APPENDIX 7C
History of the Development of Interdisciplinary Materials Research Centers

The establishment of this major organizational experiment had its roots in suggestions from various quarters. Prominent among the formative influences was a group of industrial-research leaders from the major materials-consuming industries (General Electric, Bell Telephone Labs., etc.) who urged the government to upgrade the universities’ capabilities for conducting the very expensive and sophisticated materials research, as well as the associated graduate educational programs, which modern technology demanded. Meanwhile, within the government, the AEC’s Metallurgy and Materials Branch Advisory Panel recommended in December, 1955, that the AEC’s program of fundamental materials research be significantly expanded. In addition to other opinions, the Panel stated that the primary need was for additional laboratory and office space, particularly at universities. The Panel concluded that many universities had reached the limit of their facilities for training graduate students in the materials sciences and recommended that the AEC find ways of accelerating the construction of such research facilities. Early in 1956*, four universities submitted proposals for the formation of materials research institutes:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Pennsylvania State University

California Institute of Technology

University of Illinois

These proposals were considered but not funded because of such questions as federal involvement in education and whether it was appropriate for the federal government to construct buildings on university campuses.

The issue was revived during the summer of 1958 when AEC, NASA, DoD, and NSF representatives met to discuss what could be done to alleviate the shortage of scientific manpower and research capabilities in the universities. At its first meeting on March 24, 1959, the Federal Council on Science and Technology (FCST) created the Coordinating Committee on Materials Research and Development (CCMRD) to advise it on the nation’s materials problems. The Committee was composed of representatives from each of the national agencies concerned with materials.

In its first report presented at the April 28, 1959 meeting of the Federal Council on Science and Technology, the Committee stated that it found one of the major limitations to the nation’s materials research efforts to be

*  

An interesting precursor to such laboratories already existed in the University of Chicago’s Institute for the Study of Metals, where faculty members from different departments were supported in their research on metals in a coherent way.



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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering APPENDIX 7C History of the Development of Interdisciplinary Materials Research Centers The establishment of this major organizational experiment had its roots in suggestions from various quarters. Prominent among the formative influences was a group of industrial-research leaders from the major materials-consuming industries (General Electric, Bell Telephone Labs., etc.) who urged the government to upgrade the universities’ capabilities for conducting the very expensive and sophisticated materials research, as well as the associated graduate educational programs, which modern technology demanded. Meanwhile, within the government, the AEC’s Metallurgy and Materials Branch Advisory Panel recommended in December, 1955, that the AEC’s program of fundamental materials research be significantly expanded. In addition to other opinions, the Panel stated that the primary need was for additional laboratory and office space, particularly at universities. The Panel concluded that many universities had reached the limit of their facilities for training graduate students in the materials sciences and recommended that the AEC find ways of accelerating the construction of such research facilities. Early in 1956*, four universities submitted proposals for the formation of materials research institutes: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Pennsylvania State University California Institute of Technology University of Illinois These proposals were considered but not funded because of such questions as federal involvement in education and whether it was appropriate for the federal government to construct buildings on university campuses. The issue was revived during the summer of 1958 when AEC, NASA, DoD, and NSF representatives met to discuss what could be done to alleviate the shortage of scientific manpower and research capabilities in the universities. At its first meeting on March 24, 1959, the Federal Council on Science and Technology (FCST) created the Coordinating Committee on Materials Research and Development (CCMRD) to advise it on the nation’s materials problems. The Committee was composed of representatives from each of the national agencies concerned with materials. In its first report presented at the April 28, 1959 meeting of the Federal Council on Science and Technology, the Committee stated that it found one of the major limitations to the nation’s materials research efforts to be *   An interesting precursor to such laboratories already existed in the University of Chicago’s Institute for the Study of Metals, where faculty members from different departments were supported in their research on metals in a coherent way.

