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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007 Summary The Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (CSTL) is meeting its obligations, and its priorities are appropriate and aligned with national priorities. The technical merit of the laboratory and the commitment of the staff are high. There is no evidence that any programs are jeopardized by a lack of facilities or equipment. Future assessments will be facilitated if greater emphasis is placed on clarifying the distinctions between work performed to provide services and work performed to support research and development. Against this backdrop of clear and consistent success and high technical merit, the panel has the following comments about the operation of the Laboratory: The set of criteria known as “5+1” for ensuring that the research projects are aligned with the mission of NIST and the laboratory should continue to be used. The CSTL leadership should link its more basic research investments to the potentially important measurement-related outcomes that are envisioned to result from CSTL research. The CSTL leadership should put more effort into communicating to the staff the rationale for resource allocation between new initiatives and established programs, some of which produce revenues through standard reference materials (SRMs). One example is the current focus on nanoscience and nanotechnology, which competes with established metrology. CSTL should continue its practice of cross-pollinating research planning teams with individuals from different divisions as new initiatives are developed. There is a sense that a greater fraction of research is being directed at computation than at experimentation and instrument development. The CSTL leadership should examine this trend to assess its impact on future capabilities of the laboratory. CSTL should consider special efforts, such as interdivisional seminars and study groups, to generate more interest in interdisciplinary projects and to avoid redundancy in research projects across divisions. The CSTL leadership should carry out its planned efforts to communicate to the staff the incentives for disclosing intellectual property and applying for patents. The ratio of Ph.D. scientists to technical and office support staff appears to be so high that the Ph.D. scientists are often required to perform a technician’s work to accomplish a task. Besides serving as a barrier to the recruitment of outstanding scientists, this imbalance reduces the research productivity of the scientists. CSTL leadership should assess the ratio of support staff to Ph.D. scientists in terms of its effect on recruitment and productivity. It is not clear that the laboratory has developed guidelines for replacing scientists in critical areas who retire or leave the laboratory for other reasons.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007 The laboratory should develop a strategic plan to address recruitment issues and identify areas of opportunity and areas of concern. The CSTL should increase efforts to make its scientists more visible in their respective scientific communities.
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