The Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) consists of 170 staff members located in Gaithersburg, Maryland (the primary site) and at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. This division was formed during the recent laboratory reorganization by combining approximately two-thirds of the staff from the former Chemical and Biochemical Reference Data Division and the Analytical Chemistry Division. The CSD integrates mainstream chemical sciences expertise into one organization in order to provide strong fundamental research and measurement services across several key technical programs. The CSD defined its mission as follows:
The Chemical Sciences Division provides the measurement science, standards, instrumentation, technology, data, and chemical informatics required to support the nation’s needs in the determining chemical composition, quantitation, and chemical structure and in the measuring of a wide variety of chemical properties and processes, such as chemical reactivity and mechanisms as well as thermochemical properties. In partnership with U.S. industry, other government agencies, and other scientific institutions, the division performs fundamental and applied research to advance and create state-of-the-art measurement capabilities, theory, and computational methods for quantitative measurements and sensing of solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, transient species, and multicomponent matrices. The division also formulates and disseminates reference materials, measures, and critically evaluated reference data. These activities support the chemical science, technology, and engineering enterprise with the intent of fostering innovation and confidence in measurements and technologies used in a wide range of applications, including chemical analysis and separation, environment, health care, sensing, manufacturing, and energy transformation.1
ASSESSMENT OF TECHNICAL PROGRAMS
The CSD has five main technical thrusts in which several leading capabilities and technology areas have been established: environmental sciences, climate science, biomedical and health, nutrition, and materials measurements. Several advances have been made in all of these thrusts in the last 2 years. The thrusts track well with the cross-cutting programs in the Material Measurement Laboratory (MML). Of the MML cross-cutting programs, the CSD contributes the greatest number of staff for the environment, climate, and food and nutrition programs, is a major contributor to three programs (biosciences and health, energy, and manufacturing), is a minor contributor to five programs (advanced materials, NanoEHS initiative, materials genome initiative, additive manufacturing initiative and safety, security, and forensics), and does not contribute to the biomanufacturing initiative or physical infrastructure programs.
1 NIST Material Measurement Laboratory, “2014 National Research Council Assessment of the NIST Material Measurement Laboratory-Read-Ahead Materials,” Gaithersburg, Md., June 2014.
Environmental Sciences Thrust
The environmental specimen bank, located at the Hollings Marine Laboratory, is a unique national facility that ensures the archiving of marine specimens and materials to enable scientific studies of the environment and is the focus of considerable development of standard reference materials (SRMs) and measurement methods. This cryogenic banking facility contains a wide range of marine specimens of interest to many regulatory environmental and resource management agencies, the wildlife health community, university researchers, private organizations, and international environmental organizations. More than 85,000 aliquots of approximately 20,000 specimens are archived in this bank dating back to the 1970s. A more efficient bar-coding system has been developed that allows for reduced time in processing and retrieving samples, and a new banking and analytical program has been established for assessment of threats to coral systems. Much work has gone into measuring contaminants that are not yet regulated but are of toxicological concern. Researchers are developing nontargeted screening methods in this area, which has taken advantage of their strengths in chromatography and mass spectrometry, along with computational tools for enhanced data analysis. This group has studied several families of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and has developed and distributed 140 SRMs for this important area. They have also applied these instruments and data analyses to analyzing the antioxidative properties of dietary supplements.
Another area within this thrust involves the environmental health and safety aspects of nanomaterials. This group is actively seeking to develop measurement tools, methods, protocols, SRMs, reference materials, and validated data and models to enable other organizations to measure properties of nanomaterials in relevant media. It has successfully utilized a new system, coupling electrospray-differential mobility analysis (ES-DMA) with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and has made advances to the existing single-particle inductively coupled analysis plasma-mass spectrometer (spICP-MS) to measure elemental compositions of nanoparticles as a function of size, nanoparticle density, and ligand packing density on the their surfaces. The spICP-MS analysis can be performed with existing ICP-MS systems, making this method potentially useful for real-world applications in other laboratories. An ISO standard document is being prepared on this technique, and the group has produced several SRMs related to nanomaterials.