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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering a shortage of technical manpower and the needed laboratory space and equipment. The Committee recommended, among other things, approval in principle of the establishment of interdisciplinary laboratories for materials research to be built on university campuses as a means of correcting the situation. The FCST accepted the Committee’s recommendations. Subsequently the AEC, the DoD through its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), and somewhat later NASA, initiated their programs of block support for materials centers at several universities. The concept of block funding, with some degree of assurance of continuity, was new in the early 1960’s. It was believed this form of support would provide the following advantages: By concentrating funds in a few carefully selected universities, it would be possible to develop centers of excellence. The money could be used locally to add faculty of high quality in different disciplines in accordance with well-developed long-range plans. Facilities and services comparable with those found in the best industrial research laboratories could be established. Interdisciplinary interactions would be encouraged. It would be possible to respond more effectively to special needs. This flexibility was expected to prove most beneficial to new faculty members and to established faculty who might wish to change their research areas.

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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering APPENDIX 7D Details of University-Industry Coupling Experiments Introduction The research climate in 1972 was such that almost every avenue for increasing the efficiency of the total national R&D enterprise was given consideration. At the end of a rapid growth period, when increased activity cannot come from substantial increases in funding, it becomes clear that one of the most promising areas for increasing R&D output is by more effective coupling of the three research sectors—university/industry/government. Furthermore, the field of materials is an ideal case study for lessons from the past. COSMAT has included as one of the criteria which are characteristic of the evolving field of MSE the purposive nature or mission-orientation of the field. Certainly this feature distinguishes significant materials research from most traditional disciplinary scientific activities on the country’s campuses, and one must assess its importance in university materials work. If much coupling is not in evidence in this field, it may have an adverse effect on the general case. As the issue of relevance and the general demand for greater accountability are raised, it behooves the academic community to examine the nature and effectiveness of its interfaces with society. In an applied field such as MSE, one might have expected that the interface would be particularly strong— at least relative to other areas. Especially where materials centers have been established, such an interface would appear even more likely since these interdisciplinary units on a campus are the obvious points of contact with the “problems” of society—those identified by government and industry. Yet, many would argue that it is not at all certain that university interaction with industry is either desirable or valuable as a general phenomenon across the campus. It is possible that such interaction could dominate academic processes and warp its purposes where it is carried too far and undue dependency established. Furthermore, since the university is, increasingly, one of the major performers of the nation’s basic research, over-emphasis on applied research might cut off the well-spring of future science. On balance in 1972, university coupling to industry seems far below optimum levels considering societal problems as a whole. It is of considerable interest here to examine the status in MSE; to compare the new materials centers with more traditional departments; and to compare block-funded with nonblock-funded centers. As to interaction among universities themselves, we have seen since the 1950’s the emergence of a variety of consortial arrangements wherever “Big Science” has been involved. Nuclear facilities (Argonne, Brookhaven) and astronomical observatories are examples. Materials science is neither the “Big Science” of physics nor the little science of the $50,000 grant for, say,

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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering organic chemistry. It is in a very real sense a middle science of the $500,000 block grant. Traditional University-Industry Coupling Patterns Of the ways in which universities interact with industry, the most widely practiced is consulting for industry by the faculty. While this brings, in principle, ideas and concepts developed with university or public resources to the private sector, it does little to couple the total system. There are no data on this consulting activity. A survey by discipline and by university would be invaluable in this connection. However, it appears that the faculty of the materials departments do as much or somewhat more consulting than the average in engineering departments. A second mode of interaction is the direct research contract to a university department or center. This is an obvious and quite generally available mode of interaction, since almost every university and almost every industry have the mechanisms to permit such coupling. Here again, there are no data on the national situation classified by disciplines, research topics, industries, etc. A variant of this mode is the research grant from industry to university, or occasionally vice versa, where the government provides the funds so that one institution becomes the prime contractor and the other the subcontractor. This practice is widespread; the DoD and NASA have utilized it to a considerable extent. Fellowships are excluded from this category since they involve only general support of university purposes, with no deliberate interaction of the research systems. Intermediate between fellowships and direct coupling is the family of arrangements which may go under the name “industrial affiliates,” where the university as a whole has established a special relationship to various companies. This involves much more than research and, in any case, the interaction relative to any one department or area remains diffuse. Present University-Industry Coupling Attempts in the Materials Field The traditional coupling modes noted above are all utilized in the materials field. However, there is no obvious evidence of any sudden changes in the pattern in the last two decades, caused by the emergence of MSE. It would be of interest to conduct a national study to obtain the data on the extent, nature, and value of coupling via these traditional modes. However, since 1960, several novel experiments have been tried in the nation. Many of them are in the materials field and deserve careful attention for what they can teach us when such experiments are clearly binary arrangements (i.e. between university and industry), and also when ternary arrangements (where the government also enters the relationship, usually by providing the financial support) are involved.

