nature of the research organization does not change profoundly with equipment requirements.
Research in materials science and engineering is carried out predominantly in the “small science” mode, in which groups of a few researchers attack several aspects of a problem. This is true of all materials science and engineering efforts in synthesis and processing, characterization, and the study of materials properties and performance. Even when the largest facilities, such as reactors (neutron sources) and synchrotron light sources, are used, as in structural characterization studies, the experiments are small-scale, and the individual experiments usually involve only one or two researchers. Research efforts at these facilities are large only in the sense that many experiments can be carried out at one time.
It is therefore not particularly illuminating to make distinctions in types of materials science and engineering research based on the size of the equipment used. Decisions on allocation of resources should be based on resource requirements for attacking problems in the four basic elements of materials science and engineering. That materials science and engineering is a collection of disciplines (e.g., physics, chemistry, and metallurgy), and not a single discipline, makes it necessary to examine resources in a crosscutting way. It makes collecting data on resources more complex, as can be seen in the attempts even to estimate the amount of money being spent on materials science and engineering. In looking at large pieces of equipment (e.g., light sources), account must be taken of the fact that much of their use—for medical research, for example—is not related to materials science and engineering and that much of the work in materials science and engineering disciplines such as physics is not directly related to materials science and engineering. These facts argue strongly for allocating resources according to the requirements of problems rather than on the basis of the subdisciplines or the size of the equipment involved.
At least 15 federal agencies, each with different characteristics and missions, sponsor R&D in materials science and engineering. Most of these agencies do not break down their R&D activities into categories identifiable specifically as materials research or development. Furthermore, because no single definition for materials science and engineering is commonly accepted by these agencies, reports without analysis may be misleading. Thus it is very difficult to obtain an accurate estimate of the total amounts, much less a breakdown by agency or subfield, of funding provided by the federal government for materials science and engineering. Materials-related work can occur as part of systems development, as part of an exploratory program,