In 2020, at the request of the Director of NIST, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine formed the Panel on Review of the Material Measurement Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (the “panel”), having earlier established the following statement of work:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Panel on Review of the Material Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology will assess the scientific and technical work performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Material Measurement Laboratory. The panel will review technical reports and technical program descriptions prepared by NIST staff and will visit the facilities of the NIST laboratory. The visit will include technical presentations by NIST staff, demonstrations of NIST projects, tours of NIST facilities, and discussions with NIST staff. The panel will deliberate findings, conclusions, and recommendations in a closed session panel meeting and will prepare a report summarizing its assessment of findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
The assessment shall be responsive to the charge from the NIST Director. The following are the criteria for the assessment:
- The technical merit of the current laboratory program relative to current state-of-the-art programs worldwide;
- The portfolio of scientific expertise as it supports the ability of the organization to achieve its stated objectives;
- The adequacy of the laboratory budget, facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory’s technical programs; and
- The effectiveness by which the laboratory disseminates its program outputs.
The Material Measurement Laboratory (MML) comprises six technical divisions and two offices. The two offices manage programs related to NIST standard reference materials (SRMs) and NIST data products or standard reference data (SRD). The technical divisions engage in research and development of the measurement science, standards, technology, and data required to support the nation’s need to design, develop, manufacture, and use materials. These divisions interact extensively with both industry and public institutions to advance the economy and provide tools for the creation of knowledge.
The study identified a number of themes across the MML divisions and offices regarding the high technical quality of the research, excellence of the scientific staff, strong customer outreach and scientific collaboration, and strong publication and dissemination activities. The recommendations in the following sections are grouped by division or office to provide actionable suggestions that address the unique needs of each; the two or three recommendations judged to be of greatest urgency for each division or office are included here in the Summary. Such recommendations address issues that could impact the mission of MML or NIST in the judgment of the panel; these can include, for example, issues that have been elevated by NIST stakeholders, other federal agencies, or Congress or identified through some other
mechanism. There are, in addition, several crosscutting themes that fall within the four items of the panel’s statement of task that will be discussed first.
As regards technical adequacy, MML conducts research that is exceptional. It has formal arrangements with renowned institutions such as Brookhaven National Laboratory and, in the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, two campuses of the University of Maryland system. The global reach and influence of MML is evident from the leadership roles the staff have taken in international standards development organizations. Further, nearly half the requests for SRM originate from outside the United States. From this, the panel infers that MML is competitive or ahead of the state-of-the-art worldwide in standards development and metrology. The panel’s review shows that, as the portfolio of SRM expands into new areas such as biology, the MML will need to consider how to optimally allocate resources between maintaining legacy SRM versus re-purposing those resources toward SRM and SRD in new and emerging areas.
As regards the portfolio of scientific expertise, the resilience of MML’s program to retirements or unforeseen departures could be improved. In some places, there needs to be more systematic succession planning to prevent gaps from occurring. Cross-training to provide backup coverage in case the primary cognizant scientist leaves is a further way to protect against disruption. In other instances, retraining to take on emerging issues requiring different disciplinary knowledge is lacking.
With respect to the adequacy of laboratory budget, facilities, equipment, and human resources, the research equipment utilized in the divisions supports or enables the delivery of MML’s mission. The purchase, renewal, and maintenance of such equipment—including maintaining the buildings that house them—are effected through a set of business practices and attitudes. The purchasing power of the divisions is impacted first by a 50 percent tax on equipment. This disadvantages equipment purchases for purposes of budgeting as the trade-off versus funding an additional staff position or other expenditures becomes more acute. Further, the NIST working capital fund model for purchase of new equipment requires payback for any purchase from annual operating funds. MML also noted continuing challenges of aging and outdated building infrastructure and of “large” equipment needs and uses.
Complicating this is the ongoing challenge in finding resources for maintaining existing infrastructure (leaky roofs, HVAC [heating, ventilation and cooling] in need of repair, etc.). Although equipment and staff are appropriately prioritized over buildings, there have been instances where failures of the infrastructure compromised equipment and had an impact on mission delivery. The buildings on the main NIST campus may have exceeded their design life and are otherwise in need of repair. Finding resources to address this is difficult but critical to maintaining infrastructure that is consistent with, and will support operations of, exquisitely sensitive instruments and the brand for excellence that is associated with NIST worldwide. This includes modular laboratories that are flexible in use and can be relocated and/or reconfigured within a new room/building. It was apparent during the review meeting that some divisions are having issues with the amount of space assigned to them, either because their allotment has decreased substantially or their operations are expanding—for example, running up against storage limits for samples in the reference library.
Lastly, as regards the dissemination of outputs, MML could benefit from using its network of former postdocs as brand ambassadors, as was indicated in the 2017 review.1 The research staff continues to make its mark in journals. The laboratory continues to hold an impressive number of convening activities. Its staff are very well represented on federal interagency groups such as the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and in the International Organization for Standards (ISO). MML could benefit from its permanent staff presenting more talks in various forums as a way of maintaining presence.
1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 2017, An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Material Measurement Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2017, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OFFICES AND DIVISIONS
Office of Reference Materials
The Office of Reference Materials (ORM) manages the development, marketing, sales, and distribution of a vast inventory of SRMs that are utilized extensively by broad industry sectors including: food and nutrition, manufacturing, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. The office functions as a stand-alone e-commerce business, which presents challenges that are different from those of the other units within MML. ORM relies on marketing and dissemination of their product offerings and has made great progress since 2017 in its e-commerce operations. Opportunities exist to further advance their critical role in the Nation’s competitive economic position. Further opportunities to improve responsiveness to industry needs include packaging modernization, which may be facilitated by expanding strategic partnerships. There is tension in resource allocation associated with supporting existing SRMs and the development of new offerings that reflect the needs of emerging industrial sectors. The collaboration between ORM and other NIST units could be reinforced through strategic selection of industry-relevant projects that would be supported by the working capital fund.
RECOMMENDATION 3-1: The Office of Reference Materials (ORM) should plan and host a series of topic-focused workshops with participation from industry, academia, and other government organizations to benchmark and identify state-of-the-art business practices, ecommerce tools/platforms, marketing and sales operations, packaging, and other areas critical to its operations. As part of such an undertaking, ORM should assess the appropriateness and feasibility of outsourcing portions of its operations or the expanded use of public-private partnerships to increase efficiency of its operations including standard reference material fabrication, storage (inventory control), packaging, and other critical operations.
RECOMMENDATION 3-2: The Office of Reference Materials should develop processes and procedures to strategically select and prioritize the use of working capital funds toward high-demand products, which can maximize the throughput and return value; and examine methods to accelerate and evaluate the development of these new standard reference material products. The evaluation can be used to further promote and/or incentivize the MML division-level SRM development.
RECOMMENDATION 3-3: The Office of Reference Materials (ORM) should conduct informational symposia and workshops to better communicate the vital role that ORM plays in the mission of NIST and to highlight success stories. The office should also provide more systematic evaluation feedback and greater incentives for MML division staff to more effectively and efficiently develop new standard reference materials that are aligned with the needs of industry.
Office of Data and Informatics
The Office of Data and Informatics (ODI) is a service-oriented organization whose mission is to provide leadership and expertise to meet the modern data challenges and leverage data-driven research opportunities for the MML and NIST scientific research data infrastructure. ODI is the principal outlet for SRD products across not only MML but NIST as a whole. MML produces about 90% of SRD NIST-wide.
ODI has a lead role in developing and piloting Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS). The successfully demonstrated pilot automates many key aspects of collecting and curating data
from electron microscopes. ODI has been successful in socializing the concept of a Data Management Plan (DMP) and continues to work in securing implementation by MML projects.
ODI views data as a key product resulting from the activities of MML and NIST. However, there is much to be done to establish this culture of viewing and valuing data as a key asset across NIST. While ODI has a vital role, ODI alone cannot make this transformation happen. That will require attention by MML management. More complete integration of ODI will impact priorities and plans both long and short term. The status of the LIMS initiative noted above offers a case study for MML and NIST on this opportunity.
Support for fundamental data activities is not always timely, and this has led to a lack of maintenance for a number of SRD products. Similarly, the Open Access to Research scientific data infrastructure work will need long-term support after this year when support from the Associate Director for Laboratory Programs ends. These instances suggest that the value of ODI’s work is not universally recognized.
RECOMMENDATION 4-1: The Material Measurement Laboratory management should promote the concept of “data as an asset” and its associated culture within the Laboratory. With that understanding, management can be expected to advocate and support its adoption throughout the organization, resulting in increased professionalism within NIST, higher quality of output by NIST, increased impact of NIST products on the STEM world, and public perception of NIST as a leader.
Given its position and role in MML and NIST in general, the ODI, when properly leveraged and resourced (e.g., when it has funds to modernize SRD products), is in a unique position to advance the goals of not only MML but NIST more broadly. To achieve the potential of ODI will require an explicit effort at the laboratory level to bring about a cultural change that brings data as a product into the overall laboratory consciousness. The following recommendations outline the steps needed in such an effort.
RECOMMENDATION 4-2: The Office of Data and Informatics (ODI) should build out structures for enhancing divisional interactions. One concrete mechanism for this is to create tightly integrated multidisciplinary teams, which include ODI domain expertise as an integral part of a research team. The concept of “research software engineering” has been advocated as one such mechanism for creating research teams that can respond to the centrality of data and computation in a research activity.
Postdoctoral fellows are being used effectively in other organizational units within MML, however within ODI their use is limited. This is understandable given the service orientated nature of their mission. However, even within these confines, Postdocs could be used effectively both to advance the direct goals of the ODI, but more importantly to act as agents of culture change across the laboratory toward an awareness of data as a product. The ODI is already engaged in training with its programs in “software carpentry.”
RECOMMENDATION 4-3: The “software carpentry” program should be expanded to include rotations of postdocs through ODI for more extensive, hands-on guidance. In addition, identifying postdocs in the MML divisions with an understanding of the importance of sound computational techniques and establishing joint mentorship programs with those divisions and ODI would be beneficial.
RECOMMENDATION 4-4: The Material Measurement Laboratory should enhance engagement with creation/integration of reference materials.
Materials Science and Engineering
The Materials Science and Engineering Division (MSED), conducts research in Thermodynamics and Kinetics, Mechanical Performance, Polymer and Complex Fluids, Functional Polymers, Polymer Processing, and Functional NanoMaterials that is among the best in the world. In addition the research groups are strongly coupled to their respective industries and provide unique resources in metrology. In particular the Thermodynamics and Kinetics group is respected worldwide for their expertise in computational materials science.
FINDING: The computational work of the Thermodynamics and Kinetics group is well ahead of many other entities outside of NIST.
RECOMMENDATION 5-1: The Materials Science and Engineering Division (MSED) should consider investment in additional high-performance computing resources to continue the comparative advantage the Thermodynamics and Kinetics group holds. In making such investments, MSED should maintain balance with empirical approaches.
While the equipment and facilities are very good to excellent, some equipment needs updating, necessitating a thoughtful, strategic equipment renewal process. Such a process would best emphasize “unique” equipment needed, even in areas such as electron microscopy, to differentiate MML from other federal labs. Strategic planning could incorporate the number of scientific staff and specific scientific expertise needed, equipment development needs, and standards development needs and prioritize all needed investments.
RECOMMENDATION 5-2: The Materials Science and Engineering Division should develop a clear articulation of a broad-based strategic plan of the division and state how that plan reflects the overarching strategic plan of the Material Measurement Laboratory.
MSED is fortunate to have high quality scientists and technical staff commitment to the organization. The technical team has the expertise required to accomplish programmatic objectives. The culture of MSED is such that post-docs appear inclined to stay at NIST if that opportunity is available.
MSED is addressing stakeholder needs especially at the high technological readiness levels (TRLs). Additionally there is adequate monitoring of stakeholder use and impact of program output. While there is good dissemination of results using print media, results from primary work in MML could be highlighted more.
RECOMMENDATION 5-4: The Material Measurement Laboratory should increase its activities aimed at communicating its accomplishments to its customers, collaborators, and audiences. This should include greater effort at highlighting results from the primary work of the laboratory. This could be accomplished using forms of media such as YouTube and improving the effectiveness of the NIST website by adding specific examples of unique and transformative contributions.
Materials Measurement Science Division
The Materials Measurement Science Division (MMSD) conducts mission and fundamental research and provides state-of-the-art instrumentation methods, models, and software. Its SRM and SRD are used to validate methods and enable new technologies. The MMSD maintains a broad scientific portfolio encompassing five program areas: (1) Atomic Arrangement and Structure-Property Relationships; (2) Physical, Chemical and Mechanical Properties of Materials; (3) X-Ray Scattering and
Spectroscopy; (4) Materials and Metrology for Safety, Security and Forensics; and (5) Informatics and Artificial Intelligence for Materials Design. The Synchrotron Science Group maintains and supports synchrotron measurement capabilities as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s User Facilities program, primarily at the National Synchrotron Light Source II.
FINDING: The development, fabrication, and sale of standard reference materials and documentary standards are central to the mission of MMSD. MMSD has a broad client base for SRMs etc., but contacts are handled by other groups.
RECOMMENDATION 6-1: The Materials Measurement Science Division (MMSD) should increase the degree to which it utilizes its customers for feedback on new products and information with regard to emerging opportunities. To this end, the Material Measurement Laboratory should utilize a process for obtaining feedback. MMSD should increase its interaction with the offices managing sales of such products at NIST.
FINDING: The MMSD has the lowest female/male ratio compared with other divisions in the Material Measurement Laboratory.
RECOMMENDATION 6-5: The Materials Measurement Science Division (MMSD) should examine ways to recruit and retain greater numbers of female scientific staff. MMSD staff should all work to enhance the visibility of NIST as a career option through technical meeting/society activities and university interactions. All team members should ensure inclusiveness and assist with career development of the diverse workforce, including the careers of associates and post docs.
FINDING: The work of the MMSD is extremely dependent on access to state-of-the-art instrumentation. There were areas in which current new technologies are needed as a group moves into exciting new areas such as soft materials. Other instrumentation is aging and will need replacement in the near future (e.g., 3D atom probe instrumentation and electron microscopes). NIST extensively uses national user facilities beyond MMSD, particularly when instrument development is not a part of the project.
RECOMMENDATION 6-6: The Materials Measurement Science Division should prioritize the division’s needs for upgrading/replacement of equipment and explore centralizing commonly used instrumentation at the division or laboratory level.
Biosystems and Biomaterials Division
The NIST Biosystems and Biomaterials Division (BBD) is focused on four primary areas—engineering biology, advanced therapies, precision medicine, microbiome—with a drive to foster innovation and build confidence in quantitative biology and biomaterial measurements across government and industry in support of the bio-economy. Importantly, in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, BBD implemented targeted initiatives by redirecting resources in manpower, collaborations, and equipment.
BBD has five groups: complex microbial systems, biomarker and genomic sciences, biomaterials, cell systems, and cellular engineering. These cross-functional groups of scientists with expertise in materials, molecular biology, engineering, chemistry, microbiology, statistics and data management are working well together. The BBD team is highly successful in the development of advanced standards and innovative measurement technology to address the quantitative metrology needs of biological materials and processes.
BBD’s primary products are measurement science and protocols, which are disseminated in publications, reference materials, and reference data—including, for example, Genome in a Bottle DNA, Cancer Biomarker EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) and MET, infectious disease antibodies and antigen, mixed pathogen DNA, reference materials for flow cytometry. Advanced living reference materials include, for example, genetically tagged yeast, microbial whole cell, human gut microbiome materials for validation of methodology. Also important is international biological lexicon standardization.
As a challenge, BBD has lost approximately 20 percent of its laboratory space, which negatively impacts program growth. The NIST Master Plan does include construction of a standard reference material facility for preparation and storage of biologic reference materials. Ensuring continued scientific interactions by addition of inside walkways to interconnect buildings would be beneficial.
Knowledge of complex biological systems is continually evolving with developing manufacturing methods for commercial biological materials. Interwoven knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and data/informatics is required. For BBD, this translates into a need for additional emphasis on colloidal science and thermodynamics, biofilm biochemists, and fluid mechanics.
RECOMMENDATION 7-3: The Material Measurement Laboratory should evaluate whether the square footage assigned the Biosystems and Biomaterials Division is commensurate with the division’s current size and mission.
RECOMMENDATION 7-4: The Biosystems and Biomaterials Division should provide additional resources in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, colloidal science, virology, immunology, microbiology, and bioinformatics in a manner commensurate with the increasing importance of these specialties.
RECOMMENDATION 7-7: The Biosystems and Biomaterials Division leadership should implement cross-training of staff with intent during each year to mitigate the effects of loss of key staff and ensure continuity.
Biomolecular Measurement Division
The Biomolecular Measurement Division (BMD) has a comprehensive set of programs that builds upon the division’s strengths in measurement and measurement research for:
- Biomolecular structure and function,
- Mass spectrometry data,
- Applied genetics,
- Bioprocess measurement, and
- Bioanalytical science.
BMD is technically strong compared to the state of the art (measured on a global basis); it has the needed technical expertise and is aware that the workforce needed to be much more diverse and was beginning to take action; adequate resources for current objectives, but will need to re-align and grow resources to address new areas—particularly in some areas of forensics, and separately, biophysical characterization of biologics and biologic particle sizing, and associated reference standards; and effectively disseminates its work through excellent and prolific publications, as well as biological reference materials.
BMD is fulfilling its mission, has good management, and good morale, with the exception of a desire of early career staff seeking more mentorship and recognition and that diversity of the workforce still needs to be achieved. The BMD is well organized, gave an impressive series of presentations,
collaborates with industry, and addresses key measurement and standards needs of government, academic researchers, and the rapidly growing biopharmaceutical sector. While BMD is managing closely its resources and maintaining productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic, future strengthening of its programs will likely require further attention to professional staffing needs as well as resources required to support these needs, particularly in the context of achieving a more diverse workforce and the enhanced work environment that would be anticipated to result. Overall, BMD should be recognized for its excellence in meeting current technical goals while positioning itself for future developments and inherent changes in the national and global landscape in biopharmaceutical, bioprocessing, biomolecular research, and renewable energy and bioproducts.
The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) within BMD includes mass spectrometer (MS) spectra/databases, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) library contours, retention index analyses, forensics, and others. An AI/ML expert would likely provide novel insights into the embedding of these methods throughout the division and play an educational role.
RECOMMENDATION 8-1: The Biological Measurement Division (BMD) should evaluate its portfolio of expertise of staff with expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to the measurement tools specifically in BMD. BMD might want to consider a joint hire with another division to leverage additional expertise and resources, or develop a more centralized collaboration model (i.e., community of practice) to make enhanced use of AI/ML expertise.
The majority of BMD’s application areas are human based—that is, forensics, biotherapeutics, Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR T cells), and so forth. Significant opportunities may be present in areas beyond that applied to humans and these include agriculture, veterinary science, biocatalysis, and environmental and marine research areas.
RECOMMENDATION 8-2: The Biological Measurement Division (BMD) should develop a strategy to assess agriculture, veterinary science, biocatalysis, and environmental and marine research areas as possible opportunities for growth and sources of additional collaborations and funding.
Chemical Sciences Division
The work of the Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) ranges from inorganic and organic chemical metrology to biochemical and exposure science. They have had impressive recent successes including the Avogadro Project enabling the kilogram (kg) standard to be redefined, the development of FEASST (Free Energy and Advanced Sampling Simulation Toolkit), a suite of tools for enhancing bottom up prediction of physical and chemical properties, and the development and commercialization of a benchtop 14C (carbon-14) instrument for applications in forensic analysis, radiocarbon dating, and emissions monitoring. Among its widely known capabilities, the division maintains and operates the biorepository for NIST, primarily of marine life, which has over 100,000 specimens with the ability to track long-term pollutants as well as identify emerging pollutants, and develops and applies measurement technologies for the analysis of gaseous samples that are critically important throughout industry, academia, and government. Further, taking a hard look at new activities to undertake, while maintaining or letting go of current activities, is critical to avoid overtaxing staff to increasingly do more with less. Finally, the possibility of clustering the groups into related subunits, or splitting the division to have more commonality within the division could be considered going forward.
There was a lack of connection between many of the activities in CSD as presented. There is an opportunity for CSD leadership to spend the time crafting a story that would highlight the connections between all teams, or bin the teams into groups in such a way as to provide some level of connection. It
may also be worth considering splitting the large groups that have more common alignment or putting some of the teams in other groups where there is alignment.
RECOMMENDATION 9-1: The Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) should consider administrative changes to give greater definition to connectivity among the division’s scientists, including binning the teams in CSD to make commonalities with other groups more apparent; and, as warranted, splitting larger divisions and aggregating the groups into new divisions where similarities are strongest.
Retraining was also seen as a challenge for many—to either stay abreast of the field, or to reinvent themselves into a new area. If a sabbatical program in which more senior NIST employees rotate to national laboratories, industry, or academia were possible and mutually beneficial, this could serve in retraining as well as increasing MML visibility. This “mixing” will undoubtedly lead to the attrition of some MML workers, but by increasing the visibility, may also have a two-way effect. Absent this, removing some of the barriers to working with outside people (industry) such as better accessibility to virtual teleconference software options is essential.
RECOMMENDATION 9-2: The Chemical Sciences Division should evaluate its portfolio to determine the fit to Material Measurement Laboratory’s (MML’s) strategy with a view toward adoption of a “steady state”’ economic model in which new costs are paid for by pruning existing operations. Alternatively, MML could adopt a “pay as you go” model in which they would add new programs, instrumentation, employees, and so forth as new funds become available, or by intentionally pursuing external funding in strategic areas.
There are opportunities for CSD to develop stronger ties with the pool of NIST postdoc alumni who will have now moved into positions in industry, government laboratories, small business, and academia. By celebrating this cadre of postdoc alumni, CSD would be clearly showing that there are pathways to successful careers for postdocs.
RECOMMENDATION 9-4: The Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) should remain in contact with postdoctoral (NRC and Associate) and other categories of associates who have left CSD as a way of collecting input on emerging areas of concern, problems of note, and feedback on the adoption and implementation of CSD and Material Measurement Laboratory efforts.
Applied Chemicals and Materials
The Applied Chemicals and Materials Division (ACMD), located in Boulder, Colorado, characterizes the properties and structures of industrially important fluids and materials. Its work serves a diverse stakeholder community by providing innovative measurements and models and critically evaluated data with the goals of improving processes and products and developing new and improved standards.
Many of the individual projects are organized for either historical or administrative convenience, in contrast with unifying technical or methodological themes based on the MML mission statement. The division covers a number of long-standing “curator” functions such as the Charpy Verification Program and the REFPROP database (REFerence fluid thermodynamic and transport PROPerties), which are central to the NIST Mission but which dilute the scientific resources needed to maintain leadership in new areas of measurement science.
There have been no major new facilities for ACMD in the Boulder Campus or at least none were described to the panel. The major concern repeated numerous times was the housing of the programs in 50-year-old laboratories. This may be a legitimate concern but it is beyond the charge of the panel.
The ACMD dependence on a significant increase in associate staff for new programs may lead to potential program continuity issues as the tenure for short-term employees ends. It was apparent that tenure prospects have not been adequately conveyed to associates. ACMD would do best not to rely on increases in future associates to sustain additional program growth. As associates complete their tenure, new programs could be initiated and old programs ended.
If capital equipment replacement for aging tools is mission critical, then a priority list would need to be developed and provided to higher levels of the organization’s management. ACMD noted potential equipment sources from the U.S. government surplus listings.
RECOMMENDATION 10-1: The Applied Chemicals and Materials Division should create a capital equipment replacement plan that considers also the requirements for space and ongoing maintenance.
ACMD has created significant impact with key SRDs and SRMs. The challenge for ACMD is to value their SRD/SRM portfolio so that new programs can be initiated, in particular programs that explore new solutions to legacy SRM strategies.
ACMD has SRD and SRM activities that utilize personnel resources to maintain legacy standards. Initiating new programs to examine replacement or improvement strategies for these standards activities would position ACMD at the forefront of the next generation of standards requirements. Properly valuing the SRD and SRM activities would create revenue to support such activities.
RECOMMENDATION 10-2: The Applied Chemicals and Materials Division should take steps to realize the true value of standard reference data and standard reference materials thereby enabling revenue for growth of new programs.
ACMD has the same breadth of commercial opportunities as does the MML, with an outstanding history of precision chemical, thermodynamic and mechanical property measurements. Virtually all of the projects within ACMD fit within divisions housed in Gaithersburg, yet it is not clear that the interaction between these two physically distant laboratories are as close as they might be in an era where virtual discussion is becoming the norm.
RECOMMENDATION 10-3: MML should (1) clearly define the Applied Chemicals and Materials Division’s (ACMD’s) mission and how ACMD aligns within the Material Measurement Laboratory mission; and (2) integrate teams more closely with corresponding efforts in NIST Gaithersburg facilities.
Highrisk project activity is one measure of the technical vitality of an organization. High-risk projects include vapor forensics for public safety and NMR and microwave techniques for thermodynamic property characterization.
RECOMMENDATION 10-4: The Applied Chemicals and Materials Division should continue to increase the number of high-risk projects.