also many facets of human society and behavior. Instrumentation has often been cited as the pacing factor of research; the productivity of researchers is only as great as the tools they have available to observe, measure, and make sense of nature. As one of the committee’s survey respondents commented,

without continued infrastructure support…. We will see many young investigators changing the nature of the projects and science they do to areas that have less impact but assure better chances of success. The lack of instruments or the ability to upgrade aging local facilities simply dictates the science done in the future.1

Cutting-edge instruments not only enable new discoveries but help to make the production of knowledge more efficient. Many newly developed instruments are important because they enable us to explore phenomena with more precision and speed. The development of instruments maintains a symbiotic relationship with science as a whole; advanced tools enable scientists to answer increasingly complex questions, and new findings in turn enable the development of more powerful, and sometimes novel, instruments.

Instrumentation facilitates interdisciplinary research. Many of the spectacular scientific, engineering, and medical achievements of the last century followed the same simple paradigm of migration from basic to applied science. For example, as the study of basic atomic and molecular physics matured, the instruments developed for those activities were adopted by chemists and applied physicists. That in turn enabled applications in biological, clinical, and environmental science, driven both by universities and by innovative companies. A number of modern tools that are now essential for medical diagnostics, such as magnetic resonance imaging scanners, were originally developed by physicists and chemists for the advancement of basic research.


Borrowing from the terminology used by Congress in its request, the committee’s study focuses on the issues surrounding a particular category of instruments and collections of instruments, referred to as advanced research instrumentation and facilities. In the charge to the committee, ARIF is defined as instrumentation with capital costs between $2 million and several tens of millions of dollars. In that range, there is no general instrumentation program at either the


Pettitt, Montgomery. Response to Committee Survey on Advanced Research Instrumentation, 2005.

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