High magnetic fields for research are made available through special, purpose-built facilities requiring significant infrastructure investments. Effective stewardship of these facilities is critical to the vitality of the research that requires use of these high fields, and the facilities must be managed and operated in the most robust manner to provide the greatest benefit to and highest impact on the research community.
High-magnetic-field science is similar to X-ray and neutron science in two regards: (1) It is manifestly multidisciplinary and (2) it utilizes unique facilities requiring a significant federal investment. The National High Magnetic Field Facility (NHMFL) is the nation’s flagship facility for carrying out high-magnetic-field science and represents a substantial and continuing investment for the United States. The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides the majority of operating funds for the NHMFL and thus is the principal steward for high-magnetic-field science in the United States.
Effective stewardship of large facilities, particularly those that serve research communities spanning multiple scientific disciplines, is critical to the vitality of the scientific enterprise. However, complexities in the operations and management of these facilities could threaten the effectiveness of the facility in serving the community. Some challenges include stability and adequacy of funding, adequacy of instrumentation, and changing user demographics. An agency’s strategy for managing a major user facility is a major factor in the success or failure in addressing these challenges. Before discussing the relative advantages of various models for
stewardship of magnetic field science in the United States, however, the committee addresses the related issue of centralized versus de-centralized facilities.
A centralized national user facility that provides the highest magnetic fields in the world for the purposes of research offers numerous benefits to the scientific community; it is an essential part of our national prestige and, as a centralized entity, is a cost-effective resource (more so than an equivalent decentralized set of capabilities). The NHMFL provides high-magnetic-field measurement capabilities that are not available anywhere else in the United States. Indeed some of the NHMFL’s measurement capabilities cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. By offering these capabilities to the U.S. scientific community, cutting-edge research is enabled, and the nation’s competitiveness is enhanced. These magnets, and the associated scientific experiments employing these fields, require a substantial infrastructure such as electricity and cooling. Locating these at a centralized facility, such as at the NHMFL, is a highly cost-effective approach. Moreover, developing high-field magnets requires a special and rare combination of expertise in, and extensive knowledge of, materials properties, physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and engineering design. Locating these magnet developers at a centralized facility is cost-effective and ensures they are well connected to the needs of a national user facility.
Conclusion: There is a continuing need for a centralized facility like the NHMFL because (1) it is a cost-effective national resource supporting user experiments and thus advancing the scientific frontiers and (2) it is a natural central location with expert staff available to develop the next generation of high-field magnets.
At present NSF provides more than half of funding for the NHMFL and thus is the steward for high-magnetic-field science in this country. By many measures, the NHMFL continues to be a scientifically productive facility. Numerous advances in magnet technology have been achieved as a result of the development work at the NHMFL (including reaching 100 T pulsed), justifying a continued investment by NSF.
Recommendation: The National Science Foundation should continue to provide support for the operations of the National High Magnetic Field Facility and the development of the next generation of high-field magnets.
Assuming successful completion of the 32 T all-superconducting magnet under
development at the NHMFL, one can envision a time shortly thereafter when this technology will become available as a standard commercial product. At that time, it might be feasible to consider establishing satellite magnet user facilities at locations around the country. The 32 T magnet technology would provide the basis for these satellite sites, since they would not require the extensive infrastructure to power, cool, operate, and maintain the dc resistive magnets.
Conclusion: There are benefits to decentralized facilities with convenient access to high magnetic fields for ongoing scientific research. Such facilities need not engage in expanding the frontiers of high-magnetic-field science or lead the way in new magnet technology; instead, they should provide the broad user community with the up-to-date high-field magnets to relieve the shortage of user time at the NHMFL-style central facility.
The need for a centralized magnet user facility such as the NHMFL is still essential. This flagship facility will develop the most advanced superconducting, resistive, and pulsed-field magnets and provide them to qualified users, while also maintaining a leading magnet science program.
Recommendation: Taking into account, among other factors, the estimated costs and anticipated total and regional demand for such facilities, federal funding agencies should evaluate the feasibility of setting up some smaller regional facilities, ideally centered around 32 T superconducting magnets as the technology becomes available and at geographic locations optimized for easy user access. These would be in addition to the premier centralized facility, which would remain, with its unique mission of expanding the frontiers of high-magnetic-field science.
The need for decentralized facilities for high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements, with magnets in the range of 28 T, was discussed in Chapter 3.
