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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward 1 Introduction Charged with assessing the impact of a specific program, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program (MRSEC program), the MRSEC Impact Assessment Committee chose to examine that program in the context of its intended goals (see Box 1.1, entitled “The MRSEC Program Mission Statement”) and the role of its field of materials research in the overall portfolio of federally funded research. Three elements of that overall portfolio most critical to the nation’s health, prosperity, and security are the biological, information, and materials sciences. Of these three, materials science is the most complex to “manage,” as it intersects and depends on most other disciplines, requires group as well as individual efforts, and is equipment-intensive at levels from small to medium scales. This chapter develops the background required to assess the role of the NSF MRSEC program in materials research, its effectiveness, and opportunities for improvement. THE LANDSCAPE OF MATERIALS RESEARCH The present era is a broadly diversified materials age. The many remarkable technologies that are now part of daily life are enabled by newly developed materials, including transistors and memory devices, artificial body parts that extend useful life for the physically impaired, high-strength concrete enabling modern construction, lightweight materials enabling air travel, and many, many more. How did these materials come to be available and where do we expect the next generation of materials to emerge from? The process of development and transition to market
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward BOX 1.1 The MRSEC Program Mission Statement Following is the current mission statement of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program (MRSEC program): MRSECs [Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers] are supported by NSF [National Science Foundation] to undertake materials research of a scope and complexity that would not be feasible under traditional funding of individual research projects. NSF support is intended to reinforce the base of individual investigator and small group research by providing the flexibility to address topics requiring an approach of broad scope and duration. MRSECs incorporate most or all of the following activities to an extent consistent with the size and vision of the Center: Programs to stimulate interdisciplinary education and the development of human resources (including support for underrepresented groups) through cooperation and collaboration with other organizations and sectors, as well as within the host organization. Cooperative programs with organizations serving predominantly underrepresented groups in science and engineering are strongly encouraged. Active cooperation with industry to stimulate and facilitate knowledge transfer among the participants and strengthen the links between university-based research and its application. Cooperation and collaboration with other academic organizations and national laboratories. Active efforts to establish research collaborations and education activities at the international level are strongly encouraged. Cooperative activities may include, but are not limited to: joint research programs; affiliate programs; joint development and use of shared experimental facilities; access to user facilities; visiting scientist programs; joint educational ventures; joint seminar series, colloquia or workshops. Support for shared experimental facilities, properly staffed, equipped and maintained, and accessible to users from the Center, the participating organizations, and other organizations and sectors. Each MRSEC has the responsibility to manage and evaluate its own operation with respect to program administration, planning, content and direction.1 1National Science Foundation, Program Solicitation for Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, NSF 04-580, Washington, D.C., 2004. is a complex story, but underlying it is the materials research and development (R&D) supporting the invention and fabrication of such new materials. Materials research has some features that differentiate it from other types of science and engineering. The work tends to be of a long-range character, and new materials tend to have far-reaching implications for many other fields of science, from medicine to high-energy physics, and for the economic and strategic health of
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward the nation. In spite of the importance of materials research, there is a tendency to defer the difficult work of creating new materials to others. Since the payoff is often very remote from the enabling research, the impulse can be to concentrate research on immediate applications rather than on fundamental enabling science. While such a policy may appear attractive, concentrating on brief, short-term benefits to the detriment of long-term gains vastly undercuts future scientific capability. All fields of science share this feature, of course, to varying degrees. Another common requirement for most experimental work in materials research is access to many different types of small- to medium-sized equipment. The variety of tools required for structure, composition, and properties characterization is far too extensive and expensive to be found in a single investigator’s laboratory. Sharing equipment, either through informal means or through organized facilities, is a major component of carrying out the materials research endeavor. It is useful to place the MRSEC program in the context of the overall field of materials research. The committee summarizes its views on the overall field in the following list of definitions: Materials—Perhaps the most useful and descriptive definition is that materials are “the stuff of which things are made.” Invoking a now-traditional rubric, the committee recognizes the importance of the development and use of new materials in the history of humankind