Type of Collaboration

Examples, Benefits, Challenges and Solutions (where indicated)

Large User Facility

  • Lujan Neutron Scattering Center (LANSCE)

  • Spallation Neutron Source

  • Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory


  • Users often actively involved in design via semipermanent build-and-use teams and also in decision making via advisory user groups

  • User participation (e.g., beamtime allocation) is by an open and well-defined process. Most user facilities have easily navigable web signups; some have hosting facilities for visitors

  • Use of collaborative scientist teams to partially fund and design user facilities leads to more innovative science results than the government-funds-all approach used in Europe

  • External science advisory committees also ensure high scientific quality.

  • Users are 50 percent academic; therefore, there is a direct impact of user facilities on quality of education in the United States

  • Siting of user facilities at national laboratories enables experiments requiring permanent professional staff (project duration > graduate student lifetime), complex engineering and design expertise, a sustained team approach, and centralized management

  • User facilities provide a strong political support base because of the many users involved


  • Cost for a build-and-use team is hefty—from $2 million to $15 million.

  • When funding amounts are large, the use teams for each beamline tend to be very large and hence generic. Specialization within a single facility (from beamline to beamline) can be lost

  • It is not clear that the existing funding model can be used for the next generation of user facilities, which will cost even more. Also, it is easier to obtain funds for construction than for ongoing operations and maintenance—the latter can be a real challenge

  • Life scientists are becoming the dominant users of some physics-based user facilities, such as the APS, raising an interesting question as to the relative roles of NIH and DOE in the future funding of these facilities

  • Administrative agreements for university access to user facilities are negotiated on a case-by-case basis at a significant cost in time and manpower. There is a strong need for a standardized MOU between user facilities and universities

  • Universities that are geographically close to user facilities have the greatest chance of building meaningful collaborations; those far away may feel geographic discrimination. Remote users can be accommodated by virtual capabilities in some facilities, but not most and not well

  • Though a small portion of the overall user base, industry (e.g., pharmaceutical company)-funded research has IP challenges associated with it

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