Climate Science Thrust
This thrust entails multiple activities related to the advancement of chemical metrology and data analysis tools for environmental research, assessment of climate change, and related policy development. The group continues to develop critical capabilities related to chemical processes. Many studies have been carried out in order to determine key areas of interest such as determination of reaction mechanisms, measurement of rate constants, transport properties, and the transformation of chemical species in both gas and liquid phases. These studies have provided critical reference data and standards that are widely disseminated throughout the United States and internationally. Another key area of expertise is in gas sensing metrology. This group has provided critical certified reference materials for many of the major greenhouse gases, as well as other important areas of gas metrology such as those related to energy, air quality, and emissions; the group has been serving as one of the central calibration laboratories for the Global Atmosphere Watch Program of the World Meteorological Organization. The group maintains a wide portfolio of gas mixture SRMs and has developed and implements an efficient dissemination process through its NIST Traceable Reference Material (NTRM) program. The quality of the SRMs in this area is well documented in international comparison programs, with the performance of NIST SRMs equaling or leading the top four laboratories in the world in terms of accuracy and low uncertainty. The recent inclusion of highly accurate spectroscopy expertise and activities into this group has enabled much closer linking of the NIST SRM and standard reference database (SRD) products in this area. The group’s utilization of cavity ring-down spectrophotometers allows measurement accuracy that is the current state
of the art, is recognized worldwide (for example, by reviewers of journal articles), and is contributing to global spectral databases, such as the high resolution transmission (HITRAN) database, that are used for remote spectroscopic monitoring of atmospheric species and greenhouse gases These researchers have recently developed a patented method for high-speed, ultra-high-sensitivity laser measurements of gases, called frequency-agile rapid-scanning spectroscopy (FARS). This method provides an extremely accurate, high-bandwidth method for defining laser frequency detuning, and it can likely be adopted by instrument manufacturers for further dissemination.
Another area that has shown great progress within this thrust is the development of metrology and standard materials for aerosol monitoring. This group, in collaboration with the National Research Council Canada and the University of Maryland, has developed the ability to quantitatively measure mass traceable aerosol absorption and scattering cross sections. There are two permanent staff members and one postdoctoral researcher working in this area; they have several publications and are anticipating the ability to provide candidate SRMs for trial with research groups shortly. This progress has been achieved rapidly. The next stage could actively seek greater integration of these activities into other national and international programs that are assessing and monitoring the effect of aerosols on radiative forcing models for climate change. Another active area within this thrust is pH measurements. This group is carrying out careful research to provide a unified definition of pH in seawater that is consistent with the standard definition of pH in solutions with lower ionic strength, and it has produced multiple pH buffers in artificial seawater that can be used as calibrants for field measurements in these solutions. They have also utilized quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance (qNMR) to characterize the indicator dyes that are utilized in seawater pH measurements in climate change studies, and they have verified the purity of these dye batches for use in these studies.
Biomedical and Health Thrust
The division is well integrated into the larger biomedical and health programs within the MML. It provides critical support in the biomedical and health area by creating, supporting, and advancing the measurement infrastructure through new reference methods, materials, and data for clinically relevant chemical species in biologically relevant fluids. The group working in this area develops and maintains more than 50 reference materials for clinical diagnostic markers for routine assays in clinical and pathology laboratories. This group has also developed and maintains a series of SRMs for harmful common-exposure environmental, commercially or industrially relevant agents for use in workplace safety and health-focused regulatory agencies. This group in the metabolomics area develops and validates a wide range of technologies, including two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS), liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), and high-resolution NMR spectroscopy for the accurate determination of metabolites in biologically relevant matrices. Several clinically relevant SRMs have been released since 2012, and a series of reference materials are being developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a range of organic contaminants in human fluids. Researchers have developed and implemented three quality-assurance programs to assess the accuracy and precision of nutritional biomarkers of clinical relevance in serum and plasma materials, including fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin D metabolites, and fatty acids. These programs have been utilized in hospitals, clinical testing laboratories, medical research institutes, academic universities, and government research laboratories. Researchers have also been developing a metabolomic-based data hub, where specific quality control material of metabolomics-relevant data will be available on the Internet to ensure that the metabolomics community will have an indicator of quality for its work. This ongoing effort will need to be established and maintained with appropriate data analytics. This group has also developed a shotgun-based lipidomics mass spectrometry approach to detecting and semiquantifying hundreds of individual lipid species for faster profiling of lipid extracts from biological samples. These techniques have been applied in several biomedical and human health investigations.
