacing the resources of universities and private patrons, and there arose an appreciation of a need for more federal support. NSF’s 1957 report Basic Research: A National Resource highlighted a further issue: that the “continuing costs for operation and maintenance of large research equipment raise more problems than original construction costs.” National Science Board Findings on National Science Foundation Support for Infrastructure In 2003, the National Science Board (NSB) released a report based in part on a survey of the needs of the individual NSF directorates and the Office of Polar Programs,1 recognizing that the demand for advanced research instrumentation depends on research field. The NSB estimated that 22% of the NSF budget is devoted to infrastructure, a designation that includes hardware, software, technical support, and physical spaces or facilities. Among its key recommendations, the board called for increased investment in small- and medium-scale infrastructure and in cyberinfrastructure. It further recommended the development of new “funding mechanisms, as needed” to support midsize projects. The NSB estimates that 20% of infrastructure needs in FY 2003-FY 2012 will be for midsize projects (in the $1 million-$10 million range, totaling $3.95 billion). To underscore the outstanding, high-priority advanced research instrumentation needs that remain unfunded, the board cited such examples as a replacement Artic-regional research vessel, the replacement or upgrade of submersibles, beam- 1 Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE); Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS); Geosciences (GEO); Biological Sciences (BIO); Engineering (ENG); Education and Human Resources; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE).
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities line instrumentation for radiation sources, upgrades of computational resources, and an incoherent scatter radar for atmospheric research. The Major Research Instrumentation Program NSF has one instrumentation program that is administered by the agency as a whole. The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program supports both instrument acquisition and development with awards that range from $100,000 to $2 million and aims to “increase access to scientific and engineering equipment for research and research training.”2 The program covers single instruments, large systems of instruments, sets of instruments that share a common research focus, and cyberinfrastructure. MRI-supported instrumentation is intended for “research-intensive learning environments”.3 Eligible institutions include both academic and non-degree-granting research institutions, such as independent nonprofit institutions, museums, and legally incorporated consortia of eligible institutions. Proposals that request a grant below the low end of the funding range ($100,000) are considered if they are from “small” academic institutions that award fewer than 20 PhD or DSci degrees per year or if they are for mathematical science, economics, or the behavioral or social sciences. Proposals that exceed $2 million are not eligible. In the past, the MRI program set aside funding for “small” academic institutions that awarded fewer than 20 PhD or DSci degrees per year. This is the first year in which the MRI program has received no congressional guidance on how much support should go to those institutions. In FY 2005, the estimated budget for the MRI program is $90 million, down from the $112 million awarded in FY 2004. Table 4-1 shows the trends in proposals and awards for the last 6 fiscal years. In FY 2004, the last year for which there are data, the success rate for proposals was 39%, and the average award amount was $344,000. In total, 464 institutions submitted 837 proposals, and 260 institutions received 326 awards. NSF tracks the traditionally minority-group-serving and non-PhD-granting institutions as well. In FY 2004, the MRI program received 56 proposals from traditionally minority-group-serving institutions and 311 proposals from non-PhD-granting institutions. Those institutions had success rates of 43% and 44%, respectively, only slightly higher than the average of all institutions. Despite a $2 million cap, the MRI program seldom funds projects at the upper end of its eligibility. The program priorities demand funding many instruments of lower capital cost. Of the 205 currently active NSF MRI awards, only 25 (12%) are 2 National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI). NSF 05-515. 2004. 3 National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI). NSF 05-515. 2004.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities TABLE 4-1 Major Research Instrumentation Program Proposals and Awards Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Total Amount Requested (millions of dollars) Number of Awards Total Amount Awarded (millions of dollars) 1998 479 249 165 56 1999 472 262 166 57 2000 476 252 156 53 2001 741 304 310 79 2002 692 296 279 81 2003 757 352 280 91 2004 837 421 326 112 2005 Not yet known Not yet known Not yet known 90 Source: Brzakovic, D. “Major Research Instrumentation,” Presentation to Council on Undergraduate Research, DIALOGUES 2005, April 18, 2005. for amounts over $750,000.4 Although the MRI program sometimes cofunds awards with other NSF instrumentation programs (typically five or six awards/ year), none of these exceeds the $2 million limit. The MRI program is centrally administered by the NSF Office of Integrative Activities (OIA). Proposals are prescreened by OIA to determine whether they are satisfactory and meet MRI proposal guidelines; there is a 5-10% return rate of proposals that are deemed either inappropriate or out of the scope of NSF support.5 After that, review of proposals is divided among the individual NSF directorates. Proposals are evaluated in a peer-review process carried out by interdisciplinary external review panels. Two merit-review criteria for the MRI program have been approved by the NSB: intellectual merit and the broader impact of the proposed activity. Consideration of broader impact includes evaluation of how well the NSF missions of research and education have been integrated and of the overall level of diversity of all proposed activity. Investigators are expected to address those issues in their proposals. The plan for use in education and training and, in the case of instrument development, the justification for the new instrument are also considered.6 Award funding is distributed to the directorates in proportion to demand. Figure 4-1 shows the distribution of the FY 2004 awards by directorate. The MRI program solicitation asserts that the program is intended to assist “in the acquisition or development of major research instrumentation by organizations that is, in 4 Results of an NSF Award Search conducted by the committee’s staff online at http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/ on March 16, 2005. 5 In 2005 the MRI program received 850 proposals, and 780 passed the initial OIA prescreening. 6 Brzakovic, D. “Overview of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program,” October 22, 2004. QEM Proposal Development and Evaluation Workshop, Atlanta, Ga.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 4-1 Major Research Instrumentation program FY 2004 awards by directorate. NOTE: BIO: Biological Sciences; CISE: Computer and Information Science and Engineering; ENG: Engineering; GEO: Geosciences; MPS: Mathematical and Physical Sciences; SBE: Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences; OPP: Office of Polar Programs. Source: Brzakovic, D. “Major Research Instrumentation,” Presentation to Council on Undergraduate Research, DIALOGUES 2005, April 18, 2005. general, too costly for support through other NSF programs.” Some directorates and divisions use the program in different ways to meet the needs of their scientific communities. CISE uses MRI program awards to support cyberinfrastructure, which can make incremental gains through smaller grants given every year. The Division for Materials Research (DMR) in the MPS sometimes splits grants between the DMR Instrumentation and Facilities program and the MRI program. Historically, the MRI program allowed operation and maintenance costs to be included in the total amount of funding proposed for instrument acquisition. In addition, it was required that institutions contribute matching support totaling 30% of the award amount. In October 2004, NSF eliminated program-specific cost-sharing; in exchange, however, operation and maintenance costs are no longer provided for in MRI awards. The MRI program still requires that a management plan be included with a proposal, and this plan is considered in the review process. In the case of an acquisition proposal, the management plan is reviewed with an eye to whether it includes sufficient infrastructure and technical expertise to allow effective use of the instrument and whether there is an institutional commitment for the continued
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities operation and maintenance costs. In considering an instrument development proposal, reviewers evaluate whether the plan has a realistic schedule and whether mechanisms are in place to deal with potential risks. An institution is limited to two MRI proposals per year, although a third may be allowed if it is for instrument development. Collaborating universities that wish to submit an MRI proposal jointly will each have one slot taken, unless the collaboration is legally incorporated. Researchers are sometimes placed in the position of negotiating with university administration if multiple MRI proposals are competing for the opportunity to be submitted to NSF. That is especially problematic in such fields as the social sciences, whose work depends heavily on shared databases and other such cyberinfrastructure.7 In those fields, the MRI program is not particularly useful inasmuch as the continuing operation and maintenance costs are much higher than the initial capital investment. The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Account NSF maintains an agencywide program for instrumentation and facilities called the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account, which supports the “acquisition, construction, commissioning, and upgrading of major research equipment, facilities, and other such capital assets” costing more than several tens of millions of dollars.8 Awards made through the MREFC account usually span several years. Proposals for new starts are first reviewed by an MREFC panel consisting of senior staff and are then approved and subjected to priority-setting by the NSB. MREFC awards are typically in the hundreds of millions of dollars and include such facilities as the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and Terascale Computing Systems. Unlike MRI proposals, MREFC proposals are reviewed by a special MREFC committee and by the NSB. Funding for construction is supplied centrally, and the operation and maintenance budget comes from an individual directorate. Because of the financial commitment involved, the review process for MREFC proposals is especially competitive, and NSF has a number of commitments that have been approved through the MREFC process but are still awaiting funding. In response to the National Academies report on large facilities, the NSB is reviewing its MREFC procedures.9 7 Committee’s staff conversation with Norman Bradburn, of the University of Chicago. 8 National Research Council. Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004. 9 National Science Board, Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation. Arlington, Va.: National Science Foundation, 2003.