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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering Binary Coupling in the Materials Field: Only four or five formally established programs have been identified, although one or two others may have escaped our attention where a materials center or department is coupled to a group of industries on a continuing basis. This excludes the vast number of individual time-limited contracts. The descriptive literature on the various binary arrangements discloses a high degree of similarity among the programs. If survival is a test of fitness, these coupling arrangements indicate rather unambiguously the features required for success, and serve as models for similar attempts. Their features are: The coupling unit of the university must be a homogeneous and relatively small unit (i.e., not the whole university or college, etc.). It must have a degree of excellence in its specialization to offer something outstanding to industry. The industrial sector must be represented by a limited number of participating companies—approximately a dozen which are: In the technological areas where the university unit is strong. Geographically close—with a typical limit of 200–300 miles. (Extreme interest occasionally compensates for distance and vice versa.) The university typically offers the following: Continuing and relatively personal interaction with a group of faculty. Access to various highly specialized instrumentation, Much quicker access to research results from a very wide base of publicly supported research. A one- or two-day meeting once (or twice) a year for all the participants. Special facilities for personnel exchange. University faculty to lecture in industry, or industrial personnel to spend a few days to a few months at the university. Special notification of items or events of exceptional interest in the university. What the industrial participants provide are: Advice and insight into the problems of highest relevance to a particular industrial sector. This is a very important reason for a coupling program—the relevance input into the university. A modest “membership fee,” usually of the order of a few thousand dollars (occasionally this is part of a larger research contract from the company). This sum gives the university unit the flexibility to nucleate the best idea-programs quickly; to help supplement a government grant for equipment; or to help a student starting or finishing his research on an odd cycle. The universal desire is to have

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Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume III The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering a small fund of money which may be used more flexibly than ordinary grants permit. Access to specialized and/or large equipment, and skills. Lecturers at university, and opportunity for faculty and students to work in industry. Ternary Coupling Arrangements: Our cursory survey has identified only half a dozen examples of this model. These arrangements are quite different from the binary category since they involve the actual research towards a defined objective, and support in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The ARPA approach was aimed very specifically at advancing selected areas of technology, and was also an attempt to accelerate the transfer along the science → engineering axis. According to R.L.Sproull37: “The ‘coupling’ in this context is no longer the joining of two institutions together, although many people seem to still think of the coupling in this program as the joining of an educational institution to an industrial laboratory. The coupling is simply one of the appropriate techniques, perhaps the most important one, that is available to a laboratory that has a responsibility for developing a field of technology. Certainly invention is also needed; we are not so naive as to believe that all of engineering development arises from science. Furthermore, as I have mentioned before, the coupling includes a great deal of joining of science developed elsewhere in the world and science developed right inside the industrial laboratory to the field of technology, as well as coupling of the science developed in the university or technical institute arm of the program.” And this transfer, moreover, was also expected to happen within the university. Thus: “As mentioned, in the original proposal the university components were to be science departments. With the broader view of the ‘coupling’ explained above, it became clear that the parts of the universities that could be most helpful would eventually be engineering departments. This is not to say that at the beginning an institution with a strong science department and a growing engineering department might not qualify. It is only to say that in the long run there should be a strong interaction between the engineering departments of the university and the industrial laboratory.” Regrettably, no report has been prepared on the ARPA experiment. Of the three programs, the Washington University with the Monsanto Company is still funded and has resulted in the setting-up of an interdisciplinary focused-research laboratory and a corresponding degree program concentrating on composite materials. The University reports on its own program in the following terms: “Prior to September 1965, activities in materials science and engineering at Washington University were limited to an informal program in Metallurgical Engineering. Part of the objective of the Monsanto/Washington University ONR/ARPA Association has been to provide a graduate-level education in the engineering aspects of structural materials to as broad a spectrum of undergraduates as possible and also to provide a framework for industrial participation in academic programs. The general philosophy has been to maintain as 37   R.L.Sproull, “ARPA ‘Coupling’ Program,” Internal Memo (May 1965).