through the identification of key periods in that history, such as the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages, in terms of the materials that characterize them. The present era is a broadly diversified materials age. The technological wonders that are now part of daily life are enabled by the newly developed materials from which they are made. These developments include the transistors and memory devices that power computers, telephones, and high-definition televisions; the artificial body parts that extend useful life for the physically impaired; the high-strength concrete that enables modern construction; the lightweight materials that surround passengers in air travel; and much more. How did these materials come to be available for use by modern designers, and where do we expect the next generation of materials to emerge from? The process of development and transition to market is a complex story, but underlying it is the materials research and development supporting the invention and fabrication of such new materials. Materials research—The subject of the MRSEC program technical agenda is the study of materials. What does that mean? The most recent comprehensive study of this subject, made in the late 1980s by the National Research Council (see Box 1.2, “Materials Research in National Research Council and Other Reports”), defined materials science and engineering as having four integrated elements: synthesis/processing, structure/composition, proper-
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward BOX 1.2 Materials Research in National Research Council and Other Reports In 1993, the National Research Council (NRC) issued the report Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era.1 In that report, the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) suggested that the United States adopt the principle of being among the world leaders in all major fields of science so that it could quickly apply and extend advances in science wherever they occur. In addition, the report recommended that the United States maintain clear leadership in fields that are tied to national objectives, that capture the imagination of society, or that have a multiplicative effect on other scientific advances. These recommendations were reiterated in another NRC report, Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology2 (1995), which said that the United States should “strive for clear leadership in the most promising areas of science and technology and those deemed most important to our national goals.” In 1999, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) stated that advanced materials are the foundation and fabric of manufactured products.3 To support its assertion, the NSTC cited the role of advanced materials in, among other uses, fuel-efficient automobiles, damage-resistant buildings and structures, electronic devices that transmit signals rapidly over long distances, the protection of surfaces from wear and corrosion, and the endowing of jet engines and airframes with sufficient strength and heat tolerance to permit ever-faster supersonic flight. The NSTC concluded that many leading commercial products and military systems could not exist without advanced materials and that many of the new products critical to the nation’s continued prosperity would only come to be through the development and commercialization of advanced materials. In its report Experiments in International Benchmarking of US Research Fields (2000),4 COSEPUP asked how important it is for the United States to lead in materials science and engineering (MSE). The materials subpanel that wrote the MSE-focused sections of that report noted that there had been an explosion in the understanding and application of MSE since the end of World War II and that connections had become stronger between the materials field and other fields with emerging technology. The result, the subpanel concluded, was an acceleration in the contributions of materials to social advancement and economic growth. The reports cited above represent only a small sample of the many volumes that have been produced on the importance of materials research to future U.S. economic and national security and how the United States 1National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1993. 2National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council, Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995. 3Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Science and Technology Council, 1998 Annual Report, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 24. 4National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Experiments in International Benchmarking of US Research Fields, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. ties, and performance.1 Research supporting any or all of these elements is a proper subject for materials research by individuals, groups, or centers. That research includes experiments, theory, and simulation and modeling. 1 National Research Council, Materials Science and Engineering for the 1990s: Maintaining Competitiveness in the Age of Materials, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward should react to the changing environment in which MSE research and development (R&D) are taking place. The numerous reports on the subject all point out that MSE research continues to address issues in agriculture, health, information and communication, infrastructure and construction, and transportation. Some areas of particular interest are these: The national defense of the country continues to depend on providing accessibility to the most advanced weapons to the military, and the evolving threat to homeland security demands new materials to solve new problems. MSE research continues to provide solutions to problems in health care with the development of new materials for the delivery of life-saving drugs and new implant technologies. MSE research is producing advanced materials solutions for more efficient energy-production and -transmission systems. MSE research is providing the latest