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NIST Researchers Set Standard for Scientific Excellence

May 24, 2006
Press Release

The House Committee on Science’s Subcommittee on Environment, Technology & Standards today recognized Federal researchers who are setting the standard for scientific excellence.

"The researchers before us today are outstanding in their fields," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. David Wu (D-OR).  "In fact, it is my experience that all the researchers at NIST are first-rate.  NIST’s work in metrology and standards has put it at the forefront of many fields of scientific research."

Three Nobel Prize-winning researchers from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) lent their expertise to the House panel on the state of U.S. scientific research.

With a research budget of less than $400 million per year - small compared to other Federal research agencies - NIST researchers have been awarded three Nobel Prizes during the past 9 years.  No other Federal agency has such an impressive record.

"Then, as now, NIST was known in the world of the physical sciences as a place where great technology meets great ideas.  Many of the leaders in the field have come through a NIST lab at one time or another in their careers," stated Dr. Eric Cornell.  He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for his groundbreaking work with the physics of extreme low temperatures.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Debbie Jin, the 2002 MacArthur genius grant winner, will be NIST’s fourth Nobel Prize recipient," remarked Rep. Wu.  "In reading through the summaries of the work of these three individuals I was struck how their work represents a forty-year commitment by NIST to cutting-edge research in related fields.  This is a tribute to the vision and foresight of past NIST directors."  Dr. Jin is a noted NIST quantum physics researcher.

On the state of U.S. scientific research, witnesses agreed - the U.S. will remain competitive only with a continued commitment in both word and deed to fostering Federal scientific research.

"The big question is what is going to be the big new industry of 2020?  Without knowing for sure what the next big thing will be, we can remain cautiously optimistic that that big thing will be an American thing," continued Dr. Cornell.

"We have all heard the reports," added Rep. Wu.  "Hardly a day goes by without another report on how the U.S. is losing its research edge to countries like China, India and Mexico who are outpacing us in the graduation of scientists and engineers.  The distinguished researchers before us today give me great hope for our research future, but we must continue to commit appropriate financial resources to their efforts."

Long-time NIST researcher and 1997 Nobel Prize winner Dr. William D. Phillips noted, "Unless we strengthen our position in basic research investment, we run the risk of losing what edge we have.  I believe it particularly important to make these investments in both good times and bad.  One never wants to be in a position of eating one’s seed-corn, and a reduction of our research portfolio in times of tight budgets would amount to exactly that."

109th Congress