The CSD has a large effort in providing standards, quality assurance, and measurements for the nation’s need to identify and quantify chemical and biological species for the nutritional assessment of foods for use in labeling and for developing measurement methods to ensure that nutritional guidelines are met in the population. The group working in this area has been involved in measurements and SRMs for nutritional assessment of foods for more than 30 years, and more recently for dietary supplements and human nutritional status. It develops and maintains more than 50 reference materials and more recently has developed more than 25 food-matrix SRMs for nutrient content. This group has shown excellent technical leadership in the Vitamin D initiative with the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements and has provided advanced isotope-dilution LC-MS for determining vitamin D metabolites in human serum, which have been utilized in international programs. A good example of a critical food-related SRM is the improvement of the original infant formula SRM (SRM 1846). This SRM included only four water-soluble vitamins in 2009 but has now been expanded, with certified values assigned for 43 nutrients using advanced analytical techniques and expertise in the group. A replacement standard was issued in 2011 with 46 certified and 46 reference values, which currently has sales of more than 520 units/year.
Another area of active research is the development of analytical methods for dietary supplements. This group is actively developing SRMs for several dietary supplements. Since 2002, a total of 38 botanical and nonbotanical dietary supplement SRMs have been issued. These are complex materials and have required that chromatographic separations and extraction procedures be specified for each of these materials. Several new analytical methods were developed, and regular monitoring is required for all of these materials, because their stability is unknown. Recently, species DNA identification was added as a certified property for Ginkgo biloba in SRM 3246, and the group is planning to incorporate this type of information into several other SRMs. This group has also maintained the quality assurance for the Dietary Supplement Laboratory Quality Assurance Program (DSQAP). The program was started in 2007 to provide a mechanism for the assurance of quality across many laboratories and to allow the laboratories to compare results with NIST and with the group consensus. More than 140 different laboratories have participated in these studies, and the comparative results are compiled and made available on the DSQAP website.
Materials Measurements Thrust
The CSD maintains and develops a large amount of advanced instrumentation in order to advance the measurement sciences in materials and to ensure traceability throughout different industries. This group produces and maintains more than 400 manufacturing-related reference materials, many of which are in the production and processing of metals, ores, and cements. Within the past 3 years, the group has been involved in producing and certifying approximately 30 new manufacturing-related reference materials. They have also carried out innovative approaches for industrially relevant processes. One example is a highly sensitive optical mass flowmeter that was developed for effective monitoring of atomic layer deposition (ALD) processes and then built at an industrial collaborator’s facility for use in prototyping. The group has also developed reference spectra for this process. It has also developed a time-resolved surface-sensitive spectroscopic technique that allows careful study of surface reactions and precursor delivery during an ALD procedure on industrially relevant time scales.
Opportunities and Challenges
The combination of the strong spectroscopy expertise in the Measurement Science Group with the expertise of the Gas Metrology Group in the program has set the CSD as a leader in the field of
climate science, and the division has a rapidly developing program on aerosol metrology. Combining the reference materials program with the reference data expertise has led to a series of reference materials and reference data products that are finding a lot of utility in various fields, and expansion of these activities is warranted.
The SRM program is very large and diverse. It is critically important for many industries and other national stakeholders, who are strong drivers of its expansion. The CSD research program is well integrated into this program and has excellent measurement science expertise and instrumentation to develop the new SRMs that are required to advance several fields important to stakeholders. However, balancing maintenance of the current portfolio of SRMs and development of the critical new SRMs that are needed in industry is a challenge that needs to be addressed.
