Charge to the Panel and Description of the Assessment Process

At the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory (EEEL), the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, the Information Technology Laboratory, and the NIST Center for Neutron Research. 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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering.

NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria as part of its assessment:

  1. The degree to which the Laboratory programs in measurement science, standards, and technology address national priorities.

  2. The degree to which the Laboratory programs in measurement science, standards, and technology are well-motivated with regard to the following questions:

    1. What is the program trying to accomplish?

    2. What is innovative or different, as compared to efforts at other institutions, about the program’s approach that will lead to success?

    3. Is success well defined?

    4. What will the impact of success be?

    5. How will success be disseminated to end users?

    6. How much will success cost, and how long will it take?

  1. The technical merit of the Laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide.

  2. 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 25 volunteers whose expertise matched that of the work performed by EEEL staff. The panel members were also assigned to four subsets whose expertise matched that of the work performed by staff in the four divisions in EEEL: Electromagnetics (EM), Quantum Electrical Metrology (QEM), Optoelectronics (OE), and Semiconductor Electronics (SE). These subsets of the panel separately visited EEEL facilities for 1-2 days, during which they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with EEEL staff. Subsequently, the entire panel assembled for 1.5 days, during which they attended overview presentations by EEEL management and interactive sessions with EEEL managers; the panel also met during this period 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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007 Charge to the Panel and Description of the Assessment Process At the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory (EEEL), the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, the Information Technology Laboratory, and the NIST Center for Neutron Research. 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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering. 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 the impact of success be? 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 25 volunteers whose expertise matched that of the work performed by EEEL staff. The panel members were also assigned to four subsets whose expertise matched that of the work performed by staff in the four divisions in EEEL: Electromagnetics (EM), Quantum Electrical Metrology (QEM), Optoelectronics (OE), and Semiconductor Electronics (SE). These subsets of the panel separately visited EEEL facilities for 1-2 days, during which they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with EEEL staff. Subsequently, the entire panel assembled for 1.5 days, during which they attended overview presentations by EEEL management and interactive sessions with EEEL managers; the panel also met during this period 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 Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007 The panel’s approach to the assessment relied upon the experience, technical knowledge, and expertise of its panel members, whose backgrounds were carefully matched to the technical areas within which the EEEL activities are conducted. The panel reviewed selected examples of the standards and measurements activities and the technological research presented by EEEL; it was not possible to review the EEEL 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 EEEL work, its perceived relevance to NIST’s definition of its mission in support of national priorities, and apparent specific elements of EEEL’s resource infrastructure that is intended to support the technical work. These highlighted examples, for each EEEL division, are intended to collectively portray an overall impression of the laboratory while preserving useful mention of 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 biennially; 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. The interested reader can find detailed descriptions of EEEL divisions and their programs at the NIST EEEL Web site: www.eeel.nist.gov. Of particular note is that the charge does not ask this assessment report to reiterate the programs; their innovation, success, impact, cost, technical merit; or their resources. Instead it does ask the panel to comment on the alignment with national priorities, the existence and adequacy of planning and assessment criteria, the technical merit of the programs, and their resource adequacy. The first issue of alignment with national priorities raises the question of exactly what the national priorities are. This was answered by a document from the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, whose subject is FY 2005 interagency research and development priorities. The present document outlines the national priorities of federal research and development agencies during the period of this review. The 2005 document was used as the primary definition of national priorities. A similar document addressing the FY 2008 administration research and development budget priorities2 was also considered and was deemed somewhat more applicable to the next assessment of EEEL in 2009. The FY 2005 document recommends support for six general national policies: Sustain and nurture America’s science and technology enterprise though the pursuit of specific agency missions and stewardship of critical research fields and their enabling infrastructure; Strengthen science, mathematics, and engineering education by enhancing access and broad availability of excellent education programs, establishing and encouraging best educational practices, and integrating research and education; Focus on long-term, potentially high-payoff activities that require a federal presence to attain national goals, including homeland and national security, environmental quality, economic prosperity, human health and well-being, and fundamental discovery; 2 FY 2008 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities, June 23, 2006, Memorandum from the Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007 Maximize efficiency and effectiveness of federal research and development (R&D) investments through means such as competitive, peer-reviewed processes and phase-out of programs that are neither productive nor important to an agency’s mission; Promote collaborations among agencies, industry, academia, and states to advance common science and technology (S&T) goals; and Strengthen international partnerships that foster advancement of scientific frontiers and accelerate the progress of science across borders. It also outlines five specific R&D priorities that are broad-based multi-agency goals and include R&D for combating terrorism, nanotechnology, networking and information technology R&D, molecular-level understanding of life processes, and environment and energy. The charge to the review panel and this national priorities document include something more than simply assessing the technical merit of the activities. They touch on several aspects of strategic planning and the alignment of the activities, all in terms of addressing national priorities.