Summary

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), with its strong tradition of hiring and developing excellent scientific and technical staff, is one of the leading institutions worldwide in neutron instrumentation, technology, and science. It is a very well-managed user facility. With the recent completion of a $95 million expansion, performed on time and on budget, it has enhanced its instrumentation capabilities and has constructed a new guide hall. This expansion further enhances NCNR’s ability to meet high user demands—a factor of two higher than capacity—for experimentation to conduct cutting-edge research. NCNR’s high scientific productivity is due, in part, to effective communication between the management and staff and with the internal and external user communities.

To continue to respond effectively to a changing environment and opportunities afforded by the recent reorganization of NIST, the NCNR management should pay particular attention to the considerations below to ensure that the NCNR continues to effectively serve its mission.

NCNR management has historically done an excellent job at short-term, tactical planning. The NIST reorganization now provides them with an opportunity to operate more strategically. Because in the near future some of the more senior scientific and technical staff will be retiring, formalized succession planning needs to be performed in coordination with the broader NIST management.

Recommendation 1. The NCNR should develop and maintain a strategic plan that takes into account current and anticipated NIST organizational structures, mission factors, staffing, budgets, fuel and infrastructure resources, and its user constituency.

While numerous interactions exist between NCNR staff and other NIST staff in the various laboratory units, more formalized and coordinated planning could lead to new opportunities, or at least enhance the effectiveness of the current interactions. This, for example, would ensure that collaborative projects have sufficient budget support and appropriately serve the goals of the organization.

Recommendation 2. NCNR management should establish a more formalized engagement process with other NIST laboratory units, particularly the Material Measurement Laboratory, the Physical Measurement Laboratory, and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology; programmatic planning involving personnel should be more formally coordinated with other areas of the laboratory.

Funding to ensure that the reactor continues to operate efficiently, with appropriate and timely upgrades, is essential.

Recommendation 3. The NCNR should develop a formal plan to address the impending 4He shortage and the fuel supply costs that promise to be problematic.



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Summary The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), with its strong tradition of hiring and developing excellent scientific and technical staff, is one of the leading institutions worldwide in neutron instrumentation, technology, and science. It is a very well-managed user facility. With the recent completion of a $95 million expansion, performed on time and on budget, it has enhanced its instrumentation capabilities and has constructed a new guide hall. This expansion further enhances NCNR’s ability to meet high user demands—a factor of two higher than capacity—for experimentation to conduct cutting-edge research. NCNR’s high scientific productivity is due, in part, to effective communication between the management and staff and with the internal and external user communities. To continue to respond effectively to a changing environment and opportunities afforded by the recent reorganization of NIST, the NCNR management should pay particular attention to the considerations below to ensure that the NCNR continues to effectively serve its mission. NCNR management has historically done an excellent job at short-term, tactical planning. The NIST reorganization now provides them with an opportunity to operate more strategically. Because in the near future some of the more senior scientific and technical staff will be retiring, formalized succession planning needs to be performed in coordination with the broader NIST management. Recommendation 1. The NCNR should develop and maintain a strategic plan that takes into account current and anticipated NIST organizational structures, mission factors, staffing, budgets, fuel and infrastructure resources, and its user constituency. While numerous interactions exist between NCNR staff and other NIST staff in the various laboratory units, more formalized and coordinated planning could lead to new opportunities, or at least enhance the effectiveness of the current interactions. This, for example, would ensure that collaborative projects have sufficient budget support and appropriately serve the goals of the organization. Recommendation 2. NCNR management should establish a more formalized engagement process with other NIST laboratory units, particularly the Material Measurement Laboratory, the Physical Measurement Laboratory, and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology; programmatic planning involving personnel should be more formally coordinated with other areas of the laboratory. Funding to ensure that the reactor continues to operate efficiently, with appropriate and timely upgrades, is essential. Recommendation 3. The NCNR should develop a formal plan to address the impending 4He shortage and the fuel supply costs that promise to be problematic. 1

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The NCNR has served its internal and external users well. This is, in part, because the NCNR management and staff have been open and responsive to feedback from the internal and external user communities. One important outcome of this positive relationship is that it has enabled the NCNR to identify areas where it needs to develop new facilities and instruments, as well as technical and scientific expertise. Recommendation 4. The NCNR should continue to develop mechanisms that enable effective communication and feedback from current and potential users. A user community workshop should be planned for the near future. Additionally, web-based communications mechanisms, where appropriate, should also be used. The impact of travel budget restrictions on the ability of NCNR staff to travel and to communicate with other researchers hampers their ability to effectively serve the user community. The impact of the $1 million (30 percent of the entire budget for this collaboration) permanent decrease in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) collaboration involving the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS) is of serious concern. This collaboration has had a positive influence on research in the field. Recommendation 5. The potential impact of the reduction in funding for the collaboration between NIST and the National Science Foundation involving the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering should be carefully examined, documented, and addressed. nSoft, the new program designed to enhance industrial collaborations and contribute toward NIST’s mission, appears to be a productive model for industrial outreach and engagement. Recommendation 6. The NCNR should continue to focus its efforts on recruiting additional companies into the nSoft program and should establish new performance metrics that differ from those used to quantify the effectiveness of NCNR interactions with academics. 2