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Institutional Assessment

INTRODUCTION

A summary of this Board’s technical assessment of the programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can well begin with a straightforward statement: NIST carries out in a superb fashion an absolutely vital role in supporting as well as facilitating the further development of the technological base of the U.S. economy. Its personnel and scientific programs are, by scientific measures, among the best in the world, and its explicit and continuing attention to the needs of its customers keeps it alert to the changing technological environment to which it must be responsive.

NIST’s programs continue to evolve in an impressive fashion, driven both by the expansion in its authority and responsibility that took place in 1987 and 1988, to which it has responded admirably, and by the very rapid rate of change being experienced in global scientific and technological driving forces for economic growth and social change. The responsibilities that accompanied the transformation of the National Bureau of Standards into the National Institute of Standards and Technology gave rise to one of NIST’s key challenges: to take on a much broader role in “supporting the development, wide diffusion, and efficient use of advanced technology … throughout the private, public, and non-profit sectors” (NIST, 2004, p. 1). Assuming this role has required that it become a more entrepreneurial, outward-looking, customer-focused research organization with core competencies and the agility to respond quickly and effectively to emerging national needs. It is clearly meeting that requirement extremely well.

At the same time, NIST must continue its traditional scientific efforts in metrology and standards development. Laboratory organization, staffing, and project selection are all affected by the need to maintain a balance between these two types of activity. Many of the comments in this report relate to an assessment of the largely successful effort at NIST to achieve that balance as well as the identification of ways to perpetuate and improve upon it.

The rapid rate of change in scientific and technological driving forces affects NIST in several ways. First, it places demands on NIST to develop new metrological tools that can be used effectively at



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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 1 Institutional Assessment INTRODUCTION A summary of this Board’s technical assessment of the programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can well begin with a straightforward statement: NIST carries out in a superb fashion an absolutely vital role in supporting as well as facilitating the further development of the technological base of the U.S. economy. Its personnel and scientific programs are, by scientific measures, among the best in the world, and its explicit and continuing attention to the needs of its customers keeps it alert to the changing technological environment to which it must be responsive. NIST’s programs continue to evolve in an impressive fashion, driven both by the expansion in its authority and responsibility that took place in 1987 and 1988, to which it has responded admirably, and by the very rapid rate of change being experienced in global scientific and technological driving forces for economic growth and social change. The responsibilities that accompanied the transformation of the National Bureau of Standards into the National Institute of Standards and Technology gave rise to one of NIST’s key challenges: to take on a much broader role in “supporting the development, wide diffusion, and efficient use of advanced technology … throughout the private, public, and non-profit sectors” (NIST, 2004, p. 1). Assuming this role has required that it become a more entrepreneurial, outward-looking, customer-focused research organization with core competencies and the agility to respond quickly and effectively to emerging national needs. It is clearly meeting that requirement extremely well. At the same time, NIST must continue its traditional scientific efforts in metrology and standards development. Laboratory organization, staffing, and project selection are all affected by the need to maintain a balance between these two types of activity. Many of the comments in this report relate to an assessment of the largely successful effort at NIST to achieve that balance as well as the identification of ways to perpetuate and improve upon it. The rapid rate of change in scientific and technological driving forces affects NIST in several ways. First, it places demands on NIST to develop new metrological tools that can be used effectively at

