Implementing the Recommendations

Described below are six steps that the committee believes are necessary to implement its recommendations. Before NSF begins the roadmapping process, it should publish its plans for developing the roadmap. Figure 4 shows the steps in sequence from the development of large research facility project ideas to construction and operation.

STEP 1: Involve the broad research community in identifying, evaluating, and ranking ideas for large facility projects.

To enable the consideration of a wide array of potential large facility projects, NSF should fund on a regular basis, in every field of research that it supports, an assessment of the major research opportunities that require the use of large facilities. Where multiple projects are identified, ranking by the first category of criteria should be used. In some fields of research, particularly fields that overlap disciplines or fall between disciplines, NSF staff should be more active in fostering the planning and assessment of the need for large facility projects.

Some research fields—such as physics, astronomy, and oceans research—already work together to generate ideas for large facility projects. For example, the astronomy community, in an effort funded by NSF and NASA, conducts a decadal study to rank proposed projects. NSF should fund appropriate efforts by other research fields and interdisciplinary areas.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation Implementing the Recommendations Described below are six steps that the committee believes are necessary to implement its recommendations. Before NSF begins the roadmapping process, it should publish its plans for developing the roadmap. Figure 4 shows the steps in sequence from the development of large research facility project ideas to construction and operation. STEP 1: Involve the broad research community in identifying, evaluating, and ranking ideas for large facility projects. To enable the consideration of a wide array of potential large facility projects, NSF should fund on a regular basis, in every field of research that it supports, an assessment of the major research opportunities that require the use of large facilities. Where multiple projects are identified, ranking by the first category of criteria should be used. In some fields of research, particularly fields that overlap disciplines or fall between disciplines, NSF staff should be more active in fostering the planning and assessment of the need for large facility projects. Some research fields—such as physics, astronomy, and oceans research—already work together to generate ideas for large facility projects. For example, the astronomy community, in an effort funded by NSF and NASA, conducts a decadal study to rank proposed projects. NSF should fund appropriate efforts by other research fields and interdisciplinary areas.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation FIGURE 4 Flowchart of enhanced selection, development, and approval process for large facility projects to be supported by NSF. To implement the committee’s recommendations, NSF should improve the process whereby large facility projects are identified, developed, and moved forward. The arrows between steps represent the ideas, proposals, or plans for large facility projects progressing from one step to the next; the decreasing width of the arrows represents the successive selection and priority setting among large facility projects.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation Broad community involvement at an early stage, including discussion with potential international and interagency partners, is essential to conceiving, identifying, and evaluating ideas for large facility projects. The NSB, the NSF director, and the heads of the directorates may also generate ideas for large research facilities. But NSF should conduct broad-based community discussions to gauge community need and support for these projects, and the projects should go through the same approval process as community-generated projects. STEP 2: Select projects for conceptual or proposal development. Once ideas for large research facilities have been generated and evaluated according to the first group of priority-setting criteria, the research community, via NSF directorate advisory committees, should select projects to move to the next stage of developing conceptual plans or proposals by ranking projects with the second group of priority-setting criteria. Consultation with potential international partners is also useful at this stage. In deciding which projects to support for initial planning, NSF should make full use of its directorate advisory committees. The members of the science and engineering communities who serve on those committees typically have a broad array of experience and are well positioned to compare projects in a discipline and across related disciplines.1 In addition, NSF should fund efforts by research communities to set priorities among projects within particular fields and to discuss the need for large facilities versus other kinds of research support. Each conceptual plan or proposal that emerges from this step should include a projected timeline and budget estimate for implementation and operation. This development of project conceptual scope may require limited but specific funding. STEP 3: Develop and maintain a comprehensive long-term roadmap. Drawing on the conceptual plans and more detailed proposals for large facility projects across all the research fields that it supports, the NSB should oversee a process using the third group of priority-setting criteria whereby NSF produces a detailed roadmap for ranking large-research-facility projects that it proposes for construction over the next 20 years, as described in Recommendation 1. The roadmap should be reviewed, revised, and updated every 3-5 years and should address specifically how the large facilities it includes will contribute to NSF’s 1   For example, the Mathematics and Physical Sciences Directorate includes mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, physics, and materials research.