Statement of Task
This proposal requests funding for the Laboratory Assessments Board (LAB) to establish an ad hoc committee to assess the status of NASA’s laboratory capabilities and to determine whether they are equipped and maintained to support NASA’s research activities. The relative quality of NASA’s facilities and laboratories, including support services, also will be assessed in comparison to other laboratories elsewhere.
On October 15, 2008, the President signed into law H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, which authorizes appropriations to NASA for Fiscal Year 2009. Section 1003 of the Act, “Assessment of NASA Laboratory Capabilities,” directs NASA to arrange for an independent review of NASA laboratory facilities as follows:
In General—NASA’s laboratories are a critical component of NASA’s research capabilities, and the Administrator shall ensure that those laboratories remain productive.
Review—The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement for an independent external review of NASA’s laboratories, including laboratory equipment, facilities, and support services, to determine whether they are equipped and maintained at a level adequate to support NASA’s research activities. The assessment shall also include an assessment of the relative quality of NASA’s in-house laboratory equipment and facilities compared to comparable laboratories elsewhere. The results of the review shall be provided to the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act.
STATEMENT OF TASK
The National Research Council’s Laboratory Assessments Board, in collaboration with the NRC Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, will form an ad hoc committee to carry out an independent external review of NASA’s laboratories, including laboratory equipment, facilities, and support services, to determine whether they are equipped and maintained at a level adequate to support NASA’s research activities. The assessment will also include an assessment of the relative quality of NASA’s in-house laboratory equipment and facilities compared to comparable laboratories elsewhere. The assessment will be conducted within the following framework:
The study will focus on an appraisal of equipment, facilities, and support services used for fundamental science and engineering research, as well as on the adequacy of the resulting capabilities to support NASA goals;
Spacecraft qualification equipment and facilities, as contrasted with equipment and facilities used for science and engineering research, are excluded;
The charge provides that NASA equipment and facilities be “compared to comparable laboratories elsewhere.” However, study activity will not include benchmarking other agency, university, or industry facilities; instead, comparisons with non-NASA analogues should be based on the expertise and experience of appointed committee members;
In order to constrain the scope of the activity, NASA and the NRC will agree at the time of task initiation on a subset of the field centers and of laboratories within these selected centers, for the review; and
It is expected that the assessment committee, or components of it, will conduct site visits of the facilities and equipment selected for appraisal. Task cost projections should assume visits to four centers and a meeting at which NASA representatives will brief the committee on the research and supporting facilities, services, and equipment at the remaining field centers and laboratories to be reviewed.