Innovations Program for instrumentation and facilities in order to capitalize on a large variety of exciting science opportunities over the upcoming decade.
The program should issue roughly annual calls for proposals in two categories: (1) conceptual and preliminary design activities and (2) detailed design and construction projects. Important elements of the program include standard peer review and selection criteria with special attention to scientific merit, relevance to community-established strategic goals and roadmaps, project management, and planning for both operations and data archiving funding. Operations and data archiving could be proposed, but not necessarily fully funded, by the program. A periodic review of ongoing projects with clearly stated procedures for funding continuation or termination is recommended. Co-funding of mid-scale projects from non-NSF sources would be allowed but not required. The Mid-Scale Innovations Program funding line should be established at a level that enables the selection of a minimum of seven such projects spanning a range of scales over the decade—a rate that provides regular opportunities and accomplishes a broad range of science.
Of the 29 proposals for ground-based mid-scale projects submitted as white papers to the survey, a subset was considered compelling by the committee. Although it is not appropriate for the committee to rank concepts for a competed line, it lists in Table 7.1 the activities it found compelling. The indicated cost categories are based on submitted descriptions and not on any independent committee review. Appendix D provides additional background information on these projects. Other examples may be found in the PPP reports. Many similar instrument and small-facility concepts will undoubtedly emerge over the decade. It is important that the Mid-Scale Innovations Program maintain a balance between large and small projects. Indeed, such a program in NSF-AST could take on some of the larger Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation (ATI) projects, so that ATI would emphasize advanced technology development together with instrumentation below ~$2 million.
The recommended Mid-Scale Innovations Program is aimed primarily at instrumentation and facilities in order to be consistent with the goals of the program at NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (NSF-MPS) and with the recommendations of the National Science Board (NSB)21 and NRC reports, but proposals for other types of initiatives in this cost range could be considered for funding if they present an especially compelling scientific case.
To support the committee’s recommendation, almost $400 million would be needed in this line over the decade, in addition to the funds needed to complete