A National Academies study investigated a variety of models for the management of scientific research, together with their strengths and weaknesses, and recommended a management model for the future in the concise Cooperative Stewardship report (NRC, 1999).
Of the models described in that report, the model that best describes the management of the NHMFL is the simple steward model, in which a single entity has
primary responsibility for funding the management and operations of the facility. In the case of the NHMFL, NSF is the dominant financial supporter of management and operating costs. At the time that the Cooperative Stewardship report was released, the NHFML was receiving distributed financial and management support, which was considered adequate at that time because sufficient funds were available. The report argued that an alternative model of management and support should be used when there is a rapid growth in the number of users, a growing diversity of scientific interests, and significant financial constraints. In the cooperative stewardship model, a single entity, the steward, is solely responsible for the construction and operations of the core facility and some of the individual experimental units. In the context of a high-magnetic-field laboratory, the core facility includes the infrastructure and the high-field magnets. The individual experimental units include the instrumentation used with the magnets. The remaining individual experimental units would then be funded by government agencies, industry, or other interested parties. These other funding entities are the partners. The steward is responsible for design, construction, operation, maintenance, and upgrading the core of the facility. The partners are stakeholders in decisions regarding the need for an experimental capability (e.g., a new magnet or new instrumentation for a magnet), site selection for the magnet, user instrumentation, performing R&D for the instrumentation improvement, construction, and performance evaluation. Partners are responsible for the construction and operations of individual experimental units (see Box 9.1).
NSF management described mounting pressures on the portion of the NSF-Division of Materials Research (DMR) budget that is the primary source of NHMFL support. In particular, a 2011 Committee of Visitors (COV) report “expressed concern about the balance within facilities and instrumentation, where instrumentation is underweighted.” They went on to state that “instrumentation should grow at the expense of facilities stewardship, unless support from outside DMR can be increased for national facilities” (NSF, 2011a). NSF responded (NSF, 2011b) that a full strategic plan for its facilities and instrumentation programs was under way and that they would gather broad community input, use recent community reports, and consult with advisory groups. Part of this strategy was undertaken with the Materials 2022 DMR advisory panel (NSF, 2011c). As part of its response, NSFDMR was going to explore the “possibility of joint stewardship and funding of facilities with other NSF divisions and agencies.” It is important to note that NSF is the steward for the NHMFL facilities. As the steward for the NHMFL, NSF is also the principal steward for the nation in high magnetic field science, which includes, but is not limited to, the materials science community. Therefore the committee strongly endorses all efforts that would broaden research partnerships that leverage expertise that is complementary to that currently at NHMFL, and cost-share the
Steward-Partner Model for User Facilities
Steward Responsibility: Core Facility
• Facility performance reviews,
• Performance reviews of partner subfacilities and/or instrumentation,
• Facility upgrades and R&D,
• Laboratories (general),
• General training (e.g., safety and general facilities),
• Facility staffing, and
• User support for facility-related issues.
Partner Responsibility: Individual Experimental Units (Subfacilities and Instrumentation)
• Laboratories (specific),
• Instrumentation (development, upgrades, and provision),
• Training (for users at subfacilities and magnets), and
• User support for experiment-related issues.
SOURCE: Adapted from NRC (1999).
operating expenses for experimental capabilities where appropriate and consistent with the cooperative stewardship model.
One measure that would be attractive to potential partners of the NHMFL (and would address a concern mentioned in the NSF-DMR COV report) is to ensure that sufficient funds are available within DMR’s facilities and instrumentation budget for the design and construction of new, cutting-edge, high magnetic field experimental capabilities, including instrumentation. Such funding could be pursued from prospective partners from other agencies or institutions with a design concept (and sufficient scientific justification) and a commitment to fund the operations once constructed. This strategy could have a number of benefits, including (1) attracting prospective partners from other agencies, (2) broadening research participation through the development of new scientific measurement capabilities with new applications, and (3) increasing the measurement capacity and capability without increasing the operational costs incurred by the steward agency. Additionally, the NSF instrumentation funding line item could be used to support the design and construction costs for new high-magnetic-field capabilities that would be sited at one or more of the national scattering facilities. As described elsewhere in this report, combining high magnetic fields with probes
such as X-rays and neutrons can yield insights into entirely new states of matter that cannot be observed by other approaches. There are clear and compelling opportunities to study the structure and dynamics of such new phases of matter via scattering techniques.
