The proposed study will review the state of small and mid-sized multi-user facilities within the materials research complex in the United States and will consider methods for optimizing the use of existing resources, including the consideration of structural strategies and actions to provide services more efficiently through the implementation of revenue-neutral solutions. These facilities are recognized as a key feature of materials research, yet there is concern that they are not being optimally developed or utilized and that new opportunities for scientific development are not being properly pursued. Although the study will confine its recommendations to university and national laboratory facilities, it will also examine the operations of materials facilities in the commercial sector and in the international arena.
Specifically, the study’s task will incorporate the following elements:
Providing a definition of small and mid-sized multi-user facilities and their role in the materials research complex.
Collecting data on the usage, costs and structure of smaller facilities and compiling an inventory of small equipment clusters.
Examining the current models of facility operation and assessing their cost/effectiveness, considering the appropriate metrics for facility success, and assessing criteria for minimal size.
Exploring alternate methods of instrumentation utilization such as:
Increasing user groups at small facilities to 10-20 independent investigators.
Establishing regional centers by identifying equipment appropriate for consolidation into multi-user shared facilities.
Examining opportunities for instrumentation research in the context of facilities, including the impact of these on science and industry and the determination of the optimal location of instrumentation development activities.
Assessing the educational role played by small facilities.
Exploring the need for long-range support models for these facilities.
Assessing the effect, if any, of the policies and structure of the federal research agencies that support smaller facilities.
Analyzing the issues from an international perspective.