materials for advanced transportation needs, such as for more energy-efficient and safer automobiles and advanced aerospace systems. Numerous consumer products benefit from MSE R&D. Given the multifaceted importance of MSE R&D to the United States, maintaining world leadership in the field remains a critical national priority.5 As described in the recent NRC report on the globalization of materials R&D, The discovery, understanding, and exploitation of new materials and phenomena are the heart of CMMP [condensed-matter and materials physics]. Invention and innovation in this field have had a pervasive impact on our daily lives. Examples are everywhere: semiconductor lasers are in our DVD players; advanced magnetic materials store data on our computers’ hard drives; liquid-crystal displays show us our photographs and our telephone numbers. But these technological marvels tell only half the story: studies of new materials and phenomena have also led to significant advances in our basic understanding of the physical world. For example, the development of ultra-pure layered semiconductors made possible not only the production of high-speed transistors for cell phones, but also the discovery of completely unexpected new states of matter. Efforts to understand magnets, ferroelectrics, superconductors, polymers, and liquid crystals, exploited in innumerable applications, spurred the development of the elegant, unified conceptual framework of broken symmetry that not only explains how the characteristic behaviors of these materials are related, but also underlies much of modern physics. These examples illustrate the inherent intertwining of the pure and applied aspects of condensed-matter and materials physics; they are opposite sides of the same coin that define and enrich the field.6 5National Research Council, Globalization of Materials R&D: Time for a National Strategy, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2005. 6National Research Council, Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics: The Science of the World Around Us: An Interim Report, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2006, p. 1. It is carried out at universities, in government laboratories, and within industry. It may involve single investigators or groups. It may be done in small laboratories or at huge facilities such as synchrotron, neutron, and high magnetic field sources. It may deal with fundamental underlying principles, the invention of new materials, the characterization of structure and properties, the development and refinement of processing (manufacturing), the
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward prediction of in-service life expectancy, and even environmentally friendly disposal. Materials researchers—Materials research is carried out by scientists and engineers with training and background that includes physics; chemistry; materials science and engineering (including the more traditional disciplines that focus on metallurgy, ceramics, and polymers); mathematics; electrical, chemical, civil, and mechanical engineering; and, increasingly, the biological sciences. Interdisciplinary nature—Materials research is interdisciplinary by definition and by evidence of the diverse backgrounds of its practitioners. Advances in materials research depend on individuals and results associated with many traditional disciplines (see Box 1.3, entitled “Origins of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics in the Materials Research Laboratories”). Frequently the most exciting and important advances occur at the interfaces between traditional disciplines, forever altering the scope and boundaries of those disciplines. BOX 1.3 Origins of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics in the Materials Research Laboratories In 1957, Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer published their theory of the microscopic origins of superconductivity. Two years later, Phil Anderson proposed that some variation on this theory might suggest that other degenerate Fermi fluids might show similar condensed states. Anderson predicted a superconducting transition temperature of about 80 millikelvin (mK) for superfluidity in helium-3 (3He). However, by 1965, physicists had cooled 3He at near its vapor pressure to 2 mK, and no superfluid phase transition was observed. After that, the international search for a Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) superfluid ended. However, in the same year, Yu D. Anufriev, a member of Peter Kapitza’s laboratory in Moscow, for the first time attempted to cool liquid 3He through the adiabatic compression and solidification of some of the liquid. This improbable cooling technique, first proposed by Isaac Pomeranchuk in 1950, allowed Anufriev to cool his liquid sample from 80 mK to about 20 mK. A few people believed that this technique might ultimately allow one to cool the liquid so low in temperature that the solid formed would exhibit nuclear-spin ordering. David Lee, at Cornell University, was one of these people. With support from the Cornell Materials Center (one of the National Science Foundation Materials Research Laboratories [MRLs]) for fundamental research in low-temperature materials physics, he hired Robert Richardson as a postdoctoral associate in order to study this technique. In the autumn of 1971, Douglas Osheroff, a graduate student of David Lee, while studying how his Pomeranchuk refrigerator worked, discovered a kink in a curve of the melting pressure in the cell versus time. This kink was found to be extremely reproducible, and Osheroff and his mentors realized that it was the signature of some highly reproducible phase transition within this mixture of liquid and solid 3He. They labeled this as the “A” transition. They estimated the temperature to be about 2.6 mK, but the solid nuclear-spin-ordering
