metallurgical society in the United States, has expanded to become a broad materials society with a new name, ASM International, with a membership numbering about 53,000. The Materials Research Society, established early in 1973, has been one of the fastest growing professional societies in the United States; its current membership includes approximately 8000 individuals. Many industrial and governmental research laboratories have been reorganized into groupings that cut across traditional disciplines and materials areas and have titles such as “materials synthesis,” “materials chemistry,” and “materials performance.” As the science and engineering base of this new field of materials science and engineering develops, so must the process by which its practitioners are educated and the infrastructure and resources with which they approach their task.
This report discusses the vital role that materials science and engineering plays in the development of technology. Chapter 2 summarizes the committee’s findings about the impact of materials science and engineering on private and public sector activities that are crucial to U.S. economic and strategic well-being. Opportunities for research are discussed from two perspectives: Chapter 3 describes needs for new materials and for novel methods of processing in terms of the functional roles of materials; Chapter 4 describes research opportunities in the context of the four basic elements of materials science and engineering, thus emphasizing the intellectual coherence of the field while also stressing the essential connection between basic research and progress in developing materials. Educational challenges posed by the national need to encourage such progress and to ensure an adequate supply of well-trained materials researchers are considered in Chapter 5, which briefly assesses resources available for educating materials scientists and engineers at various levels of the U.S. educational system and also emphasizes the significance of the field’s multidisciplinary aspect. Chapter 6 presents the committee’s findings about funding and facilities currently available—as well as those needed in the future—to support the research efforts of materials scientists and engineers who work at the perennially shifting boundary between gathering knowledge and applying it. Finally, to examine from a broader perspective its assessment that materials science and engineering is vital to the future development of U.S. technology, the committee also examined how a number of nations view materials science and engineering and its role in their development. The international perspective is presented in Chapter 7. The committee is convinced that its findings and recommendations, if implemented, will strengthen the field of materials science and engineering and, in so doing, will contribute immeasurably and in unanticipated ways to meeting U.S. needs for economic and strategic security as well as the future needs of mankind.