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities The NSB found that the total budgets of the MRI and MREFC programs account for less than one-third of the agency’s support for infrastructure.10 Most instrumentation support occurs in individual NSF directorates. Because of the differing instrumentation needs of the research communities they support, some directorates depend on these agencywide programs more than others. Support for Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities NSF has no agencywide program for instrumentation or facility needs that fall in between those met by the MRI program and those met by the MREFC account, that is, for ARIF. Support offered for ARIF differs widely among the various NSF directorates. The following analysis is based on the committee’s staff’s conversations with NSF staff. The NSF directorates and their divisions support ARIF in a number of ways. Some divisions have accounts specifically set aside for ARIF; proposals go through a peer-review process that may or may not be publicized through solicitations for competition. Most ARIF projects are funded through a combination of NSF programs. The most straightforward examples of ARIF support are outlined in the following two sections. The Instrumentation for Materials Research– Major Instrumentation Projects Program The MPS DMR releases the only solicitation, or request for proposals, for an advanced research instrumentation program. The Instrumentation for Materials Research–Major Instrumentation Projects (IMR-MIP) program is similar to the MRI program in that it supports the construction or acquisition of instrumentation but not its continuing operations and maintenance.11 Traditionally, the researcher who builds the instrument is able to use it for 25% of the time. Use of the remaining time available is determined by the institution, which may charge user fees to researchers who wish to use the instrument. The program’s budget is $3-$4 million but, on the basis of an assessment of need, DMR argues that $25 million at steady state would be more appropriate. Among the instruments that DMR has supported under this program are a specially constructed 900-MHz wide-bore nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) (about $16 million) that resides at the Na- 10 See Figure 1-1 for 2004-2006 statistics. 11 National Science Foundation, Instrumentation for Materials Research–Major Instrumentation Projects (IMR-MIP). NSF 05-513. 2004.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities tional High Magnetic Field Laboratory and new beamlines for neutron sources. An IMR-MIP grant partially funded a recently constructed National Institute of Standards and Technology beamline with additional support from the NSF MRI program and supplemental funding from Johns Hopkins University. Geosciences Support for Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities The 2003 NSB report on science and engineering infrastructure specifies that GEO spends about 36% of its total budget on infrastructure, well above the NSF average of 22%.12 The unusually large dependence on infrastructure is due to the inherently observational nature of geoscience research, which requires modern research vessels, aircraft, and ground-based deployment of networks of sensors, such as seismometers, global positioning system stations, and strain meters. The high cost of some of those needs must be met through NSF’s MREFC account, but many fall in the category of ARIF. To meet the rising need for instrumentation and facilities in the $2 million-$20 million range in the earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences, the three divisions of GEO each recently created accounts for the support of ARIF. Those accounts, each of $7 million-$12 million, were created in the last 3 years by diverting existing funding in response to pressure from the scientific community. Operation budgets are not included in awards made from the accounts. Project ideas are sometimes developed through workshops at NSF. Although no program solicitations are released to advertise the accounts, the need in the three research communities is sufficient that proposals are carefully planned by groups and submitted proposals are subject to a competitive, peer-reviewed process. Because of the coordinated, observation-based nature of the geosciences and the conservative budgetary climate, GEO prefers this approach to the release of grant solicitations. GEO estimates the total present need for ARIF funding in geosciences to be $500 million. The Atmospheric Sciences Division is funding the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) with its ARIF account. A phased-array radar system for studying the upper reaches of the earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere has a total cost of $44 million and is treated with the same rigor and planning as MREFC projects. The division plans to have a separate 5-year award for operation for the AMISR project. The Earth Sciences Division had used its account primarily for large cyberinfrastructure projects. In both divisions, networks of distributed sensor systems constitute instrumentation that requires additional support. 12 National Science Board. Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation. Arlington, Va.: National Science Foundation, 2003.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities The Earth Sciences Division also has an instrumentation program, Instrumentation and Facilities, with a budget of $30 million per year, with roughly $7 million for new awards for instrumentation acquisition every year.13 The Instrumentation and Facilities program supports the acquisition of new research equipment, instrumentation and technique development, shared facilities, and technical staff. About 60% of the Instrumentation and Facilities program budget goes to 15 national and regional multiuser facilities managed by university consortia with annual budgets of $200,000 to $15 million. Most of those facilities depend on the program for the support of continuing costs, including costs for personnel, although some are still being set up and require more support for instrumentation acquisition. The remaining 40% of the Instrumentation and Facilities program budget goes to individual awards. There is no budgetary limit on proposals for instrumentation acquisition, but investigators who want to request more than $500,000 are asked to contact the program directors before submitting proposals. Technical staff support awards are made for at least 3 years and may be continued for an additional 2 years. The awards for salaries are set at a maximum of $80,000/year, and many go to PhD-level staff. A number of institutions have established permanent positions for personnel supported through those awards. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES An estimated 1.4% ($400 million) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget went to instrumentation in FY 2004. That estimate includes instrumentation purchased by investigators through NIH R01 research grants under $250,000; these no longer require itemized budgets, so it is difficult to determine how much has been spent on equipment. NIH has two established instrumentation programs, both of which are below the threshold for ARIF. The programs, which are both intended for acquisition and are thus a year in duration, do not support operation and maintenance. The Shared Instrumentation Grant Program supports instrumentation in the $100,000-$500,000 range and has an annual budget of $49 million. The High End Instrumentation (HEI) program, announced every 2 years, supports instrumentation in the $750,000-$2 million range and has an annual budget of $21 million. Combined, the programs constitute less than 20% of the estimated NIH investment in instrumentation. Both programs require that a proposal be submitted by a group of at least three NIH-funded or NIH-recognized investigators. Note that NIH’s primary mechanism for directly funding the con- 13 National Science Foundation, Earth Sciences: Instrumentation and Facilities (EAR/IF). NSF 05-587. 2004.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities struction or renovation of biomedical research facilities is the Research Facilities Improvement Program. Grants from this program fund only the “bricks and mortar” of facilities construction and renovation and cannot be used to purchase research equipment or instrumentation.14 Although the $2 million cap on the HEI program excludes complete support of purchase costs of advanced research instrumentation, NIH uses several practices to fund instruments valued over $2 million. The HEI program will partially fund instrumentation that exceeds the limit. That has been done in the case of synchrotron beamline end stations, biomedical imagers, high-end computing clusters, and high-voltage electron microscopes. If the price of an instrument exceeds $2 million, funding is usually sought elsewhere. Additional support typically comes from the principal investigator’s institution or from private agencies. NIH will also set aside money for specific instruments when it sees a need. That was the case for the 900-MHz NMR, the most expensive commercially available NMR. The NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences has, in years past, released two requests for applications specifically for the 900-MHz NMR, and NIH sees no additional demand for such machines in the biomedical research community. NIH has no MREFC-like program, although two units (the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering) fund about 70 research centers through the Biomedical Technology Resource Center Program (P41). With an annual budget of about $100 million, these facilities focus mainly on the development of new technologies and instrumentation. The P41 centers provide complex and expensive instruments that are difficult for individual institutions to acquire and maintain. Each center provides a multidisciplinary environment that fosters collaboration among investigators and maintains staff scientists. The centers work closely with industry on NMR, electron paramagnetic resonance, magnetic resonance imaging, and electron microscopy. Requirements for continued support include a technology development program that can be evaluated, external collaboration for input on development, provision of access to researchers, training, and dissemination to ensure that the tools and technologies that a center develops reach the widest possible array of users. The annual budget ceiling for a P41 center is $700,000 in direct costs, excluding instrumentation. A budget ceiling of $500,000 for instruments is in place for any given project grant. Support from other sources is often required for equipment purchases that exceed that limit. 14 National Institutes of Health Working Group on Construction of Research Facilities. A Report to the Advisory Committee of the Director, National Institutes of Health. July 6, 2001.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has six program offices15 that sponsor basic research primarily with support and oversight by the national laboratories. Each of the program offices informally supports research at universities that supplements work done at the national laboratories. The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), for example, had a FY 2005 budget of $1.1 billion. About half of the budget is dedicated to research, and $500 million goes to the construction, operation, and maintenance of national research facilities. BES does not have any dedicated programs for instrumentation, but it funds instrumentation of all sizes through its programs, particularly through its support of facilities, including in FY 2005 $2 million for instrumentation upgrades at the High Flux Isotope Reactor Facility. $5.5 million for the development of a next-generation Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope. This is coordination among five electron beam microscopy efforts—four at national laboratories and one at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The total budget for the project is $25 million. $300 million for the Nanoscale Science Research Centers at five DOE-funded national laboratories. The first occupancy at one of these facilities will be in April 2005. $50 million-$60 