NSF & Congress
Attachment: NSB-02-191 (Revised and Adopted)
November 21, 2002
NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD
Guidelines for Setting Priority for Major Research Facilities
The advancement of research and education in all fields of science
and engineering depends - at some times - on equipment that permits observation
and experimentation. Therefore, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds
such equipment. It also funds the research necessary to advance the engineering
of next generation instruments that may enable entirely new and improved
modalities of observation and experimentation.
Some of the equipment that enables the advancement of research is large,
complex, and costly. The term facility is used to describe such equipment,
because typically the equipment requires special sites or buildings to house
it and a dedicated staff to effectively maintain and use the equipment.
Multiple experimental researchers working in related disciplines share the
use of such large facilities.
From time to time, a consensus arises within a research community that
a particular new facility is required to advance the state of knowledge
in the field. Such a consensus matures through broad community discussion.
Through that discussion, a consortium sometimes arises from the community
to take the responsibility to build and operate the facility for the good
of the entire community. In all cases there are clearly stated research
questions that only the unique, envisioned facility could help answer.
The National Science Board approves all large facility projects, as directed
by the NSF Act of 1950 and based on the Board's revised delegation of authority
to the Director (NSB-99-198, Appendix B, "Delegation of Authority," 335
NSB Meeting, November 18, 1999). When considering a facility project for
approval, the Board reviews the need for such a facility, the research that
will be enabled, readiness of plans for construction and operation, construction
budget estimates, and operations budget estimates. Construction of many
facilities is funded through the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities
Due to cost, not all facilities can be built at the time that their need
is determined and plans are in order for construction. Consequently, the
Board will order facility construction projects with the intent that funding
be made available to projects in this rank order. If it becomes necessary,
the Board will reconsider both individual project approval and project priority.
The guidelines observed by the Board in approving and prioritizing such
major facility projects and in approving the NSF budget submission are:
- Once construction for an approved and prioritized project commences,
highest priority is given to moving that project forward through
multiple years of construction in a cost-effective way, as determined
by sound engineering and as long as progress is appropriate.
It is most cost-effective to complete initiated projects in a
timely way, rather than to commence new projects at the cost
of stretching out in-progress construction.
- New candidate projects will be considered from the point of
view of broadly serving the many disciplines supported by NSF.
- Multiple projects for a single discipline, or for closely related
disciplines, will be ordered based on a judgment of the contribution
that they will make toward the advancement of research in those
related fields. Community judgment on this matter is considered.
- Projects will be authorized close to the time that funding
requests are expected to be made.
- International and interagency commitments are considered in
setting priorities among projects.
The above are guidelines. Each facility consideration involves many complex
issues. The Board will consider all relevant matters, and could deviate
from these guidelines, given sound reasons to do so.