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November 2012


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November 2012

New Releases

Best Practices in Assessment of Research and Development Organizations
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Best Practices in Assessment of Research and Development Organizations


Research and development (R&D) organizations are operated by government, business, academe, and independent institutes. The success of their parent organizations is closely tied to the success of these R&D organizations. In this report, organizations refers to an organization that performs research and/or development activities (often a laboratory), and parent refers to the superordinate organization of which the R&D organization is a part. When the organization under discussion is formally labeled a laboratory, it is referred to as such. The question arises: How does one know whether an organization and its programs are achieving excellence in the best interests of its parent? Does the organization have an appropriate research staff, facilities, and equipment? Is it doing the right things at high levels of quality, relevance, and timeliness? Does it lead to successful new concepts, products, or processes that support the interests of its parent? This report offers assessment guidelines for senior management of organizations and of their parents. The report lists the major principles of assessment, noting that details will vary from one organization to another. It provides sufficient information to inform the design of assessments, but it does not prescribe precisely how to perform them, because different techniques are needed for different types of organizations. Best Practices in Assessment of Research and Development Organizations covers three key factors that underpin the success of an R&D organization: (1) the mission of the organization and its alignment with that of the parents; (2) the relevance and impact of the organization's work; and (3) the resources provided to the organization, beginning with a high-quality staff and management.

Interim Report for the Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Phase II
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Interim Report for the Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Phase II

Nanotechnology has become one of the defining ideas in global R&D over the past decade. In 2001 the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) was established as the U.S. government interagency program for coordinating nanotechnology research and development across deferral agencies and facilitating communication and collaborative activities in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology across the federal government. The 26 federal agencies that participate in the NNI collaborate to (1) advance world-class nanotechnology research and development; (2) foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit; (3) develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and (4) support the responsible development of nanotechnology

Reusable Booster System
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Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment

On June 15, 2011, the Air Force Space Command established a new vision, mission, and set of goals to ensure continued U.S. dominance in space and cyberspace mission areas. Subsequently, and in coordination with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Space and Missile Systems Center, and the 14th and 24th Air Forces, the Air Force Space Command identified four long-term science and technology (S&T) challenges critical to meeting these goals. One of these challenges is to provide full-spectrum launch capability at dramatically lower cost, and a reusable booster system (RBS) has been proposed as an approach to meet this challenge. The Air Force Space Command asked the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council to conduct an independent review and assessment of the RBS concept prior to considering a continuation of RBS-related activities within the Air Force Research Laboratory portfolio and before initiating a more extensive RBS development program. The committee for the Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment was formed in response to that request and charged with reviewing and assessing the criteria and assumptions used in the current RBS plans, the cost model methodologies used to frame the RBS business case, and the technical maturity and development plans of key elements critical to RBS implementation. 
Disposal Options for the Rocket Motors From Nerve Agent Rockets Stored at Blue Grass Army Depot
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Disposal Options for the Rocket Motors From Nerve Agent Rockets Stored at Blue Grass Army Depot

The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP)  under construction near Richmond, Kentucky, is designed to dispose of one of the two remaining stockpiles of chemical munitions in the United States. The stockpile that BGCAPP will dispose of is stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). BGCAPP is a tenant activity on BGAD. The stockpile stored at BGAD consists of mustard agent loaded in projectiles, and the nerve agents GB and VX loaded into projectiles and M55 rockets. BGCAPP will process the rockets by cutting them, still in their shipping and firing tube (SFT), between the warhead and motor sections of the rocket. The warhead will be processed through BGCAPP. The separated rocket motors that have been monitored for chemical agent and cleared for transportation outside of BGCAPP, the subject of this report, will be disposed of outside of BGCAPP. Any motors found to be contaminated with chemical agent will be processed through BGCAPP and are not addressed in this report.

Disposal Options for the Rocket Motors From Nerve Agent Rockets Stored at Blue Grass Army Depot addresses safety in handling the separated rocket motors with special attention to the electrical ignition system, the need for adequate storage space for the motors in order to maintain the planned disposal rate at BGCAPP, thermal and chemical disposal technologies, and on-site and off-site disposal options. On-site is defined as disposal on BGAD, and off-site is defined as disposal by a commercial or government facility outside of BGAD.

Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels
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Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels

Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable demands for energy, water, and nutrient resources. Continued research and development could yield innovations to address these challenges, but determining if algal biofuel is a viable fuel alternative will involve comparing the environmental, economic and social impacts of algal biofuel production and use to those associated with petroleum-based fuels and other fuel sources. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels was produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy.


Assuring the U.S. Department of Defense a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce
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Assuring the U.S. Department of Defense a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce

The ability of the nation's military to prevail during future conflicts, and to fulfill its humanitarian and other missions, depends on continued advances in the nation's technology base. A workforce with robust Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) capabilities is critical to sustaining U.S. preeminence. Today, however, the STEM activities of the Department of Defense (DOD) are a small and diminishing part of the nation's overall science and engineering enterprise. Assuring the U.S. Department of Defense a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce presents five principal recommendations for attracting, retaining, and managing highly qualified STEM talent within the department based on an examination of the current STEM workforce of DOD and the defense industrial base. As outlined in the report, DOD should focus its investments to ensure that STEM competencies in all potentially critical, emerging topical areas are maintained at least at a basic level within the department and its industrial and university bases.



Webinar on Algal Biofuel Development on Nov. 27

With the recent release of the report Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States, the National Research Council is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 1 p.m. EST. Committee chair Jennie Hunter-Cevera and Mark Jones, member of the report-authoring committee, will present a brief overview of the report and take questions from webinar participants. The event is open to the public. Please visit to register. The full report and Report in Brief are available online.


The Era of Big Data is Here!

The Era of Big Data is Here: Case Studies, hosted by the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics (CATS) took place on October 11 at the National Academy of Sciences building.

If you missed the meeting it's not too late to listen to the full audio of the event, as well as view presentations by Dan Crichton, Program Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Deepak Agarwal, Director of Relevance Science at LinkedIn; and Gaddy Getz, Director of Cancer Genome Computational Analysis at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. You can access the files on the BMSA Web site.


CSTB Report Cited in NSF's Cyber-SEES Program Announcement

The 2012 Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) report Computing Research for Sustainability was recently cited in an announcement for the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Enabled Sustainability Science and Engineering (CyberSEES) program. As quoted in the CyberSEES description, the CSTB report suggests that "a rich interplay is developing between computing research and other disciplines" and that these "interdisciplinary approaches, [which are] built around equal partnerships and real sustainability problems, are expected to lead to compelling progress across multiple dimensions." The full CSTB report and the PDF Summary are available online.


Upcoming Meetings

November 8-9, 2012
Board Meeting
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
Irvine, California





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