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Appendix B Impressions Expressed by CNST Staff During its review of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, members of the Panel on Nanoscale Science and Technology had the opportunity to discuss the CNST with three groups separately: project leaders, postdoctoral researchers, and support staff. The following summary of impressions expressed by CNST staff members during those discussions are presented for consideration by the CNST management. These impressions are not presented here as conclusions or recommendations of the panel. Project leaders noted that CNST staff are generally happy and the technical credentials of the CNST management are excellent. The project leaders praised CNST leadership for its conservative hiring policy, which preserves sufficient funding for equipment, supplies, and travel. Project leaders think that about 20 percent of the staff should be theorists. The CNST taps into expert knowledge outside the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through sabbatical appointments and other types of visits. Bringing in external experts by this method is encouraged. The current ratio of projects to senior staff is about 2:1 and is seen as appropriate. Not all projects are active at the same time, and they are in varying levels of maturity. There are many interconnections among projects. The CNST has grown extremely quickly. The bureaucracy is minimal. The required project plans force principal investigators to think critically and to compare against worldwide effort. There is some difficulty in keeping up with the wide range of activities in the CNST. Informal discussions seem best for this, and more of these would be good. The institution of a coffee hour or other informal mechanisms would encourage networking. The relationship between scientists and technical staff is fostered by a teamwork philosophy. Technical support staff are excellent and are involved in the work up to the level approaching actually doing science. Support staff are stretched very thin as the CNST has grown. There are very few “job shop” projects; when they exist, they naturally connect to industrial interests as they evolve. Project leaders are satisfied with the level of professional staff development in the CNST and believe that management puts a lot of effort into professional development and recognition. Staff are free to attend appropriate technical meetings. Senior staff are typically the ones who attend foreign meetings; attendance at domestic meetings is broader. There is an excellent seminar program. Continuity of postdoctoral researchers is a problem. They are extremely good and can disappear quickly. It is hard to keep the really good postdocs. Fifteen CNST postdoctoral researchers participated in a separate discussion with panel members. Their tenure at NIST ranged from 1 week to about 2 years. While chemistry is frequently the centerpiece of nanoscience centers, at the CNST 14 of the 15 postdocs held a PhD in physics; the other held a PhD in chemistry (polymer chemistry). Gender diversity was nonexistent within the discussion group; all 15 were male. The discussants uniformly expressed that they were happy overall. They were engaged in their research work; they felt intellectually challenged, respected by their supervisors, and supported by the CNST administration; they voiced only institutional gripes, not CNST‐specific ones. Their concerns revolved around the procurement processes, problems of after‐hours and weekend site access for noncitizens (approximately 30 to 40 percent of the total number of postdocs), and issues with barriers to migrating data home in order to do analysis work there. 21
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These postdocs believed that they could make a case for pursuing new research directions and that there was a process in place for doing so. They felt more connected within the CNST research team than when they had belonged to larger university research groups in graduate school. They also commented on the rigor of the internal peer‐review system for publications at NIST, and how it takes extra time but leads to a final document that is of the high standard for which NIST is recognized. Approximately 20 percent of the postdocs expressed a desire to be academics. Some wanted and liked the guidance, while others seemed content with the freedom that they had. In general, their environment seems to them to be more structured than in academia. They noted that there is no research ethics training, although the internal publications vetting program attempts to make sure that data handling is sound. About 12 support staff members attended a separate luncheon discussion meeting with panel members. They expressed dedication to meeting and exceeding the expectations of their customers―both researchers and users. Some expressed a great need to hire more supporting staff in two areas―clean room and research laboratories―due to the rapid expansion of staff, facilities, and equipment. They noted that hiring in the areas of mechanics, process engineers, and technical administrators is particularly urgent and mentioned that the CNST director is aware of these specific needs. The staff used to support fewer than 20 scientists and engineers, but they are now supporting more than double that number. In addition to providing technical support, the staff also have responsibilities related to property management and safety issues. Continuing education, such as seminars and workshops, is available in-house for those who are interested. Support staff indicated that they do not meet formally, but they interact informally. They noted that NIST encourages staff to pursue advanced degrees. A couple of staff among the attendees have received MS degrees while working at NIST. Two staff cultures have merged in the CNST―the Nanofab and the Electron Physics Group. The Nanofab staff meet routinely. The Electron Physics Group staff do not meet routinely and would welcome more group meetings. 22