Overall Conclusions

Overall, the four divisions in the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory reviewed by the panel are performing to the best of their capabilities, and much of the work being performed is among the best in the field. Their programs in measurement science and standards support NIST’s mission to contribute to the economic well-being of the nation. However, reduced funding and other factors are limiting (and are likely to increasingly limit) the degree to which MEL programs can achieve their objectives and are threatening the future impact of these programs. These factors include a significant percentage of division budgets relying on opportunistic funding, an overhead structure that has put increasing reliance on guest researchers and makes the postdoctoral rates noncompetitive, a lack of successor personnel in key technical positions, and a dwindling supply of workers in certain areas such as metrology. High-impact progress in the future will likely require disinvestment in some areas and strategic refocusing. NIST and the MEL have the technical capability to do this, driven by the rapidly changing scope and nature (and by the very definition) of manufacturing in the nation.



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Overall Conclusions Overall, the four divisions in the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory reviewed by the panel are performing to the best of their capabilities, and much of the work being performed is among the best in the field. Their programs in measurement science and standards support NIST’s mission to contribute to the economic well-being of the nation. However, reduced funding and other factors are limiting (and are likely to increasingly limit) the degree to which MEL programs can achieve their objectives and are threatening the future impact of these programs. These factors include a significant percentage of division budgets relying on opportunistic funding, an overhead structure that has put increasing reliance on guest researchers and makes the postdoctoral rates noncompetitive, a lack of successor personnel in key technical positions, and a dwindling supply of workers in certain areas such as metrology. High-impact progress in the future will likely require disinvestment in some areas and strategic refocusing. NIST and the MEL have the technical capability to do this, driven by the rapidly changing scope and nature (and by the very definition) of manu- facturing in the nation. 23

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