In the enumeration of NIST's functions in the act, two are of particular note as they highlight the new authority as well as reinforce the existing mission:

  1. to assist industry in the development of technology and procedures needed to improve quality, to modernize manufacturing processes, to ensure product reliability, manufacturability, functionality, and cost-effectiveness and to facilitate the more rapid commercialization, especially by small- and medium-sized companies throughout the United States, of products based on new scientific discoveries in fields such as automation, electronics, advanced materials, biotechnology, and optical technologies;

  2. to develop, maintain, and retain custody of the national standards of measurement, and provide the means and methods for making measurements consistent with those standards, including comparing standards used in scientific investigations, engineering, manufacturing, commerce, industry, and educational institutions with standards adopted or recognized by the Federal Government.


In partnership with industry and government, NIST conducts research and provides measurement-related technical services to enhance the competitive posture of the United States in global markets. The partnership covers the entire cycle from definition of needs and ranking of priorities, through execution of research programs, to assuring that the results are used by U.S. industry.

A second major element of the NIST mission is to conduct research in selected areas of public health and safety and the environment, again in partnership with industry and government. Some of these activities are mandated by special statutes—earthquake hazard mitigation and elimination of chlorofluorocarbons—and one, fire research, is part of the basic NIST authorization.

The final element of the mission is a broad program of scientific research to underpin the technology programs. This scientific research is motivated by NIST's charter to provide technical services to the scientific and engineering communities. These activities range from fundamental inquiries into natural phenomena to improving our knowledge of the fundamental constants on which the sciences depend for quantitative work.

NIST conducts work largely in four categories: supporting technologies; generic, precompetitive process and product technologies; fundamental studies; and technology movement to users.

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