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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research: Fiscal Year 2007 Charge to the Panel and Description of the Assessment Process At the request of NIST, the National Academies, through its National Research Council (NRC), has since 1959 annually assembled panels of experts from academia, industry, medicine, and other scientific and engineering environments to assess the quality and effectiveness of the NIST measurements and standards laboratories, of which there are now eight,1 as well as the adequacy of the laboratories’ resources. In 2007 NIST requested that four of its laboratories be assessed: the NCNR, the Information Technology Laboratory, the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, and the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory. Each laboratory was assessed by a separate panel of experts, and the findings of each panel are summarized in separate reports. This report summarizes the findings of the Panel on Neutron Research. NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria as part of its assessment: The degree to which the Laboratory programs in measurement science, standards, and technology address national priorities. The degree to which the Laboratory programs in measurement science, standards, and technology are well-motivated with regard to the following questions: What is the program trying to accomplish? What is innovative or different, as compared to efforts at other institutions, about the program’s approach that will lead to success? Is success well defined? What will be the impact of success? How will success be disseminated to end users? How much will success cost, and how long will it take? The technical merit of the Laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide. Insofar as they affect the quality of the technical programs, the adequacy of the Laboratories’ facilities, equipment, and human resources. To accomplish the assessment, the NRC appointed a panel of seven volunteers whose expertise matched that of the work performed by NCNR staff. The panel members visited the NCNR facility for a day and a half, during which time they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with NCNR staff. Subsequently, the panel members assembled for another day, when they conducted interactive sessions with NCNR managers and with leaders of NCNR user groups; the panel also met at this time in a closed session to deliberate its findings and to define the contents of this assessment report. 1 The eight NIST laboratories are the Building and Fire Research Laboratory, the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory, the Information Technology Laboratory, the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory, the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory, the NIST Center for Neutron Research, and the Physics Laboratory.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research: Fiscal Year 2007 The panel’s approach to the assessment relied upon the experience, technical knowledge, and expertise of its members, whose backgrounds were carefully matched to the technical areas of NCNR activities. The panel reviewed selected examples of the standards and measurements activities and the technological research presented by the NCNR; it was not possible to review the NCNR programs and projects exhaustively. The panel’s goal was to identify and report salient examples of accomplishments and opportunities for further improvement with respect to the technical merit of the NCNR work, its perceived relevance to NIST’s own definition of its mission in support of national priorities, and apparent specific elements of the NCNR’s resource infrastructure that is intended to support the technical work. These highlighted examples, for each NCNR division, are intended to collectively portray an overall impression of the laboratory while preserving useful suggestions specific to projects and programs that the panel considered to be of special note within the set of those examined. The assessment is currently scheduled to be repeated annually; while the panel applied a largely qualitative rather than quantitative approach to the assessment, it is possible that future assessments will be informed by further consideration of various analytical methods that can be applied. This report is organized in four sections: general assessment comments, facilities and personnel, NCNR as a user facility, and science and technology at NCNR. The comments in this report are intended not to exhaustively address each program within NCNR but to identify key issues, salient programs, and the projects relevant to those issues. Detailed information on NCNR activities and programs can be found on its Web site, www.ncnr.nist.gov, or in published documents. NCNR’s annual report in particular highlights scientific research at the Center, lists publications, provides current research titles, and gives information on instrumentation and other developments.
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