FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Over the past decade, the funding for academic research infrastructure
has not kept pace with rapidly changing technology, expanding research
opportunities, and increasing numbers of users. Information technology
and other technologies have enabled the development of many new
S&E tools and made others more powerful, remotely usable, and
connectable. The new tools being developed make researchers more
productive and able to do more complex and different tasks than
they could in the past. An increasing number of researchers and
educators, working as individuals and in groups, need to be connected
to a sophisticated array of facilities, instruments, databases,
technical literature and data. Hence, there is an urgent need to
increase Federal investments to provide access for scientists and
engineers to the latest and best S&E infrastructure, as well
as to update infrastructure currently in place.
To address these concerns, the Board makes the following five recommendations:
RECOMMENDATION 1: Increase the share of the NSF budget devoted
to S&E infrastructure in order to provide individual investigators
and groups of investigators with the tools they need to work at
The current 22 percent of the NSF budget devoted to infrastructure
is too low to provide adequate small- and medium-scale infrastructure,
and needed investment in cyberinfrastructure. A share closer to
the higher end of the historic range (22-27 percent) is desirable.
It is hoped that significant additional resources for infrastructure
will be provided through future growth of the NSF budget.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Give special emphasis to the following four
categories of infrastructure needs: 37
- Increase research to advance instrument technology
and build next-generation observational, communications, data
analysis and interpretation, and other computational tools.
Instrumentation research is often difficult and risky, requiring
the successful integration of theoretical knowledge, engineering
and software design, and information technology. In contrast to
most other infrastructure technologies, commercially available
data analysis and data interpretation software typically lags
well behind university developed software, which is often not
funded or underfunded, limiting its use and accessibility. This
research will accelerate the development of instrument technology
to ensure that future research instruments and tools are as efficient
and effective as possible.
- Address the increased need for midsize infrastructure.
While there are NSF programs for addressing "small"
and "large" infrastructure needs, none exist for infrastructure
projects costing between millions and tens of millions of dollars.
This report cites numerous examples of unfunded midsize infrastructure
needs that have long been identified as high priorities. NSF should
increase the level of funding for midsize infrastructure, as well
as develop new funding mechanisms, as appropriate, to support
- Increase support for large facility projects.
Several large facility projects have been approved for funding
by the NSB but have not been funded. At present, an annual investment
of at least $350 million is needed over several years just to
address the backlog of facility projects construction. Postponing
this investment now will not only increase the future cost of
these projects but also result in the loss of U.S. leadership
in key research fields.
- Develop and deploy an advanced cyberinfrastructure
to enable new S&E in the 21st century.
This investment should address leading-edge computation as well
as visualization facilities, data analysis and interpretation
toolkits and workbenches, data archives and libraries, and networks
of much greater power and in substantially greater quantity. Providing
access to moderate-cost computation, storage, analysis, visualization,
and communication for every researcher will lead to an even more
productive national research enterprise. Design of these new technologies
and capabilities must be guided by the needs of a variety of potential
users, including scientists and engineers from many disciplines.
This important undertaking requires a significant investment in
software and technical staff, as well as hardware. This new infrastructure
will play a critical role in creating tomorrow's research vistas.
RECOMMENDATION 3: Expand education and training opportunities
at new and existing research facilities.
Investment in S&E infrastructure is critical to developing a
21st century S&E workforce. Education, training and outreach
activities should be vital elements of all major research facility
programs. Educating people to understand how S&E instruments
and facilities work and how they uniquely contribute to knowledge
in their targeted disciplines is critical. Outreach should span
many diverse communities, including: existing researchers and educators
who may become new users, undergraduate and graduate students who
may design and use future instruments, and kindergarten through
grade twelve (K-12) students, who may be motivated to become scientists
and engineers. There are also opportunities to expand access to
state-of-the-art S&E infrastructure to faculty and students
at primarily undergraduate colleges and universities.
RECOMMENDATION 4: Strengthen the infrastructure planning and
budgeting process through the following actions:
- Foster systematic assessments of U.S. academic research
infrastructure needs for both disciplinary and cross-disciplinary
fields of research. Re-assess current surveys of infrastructure
needs to determine if they fully measure and are responsive to
- Develop specific criteria and indicators to assist in
establishing priorities and balancing infrastructure investments
across S&E disciplines and fields.
- Develop and implement budgets for infrastructure projects
that include the total costs to be incurred over the entire life-cycle
of the project, including research, planning, design, construction,
commissioning, maintenance, operations, and, to the extent possible,
- Conduct an assessment to determine the most effective
NSF budget structure for supporting S&E infrastructure projects
throughout their life-cycles, including the early research and
development that is often difficult and risky.
Because of the need for the Federal Government to act holistically
in addressing the requirements of the Nation's science and engineering
enterprise, the Board developed a fifth recommendation, aimed principally
at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Science
and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Science and Technology
RECOMMENDATION 5: Develop interagency plans and strategies to
do the following:
- Work with the relevant Federal agencies and the S&E
community to establish interagency infrastructure priorities that
rely on competitive merit review to select S&E infrastructure
- Stimulate the development and deployment of new infrastructure
technologies to foster a new decade of infrastructure innovation.
- Develop the next generation of the high-end high-performance
computing and networking infrastructure needed to enable a broadly
based S&E community to work at the research frontier.
- Facilitate international partnerships to enable the mutual
support and use of research facilities across national boundaries.
- Protect the Nation's massive investment in S&E infrastructure
against accidental or malicious attacks and misuse.