laboratory space were all needed “not only in terms of the contemplated program of basic research, but to train scientists for research and development programs in the future.” It also observed that the facilities and instruments needed for science were shifting “from mere shelter and relatively uncomplicated instruments to elaborate structures and expensive specialized equipment.” Federal support of instrumentation has waxed and waned over the last 60 years. The late 1960s ended a period of expansion in science, but in the 1970s and 1980s instrumentation was singled out for federal attention as an important issue in science policy.
In the first 10 years after the 1950 founding of the NSF, the agency increasingly recognized that costs of scientific instruments were outpacing the resources of universities and private patrons, and there arose an appreciation of a need for more federal support. NSF’s 1957 report Basic Research: A National Resource highlighted a further issue: that the “continuing costs for operation and maintenance of large research equipment raise more problems than original construction costs.”
In 2003, the National Science Board (NSB) released a report based in part on a survey of the needs of the individual NSF directorates and the Office of Polar Programs,1 recognizing that the demand for advanced research instrumentation depends on research field. The NSB estimated that 22% of the NSF budget is devoted to infrastructure, a designation that includes hardware, software, technical support, and physical spaces or facilities. Among its key recommendations, the board called for increased investment in small- and medium-scale infrastructure and in cyberinfrastructure. It further recommended the development of new “funding mechanisms, as needed” to support midsize projects. The NSB estimates that 20% of infrastructure needs in FY 2003-FY 2012 will be for midsize projects (in the $1 million-$10 million range, totaling $3.95 billion).
To underscore the outstanding, high-priority advanced research instrumentation needs that remain unfunded, the board cited such examples as a replacement Artic-regional research vessel, the replacement or upgrade of submersibles, beam-