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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 Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, the Electronics and Electrical Engineering 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 Information Technology. 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: a. What is the program trying to accomplish? b. What is innovative or different, as compared to efforts at other institutions, about the program’s approach that will lead to success? c. Is success well defined? d. What will be the impact of success? e. How will success be disseminated to end users? f. How much will success cost, and how long will it take? 3. The technical merit of the Laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide. 4. 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 18 volunteers whose expertise matched that of the work performed by the ITL staff. The panel members were also assigned to six subgroups whose expertise matched that of the work performed by staff in the six divisions in ITL: Mathematical and Computational Sciences, Advanced Network Technologies, Computer Security, Information Access, Software Diagnostics and Conformance Testing, and Statistical Engineering. These subgroups of the panel separately visited ITL facilities for 1 or 2 days, during which they attended presentations, 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. 2
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tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with ITL staff. Subsequently, the entire panel assembled for 1.5 days, during which they attended overview presentations by ITL management and interactive sessions with ITL managers; the panel also met at this time in a closed session to deliberate its findings and to define the contents of this assessment report. 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 within which the ITL activities are conducted. The panel reviewed selected examples of the standards and measurements activities and the technological research presented by the ITL; it was not possible to review the ITL 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 ITL work, its perceived relevance to NIST’s own definition of its mission in support of national priorities, and apparent specific elements of the ITL’s resource infrastructure that is intended to support the technical work. These highlighted examples, for each ITL 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. This report is organized in two parts. The first part discusses issues that apply broadly to several or all of the divisions or to ITL as a whole. The second part presents observations specific to each ITL division. The comments in this report are not intended to exhaustively address each program within ITL; rather, this report identifies key issues and salient programs and projects relevant to those issues. 3