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Suggested Citation:"The Charge to the Panel and the Assessment Process." National Research Council. 2008. An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research: Fiscal Year 2008. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12495.
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Suggested Citation:"The Charge to the Panel and the Assessment Process." National Research Council. 2008. An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research: Fiscal Year 2008. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12495.
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The Charge to the Panel and the Assessment Process At the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Academies, through its National Research Council (NRC), has since 1959 annually assembled panels of experts from academia, industry, medicine, and other scientific and engineering environments to assess the quality and effectiveness of the NIST measurements and standards laboratories, of which there are now nine,2 as well as the adequacy of the laboratories’ resources. In 2008, NIST requested that five of its laboratories be assessed: the Building and Fire Research Laboratory, the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory, the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory, the NIST Center for Neutron Research, and the Physics Laboratory. Each of these was assessed by a separate panel of experts; the findings of the respective panels are summarized in separate reports. This report summarizes the findings of the Panel on Neutron Research. For the fiscal year (FY) 2008 assessment, NIST requested that the panel consider the following criteria as part of its assessment: 1. The technical merit of the current laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide; 2. The adequacy of the laboratory facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory technical programs; and 3. The degree to which the laboratory programs in measurement science and standards achieve their stated objectives and desired impact. In addition, because NIST has begun to receive increases in funding through the President’s ACI and the America COMPETES Act of 2007, the Director of NIST also requested that the assessment panels specifically examine and review the progress of all of the FY 2007-funded initiatives relevant to their respective laboratories and comment on these program growth areas explicitly in their reports. The context of this technical assessment is the mission of NIST, which is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life. The NIST laboratories conduct research to anticipate future metrology and standards needs, to enable new scientific and technological advances, and to improve and refine existing measurement methods and services. In order to accomplish the assessment, the NRC assembled a panel of 13 volunteers whose expertise matched that of the work performed by the NCNR staff.3 The panel members visited the NCNR facility at Gaithersburg, Maryland, for a day and a half, during which time they attended presentations, tours, demonstrations, and interactive 2 The nine NIST laboratories are the Building and Fire Research Laboratory, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory, the Information Technology Laboratory, the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory, the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory, the NIST Center for Neutron Research, and the Physics Laboratory. 3 See http://www.ncnr.nist.gov/ for more information on NCNR programs. Accessed August 12, 2008. 4

sessions with NCNR staff. Subsequently, the panel members assembled for another day during which they conducted interactive sessions with NCNR managers and with leaders of NCNR user groups and met in a closed session to deliberate on the panel’s findings and to define the contents of this assessment report. The approach of the panel to the assessment relied on the experience, technical knowledge, and expertise of its members, whose backgrounds were carefully matched to the technical areas of NCNR activities. The panel reviewed selected examples of the technological research presented by the NCNR; because of time constraints, it was not possible to review the NCNR programs and projects exhaustively. The examples reviewed by the panel were selected by the NCNR. The panel’s goal was to identify and report salient examples of accomplishments and opportunities for further improvement with respect to the following: the technical merit of the NCNR work, its perceived relevance to NIST’s own definition of its mission in support of national priorities, and specific elements of the NCNR’s resource infrastructure that are intended to support the technical work. These highlighted examples are intended collectively to portray an overall impression of the laboratory, while preserving useful suggestions specific to projects and programs that the panel considered to be of special note within the set of those examined. The assessment is currently scheduled to be repeated annually, which will allow, over time, exposure to the broad spectrum of NCNR activity. While the panel applied a largely qualitative rather than a quantitative approach to the assessment, it is possible that future assessments will be informed by further consideration of various analytical methods that can be applied. The comments in this report are not intended to address each program within the NCNR exhaustively. Instead, this report identifies key issues and focuses on representative programs and projects relevant to those issues. Given the necessarily nonexhaustive nature of the review process, the omission of any particular NCNR program or project should not be interpreted as a negative reflection on the omitted program or project. The rest of this report is organized in five brief chapters: “General Assessment of the NIST Center for Neutron Research,” “Science and Technology at the Center,” “Facilities and Human Resources,” “The Center as a User Facility,” and “Conclusions.” The three chapters following the “General Assessment” address the criteria that the NIST Director requested the panel to include in its assessment. The progress of all of the FY 2007-funded initiatives relevant to the ACI and the America COMPETES Act is discussed in a section in the chapter “Facilities and Human Resources.” Detailed information on NCNR activities and programs can be found on the NCNR Web site, www.ncnr.nist.gov, or in published documents. The NCNR’s annual report—NIST Center for Neutron Research: 2007 Accomplishments and Opportunities—in particular highlights scientific research at the center, lists publications, provides titles of current research projects, and gives information on instrumentation, the planned new guide hall, and other developments. 5

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) is a national user facility whose mission is to ensure the availability of neutron measurement capabilities in order to meet the needs of U.S. researchers from industry, academia, and government agencies.

A panel of experts from the National Research Council evaluated the NCNR by the following criteria: (1) the technical merit of the current laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide; (2) the adequacy of the laboratory facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory technical programs; and (3) the degree to which the laboratory programs in measurement science and standards achieve their stated objectives and desired impact.

This book finds that NCNR is an extremely reliable and comprehensive neutron scattering facility. Even as the other neutron source in the nation-the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)-becomes increasingly operational and the Oak Ridge High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) comes back online, the NCNR will continue to be a vital resource for meeting the broad spectrum of user needs for and scientific objectives related to neutron scattering.

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