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation core mission—“to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.”2 The roadmap should also be closely coordinated with the long-range research plans of other agencies and countries. To be a realistic assessment of future plans, the roadmap must include a projected budgetary envelope for large facility projects. Of course, future budgets cannot be forecasted with certainty, particularly for the long term. But the NSF Reauthorization Act of 2002 established broad outlines for the future growth of NSF’s budget, and conservative estimates of continued growth consistent with the policy expressed in the act could be used to establish realistic budget envelopes. By demonstrating the potential of large facility projects to extend knowledge and benefit society, a large facilities roadmap would provide continuing incentives to increase funding of the MREFC account and of the NSF budget in general. Figure 2 represents one possible way to graphically display one of the roadmap outcomes—a proposal for large facility projects phased over the next 20 years within a projected budgetary envelope. The NSB and NSF need to develop mechanisms to involve the research community broadly in the review and revision of the roadmap. Its construction and iteration should reflect extensive input and feedback from the research community (see Steps 1 and 2). In particular, proponents of individual large facility projects should have opportunities to present their views directly to the NSB and to NSF. The decision process for priority setting in the roadmap is outlined in Recommendation 1. The results and rationale of the roadmapping process should be openly and widely disseminated so that the research community can know what decisions were made and the reasons behind them. A critical companion to the roadmap should be a document describing the process, the stakeholders, and the justification of the roadmap’s contents. This transparency in the roadmapping process will help to increase support in the research community for the results of priority setting. The roadmap will undoubtedly change in response to changing scientific needs during its periodic revisions. Given the roadmap’s long-term nature, it will also have to be adjusted to accommodate the realities of short-term budgets. The inclusion of a project on the 20-year roadmap would not necessarily guarantee funding in the president’s annual budget requests, in that priorities can change; but it should guide NSF in funding planning and design work to get proposals ready for funding. The readiness of the projects included will depend on whether they are near-term or longer term projects. 2   National Science Foundation Act of 1950.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation Figure 5 shows the roles and responsibilities of NSF, the NSB, and the scientific community in the large facility process. FIGURE 5 Roles and responsibilities in the large research facility process. The science and engineering community, NSF, and the NSB have different and complementary roles and responsibilities in the process of proposing, constructing, and operating large research facilities. This figure describes their involvement in the process and demonstrates the relationships between them.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation STEP 4: Support the development of a technical definition and implementation plans for projects on the roadmap. Complex projects evolve in phases, starting with a conceptual, creative phase that shifts to engineering and procurement followed by construction and testing operations. Projects on the roadmap will inevitably be at different stages of this process. Guided by the roadmap, NSF should provide specific support for projects to develop a technical definition and implementation plans. The role of the deputy for large facility projects is to manage and oversee this process to ensure successful construction and operation. As planning proceeds, projects should move from the preconceptual phase to a clear technical definition of what is to be built and what is to be achieved. The greater the analysis in this stage of the process (as opposed to the engineering and construction phase), the more likely that a project will stay within its budget and schedule. The conceptual phase can be only generally budgeted but includes design studies of options, locations, and layouts. Implementation plans should then be developed that describe how the project will be constructed and managed and within what constraints it will perform. Also included should be a description of contracting, scheduling, budgeting, and monitoring processes and provisions for effective cost and schedule control. If key decisions are made as early as possible, project decisions that are disruptive of cost and schedule can be avoided. Projects in the long-range portion of the roadmap might be limited to a set of scientific or engineering objectives, a rough technical plan, a projected timeline, and a preliminary cost assessment for implementation and operations. But for projects being considered by the NSB for inclusion in NSF’s budget, much more detailed plans are necessary, and this planning generally will need to be supported by NSF. For a project being considered as a proposed new start over the following 5 years, detailed implementation plans should be prepared before the NSB approves moving forward. The implementation plans should form the basis of a final evaluation by NSF and the NSB of the quality, feasibility, likely impacts, and importance of the proposed project. Implementation plans should clearly delineate construction activities funded through the MREFC account and facility operations funded through the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, taking special note of the importance of facility testing and commissioning. Provisions for international or interagency coordination also should be clearly laid out in the implementation plans. Successful project performance requires active leadership of scientists

