Materials and the Federal Role

The interdependence of different fields of research was emphasized by a number of representatives of federal agencies.

Office of Science and Technology Policy

Arthur Bienenstock, Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), emphasized the Clinton administration's unequivocal commitment to maintaining leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Technology and the underlying science in many fields are responsible for more than 50 percent of the increases in productivity that we have enjoyed over the last 50 years. The various branches of science are truly interdependent—progress in one field depends on advances in many other areas. As an example, Bienenstock pointed to computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans, one of the mainstays of medical diagnostics, asking why it took so long after the discovery of x-rays for the technology to develop. Progress in many fields was needed to make the technology a reality—solid state physics and engineering to enable the computers that control the instrument and collect and analyze the data, materials science to provide the x-ray detectors, and mathematics and computer science for the algorithms to reconstruct the image from the raw data. CAT scans would not exist today if any of these were missing.

National Institutes of Health

Marvin Cassman, Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, further embroidered the theme of interdependence by discussing the multidisciplinary nature of research at major facilities such as synchrotrons and neutron sources. In the United States, most such facilities are funded by agencies with major responsibilities for condensed-matter and materials research. Biological research, however, is finding an increasing need for these facilities and now accounts for a significant fraction of all work being carried out at these national sources. Appropriate cooperation among these communities and the agencies that fund them will be essential to the continued viability of these important and extremely costly facilities. An interagency working group has been formed under the auspices of OSTP to facilitate such cooperation.

U.S. Department of Energy

Martha Krebs, Director of the Department of Energy Office of Science, presented the view from her office. The fiscal year 2000 budget request for the Office of Science is $189 million greater than that for the fiscal year 1999 budget. This increase is largely for construction of the Spallation Neutron Source and for the Scientific Simulation Initiative, an interagency initiative that will bring teraflopscale computing to bear on a number of problems including global systems, combustion, and basic science (which may include materials). Krebs identified a number of future directions and opportunities in materials research including neutron scattering, materials at high magnetic fields, sp2-bonded materials, granular materials, complex materials, and high-temperature superconductors.

U.S. Department of Defense

Hans Mark, Director for Defense Research and Engineering in the Department of Defense (DOD), began his presentation by noting the basic axiom that possession of superior technology leads to victory in war. However, what has not been recognized is that fundamental scientific research is the link between superior technology and basic knowledge. He outlined four new science and technology topics that the Defense Science Board should be considering and invited the community to suggest others. The ones he suggested were:

  1. “Strange” molecules, i.e., fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, or hyperbranched molecules;

  2. Predictive chaos theory/nonlinear dynamics and its applicability to national security;

  3. Software development, especially new techniques for producing software such as genetic algorithm development and application and automation of software development; and

  4. High-power electrical devices.

He emphasized that it is essential for the U.S. military to receive the best possible scientific information and, to this end, the DOD will continue to support basic research.

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