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 shorter timescales and finer length scales or to make measurements in entirely new kinds of systems. Second, to meet the national need and NIST’s goal that it remain among the world’s best laboratories of its kind, it must be a first mover in applying new science and technology (S&T) to the development of new metrological approaches. And, third, since the most rapid S&T developments occur at the boundaries between disciplines, there is an increasing need for multi- and interdisciplinary approaches that challenge the traditional disciplinary structures in all research institutions, including NIST. A number of comments in the following sections of this chapter and in the chapters on the individual laboratories address ways of dealing with these challenges. NIST’s effectiveness in serving its customers and its impact on the nation’s competitiveness depend on how well its measurements capabilities, standards, and process guidelines are disseminated to various user communities and adopted by them. This, in turn, is affected by changes occurring in the U.S. industrial structure and by the emergence of new national concerns. For example, as noted in a report recently prepared by the National Research Council (NRC, 2002) for NIST, the central research laboratories of many large corporations have been phased out, long-term basic research by those companies has been markedly curtailed, and technological development has been outsourced. By contrast, technological innovation by small start-up companies has been steadily growing, new partnerships have developed between universities and industry with close attention to protecting and sharing intellectual property rights, and various networks and consortia have been created that play a significant role in determining the direction of research and development. Each of these developments creates a shift in NIST’s customer base to a certain extent, in some instances requiring communication with audiences that have little experience in dealing with NIST, in other cases requiring that information be packaged and delivered differently. Public safety and environmental protection are among the most obvious of the new national concerns to which NIST must now respond. It has been relatively easy for NIST to undertake those public safety projects that are identified as related to “homeland security” because of the governmental and public interest in the topic. The urgency of the concern, the new organizations that have been developed to deal with it, and the prominence of security efforts in many of NIST’s “customer” organizations give visibility and build interest in any projects related to homeland security and thus make it easier for NIST to disseminate its results to interested parties. There is also public concern for environmental protection, and there is evidence throughout NIST of activities related to this issue. However, the customers for NIST’s products in this area are much more dispersed among, for example, primary energy producers, manufacturers, environmental and agricultural agencies at both state and federal levels, architects, builders, and nongovernment organizations. Therefore, it is considerably more difficult to systematically connect NIST’s output in environment-related science and technology with those who most need to have it available. This represents another challenge that would benefit from the development of a comprehensive dissemination strategy. If the restructuring of the industrial base and the emergence of new, very broad issues of national concern represent new challenges in dissemination, advances in information technology and the availability of the World Wide Web and other internets and intranets offer new and effective ways to disseminate the vast amounts of useful information being generated at NIST. Some laboratories—for example, the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL)—are making good use of these new capabilities, but in general it appears that further focused attention to Web-based communication is warranted. One last introductory comment relates to the assessment of the adequacy of NIST’s staffing, which is one of the elements in the charge to this review Board. In panel after panel, in laboratory after laboratory, a common theme that emerged was admiration for the creative efforts of NIST management at all levels in coping with increasingly constrained resources. These efforts are directed at taking on

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 new areas of responsibility while continuing to meet long-standing demands on their programs, working to maintain the morale of scientists whose career stability is constantly threatened by budget uncertainties, and attempting to make and carry out long-term plans for laboratory evolution while dealing with year-to-year budget volatility and, at least recently, a downward trend. At the same time, panelists and Board members noted that these managerial efforts can be no more than holding actions and that a continuation of this pattern must, over time, take its toll on the quality and quantity of NIST’s efforts. Again, there was virtual unanimity among Board and panel members that NIST’s work is critical to America’s technological base and international competitiveness and that, were its quality to be permanently damaged by underinvestment, the nation would suffer. The arguments for this conclusion are expanded on toward the end of this chapter in the section “Adequacy of Staff Resources” and are included as well in the discussions of the individual laboratories. The following sections identify and discuss a number of broad themes and general issues that emerged in the course of this comprehensive technical review of NIST’s impressively wide range of programs. These sections are not intended to summarize the several chapters that follow, each of which deals with one of the laboratories. Those chapters stand on their own. Instead, the aim is to identify issues that are best dealt with institution-wide and that have significant potential for furthering NIST’s health and effectiveness. STRATEGIC FOCUS AREAS The NIST 2010 Strategic Plan identifies several areas in which NIST perceives special challenges and