• --  

    the demonstrated or promised capacity to adapt, as installations, to different scientific requirements, needs, and opportunities; and

  • --  

    assessment of the balance between investment in existing facilities and the start-up costs of new facilities.

These criteria are illustrative of the kinds of issues that should be addressed in evaluating proposals for what can be called the intellectual research infrastructure. Specific criteria should also be developed for proposals for other kinds of infrastructure, such as equipment and instrumentation. The development of criteria specific to infrastructure that recognizes its strategic and technical nature is what is important in improving the resource allocation process.

CBASSE recognizes that the proposal and review process described above will be more demanding and more time-consuming than the current selection process for infrastructure projects. But given the strategic importance of infrastructure investment and the relative longevity of the investment, more rigor in the selection process is appropriate.

Effective Management of the Investments in Research Infrastructure

Workshop participants discussed the longer-term issues of how to improve the management of all investments of research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences. They noted the increase in behavioral and social science infrastructure in the private sector, especially private opinion and marketing surveys. They also discussed the need for improvement of the federal infrastructure for the support of research infrastructure in the social and behavioral sciences. But a number of participants said that improving the management of behavioral and social science infrastructure investment is not the sole responsibility of the sponsors of research, who have neither the human nor the financial resources to manage the entire social and behavioral science infrastructure and research portfolio. One suggestion discussed at the workshop was for a new organization:

…[to have a number of social science organizations] collaborate in appointing a Standing Committee on Social Science Infrastructure. We need a continuous process of identifying and monitoring the status of our infrastructure … and to have ''a subcommittee of the Standing committee focus on the domestic databases and the data collection enterprise that collects them.… Elements of data infrastructure, including the long-term databases or time series, should be evaluated regularly (Featherman, 1997:2).

Other scientific research communities have assumed some responsibility for monitoring, analyzing, and evaluating their infrastructure investments (see Institute of Medicine, 1990; National Research Council, 1991). In order to maximize the continuing



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--> --   the demonstrated or promised capacity to adapt, as installations, to different scientific requirements, needs, and opportunities; and --   assessment of the balance between investment in existing facilities and the start-up costs of new facilities. These criteria are illustrative of the kinds of issues that should be addressed in evaluating proposals for what can be called the intellectual research infrastructure. Specific criteria should also be developed for proposals for other kinds of infrastructure, such as equipment and instrumentation. The development of criteria specific to infrastructure that recognizes its strategic and technical nature is what is important in improving the resource allocation process. CBASSE recognizes that the proposal and review process described above will be more demanding and more time-consuming than the current selection process for infrastructure projects. But given the strategic importance of infrastructure investment and the relative longevity of the investment, more rigor in the selection process is appropriate. Effective Management of the Investments in Research Infrastructure Workshop participants discussed the longer-term issues of how to improve the management of all investments of research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences. They noted the increase in behavioral and social science infrastructure in the private sector, especially private opinion and marketing surveys. They also discussed the need for improvement of the federal infrastructure for the support of research infrastructure in the social and behavioral sciences. But a number of participants said that improving the management of behavioral and social science infrastructure investment is not the sole responsibility of the sponsors of research, who have neither the human nor the financial resources to manage the entire social and behavioral science infrastructure and research portfolio. One suggestion discussed at the workshop was for a new organization: …[to have a number of social science organizations] collaborate in appointing a Standing Committee on Social Science Infrastructure. We need a continuous process of identifying and monitoring the status of our infrastructure … and to have ''a subcommittee of the Standing committee focus on the domestic databases and the data collection enterprise that collects them.… Elements of data infrastructure, including the long-term databases or time series, should be evaluated regularly (Featherman, 1997:2). Other scientific research communities have assumed some responsibility for monitoring, analyzing, and evaluating their infrastructure investments (see Institute of Medicine, 1990; National Research Council, 1991). In order to maximize the continuing

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--> effectiveness of any changes that NSF/SBE makes to the process of infrastructure investments, CBASSE suggests that NSF/SBE develop an advisory process to focus specifically on improving the allocation of research infrastructure investments in the behavioral and social sciences. The responsibilities of this proposed advisory process could include (see Fischhoff, 1998): --   identifying the evolving new research opportunities in the behavioral and social sciences; --   assessing the appropriateness of current infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences for addressing those opportunities, that is, the pattern of infrastructure investments rather than the evaluation of specific projects; --   proposing new kinds of research infrastructure that might be needed to address the identified new opportunities; and --   proposing improvements in the way allocation decisions are made, using the methods from statistical decision theory, economics, operations research, and management science for thinking about the importance of different research activities and how to choose among them. An advisory process could provide open meetings to gather information, establish a web site to receive comments from researchers across the country, and produce periodic reports on research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences. The Advisory Council to the NCRR at NIH produces a strategic plan once every 4 years and measures how much of the previous strategic plan's goals have been achieved. This may be a process that NSF/SBE could effectively adopt, either with its current advisory committee or some other process. Optimally, the advisory process would help NSF accomplish its goals of vitalizing the research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences. In the course of the workshop discussions and CBASSE's subsequent deliberations, a number of substantive questions arose that could not be addressed in this short report. For example: --   What should be the long-term relationship between the NIH and NSF units that explicitly fund infrastructure projects outside behavioral and social sciences (NCRR and OSTI, respectively) and NIH and NSF funders of infrastructure investments in the behavioral and social sciences? --   What have been the successes and failures of behavioral and social science infrastructure investments in other countries?