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation skilled in the elements of the particular sciences that the project embodies. Likewise, large facility research projects require a degree of professionalism and rigorous management experience that researchers cannot single-handedly provide. As a large facility project develops (as described in Step 2), the science and engineering research community’s interest in changing the project’s scope to incorporate the latest breakthroughs must be tempered by the project management’s interest in freezing the design so that an orderly progression of work can be scheduled and budgeted. STEP 5: Use the roadmap to develop annual budget requests and 5-year projections for large facility projects. Drawing on the implementation plans and the roadmap, NSF and the NSB should prepare annual budget requests as outlined in Recommendation 2. The budget requests should reflect the ranking embodied in the roadmap and supported by the research community. A budget submission and eventual budget request should encompass the large facility projects to be undertaken over the next 5 years and include a ranked list of the projected new starts and detailed explanations for any deviations from the roadmap. Fiscal and policy realities may need to be considered in preparation of the budget request and necessitate additional priority setting among the projects recommended by the large facility roadmap. Commitments to projects already under way should be honored first to maintain optimal construction schedules. The final decision-making responsibility rests with the director of NSF and the NSB, who must apply the criteria to assess relative importance as described in Figure 3. Because of the immediacy of their decision, they must choose between projects equally ready for implementation and weigh the costs and benefits of each to render final judgments. When the administration’s budget request is sent to Congress, NSF and the NSB should release documents that explicitly provide the rationale for priority setting among the projects included in the budget. The negotiations between OMB and NSF to determine the administration’s budget request will remain confidential, but the resulting mix of large facility projects included in each year’s budget should be thoroughly described and explained to create confidence that the roadmap is being implemented to the greatest extent possible. With the information accompanying the budget, Congress has the opportunity to add to the budget if that is desired and to respond better to those who advocate that Congress ignore that information.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation STEP 6: Conduct internal and external oversight of the implementation of large facility projects. NSF makes awards to other organizations to construct, operate, and manage large research facilities. Nevertheless, NSF has the final responsibility for the development, management, and performance of the large facilities it supports. The importance of carefully defining the technical scope and the implementation plan for a project cannot be overemphasized. The time and effort required to achieve a manageable level of understanding or control over the project must not be underestimated. If development is phased from idea generation to conceptual design and engineering planning, a project’s final implementation plan should provide a credible path to construction and operation. To assist with effective management and to assess project performance, large facility projects should be visited and reviewed periodically by panels of outside persons who are experts in the technical subjects that the project entails and experienced in project implementation and management. The review panels should supplement the normal internal project-review activities and can be consulted in overseeing any major changes in implementation plans to ensure that change is managed effectively. Review panels should be composed of objective experts in each subject who will exercise prudence and provide an independent review and critical evaluation of the project; they should provide a balance of scientific and project-management expertise. The deputy for large facility projects should oversee all project reviews and present a summary to the NSB annually. The deputy should also monitor the transition from construction to operations to ensure that funds from the proper account are used. This will help to respond to concerns from the NSF inspector general regarding the appropriate use of MREFC and R&RA funds. A project’s implementation plan will specify this information and the conditions and schedule for operations, but oversight from the deputy will be essential for a successful transition. NSF’s deputy for large facility projects needs adequate staff and institutional authority to assure the NSF leadership and the NSB that proper project management is in place for each project and that work is progressing on schedule and within budget. Each project will have dedicated leadership, but the deputy for large facility projects has principal responsibility to support the undertakings and for oversight and management. In particular, NSF is encouraged to review the model of large facility project management and oversight that DOE’s Office of Science uses

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation through its dedicated Construction Management and Support Division. That division, although serving a larger community, has been successful in balancing the uncertainties of predicting the challenges of building unique experimental facilities and the need for responsible project planning, management, and review.3 3   The recommendation of specific best practices for project management is not within the scope of this report, but we encourage NSF to take advantage of the large body of relevant literature available. For instance, the University of California President’s Council of the National Laboratories established a Project Management Panel that convened a symposium in November 2002 about “Project Management Excellence”; and in September 2001, NSF hosted a “Large Facility Projects Best Practices Workshop.” Those activities were invaluable and provided many resources.

OCR for page 35
Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation This page intentionally left blank.