million Linear Coherent Light Source (over many years). $7.5 million for seven new instruments at the Spallation Neutron Source ($75 million over 10 years). Continued support of beamlines. BES both builds and operates its national laboratories and facilities. In taking on the construction of facilities, it also takes on responsibility for the facility after commission, supporting operation, maintenance, and upgrades as needed. BES funds operations at the Advanced Photon Source, which was also managed during construction by BES on a separate project line. There are similar plans for the Spallation Neutron Source once construction is completed. Historically, if the university retained the title to a facility, BES provided grant 15 The six program offices are the offices of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, and Nuclear Physics. Each of the program offices informally supports research at universities that supplements work done at the national laboratories.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Largely stewarded by DOE, the nation’s neutron and synchrotron facilities receive the support of NSF and NIH for upgrades and development. In addition to instrumentation that has evolved to serve many distinct research needs, there are fields, such as nanoscience and supercomputing, that bring together many traditionally disparate scientific disciplines. With an increasing need for instrumentation and cross-disciplinary science, federal agencies are finding more and more reasons to work together. Agencies collaborate to evaluate need in particular disciplines and to coordinate investments and jointly fund programs. There are no particular models for interagency collaboration. Agencies have coordinated in a number of ways to evaluate the needs of particular scientific fields and the efficacy of existing programs. DOE and NSF share the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel, an external advisory committee composed of researchers that advises agencies about pressing issues and long-range concerns related to high-energy physics. The Networking and IT R&D Program and Next-Generation Internet, both large efforts to improve the nation’s cyberinfrastructure as a whole, involve interagency coordination and evaluation. Specialized programs—such as the Alliance Workshops on Propulsion and Power Systems involving NASA, Department of Defense (DOD), DOE, FAA, and industry—exist to accumulate and share research results and directions. The Global Climate Science Program of NOAA, DOE, and NSF was organized to coordinate individual agency investments with an eye to the field at large. On the basis of its findings, NOAA, DOE, and NSF made investments in their institutions to look at the ecological effects of climate change. In addition to efforts spearheaded by federal research agencies, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), chaired by the president, serve as mechanisms for monitoring current and pressing issues in science and planning for the future. OSTP organizes interagency working groups that bring representatives together from various federal agencies to evaluate needs in particular fields of study. Among recent groups were the Working Group on Structural Biology at Synchrotron Radiation Facilities, the Working Group on Physics of the Universe, and the Working Group on Earth Observations. In 2002, the Working Group on Neutron Science released a report on the status and needs of neutron facilities that recommended that there be continued interagency collaboration through OSTP and increased coordination between national user facilities and between researchers in related groups and disciplinary societies. It identified the needs of neutron science to include the upgrade and enhancement of instruments and the development of new source technologies and scattering methods. The report further identified expanding the scope of neutron scattering to other fields as a worthwhile goal. OSTP has stated that it does not have the resources to administer interagency
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities coordination, although in cases of special need it has done so. The office was involved in collaboration between DOE and NSF for the Large Hadron Collider, and it has participated in the International Fusion Project. Another factor that limits OSTP’s ability to foster interagency collaboration is the shift in priorities between presidential administrations. The interagency Climate Change Science Program has had many sponsors over the years. Originally informal in the 1980s, it later officially came under the purview of the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). During the Clinton administration, responsibility for the USGCRP shifted to OSTP, and it is now led by the Department of Commerce. Under the purview of the NSTC Committee on Technology, the Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) meets to coordinate the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Its scope includes “planning, budgeting, implementation, and review” of agency efforts in research and development for NSET.20 The subcommittee is composed of representatives of 20 federal agencies and departments. In addition to functioning in an advisory capacity and providing technical expertise, the subcommittee helps to implement the recommendations of other advisory organizations, including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council. The NSTC Research Business Models (RBM) Subcommittee is a standing group that examines the effectiveness of the federal research and development enterprise. Under RBM, the Working Group on Alignment of Funding Mechanisms and Scientific Opportunity is examining agency mechanisms for the support of instrumentation. In addition to interagency efforts that focus on evaluation, agencies have collaborated on projects and programs. In 1999, DOE and NIH cosponsored an upgrade of two DOE synchrotron facilities. Recognizing the need for such facilities in the biology community, NIH funded half of a $58 million upgrade of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and provided $4 million for upgrades at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory. DOE and NIH also cosponsored the longer-term Human Genome Project. Begun in 1990 and completed ahead of schedule in 2003, the success and early completion of this project were due in part to the investments in technologies for more efficient DNA sequencers. Databases and analysis algorithms were also developed to store and parse results. One type of interagency coordination is a memorandum of understanding, a recognition of individual agency funding efforts with an eye to maximizing the benefit. For a number of years, NSF and NIH maintained a memorandum of 20 NSTC/NSET Terms of Reference.