The CSD needs to develop a strategy for maintaining and developing new SRMs and for optimizing the resources and staffing of SRM programs. Because the division maintains multiple SRMs that support specific sectors—diagnostics and food supplements—appointing a scientist with clearly identified responsibility for this group and for interaction with relevant stakeholders would bring benefits to both the CSD and stakeholders, and it would allow the CSD to develop strategies and scientific programs that address generic issues such as commutability of reference materials. A committee has been formed to develop a strategy for SRMs. The team needs to continue development of the strategy and to ensure that the proper stakeholders in industry are consulted as needed to develop a broad strategy for this critical national capability. CSD management needs to ensure that there is proper recognition for staff working in this area and that they maintain this emphasis. Developing SRMs and maintaining them can be considered different activities, and it may be effective to assign different staff to these two roles.
Overall Assessment of Technical Programs
The technical programs that are being addressed by the key thrust areas in the CSD are directly integrated into the mission of the MML and are in support of the key role that NIST serves for the nation. There has been significant progress in all of the key thrusts since 2012. This division maintains and develops the majority of the SRMs (approximately 1,000) at NIST, and it is continuing to broaden this portfolio to meet the needs in many key areas related to environmental, climate, biomedical, nutrition, and industrially relevant processes. Broadening into these new, more difficult SRMs is a key role for this group, whose expertise in measurement science across many different techniques is excellent. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the other SRMs that are in the portfolio.
PORTFOLIO OF SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE
The CSD has deep expertise across many different measurement science fields and has done a good job of attracting and retaining good talent. The majority of staff that were interviewed were highly motivated, excited by their work, and appreciative of the fact that they are working on important things for the nation. They expressed an appreciation of the freedom allowed in the pursuit of their work and the exploration of new ideas in line with the key mission of the CSD. In many cases, this division has done a good job of hiring new talent to maintain the succession of key technology expertise. The division has addressed this through new staff hires and postdoctoral researchers in a few areas, such as pH measurement, electrochemistry, and gas metrology. The CSD has also put highly capable people in new areas to expand their ability to address key challenges, such as in aerosol research for climate science. The recent reorganization of the division has enabled some researchers to work across areas that were not previously addressed; this will strengthen their scientific expertise through innovative collaboration. Several of the researchers noted that the collaborative nature of work at NIST drives such interactions regardless of organizational structures. The technical training program for new hires seems to be
effective, and the new scientists have many interactions with the more seasoned scientists, which will ensure that this scientific portfolio remains strong and continues into the future.
While the CSD has done a good job on its succession planning in some areas, such planning needs to be extended to critical technology areas that do not have significant depth of expertise. One example of this is the inorganic mass spectrometry area, including isotope ratio work. This is an area where the MML’s capability and expertise is recognized worldwide and the CSD is integrated into large international projects. This group does not have a clear succession plan, and there is a lack of staff members and postdoctoral researchers who could be groomed to work in this area. If the CSD hopes to maintain its world leadership in this area, it will need to consider succession planning more actively. Similarly, it needs to systematically evaluate all of its key technology areas to ensure that it has an active pipeline of early-career scientists being mentored by its seasoned experts. Succession planning also needs to be expanded to include a staged plan to develop the technical leadership necessary to assume group leader roles by giving prospects training and other leadership experience. It already utilizes project coordinator roles to provide such leadership training and needs to continue and expand such practices. Strategic collaborations to tap into scientific expertise outside NIST also need to be considered. Some programs have involved collaborations with other institutions, while others could potentially benefit from further collaborations.
