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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Physics Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008
Research in laser frequency combs; and
Research in the chip-scale atomic sensor.
The technical work of the Time and Frequency Division is excellent and serves as a model for other laboratories in the field. The physical facilities in which this work is performed have received modest improvements over the past 3 years, but these facilities need further improvement. Initiatives to construct a new laboratory, appropriate for the work and technology of the division, are laudable; this construction should be completed as planned.
In the meantime, NIST should ensure that projects to repair and improve electric power and other utilities at the NIST Boulder site are effectively prioritized and completed on time and to specification.
The impacts of increasing administrative burdens, poor facilities, and other distractions are severe enough that highly productive and skilled scientists within the division are looking for opportunities outside NIST. The success of the division depends on the ability of the organization to attract and retain the best scientists; such individuals want to work in an environment where administrative issues, IT security, facilities, and other issues are sufficiently minimal distractions so as not to hinder their research and creativity. Repeated reports from staff have indicated that in recent years NIST has become substantially more encumbered by these burdens and distractions. Such reports introduce the significant concern that the long-term scientific leadership and productivity of the division will be compromised by the inability to attract and retain the best scientists, who will seek opportunities where they are not overly encumbered by such administrative issues.