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities understanding to jointly fund deserving awards up to $900,000. Researchers, including those who may have required funding for projects categorized as advanced research instrumentation, were welcome to apply to both the NIH HEI program and the NSF MRI program for partial instrumentation support. The arrangement was discontinued by NSF in 2004 because of concerns that such efforts were too distant from the NSF mission and strained an agency budget that was small compared with that of NIH. FEDERAL PHD-LEVEL TECHNICAL RESEARCH SUPPORT STAFF CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT PROGRAMS To obtain better efficiency and reliable results, researchers and laboratories often require a knowledgeable staff to maintain and operate instruments and facilitate the use of instruments by nonspecialists. That is especially true in the case of ARIF. PhD-level technical research support staff are increasingly important to the research enterprise, not only to keep important instrumentation functioning but often to assist in the development of new instrumentation and techniques. Among the federal research agencies, few programs recognize and support technical research staff in university laboratories. The NSF Earth Sciences Division of GEO provides awards for technical staff salaries through its Instrumentation and Facilities program, as described earlier. The DOE supports nonfaculty staff with advancement programs similar to the tenure-track system. Outside of those, however, there are few ways for university laboratories to obtain federal support for the salaries of research and technical staff. Furthermore, no awards are given by agencies to outstanding staff at university laboratories to serve as a mechanism for career recognition and advancement. SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS This chapter has described the various federal agency programs and mechanisms by which instrumentation for extramural research is supported. On the basis of the public information provided by the agencies and discussions with agency staff, the committee has found that a number of federal instrumentation programs support the acquisition and development of instrumentation, although few are designed specifically for ARIF. Many ARIF are funded on an ad hoc basis through informal mechanisms for support, usually involving discussions with agency staff and a considerable amount of time and knowledge on the part of the investigator. Agency programs and practices that may support extramural acquisition and development of instrumentation are summarized in Table 4-2. In addition to meeting with agency officials, the committee benefited in its
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities TABLE 4-2 Federal Agency Programs and Practices for the Support of Instrumentation Agency Instrumentation Program Description National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program $100,000-$2 million for instrument acquisition and development; capable of partially funding ARIF, although such support is unlikely; support does not include continuing costs Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account Supports major facilities in the tens of millions of dollars and above Instrumentation for Materials Research–Major Instrumentation Projects (IMR-MIP) Supports ARIF, although program’s budget is small ($3-$4 million); support does not include continuing costs Earth Sciences Instrumentation and Facilities (EAR-IF) $7 million for new awards; support available for instrument acquisition and development, technical staff; there is no budgetary limit on awards other than those designatedfor staff Other programs Other NSF programs support instrumentation and facilities with limits much less than $2 million, although partial and coordinated funding is possible Informal Researchers may discuss with staff in various divisions; communities expressing great need may be accommodated with workshops and discussions leading to further support National Institutes of Health High-End Instrumentation (HEI) program Capable of partially funding ARIF with $750,000-$2 million awards for instrumentation acquisition; proposals must be from a group of at least three NIH-funded investigators; does not support continuing costs Shared Instrumentation Grant (SIG) Program $100,000-$500,000 for instrumentation acquisition; proposals must be from a group of at least three NIH-funded investigators; does not support continuing costs Informal If need for particular instrument is sufficiently expressed by research community, a special request for proposals may be released Department of Energy Informal and principally at national laboratories Supports instrumentation needs at national laboratories and at universities supporting national laboratory efforts Department of Defense Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) $50,000-$1 million in individual grants for acquisition of research equipment; does not support continuing costs
