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1 The Charge to the Panel and the Assessment Process At the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the 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 nine,1 as well as the adequacy of the laboratories’ resources. In 2009, NIST requested that five of its laboratories be assessed: the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (CSTL), the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory, the Information Technology Laboratory, and the NIST Center for Neutron Research. Each of these was assessed by a separate panel of experts; the findings of the respective panels are summarized in separate reports. This report summarizes the findings of the Panel on Chemical Science and Technology. For the fiscal year (FY) 2009 assessment, NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria as part of its assessment: 1. The technical merit of the current laboratory programs relative to current state-of- the-art programs worldwide; 2. The adequacy of the laboratory budget, facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory’s technical programs; and 3. The degree to which laboratory programs in measurement science and standards achieve their stated objectives and desired impact. The context of this technical assessment is the mission of NIST, which is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life. The NIST laboratories conduct research to anticipate future metrology and standards needs, to enable new scientific and technological advances, and to improve and refine existing measurement methods and services. In order to accomplish the assessment, the NRC assembled a panel of 21 volunteers, whose expertise matches that of the work performed by the CSTL staff.2 The panel members were also assigned to six subgroups (division review teams), whose expertise matched that of the work performed in the six divisions in the CSTL: Analytical Chemistry, Biochemical Science, Chemical and Biochemical Reference Data, Process Measurements, Surface and Microanalysis Science, and Thermophysical Properties. These division review teams (each led by a team leader chosen from within the panel) individually visited the CSTL facilities in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Boulder, Colorado, for 1 or 2 days, during which time they 1 The nine NIST laboratories are the Building and Fire Research Laboratory, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, 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 See http://www.cstl.nist.gov/ for more information on CSTL programs. Accessed June 1, 2009. 3
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attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with CSTL staff. Subsequently, the entire panel assembled for 2 days at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. There they toured the laboratory and attended overview presentations by CSTL management and interactive sessions with CSTL managers. The panel also met at this time in a closed session to deliberate on its findings and to define the contents of this assessment report. The approach of the panel to the assessment relied on the experience, technical knowledge, and expertise of its members, whose backgrounds were carefully matched to the technical areas of CSTL activities. The panel reviewed selected examples of the technological research covered by the CSTL; because of time constraints, it was not possible to review the CSTL programs and projects exhaustively. The examples reviewed by the panel were selected by the CSTL. The panel’s goal was to identify and report salient examples of accomplishments and opportunities for further improvement with respect to the following: the technical merit of the CSTL work, its perceived relevance to NIST’s own definition of its mission in support of national priorities, and specific elements of the CSTL’s resource infrastructure that are intended to support the technical work. These examples are intended collectively to portray an overall impression of the laboratory, while preserving useful suggestions specific to projects and programs that the panel examined. The assessment is currently scheduled to be repeated biennially, which will allow, over time, exposure to the broad spectrum of CSTL activity. While the panel applied a largely qualitative rather than a 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 comments in this report are not intended to address each program within the CSTL exhaustively. Instead, this report identifies key issues. Given the necessarily nonexhaustive nature of the review process, the omission of any particular CSTL program or project should not be interpreted as a negative reflection on the omitted program or project. The rest of this report is organized in six chapters, which provide a detailed discussion of the assessment of the individual CSTL divisions, including resulting recommendations. 4