The scores have been tabulated. When it comes to some big science facilities funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, they are all pretty much above average.

ORNL_SNSIt’s a Lake Wobegon world when it comes to some big science facilities funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE): They’re all pretty much above average, a DOE advisory board said today.

Lake Wobegon is the fictional town created by U.S. humorist Garrison Keillor “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

The ratings of more than a dozen existing and planned DOE facilities—including nanoscience centers, x-ray and ultraviolet light sources, and neutron scattering devices—carried a similar skew. The evaluations came from DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC), a 25-member panel that helps steer one of the six major research programs within the department’s $5 billion Office of Science. It was responding to a request from DOE science chief William Brinkman, who late last year asked BESAC and the five other advisory panels to help out with an effort to develop a 10-year plan that will set spending priorities for new and existing research facilities.

Overall, the group rated seven of 13 existing BES facilities “absolutely central” for cutting-edge science. Four were rated “important.” And just two received the black mark of the “lower priority” ranking.

Here is how Oak Ridge National Laboratory rated:

  • Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)—ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL
  • High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR)—IMPORTANT
  • Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS)—IMPORTANT
  • SNS Second Target Station—ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL (but significant technical and engineering challenges remain before construction can be initiated)

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Source: David Malakoff | Science Magazine | March 1, 2013
Image: Oak Ridge National Laboratory