Conclusion: Optimization of the broad spectrum of research opportunities in high-magnetic-field science can be best achieved through strategic research partnerships.
Given the inherently multidisciplinary nature of high field science, the committee is concerned that there are almost no examples of partnerships between the NSF-stewarded NHMFL and other agencies that could support the construction and operation of new facilities that would bring new users and new science to the NHMFL. In addition, in the past decade there have been no new substantive or sustained partnerships of the type that would bring new high-field magnets to neutron or X-ray scattering facilities. A lack of clarity about the steward-partner relationship may have impeded the formation of effective partnerships that would advance research requiring high magnetic fields. The committee believes that the steward-partner relationship described in Cooperative Stewardship should be the basis for defining these relationships. It is beyond doubt that the NHMFL is world-leading in magnet technology development and will bring to partnerships the unique ability to design and construct new magnets, even if those magnets are to be located away from NHMFL. On the other hand, for these remotely sited magnets, the stewards of the host facility should commission their construction and installation and, if appropriate, they should be encouraged to enter into partnerships with other funding agencies to operate these specialized magnet facilities.
Recommendation: The National Science Foundation (NSF), the National High Magnetic Field Facility (NHMFL), and other interested entities that benefit from the use of high magnetic fields should adopt the steward-partner model as the basis for defining roles in future partnerships in high-magnetic-field science. For magnets not sited at NHMFL, the host institution is in most cases the natural steward, especially for the significant facility-specific infrastructure required for magnet operations. For magnets sited at the NHMFL, NSF should be the steward, although the partner organization could fund the construction and operation of these facilities.
The National Science Board drafted a resolution in 2008 stating as follows: “Therefore, be it RESOLVED that the National Science Board (the Board) endorsed strongly the principle that all expiring awards are to be recompeted, because rarely will it be in the best interest of U.S. science and engineering research and education
not to do so” (NSB, 2008). As written, this resolution applies to the major research facilities such as the NHMFL and is implemented by NSF such that recompetition is required every 5 years. However, a major multidisciplinary research facility like the NHMFL necessarily involves considerations far different than a single-investigator research grant. These complicating factors include partnerships with other stakeholders, site-specific factors, infrastructural concerns, and/or any other encumbrances on the facility.
Conclusion: Recompetition on timescales as short as 5 years places at risk the substantial national investment in high-field research that is embodied in a facility like NHMFL and could have disastrous effects on the research communities that rely on uninterrupted access to these facilities. Although the committee believes that recompetition of facilities is appropriate, it also believes a flexible approach should be taken in implementing recompetition of the NHMFL to fulfill its role as a steward and to avoid potential negative consequences of a short time interval between recompetitions.
Funding decisions at NSF and other federal agencies are appropriately based on peer review of facilities like the NHMFL. This is crucial to ensure the highest-quality science. The committee observes that NHMFL has realized over its almost two decades of existence many, if not all, of its initial aspirations and has evolved in new directions. It recognizes the need for a mechanism by which the long-term accomplishments and direction of the facility, the evolution of the facility users’ needs and interests, and the efficacy of its management can be critically evaluated, in a way that is beyond the accepted scope of periodic review. Periodic recompetition may be an appropriate mechanism to obtain such an assessment, particularly if a substantial new investment in the facility is contemplated. However, the policy should not be so rigid as to specify a fixed period, especially one as short as 5 years. This will likely have the unintended consequences of discouraging potential partners and hindering the pursuit of projects requiring a sustained effort that could significantly advance the measurement capabilities of the facility.
Conclusion: The committee strongly endorses the consideration given to this matter by the Subcommittee on Recompetition of Major Research Facilities (NSF, 2012). It endorses the need for evaluating the long-term strategy and direction of national facilities, as well as for effective periodic reviews of their scientific programs.
It is important to make a meaningful distinction between nascent and mature facilities, particularly those facilities that have a significant infrastructure investment like the NHMFL, recognizing that recompetition plays a very different role
than regular peer review in determining the future development of the facility. The latter ensures the continued quality of the scientific program of the facility and its users, while the potential negative consequences of recompetition mandates that it must be reserved for enforcing longer-term course corrections and future major developments of a facility, which involve substantially longer timescales.