opportunities, including nanometrology, biosciences and health, and information/knowledge management. The plan also points out that “new demands and government priorities for public safety and security will … exert a strong influence on NIST’s program portfolio” (NIST, 2004, p. 8). These are clearly areas of national importance, and it was apparent, as noted in several of the chapters on individual laboratories, that there is a growing number of projects in these areas. However, there are organizational challenges in dealing effectively with new areas such as these—areas that draw in part on existing competencies while also requiring that those competencies be strategically combined and sometimes augmented. These projects do not map neatly to existing disciplinary divisions nor, in some cases, to traditional areas of strength at NIST. The Board notes, with strong approval, that NIST is working to meet this challenge in a number of ways. Each Strategic Working Group has representatives from each laboratory. In addition, certain of the laboratories are expanding their reliance on matrix management approaches (see, for example, Chapters 3 and 6) in order to focus on cross-disciplinary themes or to promote cross-disciplinary interactions. Also, each of the laboratories has some form of matrix management through programs, centers, or offices that address problems requiring expertise from multiple groups or divisions. Indeed, the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory (MEL) has a laboratory-wide matrix management system. There are also efforts to develop cross-laboratory collaborations, although more remains to be done in this respect (see the comments below on biosciences and health). The strategic focus on homeland security appears to be making particularly effective progress, in all likelihood because of the opportunities and strong sense of urgency and focus created by the intense public interest in the subject and the availability of funding. Most of the laboratories have undertaken security-related projects, some within a single group and some requiring matrix-managed approaches or cross-laboratory coordination. The comprehensive and multidimensional investigations conducted by NIST in relation to the World Trade Center attacks of 2001 provide examples of all of these approaches. Additional examples of cross-laboratory collaboration include the Office of Microelectronics Pro-

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 grams and the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (within the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory [EEEL]); the Computer Security, Biometrics, and NIST Voting Activities Resource Centers (within ITL); the NIST Combinatorial Methods Center and the Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science (within the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory [MSEL]); and the Quantum Information Program (within the Physics Laboratory [PL]). It was also evident that there is significantly expanded activity in nanometrology and related fields. In contrast to the driving forces behind efforts in the area of homeland security, the driving force for these efforts is less societal demand than the push of new technological potential. Because the term nanotechnology is a very broad rubric encompassing a number of different technological developments, close coordination of these efforts is needed less than it is needed in other areas. Individual projects can thrive, as indeed they appear to be doing in several of NIST’s laboratories. Various nanotechnology thrust directions are, of course, closely attuned to NIST’s traditional areas of expertise in materials, manufacturing, computing, atomic-scale physics, and electronics—which facilitates the rapid and comprehensive expansion into this area that the panels observed. The strategic area of biosciences and health contrasts with nanotechnology in a number of respects. Clearly, excellent work in this field is already under way in a number of NIST’s laboratories, and NIST has an important role to fill in exploiting the breakthroughs in many facets of the biosciences. However, this has not been a priority area for NIST in the past, and the Board believes that it will be necessary for NIST to take a comprehensive approach to planning, organizing, and staffing its expanded role in this area if it is to optimize its effectiveness. The NIST Strategic Plan properly identifies biosciences and health as a focus area, but the Board believes that the first challenge is, in fact, to decide on just what NIST’s focus will be in this area. It is not clear that lumping health and biosciences together in a single category is the best approach. In fact, it is already apparent that some of the activities under way might be categorized under one or the other of these two terms but are quite different in their goals and only tenuously related technically. Thus, for example, the very useful ongoing effort in ITL to develop standardized medical records, which might well be viewed as part of a health focus, has almost no connection to work such as characterizing the biocompatibility properties of polymer surfaces, which is being carried out in MSEL, or protein-folding dynamics studies in the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (CSTL). Indeed, despite the fact that health care and the health care industry obviously draw on advances in the biosciences, the trend appears to be in the direction of separating the two areas. For example, universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have established departments of biological engineering that are separate from their departments and programs in biomedical engineering. In other schools, basic biological sciences and biotechnology have for some time been separate from basic medical sciences and medical technology. This separation reflects not so much an emphasis on the division between fundamental and medically applied biosciences as a desire to exploit linkages to other applications that depend on the biosciences, including agriculture, fine chemical production, ecology, environmental protection, and even bioterrorism. Treating health and biosciences as separate strategic foci would allow each area to identify goals, strategies, and activities that are focused and draw on NIST’s comparative advantage. There is considerable opportunity and need for interlaboratory collaboration in both health and biosciences, and there is already evidence at NIST that such collaboration has begun. A recent survey by the NIST Biosystems and Health Strategic Working Group (VCAT, 2004a, 2004b) identified 148 NIST projects in the health sciences, with projects being conducted at each laboratory. In the biosciences, interesting and effective collaborations are under way between CSTL and ITL on molecular imaging, between MSEL and CSTL in tissue engineering, and between EEEL and CSTL in DNA analysis using

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 microfluidics. In addition, NIST has played a significant role in the development and maintenance of the Protein Data Bank, the world’s most complete repository for data on the three-dimensional structure of proteins and nucleic acids. (However, as noted in Chapter 3, on CSTL, the Board has great concern that NIST is no longer part of the consortium that manages this database, an action that the Board views as misguided.) Other work under way in individual laboratories seems very likely to lead to interlaboratory collaborations in the near future: for example, the EEEL work on biopolymer transport through nanometer-scale pores, the CSTL work on the uses of gene expression profiling, and the MEL work on biosurveillance interoperability standards. Beyond these activities, opportunities have been identified (VCAT, 2004b) in systems biology and nanobiotechnology in which NIST could make a significant contribution. In health-related areas, CSTL and MSEL are collaborating on developing combinatorial approaches to identifying and optimizing the biocompatible properties of polymer surfaces for use in tissue scaffolds. The PL’s Ionizing Radiation Division is involved in diagnostic medical imaging, and CSTL’s Analytical Chemistry Division has ongoing work in microfluidic separations as well as cell-based assays and immunoassays. And here, too, significant new opportunities for several of NIST’s laboratories have been identified (VCAT, 2004b) in various aspects of bioimaging, medical robotics, and drug delivery. The biosciences present very complex staffing problems for NIST, both because they have not been a primary focus in the past and because work at the forefront of this field relies more heavily on interdisciplinary than on multidisciplinary research. The latter term refers to crosscutting research in which researchers with distinct scientific backgrounds work collaboratively, but separately, on different aspects of the same problem. The former term refers to research in which the questions must be posed as an integrated whole, the research is not easily subdivided into disciplinary components, and the researchers themselves must be considerably more familiar with all aspects of the problem. Multidisciplinary research yielded interesting and useful findings in the early years of collaboration between physical and biological scientists. However, as pointed out in a recent workshop (NRC, 2002) that brought together physical and biological scientists to identify research opportunities at the interface between their two fields, biosciences and bioengineering have matured, and the most interesting and important problems must be approached by interdisciplinary teams (BLS/BPA, 2004). There are many examples in the fields of proteomics, physiomics, nanobiology, enzyme kinetics, cellular motility, signal transduction, hybrid organ and tissue engineering, and biological energy production, among many others, that illustrate this point. In light of this increasing need for interdisciplinary approaches, it is likely that NIST’s further involvement in these areas will require some altered or augmented staffing in addition to an expansion of interinstitutional collaborations. Taken together, these observations suggest that, in the very near future, NIST should undertake comprehensive, cross-laboratory planning in the separated areas of bioscience and health, to identify its comparative advantages in order to focus its efforts, to expand the cross-laboratory collaborations that have already begun, to establish its staffing needs, and to develop a strategy for meeting those needs. INTERINSTITUTIONAL COLLABORATIONS Panelists took note of the several interinstitutional collaborations in which NIST laboratories are involved: some are long-standing, such as that of JILA (the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, with the University of Colorado) and the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (with the University of Maryland); some are relatively new and rapidly expanding, such as the collaboration with

