The Division of Materials Research (DMR) at NSF is by far the major investor in the smaller and midsize facilities used in materials research at universities. DMR participates in several programs that provide most of the equipment. Two programs—Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) and Instrumentation for Materials Research (IMR)—only fund equipment purchases and, until recently, typically required a 30 percent match (now reduced to zero) from nonfederal sources. Some NSF/DMR funding of equipment is also available in center programs, such as the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs). Finally, a small proportion of individual-investigator grant funding is used to purchase less-expensive equipment. Generally, NSF does not provide direct support for yearly operations expenses, expecting that these funds will derive from user fees obtained from other sources, such as individual-investigator grants, center grants, or university subsidies.
The DOE typically purchases major equipment for use at its own facilities, only a few of which are at or associated with a university (the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, Kansas State University). There is no general equipment program at the DOE that supports the purchase of equipment for central facilities at non-DOE-affiliated universities. However, the budgets for operations of DOE-funded facilities are included in the yearly DOE budgets. Consequently, user fees are typically very small to nonexistent at DOE facilities.
In distributing its facilities questionnaires, the committee identified more than 270 candidate facilities. (See Appendix C for a list of these facilities.) While many of the facilities fit the definition of midsize materials research facilities, not all did. In the summer of 2003, the committee visited nearly 50 facilities in five regions of the country (these facilities are listed in Appendix D). On the basis of responses to its questionnaires, the site visits, a review of the awards issued by NSF, discussions at the committee’s town hall meetings, and the committee’s own best judgments, it seems likely that there are on the order of 500 facilities nationwide that provide essential instrumentation support for materials research. This estimate is perhaps generous to a certain degree, but it provides a good basis from which to understand the role of midsize facilities in the overall enterprise. If every such facility chose to purchase the next generation of instrumentation, it would well exceed any plausible budget scenario.
Based on the survey responses, the total capital investment (purchase price) in the 56 responding midsize facilities is $529 million (average = $10.2 million, median = $6.8 million). The annual operations budgets average $1.1 million per year, with a median of $0.51 million per year. The current annual investment in