, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 345–366

Towards a Culture of Application: Science and Decision Making at the National Institute of Standards & Technology



How does the research performed by a government mission agency contribute to useable technologies for its constituents? Is it possible to incorporate science policy mechanisms for increasing benefits to users in the decision process? The United States National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) promises research directed towards industrial application. This paper considers the processes that produce science and technology at NIST. The institute’s policies for science provide robust examples for how effective science policies can contribute to the emergence of useful technologies. To progress towards technologies that can be years away, the agency uses several means for integrating the needs of eventual information users into the prioritization process. To accomplish this, NIST units, such as the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory, incorporate mechanisms for considering user need and project impact into different stages of its scientific decision processes. This, and other specific strategies that the agency utilizes for connecting the supply of science to information demand, provide lessons for generating useable science.


Science policy Application-oriented science Basic research Institutions Decision process 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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