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Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities
COMMENTS ON FEDERAL POLICIES
In addition to the comments excepted below, several disciplinary societies commented on the difficulty of finding a balance between the need for new instrumentation and the need for support of operating costs for existing facilities. Others commented that individual investigator grants are already challenging to fund and funding these proposal is more important then funding instrumentation.
“There is currently very limited support for technique development. The next generation of major instruments (commercial or academic) requires manpower that is currently produced only in a very few research groups. The reason is that most federal support is ‘hypothesis-driven,’ and that’s not a good model for building new instruments, for which performance and applications are not necessarily predictable. Moreover, the best justification for next-generation instruments (e.g., NMR, mass spec) is NOT new world record performance for a few narrowly chosen examples (as emphasized in grant proposals), but rather that experiments formerly possible only with heroic difficulty become routine with the higher-level instrument. Finally, support for instrumentation typically does NOT include manpower, and that makes it difficult to train grad students and postdocs in that area.
The primary problem for mass spectrometry is that the instruments typically fall in a range ($150-$800K) not supported by federal funding. For example, mass spectrometry is the fastest-growing of all segments of the spectroscopy market and is a larger market than NMR, but receives only a fraction of the federal funding allocated to NMR. A big reason is the NMRs cost the right amount of money— e.g., major equipment at ~$1M (with a limit of 1-2 awards per institution) goes disproportionately to NMR, because it matches the category most closely.
American Society for Mass Spectrometry
“Biological instrumentation is frequently vested in a technician-run core facility, and it is often overtly stated as a requirement for federal funding that shared use instrumentation be placed in such a facility. This attitude is old-fashioned and has the effect that the instruments and their applications are run only at the education level of the technician. Cutting-edge activities are automatically discouraged. A policy shift is needed to fully integrate technology and instrument