The division needs to examine whether its programs have state-of-the-art facilities and expertise and to start collaborative research programs in areas that would help to accelerate its projects more effectively, such as aerosols, isotope ratios, and electrochemical analysis. Consideration also needs to be given to optimizing the ratio of Ph.D. staff members to technicians, particularly in the area of SRM maintenance (for example, renewal and stability studies). This work is done predominantly by Ph.D.s, but much of it could be transferred to well-trained technicians or outsourced, freeing the Ph.D.s for the more challenging work of developing new SRMs. This division has an SRM advisory group in place to optimize the overall SRM portfolio—that is, to decide which SRMs to phase out, which to maintain or replenish, and which new ones to develop—but the staffing model needs to be incorporated into this strategy as well. The CSD is the largest division in the MML and is successfully delivering SRMs and SRD, but no scientist within the division has been appointed a NIST fellow. As a motivator for staff, particularly early-career scientists, CSD management needs to work with MML management to continue to explore ways to provide recognition for science leaders in the division.
In summary, the CSD has very broad scientific expertise across multiple areas, including world-recognized expertise in gas metrology, spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, neutron activation analysis, and inorganic measurement science, and other areas, and the division is utilizing this expertise to solve major problems facing the nation. It is advancing several fields of measurement science in a targeted fashion, and it has good depth in succession planning across the majority of these fields. However, this succession planning needs to be expanded across all of the key technology areas to ensure that this scientific expertise can be maintained in the future.
ADEQUACY OF FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, AND HUMAN RESOURCES
The CSD has a large amount of state-of-the-art equipment and has continued to advance many of the measurement thrust areas at the forefront of technology. It has achieved several advances in mass spectrometry, including coupling electrospray-differential mobility analysis (ES-DMA) with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and single-particle, inductively coupled analysis plasma mass spectrometry (spICP-MS). The division staff are respected worldwide for their capabilities in isotope ratio work, and the division is one of few facilities that are advancing the area of metal speciation with ICP-MS. The facilities housing cavity ring-down spectrophotometers and mass spectrometers are optimized to allow unprecedented measurement accuracy, and the researchers are advancing various fields of spectroscopy, including the patented high-speed ultrahigh-sensitivity laser measurements of gases, called frequency-agile, rapid scanning spectroscopy (FARS). In general, its facilities for gas
metrology are highly advanced and allow them to study more greenhouse gases than any other facility of this type. The division’s NMR facility in Charleston, South Carolina, is extremely powerful and broad; it contains an 800 MHz unshielded NMR and a 700 MHz shielded NMR, along with other spectrometers that can be utilized by researchers. These instruments are cryoprobes with triple resonance probes, along with a flow probe and a broadband probe, which allows for highly advanced testing of biological molecules and many other systems. The facility is optimized and built specifically for housing these instruments. The environmental specimen bank is a very important facility that has had significant upgrades, which include more efficient barcoding and specimen-banking expansion of the number of specimens. The NMR facilities in Gaithersburg are utilized by all MML divisions, and access to the instruments is being managed appropriately. The neutron activation facility is critical for analyzing ultratrace materials and for developing SRMs for a broad range of materials; it is among the most powerful in the world. The combination of instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), radiochemical neutron activation analysis (RNAA), prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA), and delayed neutron activation analysis (DNAA) is extremely powerful by comparison with other elemental analysis laboratories in the nation.
Many staff members complained that space is limited for expansion or for new instrumentation to be purchased, as well as for visiting researchers or other increases in staff. Older or less utilized equipment is still present, contributing to the space limitations. The laboratory facilities are not organized to maximize the efficiency of work flow; for example, a sample may be weighed out in one laboratory, carried to another laboratory for analysis, and carried to yet another laboratory for further analysis. The CSD needs to perform an assessment of optimization of its laboratories, considering efficiency and instrument utilization, and considering the removal of outdated or underutilized equipment to free up valuable laboratory space.
Many instruments have been built, modified, or optimized. In some cases, computer programs have been developed by division staff. It is important for the division to continue to carry out these advancements in technology, but there is a risk to the maintenance and longevity of the equipment. For this equipment to remain usable 10 years from now, it needs to be able to interface with next-generation computers and other equipment. Because some of the equipment developed in-house is not supported by any instrument vendors, maintenance and repairs require NIST resources. Many of these instruments are maintained and used predominantly by a single user, limiting their utilization rates. These instruments are also used predominantly for one project area; they might be applicable to problems across other divisions. Instrument vendors might offer opportunities to manufacture the equipment, achieving greater longevity and more dissemination. Some instruments, like the two-dimensional online liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer (2-D-LC-MS), are now commercially available.
A matter of concern noted by the staff is that the overall procurement and contract process by which the division operates is impeding the implementation of technical programs and overall productivity by imposing excessive delays ranging from small consumable items to large capital purchases. Acknowledging that the CSD needs to operate under government procurement rules, its management needs to work with MML management and NIST administrative offices to provide greater connectivity, a common vision, and best practices for efficiency in this area. The CSD also needs to continue work with NIST information technology offices to achieve and maintain reliable information technology services, necessary for successful SRD dissemination.
In summary, the CSD has a very diverse and highly sophisticated instrument base and is driving the state of the art in many of the instrumentation areas. The facilities are in many cases carefully designed for the instruments that are located within them, but in some cases outdated equipment continues to be in use side by side with newer equipment. This space can be optimized for better productivity.
DISSEMINATION OF OUTPUTS
Since 2012, the CSD has produced 440 publications and 62 NIST internal reports. The division staff have also produced a series of guidelines leading to the standardization of new protocols for many technologies, including ISO TC229-Nanotechnologies, for the use of ICP-MS for analysis of nanomaterials, and a standard protocol for spICP-MS. They have co-authorship in a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, a report on the stratosphere-troposphere processes and their role in climate (SPARC), and of the WMO global atmosphere watch (WMO-GAW) guidelines for continuous measurements of ozone in the troposphere. CSD researchers have also provided documentary standards leading to the standard specification for handheld point chemical vapor detectors (HPCVDs) for homeland security applications (ASTM standard E2883-13). CSD researchers serve on more than 20 national and international standards development organizations and participate in industry roadmapping and consortia activities. Since 2012 they have also been inventors on more than 5 patents.
The CSD has produced more than 1,000 SRMs (more than 75 percent of the NIST total). In addition, CSD researchers disseminate critically evaluated data through a series of publically accessible databases, including the NIST Chemistry WebBook, accessed by over 13,000 unique users per day. The WebBook provides a wide variety of data on more than 80,000 chemical species, including three-dimensional geometrical structures; thermochemical data; infrared, ultraviolet, and visible spectrophotometry; mass spectra; ion energetics data; fluid properties; thermophysical data; and gas chromatographic and solubility data.
Although the standards program at the CSD is extremely wide-reaching, increased utilization of the program is dependent on effective and efficient contact with government and industry stakeholders. The establishment of a project coordinator position in food, nutrition, and dietary supplements has resulted in successful communication and interactions with key stakeholders and provided a clear entry point into NIST for these stakeholders. Leveraging this position more broadly in other sectors would provide clear technical representation of a sector and clear communication, outreach, and expansion of SRM utilization. The coordinator provides individuals with a broad overview and knowledge of NIST’s services for a sector and is empowered to represent NIST. The CSD needs to provide recognition and rewards for such coordinators. It is also important that the CSD, in collaboration with industrial partners, define and collect data on metrics that identify the value that the division provides to industry. Understanding how industry utilizes the work from the CSD, including the collaborative work and the SRMs or other data offerings, would help the division to ensure that it is meeting the most important needs to help accelerate industrial success.
As a whole, the CSD is widely disseminating its work products through publication, reports, and guidelines for standardization; and by coauthoring climate reports; providing data on chemical species that are critically needed by industry, academic institutions, and other government agencies; taking part in standards development organizations; and selling a large number of SRMs. This wide variety of work is utilized by many organizations to improve scientific measurements and help to shape national policies pertaining to climate, environment, health, energy, and nutrition, using the most accurate data obtainable.
The CSD is meeting its mission and functional goals and is providing many key measurements, data, and standards that are critical for the nation. The technical thrusts are aligned both with many of the key technical programs at NIST and with key problems facing the nation. The scientific expertise is broad across multiple areas, and the CSD is actively working on succession plans to maintain key expertise areas. The equipment and facilities are in many cases state-of-the-art, although there are issues with space management and the required capital to maintain this equipment base. There are many efforts to disseminate the work broadly, including a good publication record, a few patents, and a large number of
critical SRMs and other data products (like the NIST Chemistry WebBook) that are utilized by huge numbers of people in industry, academia, and other agencies.