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward Often a multidisciplinary process—One strategy for achieving these advances at the disciplinary interfaces depends on the rare individual who is able to move beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries into unexplored territory. Often, but not by any means exclusively, the research requires multidisciplinary action in order to proceed. In such instances, individuals from two or more traditional disciplines make critical impacts along the way to success. This may be done in sequence or in some sort of collaborative, parallel mode. This multidisciplinary process may occur naturally, following from the traditional modes of scientific exchange, or it may be induced by the organization of the research environment, including the laboratory structure, typical of industry and of some federally funded laboratories, and by funding through group research programs. This important subject of materials research has of course been addressed in many reports, including some by the National Research Council, as cited in Box 1.2. There the committee notes several excerpts that reinforce the position that transition was only expected to occur at 2.0 mK. Ultimately the signature of a second transition, a “B” transition at well below 2.0 mK, was also found. The group employed a crude form of magnetic resonance imaging to separate out the behavior of the liquid and solid 3He. On April 20, 1972, at 2:40 a.m., Osheroff noticed that at the lower of these two transitions the magnetic susceptibility of the liquid dropped nearly discontinuously by more than a factor of two. He wrote in his lab notebook: “Have discovered the BCS transition in liquid 3He tonight.” However, the group still believed that the A transition was in the solid phase. On June 4, 1972, David Lee convinced Osheroff to remove his magnetic field gradient to see if the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) frequency of the solid shifted below the A transition temperature. What the two saw was completely unexpected. The solid signal did not move, but the liquid signal shifted continuously to higher and higher frequencies, until they saw the pressure signature of the B transition, at which point the liquid signal disappeared as it moved back under the much larger solid signal. Clearly, both the A and B transitions were in the liquid, and the ordered liquid exhibited very strange NMR properties. A preprint of their results was sent to Anthony Leggett at the University of Sussex, and in less than a month Leggett showed how a p-wave BCS superfluid could exhibit the strange NMR frequency shift seen at Cornell. Ultimately, Lee, Osheroff, and Richardson shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for physics for their discovery, and Leggett shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for physics for his theory of these remarkable fluids. These initial discoveries in basic research, fostered by the MRLs, had profound influences. To this day, the basic research materials program at Cornell is world-class. Inspired by the Nobel Prize–winning work with low-temperature fluids, Leggett became a major force in the accomplishments of the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is stationed. This remarkable story of instrumentation, discovery, and scientific accomplishment was made possible by the MRL program with its multidisciplinary approach to the combination of physics, chemistry, and engineering that later became known as materials research.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward careful attention to the management of this research is a critical responsibility of the government. NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) set forth NSF’s mission and purpose: “To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense….” The act authorized and directed NSF to initiate and support the following: Basic scientific research and research fundamental to the engineering process, Programs to strengthen scientific and engineering research potential, Science and engineering education programs at all levels and in all the various fields of science and engineering, Programs that provide a source of information for policy formulation, and Other activities to promote these ends. Over the years, NSF's statutory authority has been modified in a number of significant ways. In 1968, authority to support applied research was given by the Daddario-Kennedy Amendment (Public Law 90-407). In 1980, the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96-516) gave NSF standing authority to support activities to improve the participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. Another legislative amendment effecting a major change occurred in 1986, when engineering was accorded equal status with science. In official agency words, the modern vision for NSF is as follows:2 The National Science Foundation is a catalyst for progress through investment in science, mathematics, and engineering. Guided by its longstanding commitment to the highest standards of excellence in the support of discovery and learning, NSF pledges to provide the stewardship necessary to sustain and strengthen the Nation’s science, mathematics, and engineering capabilities and to promote the use of those capabilities in service to society. As an element of the NSF portfolio in the Division of Materials Research, the MRSEC program is necessarily tasked to advance the frontiers of research in materials research science and engineering. 2 National Science Foundation, “National Science Foundation Strategic Plan,” http://www.nsf.gov/nsf/nsfpubs/straplan/vision.htm.