The MRGs should be viewed as a logical intermediate stage between the traditional single-investigator research programs and the MRLs. Taken together, the MRLs and MRGs represent an increasing fraction of the budget of the NSF Materials Research Division and demonstrate a recognition of the trend toward greater cross-departmental interaction in materials research. Furthermore, as the project titles indicate, these Materials Research Groups, along with the new Engineering Research Centers, will bring more chemistry and engineering into the NSF group research program in materials.

The concept of block funding was originally viewed as an experiment. The experiment led to radical measures intended to eliminate barriers to the solution of complex problems in the study of materials. It is fair to conclude, 25 years later, that the experiment was successful and that materials science has fared much better than it might have otherwise.



My own personal experiences strongly color my remarks, as I have grown up professionally at Northwestern University (which housed one of the first three IDLs, along with Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), and was privileged to serve as the director of the Materials Research Center at Northwestern before assuming my present position as director of the Institute for Materials Science and Engineering at the National Bureau of Standards.

I am particularly indebted to the late Roman J.Wasilewski for the detailed historical perspective provided in his final report to the National Science Foundation (NSF) [R.J. Wasilewski, Outline of MRL Program. Internal NSF Memorandum to Division Director, Materials Research Division, National Science Foundation, Dec. 22, 1981] and in a 1984 unpublished manuscript dealing with the development of the Materials Research Laboratory program. Ro Wasilewski, who died on 3 February 1985, headed the Materials Research Laboratory Section at NSF for 10 years from the time of the transfer of the IDLs to NSF in 1972. Much of what is good about the MRLs can be attributed to his farsighted management of the program.


W.O.Baker, “The National Role of Materials Research and Development,” in Properties of Crystalline Solids, Special Technical Publication No. 283, American Society for Testing and Materials, 1960, pp. 1–7.


R.A.Huggins, Overview of Advanced Research Projects Agency Interdisciplinary Research Laboratories as of June 30, 1970. Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Department of Defense.


National Academy of Sciences, Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (COSMAT), Materials and Man’s Needs: Materials Science and Engineering, Vol. III (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1975), pp. 7–209–7–210.


J.G.Ling and M.A.Hand, “Federal Funding in Materials Research,” (summary of the findings of the MITRE report). Science 209, 1203 (1980); Technical Report 7764 (MITRE Corp., Bedford, Mass., Sept. 1978).


K.Mukherjee, ed., ASM Metallurgy/Materials Education Yearbook, American Society for Metals, Metals Park, Ohio, 1985.

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