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RESEARCH PROGRAMS OF THE U.S. BUREAU OF MINES—FIRST ASSESSMENT, 1994 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A successful high-quality research program requires, as a minimum, the following key ingredients: concise, clearly articulated programmatic goals with supporting sets of objectives and specific research strategies; consistency between research strategies and objectives and budgetary realities, over both the short and the long term; high-quality professionals to conduct research activities; adequate physical plant and supporting equipment and facilities; and efficient and effective measures for transferring accomplishments to customers. It is within this general framework that the Committee on Research Programs of the U.S. Bureau of Mines carried out its assessment of the quality and type of research being carried out by the bureau. This report is the first of an ongoing assessment of these research programs; the overall objective is to provide advice that would help to continuously improve their quality. In this regard, the committee offers a number of findings and recommended actions for the bureau to consider. The committee's findings arise from its meetings, site visits, and the reports of its panels on facilities and occupational health. The facilities panel conducted intensive visits at three centers (Salt Lake City; Reno; and Albany, Oregon). The Occupational Health Panel conducted an in-depth review of the bureau's occupational health program. Under each finding the committee has made specific recommendations that will contribute to improvement of the bureau's research programs. Going beyond these specific recommendations, however, the committee believes that the review and self-examination process itself, if followed vigorously and consistently, will contribute to the development of a research environment where continuing improvement becomes a natural and desirable outcome. Finding: The U.S. Bureau of Mines has a need to communicate its research goals more clearly and effectively to employees, customers, and those responsible for annual funding. Recommendation 1. The U.S. Bureau of Mines must identify, well in advance, the research goals necessary to achieve its mission and communicate those goals to its employees, its customers, and its funders.
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RESEARCH PROGRAMS OF THE U.S. BUREAU OF MINES—FIRST ASSESSMENT, 1994 Finding: The U.S. Bureau of Mines has a need to develop a well-defined set of research strategies focused on the accomplishment of carefully defined research objectives. Recommendation 2. The U.S. Bureau of Mines must define specific research objectives and strategies to achieve its goals. Both the objectives and individual research project strategies should be challenging, internally consistent, timely, relevant, achievable, measurable, and economically viable. Finding: Implementation of the research goals of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and achievement of its objectives and strategies depend critically on the process of selecting individual research projects and the availability of well qualified professionals to conduct the work. Recommendation 3. To select projects that will meet its research objectives, the U.S. Bureau of Mines should reexamine its selection methodology, including both internal and external reviews. Finding: The quality of research of the U.S. Bureau of Mines varies within and between research programs and centers; this is linked to the qualifications of the researchers. Recommendation 4. To meet its research objectives, the U.S. Bureau of Mines should strive to hire, develop, and retain the best researchers. Specific areas that need attention include the following: a credible dual-ladder reward system for professional research staff; increased staff visibility through publication credit and participation in professional meetings; increased communication of internal and external scientific and technical developments through regularly scheduled seminars; and national level searches for research positions and compensation of the best qualified scientists and engineers at levels commensurate with capabilities and competitive with other employers.
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RESEARCH PROGRAMS OF THE U.S. BUREAU OF MINES—FIRST ASSESSMENT, 1994 Finding: The present research facilities of the U.S. Bureau of Mines are capable of supporting high quality research. Efforts to progressively upgrade equipment are laudable. Recommendation 5. To maintain the capability to conduct high-quality research, the U.S. Bureau of Mines should continue its existing efforts to upgrade equipment and facilities. Finding: The internal and external efforts of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in technology transfer can be greatly improved; they currently tend to hamper the achievement and dissemination of high-quality research. Recommendation 6. To ensure that research results are put to effective use, the U.S. Bureau of Mines must improve technology transfer. Specific areas that need attention include the following: communication and publication of research results, in widely read journals, and increasingly through electronic on-line means; active participation in professional activities and meetings; and development of close working relationships with industry, leading to partnerships, collaborative programs, and cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs).
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