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward RESEARCH CENTERS From a philosophical standpoint, the idea of a research center offers two chief advantages over the disaggregated efforts of a collection of individuals. First, by allowing the pooling of resources and efforts, a center could achieve more benefit either through economies of scale (e.g., simple efficiency arguments for equipment sharing) or by breaking through a critical-mass threshold. For instance, in terms of education and public outreach, one might imagine that coordinating the efforts of a dozen faculty in a MRSEC into a coherent approach (such as developing a regular relationship with a nearby secondary-school classroom) could be much more effective than a dozen different such ad hoc efforts. Second, by bringing people together from a variety of backgrounds, a center might foment intellectual synergy.3,4 On a university campus, a center might offer additional benefits by allowing a set of like-minded faculty to speak with a single voice to the university administration, federal research agencies, or even other members of the research community. It is important to note that no single strategy will be successful in the short and long term; a portfolio of approaches is required for a robust program of lasting value (e.g., both individual and center-based researchers will always be necessary). NSF Research Centers The first serious effort to induce group activity in academic research occurred when NSF assumed responsibility for the materials laboratories formerly known as Interdisciplinary Laboratories for the study of materials and run by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Searching for some structure that would distinguish these block-funded, locally managed entities from the individual research on similar topics funded by the Foundation, NSF instituted the idea of Materials Research Laboratories (MRLs) consisting of a number of “thrust groups,” each of which was to be focused on some broad problem requiring a multidisciplinary team of researchers. Other groups of this type have been subsequently constituted by NSF in its Materials Research Groups and its Interdisciplinary Research Groups (a key element of the current MRSECs). NSF has extended this idea to other disciplines through its Focused Research Groups, and the concept is emulated by the Department of Defense (DOD) in its Multidisciplinary University Research Initia- 3 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2004, pp. 39, 189. 4 National Research Council, An Assessment of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Centers Program, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996, p. 20.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward tive groups. The concept of group research is now a well-established element in academic circles and a particularly common one in the field of materials research. Aggregations of scientists and engineers in large groups are often referred to as centers or laboratories. Within the academic environment, the term “center” is now most common, perhaps because of the history of the NSF funding. The Materials Research Laboratories within NSF were deemed a success and used, in part, as the model for future programs, including the Science and Technology Centers (STCs) and Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) that were developed in the 1980s. When the MRLs were reconstituted in 1994, it was natural to use the term “center” and dub them Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs). Similarly, as new block-funded efforts were developed in the burgeoning field of nanoscience and technology, they were named Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSECs). The ERC and the STC programs differ largely because of their long-term award and the expectation that the centers will evolve toward being supported by other types of support at the end of the award. The ERCs are typically focused around a specific research problem that is likely to transition to a successful market need. Industrial partnerships are strongly encouraged, and at the end of the 10-year award (assuming successful renewal at the 5-year mark), the center could be supported entirely by industrial funds. STCs typically focus on basic research problems in multidisciplinary areas. Both ERC and STC awards are “sunsetted” after 10 years, because it is expected that at the end of the award the research problem will either have been solved or have been transitioned to another domain (such as systems engineering). NSF’s NSEC program is more similar to the MRSEC program, although the 5-year award can be renewed only once. Because MRSECs focus on basic research topics, which differs from work at these other centers, they enjoy the opportunity to renew their awards competitively every 6 years. These NSF-funded centers differ in technical content. Some depend on internal group structure while others do not, and their management, duration, and funding levels are quite varied. Centers do have elements of commonality: they are funded with the intention and mandate of carrying out activities in addition to the research that justifies their existence. In the case of the MRSECs, they must manage central research facilities, conduct education and outreach, interact with and transfer results to industry, and work toward a more diverse population of future practitioners in the field of materials research. Through its work, the committee came to believe that centers in general and MRSECs in particular are “community builders.” This sense is hard to quantify and objectively measure, of course, but easy to acquire on speaking with members of the communities. The center concept has been successful—certainly as judged by the enthusiastic participation and by the number of proposals from those seek-
