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National Laboratories and Universities: Building New Ways to Work Together - Report of a Workshop Introduction The Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory system was created in the early postwar environment of the 1950s. These research institutions are focused on meeting major mission needs in the areas of national defense, energy, environment, and basic science. Since their inception, the DOE laboratories have had a strong history of productive collaboration with universities at a variety of levels. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, established in 1931, was one of the early examples of strategic laboratory-university collaboration, one that continues today with strong interaction between the laboratory and University of California researchers. The working model for this laboratory, which is managed and operated by the University of California, was based on a belief that scientific research is best done by teams of individuals with different fields of expertise working together. Many participants at this workshop acknowledged that the interdisciplinary team approach continues to be one of the hallmarks of the national laboratories today. Over the last decades, thousands of collaborative activities between the laboratories and the universities have been established, ranging from personnel exchanges, to productive research collaborations among individual investigators, to joint research programs formed around major scientific user facilities, to strategic institutes that have been established to examine new areas of scientific endeavor (nanotechnology, systems biology and global change, to name a few). This workshop was designed to explore the current state of collaboration between the national laboratories and universities and to examine new models for collaboration that can provide increased value to both parties through strategic institutional alliances. More than 65 participants
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National Laboratories and Universities: Building New Ways to Work Together - Report of a Workshop from national laboratories, universities, and government agencies took part in an open dialogue on the benefits of and barriers to collaborative research activities between the national laboratories and universities at the July 2003 workshop. Although the focus was on the interactions between DOE laboratories and universities, information on collaborations in other agencies (National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] and Department of Defense [DOD]) and on the growing needs of new agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was provided to bring a broader base of examples and drivers into the dialogue. A number of workshop participants were particularly interested in understanding the experiences across research institutions and identifying best practices that might be employed in developing or enhancing collaborations going forward. The four topical areas listed below were covered in depth, both in presentations and in breakout discussion sessions held on the second day of the workshop: Institutional incentives and structures Scientific user facilities Building the science and engineering workforce Conducting research in a classified environment Key barriers to collaboration that have to be addressed were also identified to ensure that future collaborative research programs can take advantage of the best that both the laboratories and the universities have to offer the nation in addressing major national challenges. A summary of the major points of these discussions is presented later in this report. The workshop began with a session entitled “We All Agree Collaboration Is a Good Thing”So How Can It Be Strengthened?” The presentations and discussions that followed articulated some of the dimensions of this long-term challenge: Both university and national laboratory researchers were able to articulate the value of collaboration for individual participants and for the national research fabric, emphasizing the distinctions in “flavor” or character of research resources available to universities versus those available to the laboratories. Numerous types of collaboration were discussed, exemplifying the many attempts made by universities and laboratories to work together over a period of decades. These ranged immensely in scale and complexity, from single collaborations between principal investigators (PIs) to multitiered formalized arrangements between partner institutions. The various attempts were inevitably viewed as scientifically successful but faced with structural, administrative, and cultural challenges
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National Laboratories and Universities: Building New Ways to Work Together - Report of a Workshop that required institutional change. Even simple PI-to-PI research agreements were held up as examples of difficult contractual transactions. Workshop presentations revealed that the institutional changes required to facilitate collaboration were sometimes at the agency level, as demonstrated by differences in agency-wide collaborative practices presented by DOD and NIST relative to DOE. They were sometimes at the level of the individual institution, as demonstrated by the widely varying degrees of institution-by-institution concern regarding specific expense categories (travel support, conference support, academic center support, and support of joint appointments). Sometimes, however, they were purely cultural, as in the different values accorded to “team science” versus individual contributions. Piecemeal sharing of best practices appears to have occurred to some degree (e.g., transfer of the Los Alamos Oppenheimer fellows concept to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), but no evidence was presented of a systematic effort to share best practices throughout the laboratory and university systems. It is hoped that this volume represents a successful first attempt.
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