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21 IV. GOVERNANCE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTERS RELATIONSHIP TO UNIVERSITIES Centers must be located at a university or affiliated with a consortium of universities. Centers should be partners in their parent institutions' educational, research, and service missions. In view of the outreach function of centers, host universities should create an external mechanism for obtaining advice on center activities and regular evaluation of their performance. Beyond these general prescriptions, the details of administration should be left to the universities' discretion with a minimum of federal involvement. NSF REVIEW The panel recommends a nine-year funding cycle to provide centers a reasonable opportunity to achieve their scientific objectives. Typically, this period should include three years of funding growth, three years of stable funding, and a terminal three years. Because Science and Technology Centers are privileged to receive substantial funding over a relatively long period, they should be subject to periodic review of the highest standard. The Foundation should evaluate a center at three-year intervals to determine the funding level to follow. After each review, the center should be given either a three-year renewal or a three-year period in which to terminate its activities. Thus, barring evidence of gross mismanagement or poor performance, each center that does not itself propose an earlier termination will be assured of funding for at least six years from its start-up. At the end of nine years the original grant should be terminated.
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22 Because the three-year start-up period is necessarily one of organization, exploration, and adjustment of original plans to new or unanticipated circumstances, the first evaluation should focus more on scientific promise and administrative progress and less on research accomplishments. All reviews should be conducted by external committees of scientists appointed by the Foundation. NSF should require written administrative reporting by the centers no more often than once a year. Finally, separate from the process of reviewing individual centers, there should be a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the Foundation's entire Science and Technology Centers program in the context of all programs supporting basic science. This function might be assigned to a standing committee external to the Foundation.