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward ing to participate—spawning many different types of centers at NSF: STCs, ERCs, NSECs, as well as dedicated user facilities (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, Synchrotron Radiation Center, and so on) and the smaller “group” efforts (such as Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships, FRGs, and so on). The program solicitation for MRSEC proposals has evolved since the first offering in 1993. The emphasis on international partnerships and collaborations is a recent addition, for instance. The committee therefore chose not to assess the performance and impact of this element of the program. Materials research spans many different classical academic disciplines even at universities that include an explicit materials science department. These disciplines include applied physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, and others. While in principle individuals could “self-assemble” into broad, interdisciplinary groups to tackle important problems, there are few examples of that occurring in an academic setting. MRSECs (and now many of the other centers) encourage and enable broader interactions among faculty in these departments by providing joint funding for such activities. The original Interdisciplinary Laboratory (IDL) concept of materials centers was motivated by perceived national needs in materials that were unlikely to be met by the “stovepipe” mentality that resulted from departmental and college organizational structures. IDLs were created as one of the earliest elements of the present-day Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which itself was created in response to the Russian launching of Sputnik and a perceived weakness in U.S. research. IDLs were intended to dramatically increase the nation’s research on materials, and the mode of funding was developed recognizing the superb models that existed in industry (especially Bell Laboratories and General Electric Laboratories) and that had been so successful during the Manhattan Project. Thus, if universities were to be strengthened in this area, they would need new resources, but they would also have to change the way they were performing research. By contrast, industrial R&D is rarely organized in ways that reflect academic disciplines, for good reason. Many of the problems tackled by industry (most especially in development activities, but also in research) require interaction and inputs from many disciplines as part of a team effort. Indeed, the general decline in industry-sponsored basic research has opened a significant gap in the nation’s science and technology enterprise. University-based centers are attempting to bridge this gap by putting increased effort into connecting their research with industrial interests. For example, the MRSEC at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has major relationships with Mitsubishi Chemical and Air Products, each of which includes an explicitly negotiated intellectual property agreement and sponsorship of multiple graduate student and postdoctoral research projects.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward Other Federal Research Centers The MRSEC program is one of several NSF centers-based programs.5 All have similar programmatic elements, with some differences in emphasis and organization. For example, the ERC program focuses on close collaboration and translational research with industry for use in end-applications of great variety. The STC program is similarly problem-driven and topically diverse, but it emphasizes large, multiple-entity collaboration. NSECs, like MRSECs, generally have a dominant MSE component and focus on the nanometer-length scales—a subject matter that could also be addressed via ERCs, STCs, and MRSECs. ERCs, STCs, and NSECs share a sunset clause that limits the existence of any particular center to approximately 10 years. The NSF fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request to Congress describes the NSF portfolio of centers as shown in Table 1.1. To be clear, MRSECs do not comprise the total NSF investment in centers-based materials research; the research programs of the NSECs, created in 2001, overlap significantly with those of the MRSECs. Research centers represent 4 to 5 percent of the overall NSF budget. The breakout in Table 1.1 suggests that MRSECs represent 22 percent of the “centers spending” at NSF and 31 percent of the number of centers; that is, individual MRSECs receive less support than that provided the average NSF center. Materials centers are also the oldest centers-based program at NSF, when considering the program’s direct ancestors. Table 1.2 suggests that MRSECs are, by comparison with other NSF center programs, “leveraged” in an above-average way and that, per NSF dollar spent, the number of participants is above average (100 participants per million dollars). Selected Centers at NIH The National Institutes of Health (NIH) requested about $2.77 billion in FY 2007 for assorted research centers, or about 9 percent of the overall agency budget. The total number of research centers is cited at about 1,400, but of these, the 94 biotechnology centers are the most relevant subset. The biotechnology centers have an aggregate funding level of $131 million, representing an average per center level of funding similar to that of the MRSEC program (29 centers, $52 million). These NIH centers have five key elements: technological research and development, collaborative research, service work for researchers who are not part of a center, education and training, and dissemination of research results or techniques. 5 Lists of institutions receiving support through the ERC, MRSEC, NSEC, and STC programs can be found at http://www.erc-assoc.org/, http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5295&from=fund, http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=7169, and http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/stc/, respectively.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward TABLE 1.1 National Science Foundation Research Centers Programs, Selected from the President’s Budget Request for FY 2006 Center Funding ($ millions) Program Initiation (year) Number of Centers, FY 2005 Budget, FY 2005 Budget, FY 2006 Current Plan Budget, FY 2007 Request Change over FY 2006 Budget (amount) Change over FY 2006 Budget (percent) Centers for Analysis and Synthesis 1995 2 7.07 6.39 6.46 0.07 1.1 Chemistry Centers 1998 6 3.00 1.48 3.00 1.52 102.7 Earthquake Engineering Research Centers 1988 3 6.00 6.00 — −6.00 −100.0 Engineering Research Centers 1985 19 62.31 63.42 62.79 −0.63 −1.0 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers 1994 29 52.41 53.66 55.70 2.04 3.8 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers 2001 15 36.40 37.21 37.35 0.14 0.4 Science and Technology Centers 1987 13 49.65 62.38 67.48 5.10 8.2 Science of Learning Centers 2003 4 19.83 22.71 27.00 4.29 18.9 Total 91 236.67 253.25 259.78 6.53 2.6 NOTE: Totals may not add due to rounding. SOURCE: National Science Foundation, FY 2006 Budget Request to Congress, Washington, D.C., p. 419. This multipronged mission has significant overlap with the expected roles of the MRSECs, although the NIH centers perhaps emphasize the relationship to the broader community more heavily. Selected Centers at DOD The Department of Defense, primarily through the research offices of the service branches and through ARPA/DARPA, has been one of the largest support-