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Agency Instrumentation Program Description National Aeronautics and Space Administration Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) Average $100,000 research grants, including instrumentation development, acquisition and improvements under specific solicitations Cooperative Agreement Notices Grants to institutions that can be in the $1 million range over a period of five years. Support research, including instrument acquisition. Mission-specific solicitations for proposals Investigators interested in developing instrumentation for use in missions on space shuttles, satellites, planes, and balloons can respond to specific solicitations sent out by Science Mission Directorate and Human Spaceflight National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration None for university laboratories Supports instrumentation for intramural research, which includes collaboration with universities Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) broad-area announcement Grants for research in particular fields, most likely to obtain support for instrument development projects in particular fields needing new security technologies Informal Instrument development projects are more in line with the agency’s mission; researchers may discuss with science and technology portfolio directors Homeland Security Centers for Excellence University centers that receive DHS grants that may be available for collaboration US Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative (NRI) General research grants that can support instrument development projects Informal Researchers may discuss with staff understanding of federal agency support of ARIF from responses to its survey of research institutions, primarily colleges and universities. While the committee is aware that the survey results are not representative of ARIF on university campuses, the data on sources of support for individual ARIF proved to be helpful.21 Figure 4-2 shows the proportion of ARIF at institutions that were supported by various sources; more than half the ARIF reported had more than one sponsor. 21 More information on the survey and its limitations is located in Appendix C.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 4-2 Frequency of ARIF capital cost sources of support. Note: The fraction of the 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. The most common sources of funding for ARIF were the host institutions, NSF, and the states. Figure 4-3 indicates the total amount (over all survey responses) of funding from each reported source. Data on ARIF support from NSF were particularly surprising. Three instruments had NSF support for well over $2 million ($3.9, $4.4, and $2.7 million). That yielded an average award amount of $2.3 million. Particular programs by which this NSF funding was acquired were not listed. We speculate that the support was obtained through individual NSF divisions. FINDINGS F4-1: Long-term, sustained support of ARIF is a critical element of effective investment in research. Unstable investment in instrumentation negatively impacts research as well as the attractiveness of technical research support careers vital to research involving ARIF. F4-2: A rapidly increasing number of instruments essential for the research enterprise are crossing the $2 million capital-cost maximum of federal instru-
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities FIGURE 4-3 Total ARIF capital cost support, by source. Source: Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation. mentation programs at NIH and NSF. The cost of many essential next-generation instruments is moving across the $2 million boundary, including 900-MHz and 1-GHz NMRs and electron microscopes. Increased costs and specialization have created a void in federal programs inasmuch as only a few disciplinary programs permit proposals greater than that limit. F4-3: Obtaining support for the operation and maintenance of ARIF is even more challenging than obtaining the initial capital investment. On the basis of its survey, the committee saw that finding funding for the continuing operation of an instrument or facility is difficult. For many types of ARIF, such as cyberinfrastructure, that is especially problematic, because the continuing costs may be much higher than the initial capital investment. F4-4: Current federal agency planning and budgeting information is inadequate, given the level of resources involved. Because agencies generally respond to requests for ARIF on an ad hoc basis, the mechanism by which researchers can apply for support for the acquisition or construction of instrumentation is not clear. Few formal programs that can serve as models have been developed.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities F4-5: The lack of formal programs for ARIF leads to inconsistent evaluation criteria and makes it harder for agencies to incorporate agency goals—such as research-field, geographic, institution, and researcher diversity—or requirements that instruments be shared in ways that maximize their utility. A well-planned peer-review system is essential to this process. F4-6: Few federal research agency programs are in place for the support of PhD-level technical research support staff, who are critical to research involving ARIF. F4-7: OSTP, via the NSTC, provides a mechanism for enhancing coordination, planning, and budgeting among federal agencies in that it can organize regular meetings that may serve as a clearinghouse for ARIF program ideas. Coordination is needed among federal agencies when Resources that are beyond the capabilities of a single agency are required. Large, diverse research communities need an advanced research instrument or facility. The focus is in a field of research that is relevant to the missions of two or more agencies (for example, a roadmap for software) and there is mutual interest and value in the research to be supported. (The committee is aware of situations in which agencies have jointly funded both small and large ARIF.) F4-8: ARIF does not require the creation of a centralized interagency program for its funding, management, and oversight, as such a program would be impractical, and sufficient multiagency coordination is possible through the NSTC. Because the missions of the research-supporting federal agencies differ greatly, as do the mechanisms by which they report to the Office of Management and Budget and congressional committees, it would be difficult to maintain such a continuous funding program. The committee is aware that when agency missions have overlapped, the agencies have found ways to work together on joint activities; including instrumentation. An interagency-sponsored program for the acquisition of ARIF is neither necessary nor practicable.