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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 six, including two user facilities, as well as the adequacy of the laboratories’ resources. In 2013, NIST requested that the NRC form a panel to assess the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). This report summarizes the findings of the Panel on Neutron Research.

For the assessment, NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria:

1. The merit of the current NCNR scientific and technical programs relative to current state-of-the-art programs;

2. The degree to which the NCNR scientific and technical programs achieve their objectives and fulfill the mission of the NCNR; and

3. The adequacy of the NCNR facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the NCNR’s scientific and technical programs. The panel should consider the potential impact of facility modifications completed during the recent outage as well as the ongoing facility developments.

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.

To accomplish the assessment, the NRC assembled a panel of 10 volunteers whose expertise matches that of the work performed by the NCNR staff. The panel members visited the NCNR facility at Gaithersburg, Maryland, for a day and a half, during which time they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with NCNR staff. Subsequently, the panel members assembled for another day during which they conducted interactive sessions with NCNR managers and with leaders of NCNR user groups and met in a closed session to deliberate on the panel’s 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 NCNR activities. The panel reviewed selected examples of the scientific and technological research presented by the NCNR; because of time constraints, it was not possible to review the NCNR programs and projects exhaustively. The examples reviewed by the panel were selected by the NCNR. The panel’s goal was to identify and report salient examples of accomplishments and opportunities for further



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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 six, including two user facilities, as well as the adequacy of the laboratories’ resources. In 2013, NIST requested that the NRC form a panel to assess the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). This report summarizes the findings of the Panel on Neutron Research. For the assessment, NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria: 1. The merit of the current NCNR scientific and technical programs relative to current state-of-the-art programs; 2. The degree to which the NCNR scientific and technical programs achieve their objectives and fulfill the mission of the NCNR; and 3. The adequacy of the NCNR facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the NCNR’s scientific and technical programs. The panel should consider the potential impact of facility modifications completed during the recent outage as well as the ongoing facility developments. 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. To accomplish the assessment, the NRC assembled a panel of 10 volunteers whose expertise matches that of the work performed by the NCNR staff. The panel members visited the NCNR facility at Gaithersburg, Maryland, for a day and a half, during which time they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive sessions with NCNR staff. Subsequently, the panel members assembled for another day during which they conducted interactive sessions with NCNR managers and with leaders of NCNR user groups and met in a closed session to deliberate on the panel’s 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 NCNR activities. The panel reviewed selected examples of the scientific and technological research presented by the NCNR; because of time constraints, it was not possible to review the NCNR programs and projects exhaustively. The examples reviewed by the panel were selected by the NCNR. The panel’s goal was to identify and report salient examples of accomplishments and opportunities for further 3

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improvement with respect to the following: the technical merit of the NCNR work, its perceived relevance to the NCNR’s definition of its mission, and specific elements of the NCNR’s resource infrastructure that are intended to support the work and the users of its facilities. These highlighted examples are intended collectively to portray an overall impression of the laboratory, while preserving useful suggestions specific to projects and programs that the panel considered to be of special note within the set of those examined. The assessment is currently scheduled to be repeated annually, which will allow, over time, exposure to the broad spectrum of NCNR activity. While the panel applied a largely qualitative approach to several elements of 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 NCNR exhaustively. Instead, this report identifies key issues and focuses on representative programs and projects relevant to those issues. Given the necessarily nonexhaustive nature of the review process, the omission of any particular NCNR program or project should not be interpreted as a negative reflection on the omitted program or project. 4