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward TABLE 1.2 Levels of Participation in National Science Foundation (NSF) Centers-Based Programs in FY 2005 FY 2005 Estimates for Selected Centers Number of Participating Institutionsa Number of Partnersb Total NSF Support ($ millions) Total Leveraged Supportc($ millions) Number of Participantsd Leveraging Percentage Participants per Million Dollars of NSF Support Centers for Analysis and Synthesis 4 20 7 2 736 28.6 105.1 Chemistry Centers 53 19 3 4 269 133.3 89.7 Earthquake Engineering Research Centers 65 155 6 10 1,130 166.7 188.3 Engineering Research Centers 280 482 62 72 8,310 115.6 133.4 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers 103 325 52 42 5,274 80.1 100.6 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers 130 269 36 16 1,630 44.0 44.8 Science and Technology Centers 94 306 50 28 2,118 56.4 42.7 Science of Learning Centers 20 11 20 8 366 40.3 18.5 Total 749 1,587 237 182 19,833 76.9 83.8 NOTE: Statistics reported for Science and Technology Centers are for 2004 only. Information is not yet available for new centers funded at the end of FY 2005. aAll academic institutions that participate in activities at the centers. bTotal number of nonacademic participants, including industry, states, and other federal agencies. cFunding for centers from sources other than NSF. dTotal number of people who use center facilities, not just persons directly supported by NSF. SOURCE: National Science Foundation, FY 2006 Budget Request to Congress, Washington, D.C., p. 425.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward ers of materials research over the past 60 years. Generally, the DOD components have not funded infrastructure/facilities, with some notable exceptions. The most important exception for materials research came with the DARPA IDL program, which provided “user fees” that enabled universities to construct new buildings for the interdisciplinary materials research and which supplied the original capitalization that launched major characterization facilities at these universities. In the early 1980s, DARPA made a major investment in facilities by establishing three gallium arsenide (GaAs) foundries for the development of GaAs device manufacturing processes. These foundries were given to the Rockwell Science Center, McDonald Douglas Company, and AT&T. The foundries had specific device goals set by their contract but did provide manufacturing services to the III-V community.6 Also, the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) is designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. institutions of higher education to conduct research and to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment. A central purpose of DURIP is to provide equipment to enhance research-related education. The last solicitation made 214 awards worth $43.5 million, averaging about $200,000 each. The DOD supports centers-based materials research through the programs described below. Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative The DOD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) is sponsored by the DOD research offices: the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The MURI program supports research in basic science and/or engineering that is of critical importance to national defense. The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. More than half of the MURIs are materials-research-related. By supporting individual multidisciplinary teams, the MURI program complements other DOD basic research programs that support university research through single-investigator awards. The total amount of funding for 5 years available for grants resulting from the FY 2005 program solicitation is estimated to be about $135 million, pending out-year appropriations. It is anticipated that the average award will be $1 million per year, with the funding for each award dependent on the scope of the proposed research. By contrast with the NSF MRSEC program, these MURIs do not require expenditures on equipment or outreach. 6 The III-V notation refers to chemical compounds, typically metal oxide in nature, formed with elements from the third and fifth columns of the Periodic Table of the Elements.
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The National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program: Looking Back, Moving Forward University-Affiliated Research Centers The DOD University-Affiliated Research Center program creates research centers within universities for military applications. Examples of such centers are the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, with MIT and the California Institute of Technology as subcontractors; and the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. These centers each receive about $10 million per year from the Army Research Office and focus on basic and applied research, including applied research collaborative with industry, with an emphasis, for example, on meeting soldier needs via new products for communication, situational awareness, personal protection, and energy supply. LOOKING FORWARD The MRSEC program is the latest stage in the evolutionary development of group research in materials funded by the National Science Foundation. The challenge faced by this study committee was to examine the health of this program after more than a decade in the present mode and to suggest opportunities for improvements as NSF contemplates the next stage in this evolution.
Representative terms from entire chapter: