Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century


for this reportcommitteensb board membersacknowledment
Last Updated: 09/15/2015



The quality and adequacy of the infrastructure for science and engineering are critical to maintaining the leadership of the United States on the frontiers of discovery and for insuring their continuous contribution to the strength of the national economy and to quality of life. Since the last major assessments were conducted over a decade ago, that infrastructure has grown and changed, and the needs of science and engineering communities have evolved. The National Science Board, which has a responsibility for monitoring the health of the national research and education enterprise, has determined that there is a need for an assessment of the current status of the national infrastructure for fundamental science and engineering, to ensure its quality and availability to the broad S&E community in the future.

Several trends contribute to the need for a new assessment:

  • The impact of new technologies on research facilities and equipment;
  • Changing infrastructure needs in the context of new discoveries, challenges, and opportunities;
  • The impact of new tools and capabilities, such as IT and large data bases;
  • Rapidly escalating cost of research facilities;
  • Changes in the university environment affecting support for S&E infrastructure development and operation; and the need for new strategies for partnering and collaboration.

The Task Force on Science and Engineering Infrastructure (INF), reporting to the Committee on Programs and Plans (CPP) is established to undertake and guide an assessment of the fundamental science and engineering infrastructure in the United States. The task force will develop terms of reference and a workplan with the aim of informing the national dialogue on S&E infrastructure and highlighting the role of NSF as well as the larger resource and management strategies of interest to Federal policymakers in both the executive and legislative branches.

The workplan should enable an assessment of the current status of the national S&E infrastructure, the changing needs of science and engineering, and the requirements for a capability of appropriate quality and size to ensure continuing U.S. leadership. It should describe the scope and character of the assessment and a process for including appropriate stakeholders, such as other Federal agencies, and representatives of the private sector and the science and engineering communities. The workplan should include consideration of the following issues:

  • Appropriate strategies for sharing the costs of the infrastructure with respect to both development and operations among different sectors, communities, and nations;
  • Partnering and use arrangements conducive to ensuring the most effective use of limited resources and the advancement of discovery;
  • The balance between maintaining the quality of existing facilities and creation of new ones; and
  • The process for establishing priorities for investment in infrastructure across fields, sectors, and Federal agencies.







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