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities RECOMMENDATIONS R4-1: Each federal research agency22 should devote more attention to ARIF by evaluating the needs of its investigators and explicitly planning and budgeting for their support. Given the need for these ARIF and the limited resources available, federal research agencies need to develop better models for dealing with the ARIF needs of the community. Such evaluation should include the development of a formal definition of ARIF to distinguish it from bricks-and-mortar facilities and from facilities that fall under the NSF MREFC designation. R4-2: Each federal research agency should re-evaluate the appropriate balance between instrumentation and research grants and, within instrumentation programs, the appropriate balance between small-, middle, and large-scale instrumentation and facilities. R4-3: Each federal research agency should establish centralized, transparent, and peer-reviewed programs for ARIF that publicly solicit proposals. Such programs should Fund the operation and maintenance costs associated with approved proposals that demonstrate sufficient need. Sustain proportion of support for ARIF even when agency funding is stagnant or declining. Develop a set of selection criteria that respond to agency goals, such as effectively sharing and efficiently using instrumentation both inside and outside the institution and supporting research-field, geographic, institution, and research diversity. Coordinate whenever possible with ARIF programs at other agencies; joint solicitations and reviews will increase the cost effectiveness of the support and reduce the burden on researchers. R4-4: The federal research agencies should require that proposals for ARIF from institutions contain a business and management plan that includes information on space, technical staffing, and source of funding for operation and maintenance costs. The business plan should include a mechanism for performance review and reporting. 22 The committee designates the following as federal research agencies: NSF, NIH, DOE, USDA, NOAA, NASA, DOD, and DHS.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities Federal research agencies should view the management and operation of ARIF at academic institutions in a manner similar to the approach used for the NSF MREFC program or the user facilities at national laboratories. Proposal review should include the management and sharing of the proposed instrumentation and facility so that the resource will be effectively used and readily accessible to a wide array of users, if appropriate, and the level of attention to operation and maintenance issues will be sufficient. R4-5: The federal research agencies should establish career development and support programs for technical research support staff for instrumentation. Such programs will help to advance the careers of PhD-level specialists, who are vital to ARIF-related research, as well as enhance the utility of federal research investments. In particular, NIH should expand its K-level career development awards to include technical instrument staff; such awards would provide both support and needed recognition. At NSF, a model is the Earth Science Division Instrumentation and Facilities program, which supports the establishment of new full-time positions for technical support staff through awards for up to 5 years that can cover salary, fringe benefits, and related indirect costs. R4-6: NSF should expand its existing MRI program so that it includes instrumentation with capital costs greater than $2 million but less than the amount that makes it eligible for the MREFC account. Proposals from consortia that are not legally incorporated should be allowed to further encourage collaboration and sharing among institutions. R4-7: NIH should eliminate the capital cost limit of the HEI program, re-evaluate its balance between support for ARIF and research grants, and substantially increase its instrumentation investment. The nature of the research that NIH funds is increasingly similar to that in physics; this leads to the need for tools that are able to measure at the molecular level. The dominant role of NIH in funding for science argues for its playing a major role in making up for the backlog that was identified by the NSB. As a result, NIH should evaluate the percentage of its budget that it devotes toward instrumentation. On the basis of its survey, the committee believes that the current percentage of NIH’s budget devoted to instruments constitutes a substantial underinvestment.
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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities R4-8: The NSTC should elevate ARIF as a particular topic for coordination and cooperation among the federal research agencies. The NSTC should Foster discussion among agencies of the amount to be allocated for federal ARIF programs on the basis of consideration of the appropriate balance among people, tools, and ideas. The proceedings of such discussion could become part of the regular OMB-OSTP budget memorandum. Serve as a clearinghouse for agencies to discuss best practices for the support of ARIF. Allow researchers in diverse disciplines to present to multiple agencies simultaneously their case for ARIF that would be used in many fields. Encourage the federal research agencies to work together to develop joint solicitations for proposals.
Representative terms from entire chapter: