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VCAT October 2008 Minutes


Visiting Committee
Members Attending

Baer, Thomas
Bajscy, Ruzena
Cerf, Vinton
Fleury, Paul
Heimbrook, Lou Ann *
Reichmanis, Elsa *
Serum, James
Taub, Alan
Williams, Robert *

Ehrlich, Gail, VCAT Exec. Dir.

NIST Leadership Board
Amis, Eric
Collins, Belinda *
Celotta, Robert
Dimeo, Rob
Furlani, Cita
Gallagher, Patrick
Gebbie, Katharine
Grams, Todd
Harary, Howard *
Hertz, Harry *
Kayser, Richard
Kilmer, Roger *
May, Willie 
Rochford, Kent
Stanley, Marc *
Steel, Eric

Welser, Jeffrey

Moore, Russell
University of Colorado-Boulder

NIST Staff
Allocca, Clare *
Amos, Mike *
Boehm, Jason *
Brainerd, Susan *
Briggman, Kimberly *
Burrus, Jim
Cavanagh, Richard *
Devereaux, Doug *
Fiotes, Stella
Grosshandler, William
Hardis, Jonathan
Herbert, Denise
Ivester, Robert *
Kimball, Kevin
Klausing, Thomas *
McBride, Wendy
Orr, Derreck
Ost, Laura
Ott, William *
Porter, Gail
Saunders, Mary *
Schufreider, James *

*Attended part of the meeting via audio-teleconference.


Note: Each of the presentations summarized below are available from the October 2008 meeting agenda on the VCAT website.


Call to Order and Agenda Review

Dr. Pat Gallagher, NIST Deputy Director, called the meeting to order at 8:00 a.m. He introduced the newest VCAT member, Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and Director Emeritus of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Science. The other VCAT members and attendees introduced themselves, including those participating by the audio/video teleconference.

Dr. James Serum, the VCAT Chair, reviewed the meeting's agenda which was based on input from the Chair, Vice-Chair, the Deputy Director, and the NIST staff. The agenda items continued the topics discussed at the June 2008 meeting and included NIST's roles in innovation, external partnerships and relationships, and NIST's strategic plans. Tours of the NIST and JILA labs were also planned. The last meeting session was planned to focus on the draft outline and preparation of the VCAT's 2008 Annual Report.

For more details, see the presentation.

NIST Deputy Director's Update

In his opening remarks, Dr. Gallagher briefly described his scientific background. Trained as a physicist, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburg, was a Post-doc at Boston University, and began his career at NIST in 1993 at the neutron research facility,. As the NIST Deputy Director for only six weeks, he was delegated the duties and responsibilities of the NIST Director until a presidential appointee is confirmed for this position. Other NIST leadership changes involved Jim Turner, former NIST Deputy Director, who accepted a position at NOAA; Mat Heyman, NIST Chief of Staff, who recently announced his retirement and accepted a senior position at U.S. Pharmacopeia; Rob Dimeo, who is now Acting Director of the NIST Center for Neutron Research; and Kevin Kimball who is the Acting Chief of Staff. Dr. Gallagher's presentation also covered NIST staff recognition; an update on the FY 2009 Budget; and his priorities for leadership, safety, and positioning NIST, including the role of the VCAT. For more details, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

Budget - Since NIST's costs are mostly labor, any shortfall under the Continuing Resolution for the required 3.9% pay raise will need to come out of existing program funds.

Leadership Reporting Lines - The group discussed the rationale for changing the Operating Units reporting lines at NIST. Since a formal NIST reorganization involving Congressional approval would not be practical at this time, Dr. Gallagher used his authority to delegate and assign responsibilities. He created a directorate with the Chief Scientist having supervisory responsibilities for the laboratory and external programs while the Chief of Operations has supervisory responsibilities for NIST operations.

Safety - The NIST Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety and Management presented their five high-level findings to the Secretary of Commerce last week. These key findings are: 1) safety is not a core value at NIST; 2) safety is not integrated into NIST operations across the organization in a meaningful way; 3) NIST has not benchmarked safety protocols and performance against similar organizations with strong safety cultures; 4) NIST is plagued by a serious lack of resources for safety; and 5) NIST staff is eager, willing, and ready to embrace a safety culture.

Dr. Gallagher agreed that rewarding safety performance is critical to the functioning of NIST and noted actions in this area. He also described how NIST has begun efforts to identify model organizations with strong safety cultures, including some of DoE's national laboratories and academic institutions, such as MIT and Boston University.

A VCAT member commended NIST for its "very admirable response" to the plutonium incident and remarked that the organization is placing the right emphasis on safety. Dr. Gallagher acknowledged the central role that leadership plays into integrating safety into the organization as well as other benefits associated with becoming a high performance safety organization.

VCAT's Role in Positioning NIST - The group discussed the implications of the Sunshine Act in regards to discussing budget proposals and priorities under consideration by the President and how it affects the VCAT's role in advising NIST on its strategic direction. Dr. Gallagher noted the importance of the VCAT in looking at how NIST operates in the immediate timeframe within the realities of its priorities and budget as well as working with NIST to set its future agenda. He also stressed the need for the VCAT to focus on the big questions faced by NIST and the drivers that affect the NIST budget. In particular, NIST is looking for the VCAT's help in defining the Institute's role in innovation and its perspective on the Institute's partnership tools and mechanisms for maximum impact. Also, the VCAT will be providing comments every year on NIST's three-year programmatic plan which will be used to drive budget development and program management within the Operating Units, and the members can begin to share some of their thoughts on this plan at today's meeting. The group also discussed the importance of the VCAT's 2008 Annual Report and different scenarios for delivering the report to the Secretary of Commerce, the Administration, and Congress. As part of this dialogue, a member noted that the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee regularly reported to Congress.

NIST's Roles in Innovation

The purpose of this session was to solicit advice on NIST's strategy to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness. In his opening remarks, Mr. Steel, Director of the NIST Program Office, remarked that NIST is most commonly known for its measurements and standards, but not technology. NIST's highest level problem is to be recognized as a driver for innovation and industrial competitiveness. His presentation included a review of the NIST mission; three key questions for the VCAT regarding NIST's role in innovation; a definition of innovation; the importance of innovation and NIST's role; and ways in which the VCAT can help advise NIST on this topic. Mr. Steel emphasized that NIST focuses on investments in the R&D part of innovation and displayed an S-curved diagram that illustrates how all of NIST programs provide the technology infrastructure for science and technology development that impacts every stage of innovation. Other diagrams covered the Federal science and technology policy options for meeting government and commercial needs and their relationship to each of NIST's programs in meeting its mission. The last portion of his presentation briefly highlighted the specific innovation roles and impacts of the NIST laboratories, the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program, the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), and the Rapid Innovation and Competitiveness (RIC) Initiative, a new NIST business model. For more details, see Mr. Steel's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

NIST and the VCAT members agreed that the wording of the third key question, "Is the role just measurement science and standards or does it include technology development" was purposely worded to be provocative which set the stage for the subsequent discussions. The charts showing NIST's response to national priorities was meant to represent the strategy for addressing many technologies rather than the tactics raised by several of the VCAT members.

The group discussed the need for NIST to begin its planning process by first identifying the end users who can implement the technology and the importance of knowing why the innovation is needed. The VCAT Chair described the recent international conference on biosciences co-hosted by NIST last week as an example of a strategic technology development activity which identified critical needs spanning broad applications and the transforming technology innovations that NIST could address.

Some of the members questioned NIST's broad role in innovation and spoke about the need for the Institute to narrow its focus on its measurements and standards niche. Members suggested that NIST may want to consider a more credible role of limiting its contributions to the innovation process based on measurements and grow programs around that core. The group also discussed a member's ideas to separate NIST into two distinct units in which scientists and engineers do knowledge creation in one part and the other part focuses on innovation. NIST senior leaders noted TIP's and MEP's contributions to the labs in helping to identify gaps in measurement and science and serving as effective communication vehicles to potential customers.

Some of the members described how they viewed NIST's role as an enabler for innovation rather than an implementer and challenged NIST to distinguish between accomplishments that enabled innovation which were not coupled strongly to measurement science. In response to this challenge, the impact of the Advanced Technology Program investment in DNA diagnostics was noted. The VCAT Chair talked about NIST's proven history and great credibility in innovation in measurement science and technology, and remarked that NIST should be able to develop a huge list of its contributions to innovation. He suggested that NIST identify the industrial needs where it can play a strategic and tactical role in measurement science that influences innovation within these areas, and then add these areas to the organizational infrastructure. Mr. Steel reminded the Committee that he was actually trying to present a science and technology policy view in which the NIST organizations play different roles. With the arrival of a new administration, NIST needs to have a clear message of how it fits into the science and technology policy for innovation.