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 the Hollings Marine Laboratory in South Carolina. Panelists’ comments were uniformly positive about the value of these relationships, which offer opportunities to augment the in-house expertise at NIST, allow NIST to tackle a broader range of questions in an integrative way, and expand the potential synergies that are the hallmark of multidisciplinary research projects. They also increase NIST’s visibility and forge connections with professional colleagues who are not only potential collaborators, but members of NIST’s user communities. The Board encourages a continuation and expansion of these kinds of relationships; discussions with NIST staff suggest that this is their intention. As such interinstitutional collaborations continue to grow, it would be useful to address the issue of intellectual property (IP) rights arising out of joint activities. The Board is aware that clear guidelines exist at NIST concerning intellectual property rights. The guidelines cover the creation, protection, and allocation of IP rights in cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs); situations in which guest researchers are involved; and cases in which proprietary information is shared in the context of a project. However, the guidelines have been less clearly conveyed to staff with respect to the criteria to be used in order to determine what kinds of developments should be targeted for IP protection. Several panelists reported that there continues to be wide variation in how professional staff view this issue—a not-unusual situation in either government or university laboratories. Since passage of the Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, known as the Bayh-Dole Act, in 1980, universities and, to a large extent, their faculties have become more sensitive to both the economic potential and the ultimate social value of securing IP rights. This awareness has led to a sea change in perspective concerning IP and changes in operating procedures to preserve these property rights. Some (although not all) of the arguments supporting preservation of these rights would apply equally in NIST’s setting, but it is not clear that there has been a similar shift in the perspective of NIST scientists. The resulting difference in perspective appeared to the Board to be a source of friction in certain instances when NIST scientists and their collaborators from other institutions were working together. Given the high potential value of joint NIST-university efforts, the Board believes that it would be useful to address once again the issue of IP rights. This effort should include ensuring that existing procedures are well understood by all NIST staff, but it should place greater emphasis on clarifying guidelines that explain when patent protection should be sought. In the process of amplifying on the patent policy, it is important to convey the reasoning underlying the Bayh-Dole Act with respect to the social value of establishing IP rights. Broader understanding of this reasoning is likely to establish a greater commonality of views between NIST and the institutional partners with which it is working. The Board believes that addressing this issue would go far in ensuring transparency, smoothness, and clarity of expectations in these joint programs. NIST AT BOULDER NIST’s operation in Boulder, Colorado, comprises activities associated with all of the laboratories but two: the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) and MEL. In certain cases (EEEL, MSEL, and PL), whole divisions or at least project groups are located there; in other cases (e.g., ITL), staff members with similar areas of interest are divided between the Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus and Boulder. The practice in the past, and continued in this assessment cycle, was to review Boulder programs (when appropriate) as part of the individual laboratory reviews, either through separate subpanel visits to Boulder or by videoconferencing (as was done, for example, in this cycle in reviewing the quantum computing program in ITL). The Board would like to raise for discussion the question of whether there would be merit in reviewing the Boulder campus of NIST as a single, coherent unit in the future.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 The Boulder operation presents unique challenges and opportunities that might be more adequately addressed in an integrated way. Boulder benefits from its proximity to other federal laboratories, its physical environment, and its close collaboration with the University of Colorado. At the same time, its physical distance from the Gaithersburg operation cuts down on the opportunities for day-to-day interactions between laboratory colleagues at the two sites and introduces challenges to effective joint management. Thus, the Board is raising the question of whether it would not be appropriate to undertake a comprehensive review of the Boulder operation to determine whether some strategic choices might be made to restructure Boulder’s efforts to build on its comparative advantages and minimize its inherent disadvantages. Information technology can, of course, overcome many of the disadvantages of distance. Nevertheless, in view of other comments in this report concerning the importance of strategic focus areas and the promise of cross-disciplinary collaborative efforts, there would appear to be significant potential for experimenting with alternative organizational and topical configurations at Boulder. However, the Board would not prejudge the outcome of a more methodical investigation of the possibilities by NIST itself. BALANCING NEW STRATEGIC FOCI, NEW SCIENCE, AND TRADITIONAL ROLES It is clear from NIST’s Strategic Plan, from discussions during panel site visits, and from comments in Chapters 2 through 8 on the individual laboratories that balancing old and new activities is a major challenge for NIST. The Board concurs that maintaining a balance between new strategic foci and traditional roles is a proper goal, and one largely being met in the activities under way in the individual laboratories. When there appeared to panel members to be an imbalance, it was noted in the relevant laboratory chapters. The balance between new strategic foci and traditional roles is an important element in maintaining the technical quality of the laboratories. The practical expertise developed by NIST over the years through its metrology work is one of its unique strengths. Useful contributions to new areas are more likely to occur with a staff that is experienced in both the needs and the applications of their fields. In addition, the effective transfer of new technologies to the user community is best achieved when the laboratories have developed strong connections to and credibility with those communities, both of which are developed and maintained by NIST’s more traditional services. A major question is what general principles might best be applied in achieving the desired balance of activities. In the view of the Board, one valuable principle would be to emphasize activities that bring new scientific approaches to traditional metrological and standards-setting tasks. There are many examples at NIST of ways in which this is being done quite successfully. The new kilogram force standard and the facility for Simulated Photodegradation by High Energy Radiant Exposure (SPHERE) are worthy of special mention, and a number of others are cited in Chapters 2 through 8 and in other sections of this chapter. There are, of course, other cases in which activities in metrology or standards setting are not necessarily groundbreaking in their science or technology but nonetheless are unique in the nation and important to customer communities. NIST is appropriately maintaining these kinds of activities. More problematical are service functions that, in principle, could be carried out by other organizations. These include routine instrument calibrations or relatively minor updating of standards. Such functions should be phased out, except in the few instances in which they contribute in other ways to maintaining NIST’s goals. For example, if maintaining certain service activities enables NIST to retain career scientists who also contribute to strategic focus efforts or to the development of new metrology science, then they serve

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 an important function. Similarly, if the activities represent the only way to keep NIST closely connected to its customer communities, they may be worthwhile even if they are not innately of the highest priority. In the end, many of these questions bear on long-term staff planning issues. The Board believes that each of the laboratories should explicitly undertake this kind of planning. It is an issue made more complicated, but all the more necessary, by the unfortunate short-term volatility that NIST has experienced in its financial support. Particularly under such circumstances, planning to preserve the long-term strength and continuity of laboratory functions becomes vital, and almost all other quality outcomes depend on its success. Further discussion of this issue is presented in the section below entitled “Adequacy of Staff Resources.” EFFECTIVE DISSEMINATION STRATEGIES One of the great contributions that NIST makes to the American scientific and industrial base is the mass of information contained in the data sets generated by a number of its laboratories. A number of panelists remarked on the quality and extent of these data and their unique value. However, there was broad consensus that the NIST Web site is difficult to navigate, and therefore it is difficult to actually access the data being generated. The problem is exacerbated by the various shifts in the locus of technological development in American society. The growing importance of medium and small entrepreneurial firms, the shift from permanent staffs to ad hoc or task-oriented teams in large corporations, and the growing role of professional societies in standards development all suggest that NIST cannot assume that its customers “know their way around” the laboratories. Therefore, NIST will have to provide much greater transparency if new or occasional users are to be able to access its products and data. Information technologies, and particularly the Internet, are enormously valuable tools in dealing with this challenge, but it does not appear that NIST is presently exploiting those technologies in an optimal way. As noted above, the NIST Web site is not particularly easy to navigate or to use in an interactive way to obtain the wealth of data it has to share. The Board suggests that NIST undertake a comprehensive development of its Web site to make it a useful resource for the public by providing a more easily searchable set of databases, a navigable reference library, and a hyperlinked connection to related sites. Because of the range of information that NIST has to offer, such a site should not depend on a single kind of search tool or only on an alphanumeric organizational structure. Indeed, NIST’s competence in information technology suggests that it could itself be the developer of useful organizational and navigational tools. More effective use of the Web site would be of value not only in providing broader dissemination of NIST’s products, but also in expanding the visibility of NIST itself to a public which, this Board believes, may not always understand or appreciate the contributions that NIST makes. ADEQUACY OF STAFF RESOURCES A recurring theme in Chapters 2 through 8 is that all programs are encountering serious difficulties as a result of both the actual reductions in professional personnel in the past few years and the uncertainties that have required management to plan for even more severe reductions in force that ultimately did not have to be executed. Although laboratory management has worked hard and responsibly to minimize the impact of these problems, a number of panels reported that morale has suffered, and it appears that the ability of laboratory management to create a balance between traditional and new activities has been hampered.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 FIGURE 1.1 Aggregate staffing trends for the seven NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories, 1995-2004. NOTE: FTP = full-time permanent employees; FTE = full-time-equivalent employees (FTP + other than FTP). In Figure 1.1, aggregate data are presented for staffing trends for the seven Measurement and Standards Laboratories for the past decade. The data reflect a drop of about 23 percent in full-time-equivalent (FTE) personnel and about 21 percent in full-time permanent (FTP) employees. The staffing drop has been most precipitous since fiscal year (FY) 2002, with a decline of about 10 percent in FTE and 12 percent in FTP employees from FY 2002 through FY 2004. (Data on staffing trends for the individual laboratories are provided in Appendix A, Figures A.2 through A.8.) It takes continuity and flexibility to maintain a laboratory of outstanding quality and to be able to respond to new needs and new opportunities. Both capabilities are threatened by the staffing trends of the past few years. As noted earlier in this chapter, NIST’s goal of balancing its traditional mission with the new focus areas that arise from its expanding responsibilities and the nation’s needs is not only appropriate to its mission, but necessary to maintaining its quality. The traditional activities and the individuals who engage in them are a source of experience, expertise, and connection to the user community; these activities and staff are invaluable in addressing new questions and new needs. New foci, however, provide a stimulus to new thought and encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations, which are frequently the locus of the most creative new science and technology. The matrix management approaches now evident in two of the laboratories (CSTL and MEL) can operate effectively to allow both of these kinds of activities to continue. However, when total resources do not keep up with new responsibilities, management is forced to make unhealthy choices rather than to mount complementary projects. Both traditional and new activities suffer when that occurs. Inadequate and/or volatile resources present an even more serious problem with respect to long-term staff retention and development. Adequacy of resources affects NIST’s ability to meet the chal-

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 lenges to attract new talent (both to address new focus areas and to replace retiring senior researchers), to retain talented staff, to mentor and otherwise develop new staff to fulfill technical and leadership roles, and to continue to enrich its environment with visitors and temporary employees. To move into new areas, NIST must be able to attract new talent. For example, it will be very difficult to meet the goals for a new focus in the area of biosciences without the flexibility to attract professionals trained to work in an interdisciplinary environment. At the same time, being able to offer stability and to nurture the careers of professional staff is key to retaining them, which in turn is fundamental to the quality of the laboratory. Visitors and temporary employees are major contributors to the quality of a laboratory, bringing in new ideas, establishing close working relationships that continue after the individuals have returned to their own institutions, and filling gaps in expertise in particular projects. Cutting back on visitors and temporary employees is one tempting strategy for coping with the decline in full-time staff in the short term, but it does not represent a viable long-term solution if the vitality of NIST is to be preserved. Within the constraints of funding, visitors and temporary employees should be hired and maintained on the basis of their technical contributions rather than as a means to address budgetary issues. This is not to suggest that there are no practical choices that can be made in order to live within a constrained budget while preserving institutional quality. The Board encourages NIST to continue to identify programs that are of lower priority in each area and to phase them out. It is likely that such programs will be in the area of metrology services that other institutions are capable of providing and in which the opportunities are limited for introducing new science to the measurement technologies. However, it is the opinion of this Board that NIST cannot continue to maintain its quality while continuing to undertake new foci, however important to the nation, without additional resources. As noted many times in this report, NIST has used its resources well and has created and maintained an excellent national facility that is serving America’s industrial base well. The potential for it to increase its contributions further is there; the resources at present are not. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS This section is not intended to replace or summarize the comments and conclusions in the following chapters on the individual NIST laboratories. Those chapters reflect the very detailed and comprehensive reviews carried out by more than 150 scientists who participated in panel and subpanel laboratory visits and meetings over the course of the 2-year assessment period. It is instead a summary of the general observations made in this first overview chapter, which pertain to the NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories (MSLs) as a whole. They are as follows: NIST has undergone a remarkable transformation in little more than a decade and a half from an organization devoted to producing excellent science and standards in an orderly, incremental fashion using a single-principal-investigator mode of operation to an entrepreneurial, outward-looking, customer-focused research organization whose core competencies and newly developed agility have responded quickly and effectively to emerging national needs. NIST serves a vital role in supporting the further development of the technological base of the U.S. economy, and it does so superbly. NIST appears, in most respects, to be moving very well in addressing the focus areas identified in its 2010 Strategic Plan (NIST, 2004), particularly with respect to nanometrology and homeland security. Its work in the area of the biosciences and health has had a very good start, but in order for this work to make broad and continuing contributions consistent with NIST’s own standards of excellence, the Board recommends that those two focus areas be considered as distinct from each other.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 The Board also recommends that NIST undertake comprehensive, cross-laboratory planning efforts in both the biosciences and health to identify the subset of issues that it is best positioned to address and to develop coordinated approaches to addressing those issues. It is noted that both of these fields depend strongly on scientists with interdisciplinary training, so NIST’s planning in this field must be tightly linked to staff development. The Board notes, with strong approval, the continued growth of institutional collaborations between NIST and other organizations, which are expanding NIST’s capacities and establishing useful institutional and professional relationships. The Board recommends, however, that criteria be developed and/or more clearly communicated to staff concerning the circumstances under which patent protection is to be sought for NIST products. It is important both for NIST staff and for collaborators from other institutions to have a consistent perspective on intellectual property issues or to develop procedures that recognize and respect institutional differences so as to smooth the collaborations. NIST is clearly faced with the difficult task of balancing its traditional roles in metrology and standards development with its newer, broader roles in technology development related to national needs. The Board observes that for the most part this is being done quite well. It suggests, however, that clearer criteria need to be developed for the setting of programmatic and project priorities that will continue to achieve that balance in the long run, and that can be used as well to develop long-term staffing plans. The design of NIST’s current Web site does not allow for easy access to the wealth of information that the MSLs are generating. This is a particular problem for occasional customers, who are likely to comprise an increasing fraction of NIST’s constituency. The Board recommends that NIST treat Web site development as a high priority in the next 2 years. The Board was specifically asked by the NIST Director to consider the adequacy of the laboratories’ facilities, equipment, and human resources, insofar as they affect the quality of the technical programs and the effectiveness with which the laboratories meet their customers’ needs. Therefore, the Board notes that while NIST management has worked creatively to maintain the quality of the laboratories through a period of sometimes decreasing or at least uncertain funding, in the long run it cannot continue to do so. That is, NIST will not be able to respond to all that it is being asked to do and also to maintain its quality if action is not taken to reverse its loss of staff. Finally, the Board notes that it has proposed that NIST give consideration to reviewing the NIST Boulder operation as a single, integrated entity in the next biennial assessment, which would be a departure from the past. Although this idea emerged as a possible way to simplify the assessment process, it raises the issue of whether treating Boulder as an integrated entity might have programmatic advantages. The Board has reached no conclusion on this point, but poses it as a question to NIST management.

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