Members Examine Contributions of DOE Scientific User Facilities to Innovation and Economic Competitiveness

Jun 21, 2012
Members Examine Contributions of DOE Scientific User Facilities to Innovation and Economic Competitiveness

Washington D.C. - Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to examine the role that the Department of Energy’s (DOE) national scientific user facilities play in enabling basic research that drives innovation and economic growth. The hearing also examined challenges and opportunities associated with user facility planning and management.

Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) noted the science undertaken at the DOE National Scientific User Facilities has a “direct and significant impact on innovation, driving discoveries with potential to advance and transform applications from medicine to materials to computing and semiconductors.”

National Scientific User Facilities managed through DOE’s Office of Science trace back to the Manhattan Project, where the challenges associated with building the first nuclear weapons demanded large, multi-purpose facilities that later became the focus of the country’s first national laboratories. These facilities offer unique capabilities and enable U.S. researchers and industries to remain at the forefront of science, technology, and innovation. DOE estimates that approximately 26,500 researchers from universities, national laboratories, industry, and international partners are expected to use these facilities in the coming year.

Dr. Antonio Lanzirotti, the Chairman of the National User Facilities Organization, said that access to DOE user facilities “enables scientists to explore the frontier research questions of our time, leads to fundamental scientific discoveries and enables downstream technological developments for real-world industrial applications.”

Dr. Persis Drell, Director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, highlighted how the Lab’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) is revolutionizing fundamental research. “LCLS was built because we knew that studying materials on the atomic time and distance scales would open new horizons, as we are already seeing in drug discovery and materials research,” Dr. Drell testified. “But we all believe that with this new X-ray source, a billion times brighter than anyone has ever had before, the biggest surprises are yet to come.”

Discussing the unique capabilities these large user facilities provide to pharmaceutical companies, Dr. Steve Wasserman, a senior research fellow at Eli Lilly and Company, said “National User Facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source are essential for the nation’s technological development.” Dr. Wasserman continued, “They are, however, too large for any one organization, corporate or academic, to consider building on its own.  In creating the user facilities the government has provided a great service to the nation.”

The following witnesses testified today:

Dr. Antonio Lanzirotti, Chairman, National User Facility Organization
Dr. Persis Drell, Director, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Dr. Stephen Wasserman, Senior Research Fellow, Translational Science & Technologies, Eli Lilly and Company
Ms. Suzy Tichenor, Director, Industrial Partnerships Program, Computing and Computational Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Dr. Ernest Hall, Chief Scientist, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering/Materials Characterization, GE Global Research