The group also discussed NIST's unique role in manufacturing and Information Technology (IT) security. According to the VCAT, NIST has an opportunity to build a unique role in manufacturing since there is no single agency who is concerned about U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. The group talked about the importance of NIST looking deep into the national labs and other agencies to identify their R&D efforts underpinning certain kinds of manufacturing, for example, and then identify the unique NIST role. Another VCAT member indicated that IT security is a measurement issue and NIST is well-positioned to help coordinate civilian/private sector evaluations of IT security on the Internet and other online sectors. Dr. Gallagher emphasized that the major national needs surrounding energy, environment, health care, physical infrastructure, and water have key issues and cross-cuts where NIST has a unique role as a Federal agency, and agreed that NIST is uniquely positioned in the areas of manufacturing and IT security.

One member suggested that NIST collaborate more closely with engineering schools in some type of consortium when addressing the list of potential Critical National Needs topics. Dr. Gallagher pointed out that these are national needs addressed by TIP which is a competitive program with university and national lab recipients.

In closing, Dr. Gallagher stressed the importance of both tactics and strategy to set the context for the second day's agenda item on NIST strategic planning. The VCAT Chair stated that the discussion was useful and will give the Committee direction for the content of their Annual Report and other feedback.

Strategic Partnerships - Business Models with Other Organizations

The purpose of the second session is to provide detailed examples of one of NIST's tools to accomplish its mission, namely, external relationships, and to solicit advice on its use. Mr. Steel's presentation began with a review of three key questions for the VCAT to consider during the three briefings on NIST's strategic partnerships. These research partnerships were characterized under three main types: university-centered which covers the joint facilities of JILA, JQI, and UMBI; other agency-centered which covers the Hollings Marine Laboratory; and industry-regional-centered which covers the RIC, a new business model with shared NIST-industry funding to university centers. Smaller scale interactions such as individual-to-individual and facility users of the NCNR and CNST were also referenced. The presentation ended with a list of partnership issues for the VCAT's further consideration, such as the need for international partnerships, other university or RIC areas, and more other agency partnerships, as well as intellectual property issues. This presentation set the stage for the next two set of partnership briefings by guest speakers from the University of Colorado and the SRC Nanoelectronics Initiative (NRI). For more details, see Mr. Steel's presentation.

Dr. Gallagher reminded the VCAT that he was very interested in hearing their views on whether NIST is missing any opportunities for approaching partnerships at a higher level. Due to time constraints, the VCAT was asked to hold their comments until the end of the next two presentations.

The CU – NIST Relationship: A Productive Partnership

Guest speaker Dr. Russell Moore is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and a Professor of Integrative Physiology and Medicine at the University of Colorado (CU) – Boulder. He also serves as the CU - Boulder Institutional Coordinator for the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a research consortium. Dr. Moore's presentation focused on the benefits of the relationships between CU and NIST. He described the unique features of the expanding Professional Research Experience Program (PREP), which he referred to as one of the "gems" of the NIST – CU relationships for training the world's best scientists and JILA, home of three Nobel Laureates. In his remarks about the successful and long-standing JILA partnership, he emphasized the important benefit of leveraging both intellectual and monetary resources for advances in instrumentation and for a unique training environment for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. For more details, see Dr. Moore's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

Dr. Gebbie, Director of the Physics Laboratory, briefly described the evolution of JILA and noted that three NIST researchers came up with this idea. The Physics Laboratory has provided stable funding to JILA for nearly 50 years. Dr. Moore also noted JILA's positive impact on leveraging the amount of NSF SBIR awards to the state of Colorado.

CU-Boulder's efforts in creating other joint institutes modeled after JILA was also raised. Although CU-Boulder has discussed this model with other organizations, it has not tried to create the JILA model in other areas with NIST. Dr. Moore described the top three factors that contribute to JILA's success: 1) flexibility with respect to training students and fellows; 2) excellence as exemplified by JILA Nobel Laureates, McArthur Fellows, and National Academy of Science members; and 3) flexibility in the interactions between the university and a federal agency. The question of patents and copyrights for universities and the government was also raised.

Mr. Steel reminded the group that OSTP Director Jack Marburger, remarked that JILA was the world's best federal university partnership.

NIST & SRC Nanoelectronics Research Initiative: Partnership for Innovation

Guest speaker Dr. Jeffrey Welser is the Director of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Nanoelectronics Research Institute (NRI). He has served in this position since mid-2006 and is on assignment from IBM, which he joined in 1995. Dr. Welser provided background information on the SRC, a consortium of companies formed to facilitate collaboratively sponsored university research, and the NRI which was established under the SRC umbrella to focus on post CMOS. To set the context for the NRI, he showed a Moore's Law plot and described how scaling drives the semiconductor industry and the need for new novel computing devices. He further explained NRI's primary research vectors, milestones, and interactions in order to meet its mission of demonstrating novel computing devices capable of replacing the CMOS FET as a logic switch in the 2020 timeframe. In September 2007, NIST joined the NRI and became a full partner in four regional NRI centers involving over 30 universities in 20 states. Dr. Welser highlighted NIST's key involvement in the SRC NRI management structure, including the Governing Council and the Technical Program Group, its role in NRI's funding model, and an example of how it helps to leverage industry, universities, and the states through the INDEX Center in Albany, New York where NIST researchers also collaborate on many of their projects. Lastly, Dr. Welser summarized NRI's progress and technical directions for creating a goal-oriented basic science research program; industry's support of NIST's involvement; and the importance of an industry, government, academia partnership to reach te NRI goal. For more details, see Dr. Welser's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

All research done for the SRC is pre-competitive and very open. The main benefit to industry sponsors is that they have access to the preprint six months before it is actually published in the journal. Intellectual property is always owned by the university.

Dr. Welser discussed the major differences in the funding and management of the NSF Centers versus the NRI Centers. NSF runs the Centers themselves whereas in the NRI Centers, there are exciting opportunities for direct interactions with technical experts in the NIST laboratories.

Although the NRI was created as a program specifically for U.S. competitiveness, it is not constrained to American researchers. A VCAT member noted the importance of leveraging the opportunity to have non U.S. citizens with Ph.D's do this research. The impact of deemed exports on the NRI collaborations was also raised. At present, there are no major export issues since all of the current research is public and can be published.

The group also discussed the basis for NIST's involvement in the NRI which has a major measurement technology requirement. By participating in the NRI and working closely with other researchers, NIST can find out the measurement problems as these get closer to the commercialization path.

No single NRI member organization takes responsibility for a given research task. All of the industry members and NIST send technical representatives to the project reviews and provide feedback on each of the projects. One of the members noted the need to keep the portfolio distribution the same between the short term and the long term in the next phase of the program.

Overall Discussion of the Value, Types and Roles of NIST's Partnerships

Dr. Vinton Cerf, VCAT Vice Chair, led a discussion on the value, types, and roles of NIST's partnerships. He began the discussion by remarking that the VCAT believes that partnerships are a good idea but because of finite resources, there needs to be a thematic way of evaluating them to help determine the balance between internal and external partnerships. One of these metrics could address how well does the partnership contribute to NIST's core efforts or how well does it advance NIST's primary role. For example, the SRC NRI partnership contributes to NIST's core efforts since it is focused on a highly advanced, early stage piece of goal-directed basic research.

The VCAT chair spoke about the need to define the Institute's competencies and then proactively outsourcing the other areas of expertise known as the "application competencies". This raised the issue of how NIST decides when partnerships are needed followed by a brief summary of the origin of the SRC NRI partnership.

Another member discussed the need for entering partnerships with other facilities that are not so closely located near the NIST campuses as well as looking at the national priorities to see what other labs are working in these areas and who would be the collaborators in order to determine the best role for NIST. NIST may want to consider calling a meeting of the deans of top engineering schools to discuss similar research agendas.

The group also discussed a member's idea of creating separate partnership models for the creation of knowledge function in the labs versus the facilitators or process functions, such as MEP, since they have different driving forces.

Other suggestions for evaluating the current set of partnerships included the use of the Heilmeyer questions and looking to see how well a partnership matches the strategic priorities outlined in the strategic plan. The VCAT was reminded of the many other "little" partnerships that are strategically implemented at the project level, such as the 2,600 guest researchers at NIST.

During this discussion, Dr. Cerf wrote the following metrics on a flip chart:

1. Does it advance NIST's core target: measurement science in aid of industry/tech....

2. Does it engage a geographically diverse set of institutions (with requisite expertise?) Find and engage best expertise where it is.

3. Separate knowledge creation from other functions (?)

4. Does this partnership respond to GH7 questions?

Laboratory Tours

The VCAT members had the opportunity to engage directly with researchers at the NIST Boulder laboratories and JILA at the following laboratory tours of selected projects:

  • Chip-scale Atomic Clocks, Magnetometers and Gyroscopes—Dr. John Kitching and Dr. Elizabeth Donley, Optical Frequency Measurements Group, Time & Frequency Division, Physics Laboratory
  • Quantum Computing with Superconducting Artificial Atoms—Dr. Katarina Cicak and Dr. Robert Schwall, Quantum Devices Group, Quantum Electrical Metrology Division, Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory
  • How Symmetric is the Electron? The EDM Project and More—Dr. Eric Cornell, Quantum Physics Division, JILA-University of Colorado
  • Ultracold Gas of Polar Molecules—Dr. Debbie Jin, Quantum Physics Division, JILA-University of Colorado
  • Frequency Comb "Breathalyzer"—Dr. Jun Ye, Quantum Physics Division, JILA-University of Colorado

Overview of NIST's Strategic Plan

Dr. Gallagher began Session III with an overview of NIST's Strategic Plan in which he described the challenges of strategic planning efforts at NIST which have now shifted down to the Operating Unit level. He then summarized the status and structure of the congressionally mandated Three-Year Programmatic Plan and improved NIST planning efforts, including decision-making and execution. TIP and MEP will be included in the updated plan. The criteria and process for identifying investment priority areas for the laboratories was also presented. The laboratory priority areas are measurements, standards, technology for physical infrastructure, energy, environment, biosciences/healthcare, and secure IT systems. Dr. Gallagher also emphasized NIST's critical role of maintaining core competences in measurement science and standards via facilities, instrumentation, and internal Innovation Measurement Science funding, and the challenges involved with the agency/policy discrimination of roles for NIST. For more details, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

Dr. Gallagher encouraged the VCAT's early comments on the Three-Year Programmatic Plan also known as NIST's Strategic Plan. A draft will be sent to the VCAT soon.

The group discussed the abbreviated bullets related to the strategic goals and objectives and raised issues concerning their clarity and the lack of consistency with the words used in the NIST mission statement. The VCAT was reminded that the bullets in the viewgraph were paraphrased from the plan and NIST purposely did not repeat the mission statement.

The lack of a "Manufacturing" priority area was also discussed. Manufacturing issues are addressed under each technology, including biosciences and health.

Safety concerns about the optics lab at JILA were raised. Dr. Gallagher agreed that NIST managers were sensitive to this issue. This topic will be covered in more detail in the upcoming talk on the Facilities Strategic Plan.

One of the VCAT members expanded on NIST's unique position among the national laboratories and noted that even those that address energy and the environment make use of and depend on the advances in the measurement science that NIST has been doing for decades. In some cases, NIST has more depth and is more fundamental in these key areas than any of the other national labs.

The VCAT Chair described the differences between a three-year plan and a Strategic Plan. He remarked that he has not yet seen a NIST Strategic Plan and cautioned NIST against using the term Strategic Plan to describe a tactical plan focused around a set of identified priorities. He further noted that Congress did not consider last year's three-year plan a strategic plan and that they expressed a need for NIST to develop a Strategic Plan.

The group also discussed the need for an operating plan to evaluate how well NIST performed in the current year. Dr. Gallagher agreed that this was an important issue and is part of management's priority setting activities.

Update on Biosciences Strategic Planning Activities

Dr. Jason Boehm, Senior Program Analyst provided an update on NIST's biosciences strategic planning activities since the briefing to the VCAT at the June 2009 meeting. His presentation included a review of the need for a NIST-level Strategic Plan, a breakdown of NIST's current $54.2 million total investment in bioprograms by research focus area and Operating Unit, and the process for developing the NIST Strategic Plan for Biosciences Program Growth. Dr. Boehm emphasized that the planning process involves continual vetting with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that NIST is working in the highest priority areas as illustrated by NIST's past outreach efforts and assessments of needs. As the next step in the process, NIST and UMBI held an international conference on biosciences on October 20-22, 2008, to identify the measurement, standards, and technological challenges for accelerating innovation in the biosciences. The conference began with visionary lectures on the future applications of biotechnology in medicine, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, and the environment, followed by technical breakout sessions in each of these areas in which critical barriers and fundamental challenges were identified. Dr. Boehm summarized these barriers and challenges and remarked that there were missed opportunities in the energy session in which the panelists were primarily focused on DoE's current approaches on biofuels. He also described the measurement needs identified in the "Hot Topics" session, the crosscutting needs identified across the panels which serve to validate the current NIST plan for biosciences, and the key outcomes and opportunities from the Conference. NIST is still reviewing all of the data. The timeline for post-conference activities includes sharing the first draft of the Plan with stakeholders in January 2009 and completing the Strategic Plan Version.1 in October 2009. For more details, see Dr. Boehm's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

The VCAT Chair, who attended the Conference, described the need for real-time measurement tools across all biosciences, not just medical imaging. He also remarked that this Conference had tremendous value and that the VCAT strongly supported NIST's plans to integrate the Conference results with other information and validate it with the industries. Another VCAT member suggested that NIST target a shorter time frame for completing the Plan since some of these fields are quickly changing and could require the Plan to be modified soon after it is released.

A representative from each of the NIST Operating Units is involved in the bio strategic planning executive team to discuss the conference and the strategic planning process.

NIST's Nanotechnology Strategy

Dr. Robert Celotta, Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST), provided an overview of NIST's nanotechnology strategy which involves all of the laboratories with very diverse programs. He passed around a small box with a nanostructure consisting of silicon about 900 atoms thick in which the reflection can be seen with the naked eye when the box is slightly tilted. His introductory remarks covered the breadth of nanotechnology and the continued growth of worldwide investments in nanotechnology, except in the U.S. where funding levels have been stable. In describing NIST's role in nanotechnology, Dr. Celotta emphasized that nanotechnology is ubiquitous, demands measurements of every possible type, and involves multiple disciplines. Nanotechnology is a natural and critical extension of most of NIST's measurement responsibilities. NIST is organizing its nanotechnology programs based on discipline taxonomy and a multidisciplinary approach, such as the CNST with its shared NanoFab resources, and the need for multilateral strategic planning for information sharing and coordination. He also summarized NIST's current portfolio by Operating Unit and by NNI program component, areas of future interest, external relationships, and performance metrics. Integration of NIST-wide planning efforts for nanotechnology currently identifies the following six areas requiring attention over the next few years: nano-EHS, post-CMOS electronics, nano-enhanced energy, nanomanufacturing, and nano/bio/medical, nanophotonics. For more details, see Dr. Celotta's presentation.

Discussion Topics:

Some of the measurements and analysis are in the macro scale using nanomaterials.

The group discussed the need to make the practical applications of NIST's nanotechnology activities more visible as a way to show NIST's enabling role in innovation. NIST is in the process of packaging NIST's nanoactivities on the website as one large program rather than a bunch of programs spread across the laboratories.

The placement of NIST's nanotechnology programs in the NIST's strategic plan was raised. Due to the ubiquitous nature of nanoscience and nanotechnology, these areas are part of NIST's investment priority areas. NIST may want to consider referencing the cross-cutting nature of biosciences, nanotechnology, and IT as three strategic sub-topics in the Strategic Plan to support the case of NIST's impact in each of these areas across a very broad group of industries.

Dr. Celotta described the role and structure of the Nanotechnology Coordinating Council which replaced the Nanotechnology Communications Council. The Council will jointly be writing the strategic plan for nanotechnology. There has not been much activity in the last few months since each of the members became focused on safety. The Council appointed a subcommittee to establish a nanotechnology safety policy at NIST.

Dr. Celotta summarized the plans for an upcoming meeting to gain an understanding of the measurement challenges and opportunities in a wide variety of energy related nanotechnology areas, such as fuel cells, storage batteries, and photovoltaics. This meeting, organized under the aegis of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, will be a partnership with NIST, the Albany Nanocenter, and a third partner still being pursued.

A VCAT member congratulated NIST on its progress in creating the CNST and bringing coherence to the rapidly growing and multidisciplinary field of nanotechnology. The group discussed whether NIST should be creating other centers similar to the CNST to address other multidisciplinary areas, such as the biosciences. The maturity of this field is a factor and NIST is thinking a lot about this question.

NIST Strategic Facilities Plan

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Stella Fiotes, Chief Facilities Management Officer, noted that the NIST Strategic Facilities Plan is a work in progress. She described the ability of the existing buildings at the NIST sites in Gaithersburg, MD; Boulder, CO; Ft. Collins, CO, and Kauai, HI to support the NIST mission and stressed the increased need for high performance laboratory space to sustain NIST's core measurements and standards capabilities. Over 70% of the Gaithersburg buildings were rated poor in their 2004 facility condition assessment and over 70% of the Boulder facilities were rated poor in their 2008 facility condition assessment. Future NIST focus areas will require facilities that support specialized research for the 21st century. She also summarized the NIST Facilities Improvement Plan; the current projects underway in support of the NIST mission: Boulder's central utility plant to be operational in the next several weeks, expansion of the NIST Center for Neutron Research, and expansion of Building 1 Boulder; and the next facility priorities: JILA building expansion to alleviate the overcrowding and Building 1 renovation in Boulder. The Facility Condition Index is one type of metric which shows an average score of 30%. Ms. Fiotes explained how the highest priority needed repairs and renovations are addressed through the Safety, Capacity, Maintenance and Major Repair Program (SCMMR), a specific line item in the NIST budget. Two additional performance metrics are mission dependency and utilization rate. The remainder of the presentation focused on the development of the FY 2011-2021 Strategic Facilities Plan, including the process, goals, prioritization criteria, and framework. The plan will be completed in February 2009. For more details, see Ms. Fiotes' presentation.

Discussion Topics:

Ms. Fiotes clarified the use of the term "current replacement value" in the Facility Condition Index as the cost of building that same facility today.

The group discussed the options of using existing buildings not located on the NIST campus or renovating buildings on the NIST campus instead of constructing new buildings. Ms. Fiotes noted that economic comparisons for the Boulder project revealed that it was more effective to build new facilities for the highest performance laboratories than to renovate the existing building in phases.

NIST managers provided several examples where research has been hampered due to the poor conditions of the facilities. A top scientist in the Time and Frequency division recently resigned partially due to his frustration with having to spend one week to perform a precision measurement that should have taken only two hours. The VCAT chair suggested that this example be included in the Committee's 2008 Annual Report along with the graph of SCMMR's program funding strategy.

The issue of outsourcing research as a solution to inadequate facilities was also raised. This issue is related to NIST's partnership activities. For new areas, NIST explores whether to develop the capability on site or to leverage and collaborate outside of NIST. In some on-going areas, there are examples where NIST looks to its partners to do activities at their facilities.

The group also discussed the differences between government and industry practices for depreciation rates as well as the importance of having new buildings with the capacity to handle future demands for increased power and electricity.

In closing, the VCAT chair remarked that this presentation articulated the facilities' needs quite clearly and the quantitative measures were very helpful.

Summary of NIST's Strategic Planning

The strategic planning session ended with the group having the opportunity to provide additional inputs on this topic. A suggestion was made to include a description of NIST's customers and why they are being served near the beginning of the Strategic Plan and then describe how they will be segmented by cross-cutting industries. The group also discussed the review process for obtaining the VCAT's feedback on the Strategic Plan. For uniformity, the VCAT Chair and Vice Chair will consolidate the member's comments and send them to NIST.

VCAT Feedback for Annual Report

The members provided input on the outline for the VCAT's 2008 Annual Report. Suggestions included stating the critical need for NIST's measurement and science, highlighting CRADAs and NCNR partnerships, characterizing the various demands on NIST, emphasizing the need for global collaboration, reducing the number of references to innovation and competitiveness, clarifying NIST's cross-cutting role in biosciences, acknowledging NIST's progress in strategic planning during a timeframe of interim positions and turnover, adding a section on organizational structure and leadership with appropriate comments, and endorse the needed facilities. The first draft report is planned for early January and will be discussed at the February 2009 meeting.

In closing, the VCAT Chair expressed his appreciation to Dr. Gallagher and the staff for setting up a high quality meeting which helps the Committee to be an appropriate advisor to the Director and to meet its Congressional requirements of commenting on NIST's organization, policy, programs, and budget. Dr. Gallagher remarked that the VCAT is a critical voice in helping to guide the agency and thanked the members for their thoughtful and very stimulating discussions.


The meeting was adjourned at 11:25 a.m. on October 29, 2008.

I hereby certify that, to the best of my knowledge, the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.

Gail Ehrlich, Executive Director, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology

Dr. James Serum, Chair, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology




Created August 31, 2009, Updated September 9, 2021