The reorganization of the division has yielded some of the desired synergies, such as the strong spectroscopy and spectrometry expertise, enabling key measurements with greater accuracy to support the development of standards for climate science, and enabling integration of reference materials and reference data expertise to generate a series of reference products across several important areas. The division has put in place a strategy for motivating, supporting, and evaluating staff publication in high-impact and other peer-reviewed journals. However, the publication rate has remained fairly constant since 2009, and the clear divide between the researchers who are working on SRMs without publication potential versus other research that can result in publication, is a challenge that the division is continuing to address. Since 2009 the CSD has added staff in gas metrology, electrochemistry, and NMR spectroscopy and has made significant strides toward developing an atmospheric aerosol program. The reliability of the information technology infrastructure has been improved to 100 percent to avoid interrupted access to the databases. Although improvements have been made, there are still issues with unplanned network shutdowns.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The CSD has a very large SRM program, critically important to industry and government stakeholders. Their research program is well integrated into the program to develop new SRMs that are required to advance several fields. Balancing the maintenance of the current portfolio of SRMs with developing new SRMs that are needed in industry is an identified challenge that needs to be addressed.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should continue to develop a strategy for maintaining and developing new standard reference materials and standard reference data and for optimizing the resources and staffing that support programs, including the balance between Ph.D. scientists and technicians.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should ensure that the proper stakeholders in industry are consulted to develop a broad strategy for its development of standard reference materials and standard reference data.
The CSD has addressed the issue of succession planning in technical areas by hiring new staff and postdoctoral researchers in a few areas, such as electrochemistry and gas metrology. The technical training program for new hires seems to be effective.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should formalize its succession planning and expand it to areas with low staffing levels. The Chemical Sciences Division should include in its succession planning a strategy to develop the skills and competencies needed to be effective group leaders and should consider the project coordinator role an exemplar.
Recommendation: Chemical Sciences Division management should ensure that there is proper recognition for staff working on development of standard reference materials and standard reference data.
Staff in some programs collaborate extensively with other institutions, while those in other programs could benefit from such collaborations.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should examine its programs to identify which facilities, equipment, and expertise are state-of-the-art and should initiate
collaborative research programs in areas where collaboration would accelerate projects, such as aerosols, isotope ratios, and electrochemical analysis.
Space is limited for expansion and for new instrumentation. However, the space is not optimized; older and less-utilized equipment is still in place and contributing to the shortage of space. Additionally, the laboratories are not organized to optimize the efficiency of work flow.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should identify ways to optimize work flow in its laboratories and should consider removing outdated or underutilized equipment.
CSD staff noted that the procurement and contract processes at NIST impede the implementation and productivity of technical programs by causing excessive delays ranging from small consumable items to large capital purchases.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should work with Material Measurement Laboratory management and NIST administrative offices to provide greater connectivity, a common vision, and guidance on best practices to make procurement more efficient.
Provision of several standard reference data sets is dependent on having reliable NIST information technology services. CSD staff reported that the reliability of these services at the CSD is suboptimal.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should continue to work with NIST information technology offices to achieve and maintain reliable information technology services, which are necessary for successful Standard Reference Database dissemination.
Utilization of the outputs of the CSD standards program depends on effective and efficient contact with government and industry stakeholders. The establishment of a project coordinator role in the areas of food and nutrition and dietary supplements has resulted in successful communication and interactions with key stakeholders and has provided a clear entry point into NIST for these stakeholders. This role provides these individuals with a broad overview and knowledge of NIST’s services for a sector and empowers them to represent NIST to the external community.
Recommendation: The Chemical Sciences Division should expand application of the project coordinator role to additional Chemical Sciences Division thrust areas and should explore ways to provide recognition and rewards to project coordinators.