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Sustainability of STC Operations By Dr. Nathaniel G.

Pitts Presented September 17, 2007 For the STC Directors Annual Meeting At the NSF Center for Biophotonics Sacramento, California 1) Who am I and why am I speaking…. I am the one responsible for the NSF STC program and have been since 1991. I am responsible to the Director of the NSF on the progress of the program and report to Director, the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Science Board, and to Congress about Centers as a viable mode of investing in large projects in basic research. I have helped establish centers and continue to help establish centers programs in many foreign countries. I was asked to give my perspective about 2) ………………………………… NSF views the continuation of operations of STCs after NSF support is phased out. First, let me say…… NSF makes Investments at the frontier of science and engineering It certainly enjoys investments that will have a transformational effect on research and engineering and the education products that support the related fields. NSF considers STCs as some of its most transformative investments:

After all, all STCs have cutting edge research activities; innovative education programs; and knowledge transfer activities. As a side benefit…STCs also have to figure out how to manage this type of science and education enterprise…which actually turns out to be a small business venture. The business deal that NSF made with the STC lead institutions is that,,,,,, STCs will have 10 years to work on major frontier science, education, and technology problems. After 10 years…those same NSF funds are to be reinvested in (the next) or another frontier research and education area. The cooperative agreements which are the documents that govern this relationship indicate this 10 year maximum term for NSF investment in STCs as an NSF center. 3) Sunsetting The National Science Board and Congress have insisted that this is the way this investment should be managed…because the frontiers of science move,,, like any other frontier,,,and they do not want these federal funds tied up for too long a period of time. That is why in our cooperative agreements, we are explicit about it. 4) NSF really believes in the competitive process…. and truly believes that if centers are successful OR parts of the centers are successful…having been supported for 10 years…. Those parts that have been successful will compete successfully in various places and will continue on their own ability and expertise….But all frontier investments are not successful investments. So, if for some reason the research environment has changed radically, or the targets in the technology area have moved significantly, it is

understandable why a center focused in such an area would completely close its doors. I think it is important to note that sustainability after the 10 years is not a requirement for the STC Program. 5) What has been done in the past? Depending on the Center’s area of science or engineering…has a great deal to do with the approach each center takes for continued operation. Where centers have strong associations with industry or state governments, they have a tendency to find funds that support their core. Where centers have most contacts or associations or partnerships with other academic partners, they tend to move back towards small grant mechanisms and away from the center support mode. An early indicator for this trend is the make-up of the external advisory committees….Committees with mostly academics VS committees with mostly industrial or state government representation. 6) What has worked? These are science and technology centers, so there is an expectation that the professionals of these centers are interacting with some non-traditional partners….industries, state and local governments, research museums, school systems, national labs, etc. If the centers are successfully serving a valuable purpose to their partners, those same partners will find a way to keep some portion of the center in business….usually, that part of the center that is of value to them. In the past:

Industry has taken over the aspects of a center that are critical or beneficial to them. The universities have taken over aspects of centers that they find attractive and a natural fit with their strategic plan or portfolio; (we have given you a head start with the universities…with the $1.3M annually in cost sharing contributed to the center.) Quality individual, but smaller science or education projects get funded by NSF or other agencies or private foundations; State governments sometimes see the value of the center, if it is doing something critical to their needs…and may continue to support a smaller portion; Some people try unsuccessfully, to latch onto new centers that are forming in their related research or education areas; this will not sustain a center,,, and NSF is likely to not view it favorably. Centers have formed corporations or small businesses of their own,,, and have moved off campus and continued in a smaller or sometimes larger form. Some centers have been incorporated into the structure of the university..made into a department or taken on some other structural organization….depending on the system. Some centers have certainly decided not to go any further with the centers venture, held a final party, opened champaigne, had some good talks and drinks, and completely closed down the business. I have attended such an affair. Planning early which path the center will take is pretty important. Actually, everyone has a pretty good idea by about years 5, 6 or 7.

There are clear indicators about which direction centers are taking by then. 7) What has not worked? People leaning on NSF for core center support; The same Director or faculty from the same departments submitting a new STC proposal…with a different research focus; People expecting NSF will change its mind about proving continuation support for an STC that has been in existence for 10 years; that has not worked. 8) At the first STC Directors meeting 1989, Miles Kline……. We knew then we would have issues with phasing down centers………Deep in the minds of people was the hope that NSF would continue to support the centers forever. That has not been the case. We have abided by our agreement. 9) The cooperative agreement does call for a 2-year phase down period during the final two years of the award. [In year 9, centers get 80% of year 8 funding; In year 10, centers will get 83% of year 9 funding; For planning purposes, only continuing student support will be considered if funds are remaining after year 10. All other funds will be returned to the treasury.] So, I look forward to hearing the discussion at this meeting so that we, my colleagues and I, can get a sense of what people are thinking regarding the sustainability of their centers. I will certainly welcome any questions.