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Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics: The Science of the World Around Us
energy conversion to information technology to biological systems and other far-from-equilibrium systems such as the climate. If the United States is to continue to be a leader in these scientifically and economically important areas, funding agencies should support the emerging interdisciplinary research that underpins them. However, the current organizational structure at funding agencies is based on subfield boundaries established decades ago. This structure hinders individual researchers from venturing into nontraditional, rapidly evolving areas. The first of the committee’s two recommendations below is intended to promote more efficient approaches toward advancing emerging interdisciplinary research areas. This recommendation is further supported by and discussed in a general context in the National Research Council report Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research.12
Recommendation: Funding agencies should work to develop more-effective approaches to nurturing emerging interdisciplinary areas for which no established reviewer base now exists. The CMMP community should organize sessions at national meetings to engage funding agencies and the community in a dialogue on best practices for proposal review and for the support of nontraditional, rapidly evolving areas.
Recommendation: Outreach, K-12, and undergraduate science education initiatives should be supported through supplemental or stand-alone grants administered by separate National Science Foundation and Department of Education programs, instead of through individual research grant awards. In the present system, the quality of outreach programs is a criterion in the evaluation of NSF/Division of Materials Research grants. The present approach confuses two conceptually distinct goals to the point that neither is optimally served. The funding agencies and the research community both want outreach programs to succeed, and they should confer to determine how best to implement an effort to achieve that goal.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2005.