Moving Ahead: DOE Office of Science Updates Its Facilities Report

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Publication date: 
17 October 2007

"Significant progress has been made," Energy Under Secretary for Science Ray Orbach declares in his introduction to a new Office of Science report, "Four Years Later: An Interim Report on 'Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty-Year Outlook.'" The report, released on October 11, reviews the status of 28 proposed scientific facilities or major DOE facility upgrades.

The original report, released in November 2003, is described by Orbach "as a roadmap, providing an overarching strategic framework and long-term vision to guide year-by-year DOE policy and funding decisions" (see Key Members of Congress have praised this report, the first of its kind, as an example of how federal S&T agencies should set their priorities.

The report starts with three charts entitled "Status of Facilities in 20-Year Outlook," as of November 2003, the end of FY 2007, and by the end of FY 2008. The projects or upgrades are listed by their priority, and categorized as near-term priorities, mid-term priorities, and far-term priorities over twenty years. A comparison of the list of projects in the FY 2007 and FY 2008 charts finds relatively few differences with the original 2003 chart. The FY 2007 and FY 2008 charts list the facilities in the same order, and continue to be categorized into the same near-term, mid-term, and far-term categories. Significant progress in the near term projects is expected by the end of FY 2008.

The remainder of the report consists of summaries averaging one page in length on each of the facilities or upgrades. Each summary includes a description about the importance of the research, examples of how the research could be applied, and a review of the proposed facility or upgrade. There is also a brief update on the status of the facility. As an example, the report explains that for ITER, which is Priority #1, an agreement was signed in November 2006. In contrast, for the Electron Ion Collider, one of several facilities tied for the longest-term priority, the report explains that an Office of Science advisory committee is developing a five-year plan to review two alternative concepts for this machine.

In the introduction, Orbach notes that "contemporary science and technology are undergoing change, as always, and the Office has been careful not to adhere with inappropriate rigidity to the 2003 snapshot, but to respond to technological progress in reordering and restructuring its priorities." Four of the original proposals have seen a "major reorientation" to focus on energy at new Bioenergy Research Centers that are expected to be fully operational by 2009. Responding to budget constraints and to avoid duplication with new foreign facilities, DOE revised its previous plan to construct a Rare Isotope Accelerator, and now proposes to build a Rare Isotope Beam Facility. Other modifications in the series of charts involve the international linear collider, eRHIC, and the Integrated Beam-High Energy Density Physics Experiment. One project was terminated: the BTeV Experiment to study Charge Parity violation at Fermilab. Higher priorities and American participation in the Large Hadron Collider lead to the project's termination in 2005. The report can be viewed at

The Office of Science estimates that more than 21,500 researchers use its scientific facilities every year. Said Orbach, "The world-leading scientific facilities we create, maintain, and operate are the key to continued U.S. leadership in physical and biological science research."

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