2

General Assessment of the Management and Operation

The NCNR is one of the world’s premiere neutron science user facilities. To maintain its leadership position and to continue to serve the science and technology communities and the larger NIST mission, it is essential that the NCNR excel in both the physical and managerial aspects of its operation.

The NCNR has developed a strong managerial tradition that is well suited to its mission, dating back at least three decades. NCNR line management has been rightly characterized as open, honest, candid, and exceptionally capable technically. Evidence of this is found in their very successful recruitment and hiring of creative, motivated, enthusiastic, and highly capable early-career scientific and instrument staff over the years, most of whom have entered initially as limited-term hires or postdoctoral staff.

While only a small fraction of these people stay on for long terms, the majority have gone on elsewhere to quite successful careers in industry, academia, and other national laboratories, contributing significantly to the scientific user community in the United States and elsewhere. NCNR management conducts rigorous and regular performance reviews of the staff and provides candid feedback to them. These management practices have enabled the NCNR to build and maintain a cadre of senior scientists who are among the best in their fields and who both conduct their own in-house research and, significantly, collaborate with and assist the broader user community.

The more technically oriented NCNR staff have been essential in meeting the NCNR mission objectives related to advancing both neutron instrumentation and techniques. A particularly striking example of this is the recent $95 million instrument expansion and new guide hall project, which was completed on time and within budget. With its expanded capabilities, it is important that the NCNR continue and evolve processes to solicit user input and provide technical support to outside users.

As the customer base and mission of NIST itself have evolved, the NCNR has similarly evolved. The reorganization of the NIST laboratory programs and line organizations in 2010 brought both challenges and opportunities, some of which are discussed here. The number of NIST laboratory units was recently reduced from nine to six and reconfigured to enable better cross-organizational planning, coordination, and collaboration. The position of Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy for NIST was created to oversee and implement the reorganization. Although the reorganization’s goals are being vigorously pursued, achieving many of the more strategic goals remains a work in progress.

The NCNR does its recruiting, hiring, and performance evaluations largely as a stand-alone unit, although performance review results are shared among all six NIST laboratories. Similarly, coordination and collaborations involving the NCNR with the other laboratories (Material Measurement Laboratory [MML], Physical Measurement Laboratory [PML], and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology [CNST], in particular) currently remain primarily at the tactical rather than the strategic level. Although there are dozens of scientific and technical staff from these other laboratories



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2 General Assessment of the Management and Operation The NCNR is one of the world’s premiere neutron science user facilities. To maintain its leadership position and to continue to serve the science and technology communities and the larger NIST mission, it is essential that the NCNR excel in both the physical and managerial aspects of its operation. The NCNR has developed a strong managerial tradition that is well suited to its mission, dating back at least three decades. NCNR line management has been rightly characterized as open, honest, candid, and exceptionally capable technically. Evidence of this is found in their very successful recruitment and hiring of creative, motivated, enthusiastic, and highly capable early-career scientific and instrument staff over the years, most of whom have entered initially as limited-term hires or postdoctoral staff. While only a small fraction of these people stay on for long terms, the majority have gone on elsewhere to quite successful careers in industry, academia, and other national laboratories, contributing significantly to the scientific user community in the United States and elsewhere. NCNR management conducts rigorous and regular performance reviews of the staff and provides candid feedback to them. These management practices have enabled the NCNR to build and maintain a cadre of senior scientists who are among the best in their fields and who both conduct their own in-house research and, significantly, collaborate with and assist the broader user community. The more technically oriented NCNR staff have been essential in meeting the NCNR mission objectives related to advancing both neutron instrumentation and techniques. A particularly striking example of this is the recent $95 million instrument expansion and new guide hall project, which was completed on time and within budget. With its expanded capabilities, it is important that the NCNR continue and evolve processes to solicit user input and provide technical support to outside users. As the customer base and mission of NIST itself have evolved, the NCNR has similarly evolved. The reorganization of the NIST laboratory programs and line organizations in 2010 brought both challenges and opportunities, some of which are discussed here. The number of NIST laboratory units was recently reduced from nine to six and reconfigured to enable better cross-organizational planning, coordination, and collaboration. The position of Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy for NIST was created to oversee and implement the reorganization. Although the reorganization’s goals are being vigorously pursued, achieving many of the more strategic goals remains a work in progress. The NCNR does its recruiting, hiring, and performance evaluations largely as a stand-alone unit, although performance review results are shared among all six NIST laboratories. Similarly, coordination and collaborations involving the NCNR with the other laboratories (Material Measurement Laboratory [MML], Physical Measurement Laboratory [PML], and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology [CNST], in particular) currently remain primarily at the tactical rather than the strategic level. Although there are dozens of scientific and technical staff from these other laboratories 5

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who work closely and are even collocated with NCNR staff, their budgets and programmatic planning appear to remain coordinated mainly on an ad hoc basis. The reorganization itself, as well as an increased focus at NIST on mission areas such as advanced manufacturing, present the need and opportunity for NCNR management to participate more strongly in NIST-wide strategic planning, with particular emphasis on more formalized engagement with the MML, PML, and CNST. Opportunities appear potentially fruitful in areas like recruiting, promotions, succession planning, and facilities planning. Succession planning should be an area of focus to ensure continued positive operations. NCNR management and operational practices over the years have resulted in excellent relations with the broad and diverse user community. The innovative formation of the “expertise transfer” paradigm for industry interactions, embodied in the nSoft program, is an example of best practices. CHRNS outreach and educational collaboration with NSF shows promise in building the neutron user community as well as in more general awareness and appreciation of the value of neutron science. The NCNR should be proactive in sharing, establishing, and maintaining cross-organizational activities that include the development of paradigms applicable across NIST laboratories. The operations of the beam facilities have been very good. Continuous enhancements to the research programs have been achieved. It is equally important that the reactor itself continue to be maintained and staffed appropriately. Attention should be given to both the nuclear facilities and the staff. It was noted that several of the long- term reactor staff are eligible for retirement. Succession planning and recruiting efforts are especially important in this arena. Upgrades to the reactor should receive the same attention and funding as the research equipment for the research facilities. If the reactor is not properly maintained and modernized, the NCNR incurs the risk of having great research facilities but no reliable source of neutrons. The area of most concern for the reactor is the fuel supply. There are two specific areas of concern: the cost and funding for the current fuel design and the potential cost and reduced capabilities with a new fuel design. Appropriate funds need to be made available for the current fuel so that the reactor operation does not get in a situation of having to choose between buying the fuel or providing proper maintenance. There is also uncertainty about the cost of the fuel as the Department of Energy moves toward the development of low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. In summary, the management and operation of both the NCNR research facilities and activities and the NCNR reactor are well done. Continued vigilance and NIST management attention will be required to maintain this excellent track record. 6