In order to facilitate the long-term viability of the research laboratories and industries that stand to benefit from advancements in the development of magnet technology, there needs to be a highly trained workforce that is specialized in the knowledge and expertise of magnet design and construction. High-field magnet design requires comprehensive interdisciplinary engineering skills, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, materials science, and engineering design. This requires rigorous academic and laboratory training with a focus on magnet technology issues. Unfortunately, with the exception of an occasional single-term class in superconducting magnets or applied superconductivity, there are no formalized university curricula available to graduate and post-graduate students. The traditional route to developing expertise in magnet technology is through some combination of self-study, internship, or on-the-job training at a few select companies, universities, or national laboratories. There is no unified structure to this type of learning, and often what is learned may be particular to a specific magnet application, and thus highly specialized and narrow in scope.
The NHMFL presently hosts a 1-week summer school for measurement techniques and instrumentation. This school offers a valuable and necessary education in these skills, but it is only a small part of the education required if the nation is to have world-leading expertise in magnet technology.
If significant and rapid progress is desired to advance magnet technology, much more support should be provided for education and training in these subjects, particularly at the graduate and postdoctoral level. The committee notes that several U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites, in collaboration with several other government agencies, support internships, graduate studies, and fellowship programs in broad technology areas through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. But these are not necessarily focused on magnet technology.
One way to achieve a more focused path to magnet technology expertise is to establish basic, but broad, curricula in magnet science and technology. An analogous program has already been established for education and training in the science of particle beams and their associated accelerator technologies through the U.S. Particle Accelerator School (USPAS).1 The USPAS is governed by a consortium of
national laboratories and universities with programs in nuclear and high-energy physics and is funded primarily by DOE, but with significant support from NSF. The program is organized as a university course program, and it has recently been expanded and strengthened to offer homework, exams, and academic course credit from host universities. There are two 2-week sessions per year at rotating sites, usually at hotels. The USPAS has a permanent home at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and an academic director not necessarily stationed at the home site. The director engages volunteer experts who conduct 1- or 2-week courses concurrent with other experts who teach in the same general area of particle accelerator technology.
This program could serve as a model for establishing a U.S. high-field magnet science and technology school. Such a program would educate students in the basic elements of applied superconductivity and resistive and superconducting magnet design, with a focus on fundamental engineering subjects in electromagnetics, heat transfer and thermal design, cryogenics, structural analysis, materials properties, laboratory measurement methods, diagnostics, and instrumentation, among others. Students could be drawn from universities, scientific laboratories, and industry, both national and international. Faculty with expertise in the field would be invited from similar organizations.
Ideally, several government agencies—for example, NSF, the National Institutes of Health, DOE—with interests in high-magnetic-field science would sponsor and support this school. As a practical matter, the commercial sector that develops technology or applications that rely on high-field-magnet technology could be engaged as a funding partner in this educational program. The school could provide training and serve as a talent resource that promises to have an important impact on future innovation in the field.
Finding: The absence of an efficient education and training system for magnet science and technology has been a hindrance to advancement of the field.
Recommendation: A high-field-magnet science and technology school should be established in the United States. The school could use the U.S. Particle Accelerator School as a model for its organization. Oversight and support should be drawn from a consortium of government agencies, laboratories, universities, and, possibly, industry. The National High Magnetic Field Facility could be the initial host site, with the laboratory facilities providing an excellent resource for laboratory courses.
Barletta, W., S. Chattopadhyay, and A. Seri. 2012. Educating and training accelerator scientists and technologists for tomorrow. Reviews of Accelerator Science and Technology 5:313.
NSF (National Science Foundation). 2011a. 2011 Committee of Visitors for the Division of Materials Research of the National Science Foundation. Arlington, Va. March 6.
NSF. 2011b. Response to Division of Materials Research COV Report of 2011. Arlington, Va. March 31.
NSF. 2011c. Developing a Vision for the Infrastructure and Facility Needs of the Materials Community: NSF Materials 2022. Subcommittee of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee. Arlington, Va. November.
NSF. 2012. Report of the Subcommittee on Recompetition of Major Research Facilities. NSF Business and Operations Advisory Committee. Arlington, Va. January 5.
NRC (National Research Council). 1999. Cooperative Stewardship: Managing the Nation’s Multidisciplinary User Facilities for Research with Synchrotron Radiation, Neutrons, and High Magnetic Fields. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
NSB (National Science Board). 2008. Resolution NSB-08-12 on Competition and Recompetition of NSF Awards, the National Science Board Committee on Programs and Plans. February 7. Available at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2008/nsb0812_comp_recomp.pdf.